Outsourcing the analytic aspects of the traditional HR department is no longer front page news. Compensation and benefits trends, compliance issues and many aspects of training are simply not crucial to the guts of corporate decision making. Focusing on the people function, the goal is to translate human reality to be integral to both strategy and operations.
Some of the people functions are considered essential. Onboarding and strategic retention top the list. Then there are the uncertainties and vagaries of culture and change management. When surveying the consulting landscape, there are far too many quick change artists touting the six or ten steps to success with cultural change. Armies of experts will help to assess, measure and implement nuances of culture. Their sustainable impact is still a question mark. There is far too much on the surface thinking with very little appreciation of depth. People may appear to operate on the surface but what makes them adapt, change and choose a path of wisdom is certainly not “surfacficial”. Let us discuss the idea of one person as an example of a complete organized system.
Every single one of us manages personal change in the face of uncertainty. We make choices every moment by fully pretending uncertainty is minimal and by ignoring what we do not know. This is the way our brains organize information. For example, a branch on the walkway can startle us because of momentarily seeing a snake. We are constantly trying to predict reality. Some people accomplish this magic act by living in a narrow life corridor that is intentionally structured and predictable. They know what and when they are going to wear, eat, shop and sleep. Likewise, everyone balances between openness and knowing what will happen with a relatively minor eye toward creativity and spontaneity.
After thousands of session hours, sitting with many people over the years in both a therapeutic and coaching capacity, there is very little difference between how we manage ourselves in life and how a group manages the less tangible entity of a company. As difficult as it may be to hear, people are strangers to their inner worlds. Most companies deal with people on the surface and also ask people to function on the surface. I would rather see a company welcome sign that reads, “We Welcome Wisdom: Brains, Emotions and Souls Enter Here.“
Growing up, our character is formed through trial and error which results in a systematic strategy of getting what we want more often than not. We gravitate toward pleasure and have an aversion to pain. Our character becomes the accumulated history of these blended achievements and disappointments. It has aspects that we are aware of and many components that are suppressed and unconscious. Changing our character requires strong inspiration, dedicated effort and the willingness to look into the mirror and become aware of that which is taken for granted. As every religion has said in its own way our job in life is to ‘Know Thyself’. The majority stick this task to the back burner saying it can wait for retirement. The sad part is we know that the most valuable part of our living experience has been shelved.
The greatest percentage of people confront change out of the necessity of pain. A smaller minority see problems ahead and through inner faith declare that there must be a better way and once in a while a person engages personal change through an inner knowingness we simplify and call wisdom. This observation is why I moved on from the role of Culture and Human Resources over thirty years ago and paradoxically why it is important to now return. I will explain.
Sustainable change is the outcome of reaching the core of wisdom within your person. An individual can not embrace change by dealing only with symptoms. My first task with any new client or group is to help them move from the externalized presenting life struggles to an internalized place of responsibility. As long as the problem is ‘out there’ wisdom has no place of influence. As with any closed system, entropy moves toward chaos and disorder. Wisdom is the application of energy to create order in a way that conceptual thinking never achieves. Wisdom is the intuitive A-HA moment. Wisdom makes that word responsibility mean response-ability or the ability to respond.
Working only with cognitive and emotional intelligence may help clarify blind spots but the system is still closed. Deep inspiration rocks inner worlds to their core. The opposite is like children who conform through fear but also learn to resent the imposition of an outside agency. The inspiration that matters is what stirs the essence of their spirit as a whole. Without an appreciation for wisdom, people will continue to seek answers at the expense of connectedness; answers that will lack their inherent love of interaction and influence. Wisdom helps foster a sustainable community. Wisdom demands people reach beyond their small personal borders.
When people can relinquish the burden of self-focus, then others immediately become more important. Those who willingly reach out have nothing to defend. All corporate cultures regardless of the overall intention must inspire change in each person, develop an approach to wisdom and value loving openness and connectedness. A culture with strong individual focus will be naturally weak in group cohesion.
Change and culture and its management and implementation are the one strong aspect of the people equation. Nevertheless, I moved toward coaching individuals and small groups because the historical impact of my actions on companies on a systems level was negligible regardless of the hoopla and fanfare being paraded by various executive stakeholders. The projects with accompanying pie charts demonstrating buy-in, percentages of divisions and departments on the uptick and the feedback meetings were thought of as valuable.
Considered a change leader, I personally felt satisfaction only when the persons who stood out as ‘wisdom warriors’ grabbed hold of change within themselves. The real wisdom warriors are the only changes genuinely held in place. Once wisdom takes hold, bridges to the past are severed and going forward is the only option. I wanted to know why wisdom is essential to sustainable change? Thirty years later I am joyful to still be learning.
Management systems, strategies and organizational structures often alter their appearance to improve efficiencies and cost and role clarity helps individual confusion and task management. Without the energy of an overall vision that includes the wisdom of the whole person the function of people will remain on the level of resources.
In the athletic world, (golf is the one I know best but applies to all high-level performances) no one questions that at a certain level of performance, the moment belongs to the person who has their head screwed on straight. Stated with slightly more formality is to say that focus, awareness, relaxation and inspiration are all essential components to being centered on your actions and responsible to your outcomes. As applied to the corporate leader, the work is on the core of the person’s integral energy and not to their competencies. Skills are easily addressed but this is not the work of leadership development.
Each one of us is a leader of our person. Legacy is to know yourself and if you don’t do it the gift of life will pass you. In our organizational cultures, one doesn’t manage change and leadership. The wise organization appreciates the inevitability of change and helps people to experience the essence of change within their person to relate to the world of change outside. They are one and the same changes. Wisdom pushes you to move your mind from fixed positions to creative fluidity.
The I-Ching, one of the oldest books of antiquity said to have started in the third millennium BC, loosely translated as Book of Changes is based upon the complementarity of opposition. Every moment is change and no one moment is better than another. In order to manage change the paradox is to stop managing and see the wisdom of the cycle of the moment. It is the same principle often ignored in personal and organizational change; you can’t alter what is unless you know its value.
If you are a corporate CEO that sees the potential of having the whole person walk in your door say hello. Your comments are welcome.
Have a great day.