Category Archives: workplace

Strengthening Gender-Based Relationships

It is time for another “Craig’s Top Five List”.  On Monday, we looked at male mocking with the conclusion that perhaps we would be wise to strive for a higher standard in the way we approach gender-based relationships.  Here are a few suggestions:

Rufino Tamayo 'Man and Woman' 1926, Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Rufino Tamayo 'Man and Woman' 1926, Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  1. Acknowledge our differences: I am saying this as though it has never been voiced before, in the history of humanity.  Of course, the exact opposite is true — it is hard to get through a day without some exasperated soul  needing to exhale this sentiment.  Clearly, you don’t know what you don’t know and under this condition, any form of growth is impossible.  Otherwise stated, awareness is a prerequisite for change.
  2. Accept our differences: By now I am sure you have figured out that difference is code for what I don’t like, don’t understand and cannot accept about “them”.  Since each gender represents fifty percent of humanity it may make sense to try something different; let’s face it —  How is your current pattern working for you?  Not so good?
  3. Stop the Veiled Criticism: There is something unifying about being able to share your frustration with those holding down membership in your gender club.  Somehow, if they share your angst, it affirms the view that you’re not crazy.  And if you are really courageous, you allow these whimsical commentaries on the other sex to slip out while they are present.  After all, “its just a joke;  I don’t really mean it.  I am so tired of this politically correct stuff, aren’t you”? you offer to your membership.  Well, if it smells like a dead fish and it looks like a dead fish, its probably a dead fish.
  4. Celebrate our strengths: Once we get past the frustrating parts of male-female relationships, we can rejoice in what we value in each other.  We need to acknowledge reality –that we are attracted to each other for reasons other the physical; for example, passion, intelligence, courage, sensitivity, calm, creativity and so on.  Its the  deeper issues that truly define who we are.
  5. Treat Each Person as an Individual: If we can treat each person as unique, then we override the stigma of gender or for that matter any other way of classifying humanity.  The more we choose to slice and dice humanity, the more we will frustrate our goal of unifying the human species.

I have just completed reading an amazing book entitled “Change”, based upon the principles of brief therapy.  Clearly, surface or simple change is possible; however other forms of change demand more sophisticated solutions.  More on this in a later post.

And that is the issue!  Change is a difficult challenge.  Can you see this prescription working?  How are things in your workplace?

Male Mocking: Deserved and Necessary?

Reflections on Workplace Perspective

On Saturday, March 14th’s  edition of “Definitely Not The Opera” (CBC.ca), Sook-Yin Lee and guest host, Nick Purdon took a very thorough look at dumb guy stereotypes and male mocking focusing on this trend in advertising.  Loved the show — extremely well done!

However, what I found troubling was how we accept our human limitations and rationalize how it is acceptable to repeat the destructive patterns of the past.   Perhaps I am taking this tongue in cheek presentation too seriously; maybe it all just meant to be playful and humourous.   BUT, what we say, in any form, and what we model is what we become.

Those interviewed during this show presented a number of arguments rationalizing why male mocking was not only acceptable, but necessary and represented a rational evolution of male-female relationships.   Let’s take a look at what was said:

• For decades, women have been victimized (i.e., sex objects, lacking in intelligence or judgment) by the media for so long it is now man’s turn. They can take it; we certainly did for all those years!  Ironically, most of the commercials mocking men are written by men.
• The culture of men has evolved from one of men being respected and recognized as the breadwinner and the backbone of the family to one of men being irresponsible and incompetent.   So, this representation of man is simply a reflection of the current reality.  So we paint all men with the same brush?
• The bashing of men is only temporary.  Soon society will tire of man bashing and we will find someone else to satirize.  Lucky them!
• We will continue to mock each other because it is programmed into our “reptilian brains”.   Probably true, but a disappointing commentary on what men and women want their species to become.  If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.

Only one interviewee spoke against these commercials. She said that this representation of men was in fact modeling future generations of young men and that the commercials suggested to young men that being irresponsible and incompetent was acceptable behaviour.  This mother of two boys, wanted more for her boys.   As any parent would, she wanted them to maximize their God given capacity in every way.

