Here’s a link to a PDF of the presentation I gave at the Compassionate Care conference at Teeside University in April. The presentation develops on some of the points I made in earlier talks I gave in Toronto and Tasmania with regards to our attempts to practice kindness, compassion, and healing care in culturally unsustainable and toxic environments. The programme of the Compassionate Care conference is below.
McCann The Heart of Care Teesside 2015
All the material related to the Culture(s) in Sustainable Futures conference (Helsinki, 6-8 May 2015) is now available at the conference website:
Streamed plenary sessions with the keynote speeches: http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/helsinki2015/programme/conference-programme#videos
Students’ reflections from the conference: http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/final-conference/Reflections_2.pdf
List of abstracts: http://congress.cc.jyu.fi/helsinki2015/schedule/proceed.html
List of participants: http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/final-conference/COSTconferenceparticipants_all.pdf
The final publication of the COST Action IS 1007 “Culture in, as and for Sustainable Development” and the Executive Summary: http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/outputs
Hard copies can also be delivered if requested.
Feel free to share the information about the publication and the conference in your networks. You may use the media release which is attached and also available at: http://www.culturalsustainability.eu/final-conference/Mediarelease.pdf
On behalf of all the conference organisers,
Katriina and Sari
Culture(s) in Sustainable Futures | 6-8 May 2015 | Helsinki
More on this story: http://www.theage.com.au/comment/fifa-needs-toptobottom-overhaul-if-it-is-to-survive-20150604-ghgduy.html
“Now that the highest person in FIFA has stepped down, we are left wondering how wide and deep the corruption goes and whether there is any hope of recovery for FIFA.
“In his speech before the FIFA Congress last week, held under a dark cloud of bribery and corruption charges against several executive members, Sepp Blatter refused to take full responsibility and defied calls for him to stand down. As head of the organisation, Blatter admitted that ultimate responsibility lay with him, but he was quick to add that there was a need to share the responsibility with executive committee members. In his and the organisation’s defence, Blatter claimed that it was impossible to be responsible for everyone in the organisation, and implored the FIFA “family” to work together to rectify things.
“In his resignation as FIFA boss a few days later, Blatter admitted that the organisation required a profound overhaul and deep-rooted structural change. These changes included a smaller FIFA executive body, democratic and transparent election of FIFA executives, shorter terms of office and integrity checks. Not unsurprisingly, Blatter recommended himself as the person to drive FIFA’s transformation and restore public trust.
“Was Blatter’s desperate clinging to power his choice, or did he or the FIFA power base believe he was truly the person to usher in a new era of organisational integrity and public trust? How the election occurred, and how Blatter and the current executive committee remain in their leadership roles, raises a number of integrity issues in itself. That is, can an ingrained and long-established network of people, with a complex fabric of connections, and relationships with vested interests, be expected and trusted to clean up its own act?
“Structural change alone might only address part of the problem. Just as international regulators may put in rules and sanctions for various forms of cheating among sportsmen and women, it does not mean they will eliminate the problem. Like all institutions that have undergone reputational damage from corruption or other legal transgressions, there are likely to be scapegoats, as well as people with international reach attempting to get around rules or use them to their advantage. Perhaps, like the drug lords, the “real perpetrators of the crime” will be untouchable, having carefully covered their steps.”
More on this story: http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2015/06/05/taking-naval-approach-culture-change/
“Achieving culture change is more about getting managers to change the way they behave rather than frontline social workers.
This is never an easy task, but lessons can be learnt from the Australian Navy. In 2011 it was ordered to improve leadership at every level following reports detailing inefficient and out-dated practices as well as an alcohol fuelled culture across the service.
It’s new chief launched a systematic approach to cultural change, a key element of the programme was peer review: that is asking and telling colleagues if their behaviour had changed.”
Read the full press release here.
“The Nuffield Trust today warns that plans for an unprecedented £22 billion in savings and seven day working by 2020 will not be realised unless the health service reconnects with staff and develops their skills to better meet changing patient needs.
In a new briefing, published as MPs prepare to debate the health elements of the Queen’s Speech, the think tank highlights the growing trend of hospitals relying on agency staff, problems recruiting and retaining GPs and a rise in staff sick leave due to stress.
The Nuffield Trust argues that these factors, together with the continued effects of holding down staff pay, suggest that disengagement and burnout could hamper progress at a time of immense pressure on the NHS.
The warning comes shortly after official figures showed NHS spending on agency workers soaring by 31% in just one year, largely accounting for an £800m hole in hospital and community service finances.”
I am interested in the coaching possibilities opened up by Winslade and Monk’s mediation technique of “double listening”. Drawing on the work of Michael White, they make note of the “absent but implicit” story of hope that sits alongside the voicing of a story of conflict:
“Mediators can give this story of hope for something better a chance if they first of all hear this absent but implicit hope and then begin to inquire into the story that it is a part of. The story may often by subordinate to the story of the outrage and pain, but it perhaps speaks to the person’s better intentions in relation to the other party. If given the chance for expression, these better intentions can give rise to a different story of the future” (Winslade and Monk 2008:10-11).
