Luck and personal responsibility

February 22nd, 2008

Jennifer Niesslein’s article, They’re Not Helping, in February 21, 2008 edition of The Washington Post takes a stab at the explosion of the self-help industry.  All the books at the local Barnes and Noble, aiming to improve your waistline, mental state, relationships, career, sex life, focus on taking personal responsibility for those improvements. She notes, quiet astutely, that America’s embrace of self-help rests with our individualistic, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps culture.


Her article confounds much about the approach of taking personal responsibility on how one should behave either at work or in other areas of life.  If we were all taking personal responsibility for our behavior and our actions, wouldn’t everything be wonderful?


Depends on what you think you should take personal responsibility for.


Is it faulty to think that if we each subscribe to the philosophies of the self-help books that we will all be healthy, well-adjusted, emotionally intelligent individuals? Maybe.


Niesslein states, “I’d argue that what self-help does is provide a step-by-step distraction, a nice set of blinders to help readers maintain the illusion that they’re masters of their own destinies.”


What about the organizations we are a part of? What is their role and responsibility for our well being? But, wait, aren’t the organizations made up of individuals? And those individuals are the ones who create policies and practices that influence our lives and well being? 


The self-help books will continue to be devoured, some will act upon the recommendations. Maybe luck still is the driving force, as Nielssen concludes.

Human side of change

January 23rd, 2008

The Society for Human Resources Management featured an interesting article in its 2007 Research Quarterly entitled “Change Management: The HR Strategic Imperative as a Business Partner.” One particular paragraph states:

For HR and managers alike, recognizing the human side of change is a key factor in effective change management. In the business environment, this factor is not often sufficiently addressed. Beyond dialogue in the workplace, people need to attend to their physical well-being and nourish their psyches. To better deal with change, HR and managers can support employees – as well as themselves-by encouraging them to follow some simple but important practices: get enough sleep, at right, get regular exercise, relax with friends, engage in hobbies, indulge in something special and practice relaxation disciples (e.g., deep breathing, yoga). By focusing on emotional investments in areas outside the workplace, people can better achieve a sense of balance and control while going through change.  

The human side of change is so significant. Practicing yoga is one way to cope and thrive with change in the workplace. Yoga’s focus on staying present, resisting the urge to rush into the future by moving too quickly into the next stage of a pose, using the breath to calm the senses, all ease anxious nerves or a tendency to worry over events that are not present yet.


How can workplaces encourage more employees to embrace activities like yoga, without sounding preachy? How can workplaces make the time for employees to DO these activities, without making them feel guilty for not being at work? We need to keep moving towards this “work/life” balance movement, for the sustainability of ourselves and our workplaces.

Boundary-less living

January 21st, 2008

Boundary-less living, working and learning is the title of Art Murray’s article in KM World magazine’s January 2006 edition. Considering he is the Co-Director of the Enterprise of the Future Program at the George Washington University Institute for Knowledge and Innovation, no wonder an article with such a title would come from him.

He refers to “World 3.0,” a world where work/life balance is actualized. It is a creative environment where learning occurs at each step. I love when he asks “has growth in your wellbeing kept pace with the growth in your paycheck?” 
As I read the article, I got excited about the prospects of a more creative environment, but at the same time, it still seems hard to imagine. Robert Fritz’s concept of creative tension comes to mind. Fritz describes creative tension as the space between current reality and a future vision.

Mr. Murray must put forward a future vision, not only does his title bespeak of that responsibility, but we need more people to put out the call, so we can experience the creative tension that brings us closer to that future vision.

If you have seen and lived this World 3.0 – future vision – creative environment – boundary-less living working and learning – please tell me about it!

Practice “Suspending”

January 8th, 2008

In Peter Senge’s book, Presence, he discusses the importance of being able to suspend. This skill requires development over time and with experience. The skill involves the ability to pay attention and bring awareness to one’s assumptions and judgments. Sounds easy right?

Give this a try…the next time you find yourself in the middle of a meeting and the person across from you offers a comment that makes you want to lunge across the table and shake them…this is when “suspend” comes into play. In that brief moment, when all the internal physical signs are adding up to an explosion, take pause.  This is the time to ask yourself, why I am in fighting mode? Is it because I just don’t like this person? Is it because the comment will make more work for me? Is it because I am tired and the comment will now extend the meeting by another 15 minutes?

Once, you suspend and take a brief assessment about what is leading you to your reaction, you may respond in a manner that has a better outcome for you in the long-run. While the short term, yelling may feel much better, it doesn’t improve the situation, nor your reputation.

When do you have moments at work or home where you could practice suspending?