Ironically, the decision of advertisers to male bash has little to do with any of this argumentation.  It’s really quite simple; advertisers see women as the front line purchasers in just about every area.  They also know from psychology research that the best way to get women to buy their products is to stroke their self-esteem.  And advertisers have decided that the optimal way to achieve this goal is mocking women’s mates, fathers, brothers and sons.

I will be the last person to suggest that men are perfect.   I have learned from hundreds of career coaching diagnostics that each of us is an individual, that each of us has great capacity, a number of wonderful strengths and a comparable number of challenges that get in our way.   I understand that relationships between men and women are difficult and that women in particular have been seriously scarred by the power that men and paternal cultures have exerted over them.   I am not suggesting that we forget our history.

I am proposing that we learn from history and strive for a higher standard — one that will strengthen and model the nobility of men and women. The world and for that matter the workplace will only work optimally if men and women treat each other with dignity and work collaboratively.

“The world of humanity has two wings — one is woman and the other man”, says Baha’u’llah, prophet-founder of the Bahai faith. “Not until both wings are equally developed can the bird fly. Should one wing remain weak, flight is impossible”.  I think this reference puts everything in perspective.

Are you concerned about male mocking?  Do you concur that we should strive for balanced relationships?  What are some of the gender challenges in your workplace?

Recognizing Workplace Heroes

As promised, each Friday I will post a “Craig’s Top Five List”.

Much of what we have addressed in the infancy of this site concerns the definition and development of leadership capacity.  One of the points raised in my Heroes and Villains post is that workplace heroes already exist.  We know they are present, but using a traditional definition of hero, they are difficult to discover.  So, I am asking you to imagine your workplace; somewhere in your workplace there is a hero.  So start looking.  Your hero may, in that Waldo sort of way, be disguised.  Your hero may not even be a senior manager or a manager at all.  And, your hero may be emerging; just starting to develop an understanding of what heroic leadership means.

Where is your hero?

Where is your hero?

With these preconditions, you say, “Craig you are not making this simple”.   Absolutely!  Imagine you are mining for gems — diamond, emerald, ruby.  The process of discovery would be equally demanding.   Heroes are gems whose unearthing requires effort.   So let me help you in your search with Craig’s Top Five List for this Friday — 5 ways to recognize workplace heroes:

  1. Heroes are guided by a moral framework: I have a conscience, I can distinguish between right and wrong and I take the time to weigh my decisions.  When push comes to shove, I listen to that anxious little bug in my tummy and I make the honest decision.  As one former manager once advised me, if you have any doubt that your choice is integral, you have your answer.
  2. Heroes act locally and think globally: Simply put, if something I do here negatively affects someone somewhere else, I need to stop and rethink my proposed action.  I can no longer ethically define the world as my town or my neighbourhood.  If a family is suffering in Africa, I am also suffering.  The world is my family.
  3. Heroes problem solve: “You can’t get there from here” is not a viable answer.  I think emotionally and spiritually.  I listen.  I search for new paths; I solicit peaceful arrangements.
  4. Heroes lead through service: I am interested in the success of others.  I recognize that building a community takes all kind of skills.  I understand that by building the capacity of the team we will all achieve more and serve more. I have nothing to hide.  Even if I must make difficult decisions, I am transparent and open in my actions.  Heroes carry their behaviour into all parts of their lives.
  5. Heroes are detached from their heroic actions: Heroes do not see themselves as heroes.  They are just doing what they feel is the right thing to do.

Do you know any workplace heroes?  Do you understand why this style of  leadership produces herioc behaviour?  Please leave a comment and I will respond.

Villians and Heroes

Reflections on Workplace Perspective…..

A couple of weeks ago, I came across the most magnificent of quotes.  Referencing the tragedy of the current recession and the circumstances that had contributed to it, James West in his blog The Midas Letter, wrote:

“the commodity with the grimmest prospect of recovery is trust.”

