A thing is not a thing until we call it a thing. The thing then becomes a thing but only in the context of how we’ve learnt to see things. Does that mean there is nothing before a thing is called a thing? Are there such things as pre-existing things? In my thinking yes, but these things are, only what they are, because of what we think they are.
Here’s a tweet from my former tutor, Ken Gergen on this very thing, “One cannot describe something for what it is, because there is no ‘thing’ before the act of describing. Why not describe in hopes of what something can become?”
I believe that the obsession with mechanistic/scientific approaches to measuring outcomes and evaluating goals has led to the ubiquity of highly regulated, technocratic organisational cultures. I have no doubt that most people don’t thrive in such cultures. Even task orientated leaders with low EQ know this. So, what do they do? They pour money and effort into culture change initiatives – very often using mechanistic, pseudo-scientific interventions, not surprising if this is the only grammar we know. If we get it right, we are said to have ‘nailed it!’. Well, if we only speak ‘hammer’, we will see all our problems as nails. [A Senior Executive once said to me “I know I have a high IQ and low EQ. My IQ tells me that to achieve success, I need to be relational, so I schedule this into my project plans.”]
Meg is right. That’s not how it works. Productivity and outcomes cannot be evaluated and measured without also inquiring into, arguably the most essential variable in productivity, the quality of relationships.
Human beings are intrinsically relational. We thrive when relationships are good and whither in the face of toxic relationships. Great relationships beget cooperation, kindness, support and camaraderie. It is this culture of mutuality that is more likely to lead to sustainable productivity. Evaluation points to what needs to be done. Valuation is how we do it.
This intentionally blurred background image is that of my garden in the evening, taken on a Voightlander 58mm manual lens.
Some thoughts about participation that emerged in conversation with Chris Blantern – a very wise person.
Some leaders treat participation as an end-in-itself – a box to be ticked in the proverbial good leader manual. Arguably, how conversations happen is more important.
Depending on prevailing organisational culture, meetings can be discursive rather than action orientated; or, it can be action-orientated without being discursive. Frustration with either pattern can generate adversarial forms of talk, which could, in turn beget active or passive resistance.
There is a skill/art to facilitating/hosting conversations that generate genuine engagement. However, there is only so much a facilitator can do at each event or meeting. Organisational actors need to be attentive (listening), appreciative (thinking the best of others), curious and inquiring. For many these skills do not come naturally, they have to be learned and practiced. Attending to developing this culture should be the raison d’etre of organisation development practitioners.
Have you ever experienced how creative, art-based methods can contribute to more life-giving cultures and more humane forms of organising and leadership? If so, please post your story/ies here.
It’s been an emotional last week at Tearfund. It’s been hard to leave the work and people I’ve come to love and admire after seven years. While I knew it would be difficult for me, I was surprised how sad my team were. I think it was the realisation that come Monday we would no longer be in community and that the bond that has been built over the years would be broken. Social media seems a poor substitute to everyday relating but it will have to do
I was even more surprised by the kind words and tributes. It was like being at my own wake!
To the Lovely Global HR Team
I hope I’m not too late to say many many thanks for all your support over the last few years and for being such a lovely colleague. It’s been great to have you in charge of HR and I have so appreciated how you work and your team and your servant heart in all you do.We will really miss you here and pray that God will bless you abundantly…
You have given so much to the communities we serve, and thank you again for your dedication, your commitment and the grace that you show to everyone. I pray God’s blessing on you for this next stage of your journey with Him, and look forward to staying in good touch…
…you are such a wonderful human being. It makes me so sad to think of the organisation without you as there is nobody like you and I’m not sure there is anyone else with such a wonderful approach to leadership. I can’t even tell you how much you’re going to be missed. There aren’t the words.
I’ve always appreciated your very humane and sensitive take on things and was looking forward to hearing more of that (particularly in this current climate!) but alas, it’s someone else’s gain. Lucky them, is what I say!
There were just not enough challenges left for you Patrick…. It seem our best talent is moving to ODI
I haven’t spent time with you personally, but every time I have seen you, you have always had a smile on your face and have always made me fill welcome which is rare for a person who seats in a position of influence. I will really miss your presence in TF. Sometimes we don’t know the effect our actions have on others- Please do carry this nature wherever you go .
You have been a source of inspiration, an encourager, a ‘luminary’ for good practice, an advocate, a counsel for the defence, a prophetic voice and a good friend. Always looked to you as a benchmark in my life for integrity, grace and most of all fun.
Thank you for your support, you really go above and beyond!
I will miss your thoughtful conversations about leadership and innovative ways of working.