It is now clear to many leaders, managers and change agents that we need a new way of operating.
Yet, so often we seek solutions ‘out there’, a new way that has been invented elsewhere, packed-up, tried-and-tested and ready for us to buy off-the-shelf so we can solve our problems: a silver-bullet, a cook-book approach that, with enough budget, senior management buy-in and will-power, we can implement – job done, tick, move-on, next!
There is something within our psyche that definitely prefers the safe, tried-and-tested, well-documented, easy-to-follow, clearly illuminated straight road ahead. But life is not like that. And things are only set to get more volatile, more uncertain and more ambiguous for a great variety of reasons.
There is increasing evidence that today’s managerial mind-set and organisational development approaches are not just inadequate for dealing with the challenges that lie ahead of us, they are actually undermining our creative potential and adaptability right where we most need it.
So what to do!
In my recent conversations with a CEO exploring just this, she succinctly said, ‘its time to start looking in’. Yes, we need to look out, but first we need to look deep within, and then take that in-spiration into our looking out, so that we see, relate and attend to what is required in our organisations with a new way of perceiving, of thinking, of attending. From this insight and self-awareness comes the foresight and systemic thinking we now need to deal with the challenges upon us.
Gosh – I hear a voice inside shriek ‘ In the thick of all this unceasing transformation, we don’t have time for the luxury of navel gazing!’
If we are honest with ourselves, we may begin to realise that the major problems we face within our ways of operating and organising result from our ‘doing’ having become de-coupled from our ‘being’. Let’s just pause on that for a moment.
How often in our daily activities do we do things in a harried and hurried way due to our need to ‘get the job done’ while undermining the quality of our ‘beingness’ in the process, in turn undermining the quality of interactions we have with others, eroding our innate sociality and empathetic connection with our environment. We professionalise our masks and personas as we learn to be masterful at persuasion and manipulation, yet in-so-doing we distance ourselves from our authentic nature, desensitising ourselves and our empathic inter-relationality in the process. Enter the mechanistic bureaucratic soul-sapping corporate culture we so desire to break free from.
As the now trendy insight from Einstein so aptly highlights, we can’t change our problems with the same logic that created them. And yet we so often do exactly this. Whether it be, for instance, force-fitting a cook-book approach to holacratic self-organisation into our governance or sending our top 1% of talent on largely academic leadership courses to efficiently download topflight leadership.
Most middle managers and senior executives think that in order to succeed, we need to climb the ladder, take on more responsibility, lead a bigger project, and accumulate more academic accreditations. We look outside ourselves in terms of what we can accumulate. This has its place and needs to be commended, but only if our doing is aligned with our being, otherwise we are doing stuff for some external ‘tick-box’ exercise while de-coupling ourselves from our being. We take on more external commitments, giving ourselves less time to reflect on how we are being – and so we get more stressed, seeking fleeting respite through holidays or external stimulations, which often involves yet more busyness. Enter the contagion of consumerism in our midst.
How often do we give ourselves a chance to question why on Earth are we are doing what we are doing? What actually is the deeper purpose of the organisation I work for and how does it resonate with my deeper purpose? How is my life actually enriching me and future generations?
The more we externalise and objectify the more we distract ourselves from sensing into how we are truly feeling. We don’t give ourselves the space-time to tune-in to who we truly are and how we are truly feeling, because we are for-ever grasping at things ‘out there’. We relentlessly get busier and busier in an increasingly complex fast-moving digitised world that demands more and more of us. Becoming more profitable, more sustainable, more creative, more resilient, more responsible, more purposeful, more conscious – all noble undertakings that are at risk of becoming ‘things’ for us to get our head round, climb over and achieve efficiently with the masks and personas of yesterday’s mindset. We fail to actually question or address the underlying mindset, and so unwittingly prevent ourselves from opening up to the deeper wisdom we now need to move beyond ‘the box’ we have got ourselves caught up in.
It’s time to step back from this myopia, and pause for a moment so that we can allow ourselves to see with fresh eyes, while bringing in deeper insights beyond ‘the box’.
‘The one who looks inside awakens’ – Carl Jung
The good news is, these very times of volatility and upheaval are providing the ideal alchemic conditions for our old ways to be seen for what they are – holding us back from who we truly are, and undermining our organisations’ and social systems’ ability to thrive.
Many are now increasingly realising that our organisations are actually living systems rather than mechanistic machines. This is one of the greatest challenges, perhaps THE challenge our leaders and managers face today: embracing a shift in our way of perceiving from an outdated mechanistic and control-based managerial mind-set to a recognition that our organisations are living systems immersed within the living systems of society and our more-than-human world. This comes with a worldview shift from a dog-eat-dog world steeped in self-agency, individualism and competition to a deeper recognition that our world is steeped in inter-connected reciprocating relationships.
|Old Logic||New Logic|
|Competitive self-agency||Collaborative inter-relationality|
|Hierarchic management||Locally-attuned emergence|
|Individualism||Individuality within community|
|Homogenisation||Diversity within unity|
|Profit first||Profit follows purpose|
Shifting this mindset within ourselves and our organisations is no mean feat, but it does come with the benefit of not just helping ourselves and our organisations adapt and thrive in these challenging times, but also allowing ourselves to become more of who we were truly born to be. In my latest book Future Fit, I provide a number of easy-to-apply tools and techniques, as well as supporting business examples to show how we can create the conditions conductive for our organisations to become living, vibrant, life-affirming systems.
‘Inspiring, uplifting, superb’ Euan Smith, former COO, Sky Deutschland
‘Unique and insightful’ Oliver Greenfield, Convenor, Green Economy Coalition
‘A treasure-trove’ Professor Peter Hawkins, Henley Business School
‘I cannot recommend this powerful work highly enough’ Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE, CEO of Centre for Excellence in Leadership