Trust is a precious commodity.  Trust, truthfulness, honesty and integrity are the essence of the functional workplace.  In the absence of these values, the workplace begins to smell like a three day old fish.  In most workplaces, we begin to react on the mere suspicion of dishonesty; the case of our financial institutions goes wildly beyond speculation!  I think it is worthwhile examining this case to illustrate the impact that the loss of trust can have in the workplace.

The leaders of North America’s largest financial institutions have flagrantly created a financial disaster — of this there can be no doubt. This being the third and most serious systemic financial challenge over the past ten years, our financial leadership have shaken our societal self esteem; they have shattered the belief that our cornerstone institutions can survive.  I find myself wishing that this incredible deception is a mirage, just a bad dream.

joker1In addition to the emotional devastation, there has been significant job loss, business closures, house foreclosures, families broken.  And the damage is world wide.

The perpetrators, from their publicly subsidized high rise towers, have yet to admit responsibility.  There is no remorse and  no apology.  It is business and huge salaries as usual, while public administrators scramble to determine where the bail-out money has landed.  Like many in our society today, they choose to avoid the issue of wrongdoing; in the absence of an acknowledgment of impropriety, there can be no link to guilt and, hence, no consequence.

As I retell this story it seems more fiction than fact, something a team of scriptwriters would require years to invent.  The protagonist is clear; the villain has been unmasked. Yes, the bottom line is villain.

In contrast, there are those who build trust, hope and enthusiasm  —  encourage us to serve the good of humanity, leaders who can help us to be the best we can be.  These people are the heroes of this emotional age.  Here are a few examples:

Story#1: When we consider that 50% of the world’s wealth is controlled by 2% of the world’s inhabitants, and a mere 1% of the world’s wealth is controlled by the bottom 50%, leadership from those who control far more than their share of the world’s riches is desperately needed.

I am moved by the example of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet ; these folks are breaking new ground by giving the bulk of their wealth to philanthropic causes.  The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation targets worldwide health and education challenges; they have chosen to focus on neglected issues and strive for increasing opportunity and equity for those most in need.  The Gates and Warren Buffet are modeling extreme behaviour that hopefully will encourage others to follow.

superman1Story #2: I often share the importance of the lesson told in the story “Stone Soup”, one of my favourite stories of Portuguese origin.  There was a time when famine caused people to hoard very limited resources and retreat back into the protection of their families; however, a very wise traveler taught them the importance of community unity.  The villains in my story represent famine and create mistrust and fear.  The heroes represent plenty and generate love, compassion, unity, hope and ultimately, community building.

Why has Barrack Obama attracted such a strong following?   In my eyes, he is the traveler.  With a recipe of wisdom, compassion, partnership and hope, Obama is rebuilding not only the American community of trust, but he is seen by those around the world as offering hope to men and women whose trust is battered and bruised by the villains of the world.  He is soliciting partners to strengthen the “global village”.

Story #3: Sometimes all it takes to be a hero is a little creativity, a little compassion and an understanding that the brutal option of cutting a community off at the knees is just not acceptable.  Kevin Cullen in his blog at Boston.com (March 12,2009 “A Head with A Heart” ) tells the story of Paul Levy, the administrator of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  Before announcing staff cuts deemed necessary in the current economic slowdown and feeling particular empathy for how layoffs would affect the most vulnerable in his hospital family, Mr. Levy suggested that staff do whatever it takes to keep all employees on the job.  The response from staff of all levels in the organization was wildly supportive.  Employees offered to take less pay so that layoffs would not be necessary.  And I am sure there are many more heroes.

The individuals we typically consider heroes are the ones who land an airliner on a river or rescue a family from a burning home.  But these latter workplace and organizational nominees are equally worthy of consideration.  They have a positive and profound effect on our hope and the togetherness of our struggling workplaces and communities.

Am I on the right track? Who are your workplace heroes?  What defines the individuals you consider workplace heroes?  This coming Friday in “Craig’s Top Five List”, I will be identifying 5 ways that we can recognize a hero.  Please help me build this list.

Building a Powerful Management Environment

Reflections on Workplace Perspective….

As promised, here is your “Craig’s Top 5 List” for this Friday. I decided to rewrite this short post based upon Gary Hamel’s article on how the Facebook generation will revolutionize the way people are managed (http://blogs.wsj.com/management/2009/03/24/the-facebook-generation-vs-the-fortune-500/). I found many similarities between his powerful list of characteristics and what the literature is espousing about building powerful management environments. With both of these in mind, here is a list of 5 values that managers should adhere to if they want to manage effectively:

people-on-way-to-work2

  1. Humility: it all starts with your attitude. You can walk around with management books under your arm all day long, but if you fail to read them and take action, your staff will quickly figure out you are just about show. Lead by example; be the first to dip your toe in the water. Acknowledge that you are like everyone else — wonderfully flawed.
  2. Self knowledge: if you truly want change, you must start with yourself. Get working on those deficiencies that will sabotage all your good-hearted efforts. Work your strengths; build strategies to compensate so your operation will appear seamless.
  3. Trust: Be transparent and open. Be a person of integrity. Be fair and objective. If your staff see that you are a person of your word, you will accumulate good will and support. Without trust, even those who desperately want to buy-in will be hesitant.
  4. Empowerment: Think of yourself as a facilitator; your job – to find capacity, to develop capacity, to empower capacity and to recognize capacity. Capacity can be defined in many ways – skills, ideas, innovation, effort.
  5. Creativity: Set a standard for creative thought. Challenge your team to innovate. Never lose an opportunity. Never lose the excitement of discovery. Benefit from collective capacity.

Thinking this way takes courage, especially when the standard is control; the organizational benefits far exceed the costs. By adopting this management perspective, you will unleash massive capacity. You will effectively nurture each person’s ability to lead.

How do feel about this list? Have you encountered any challenges because these values have been absent? Leave a comment and I will respond.

Importance of A Healthy Workplace

Reflections on Workplace Perspective…..

April 6, 2009 was the tenth anniversary of the OC Transpo  massacre; on that date, at the headquarters of Ottawa’s bus service, Pierre Lebrun took the lives of 4 colleagues and injured a fifth before finally taking his own life.

oc-transpo1

As with many mass killings, the initial observable act was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the suffering that would befall friends and associates of the primary victims, such as a fellow worker who had prior knowledge of the killer’s plans; overwhelmed with grief and guilt, he took his own life two months later.

The inquest that followed unearthed a travesty of  management sins and exposed the toxic nature of the working environment.  In addition to proposing extensive work surrounding a violence and harassment policy, the inquest jury’s report was exhaustive.  Several of the key recommendations follow:

  • ongoing training for staff to affect a “positive cultural change” in the workplace
  • improved communication within and between all levels of staff
  • access to an independent ombudsman to avoid reprisals
  • periodic review and audit of violence and harassment policies
  • a code of conduct to ensure all employees are treated with respect and dignity
  • sensitivity training for all managers
  • sufficient skills training to ensure employees can effectively perform their duties
  • promotion based upon aptitude and qualifications

Altogether, the jury offered77 recommendations; in essence, a complete condemnation of workplace practices at that time.

Ten years later, and following a very disruptive city wide strike, workers are once again questioning the quality of their work environment.  Although it would be expected that manager-employee relations would deteriorate during a turbulent and hostile strike,  one worker quoted on CBC radio’s morning show (April 6,2009)  questioned whether the lessons learned ten years ago had been forgotten.

Although in recent weeks we have seen a flurry of massacres committed by marginalized and isolated employees and citizens, they tend to be an extreme and unusual response.   Sadly, most people will quietly and anonymously show up for work and suffer through poor working conditions and relations.

Why is this a compelling story?  It is a reminder that building the ideal working environment takes effort and a commitment from all employees; further, it is not a one time exercise done to impress or to address an outside requirement.  Finally, it is in the best interests of both employees and managers to design and develop an optimal workplace where everyone thrives.   With the workplace management tools at our disposal today,  mere survival is an embarrassing standard.

How are things at your workplace?  Do your practices continue to improve or do you find that things regress from time to time?  What would you recommend for your workplace?  Leave a comment and I will respond.

A new perspective posted next Monday:  Villians and Heroes

Craig’s Top Five List posted this Friday5 Things to Consider When Building a Powerful Management Environment