The expression of pain and suffering through remembered events and feelings can become a seed for hopeful reflections, not as a utopian aspiration, but as an awareness of the desire for a more positive experience that the pain and conflict reveal. I think the lessons of this “double listening” are not just relevant to formal mediation, but are also helpful in invitations to transformation more generally. What Winslade and Monk’s work draws attention to is how stories of the past also shape our stories of the future. It may be that “double listening” can further open up what John Paul Lederach (2005) calls our “moral imagination”, allowing for even deeper understandings of the complexities, paradoxes, and possibilities of being human.
In very simple terms, double listening opens up the notion that ‘complaint is a window on aspiration’, that every complaint that I utter can also be turned on its head as an aspiration to a better situation, an improvement on what is. Staying with the complaint and hanging out there can lead to a lot of negative energy that can easily suck hope dry. Turning a complaint on its head to work out what it tells me about my aspirations, hopes, and values can provide me with an opportunity for reflection, a window to the otherwise, a doorway to new possibilities.
Complaint or conflict can become, then, a diagnostic opportunity for new perspectives, rather than the direct route to blame and denigration that they can often be.
John Paul Lederach. 2005. The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace. Oxford: OUP.
John Winslade and Gerald Monk. 2008. Practicing Narrative Mediation: Loosening the Grip of Conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
The core of the work of Hummingbird is that cultural climate is the key driver of behaviour, expectations, analytic frameworks, and quality of relationship within organisations.
The most important dimension of an organisational culture might be characterised as its “cultural climate”, or, in shorthand, the personality of an organization. The cultures of organizations differ in the way that each person has a different personality, that is, a dynamic pattern of variation in attitude, behaviour, and social interaction that tends to be consistent over long periods. The better you understand the personality of your organization, the better you will be able to respond to the challenges it faces.
To speak of “a cultural climate”, then, is to speak of the dispositional quality of a particular organisational culture, considered in comparison to other organisational cultures or to other times or places within the same organisation. In colloquial terms, the cultural climate of an organisation here means, “what has tended to happen, what tends to happen, and what will tend to happen in a particular organisation (specified by location(s) over a designated time).
“Culture change” is the process of actively intervening to change the cultural climate of an organisation, and supporting that process by way of due diligence, due patience, and due care. To effect a dispositional shift in the cultural climate of an organisation takes time. It also takes sensitive leadership. Until the cultural climate, the personality, of the organisation changes, nothing substantially changes.
The notion of change can be thrown around meaninglessly so that change becomes a welcome, unconditional good, and eternally necessary. Sometimes the term is used as if change is something other than that which ordinarily happens – change becomes rare and difficult to achieve, making it the sacred preserve of the creative few. In the other extreme, change can be considered ever-present, constant flux inescapable; life becomes so saturated with change and impermanence that little we can do truly makes a difference. Change becomes more meaningful when it is thought of as ordinary, possible, and available in everything we do.
Culture change is one of the more radical approaches you can choose to change your organization. Culture change involves identifying, evaluating, and actively changing the personality or personality traits of your organisation so that they better suit the aims, aspirations, and potential of your company, and so they better support the potential and possibilities of everyone in the organisation. At its best, organisational culture change positively affects productivity, innovation, sustainability, and emotional health simultaneously.
“Culture” can be a very confusing term. People use the term in so many ways. At its most empty and rhetorical, “culture” can be used as a catch-all term to express positivity, and aspiration, without people actually saying what they mean when they use the term. At its most specific, “culture” can mean the everyday details of our lives, down to the clothes we wear and the food we eat. In the spaces in between, the meaning of “culture” tends to rely heavily on the perspective of the person speaking, and on the richness of their imagination or the restrictions of their personal or political agenda.
For me, “culture” refers very simply to what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen. This is deliberately broad – it is important to not automatically exclude anything from our understanding of culture as a general concept. This then provides a comparative baseline, against which it is possible to make sense of the diverse meanings and rhetorics of the term. To what extent does someone’s meaning of “culture” diverge from this broad sense of it? Is a particular understanding of “culture” only limited to what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen in particular classes, groups, places, or artistic forms? Thinking about it all in this way can highlight prejudices, biases, exclusions, politics of distinction, elitism, and sectarianism.
To speak of “an organisational culture”, though, is to be very specific. For me, it is to speak of “what has happened, what is happening, and what will happen in a particular organisation (specified by location(s) over a designated time)“. This first and foremost invites:
- Inclusivity: everyone in an organisation contributes to and is affected by the culture of an organisation, from the CEO to the janitors;
- Transparency: this understanding of organisational culture leaves nowhere to hide – that’s the point;
- Discernment: to be this inclusive calls for a deeper discernment of what is actually going on within an organisation (see the earlier post on the 8 first principles of culture change);
- Legacy: “culture” here involves an awareness of what has happened before (our past legacies), as well as what is still to happen (our future legacies), connecting the past to the future;
- Anticipation: this is a future-oriented notion of culture, an invitation to awareness of our own participation in the cultural future of the organisation.
Once we ally the notion of “culture” to the discernment and evaluation of the specifics of power, effect, and circumstance it becomes helpful to speak in terms of “cultural climate”, and, by extension, “culture change”.
Self-care isn’t impossible in culturally unsustainable environments of enclosure (difficult, even toxic working environments), but it does tend to be rendered unlikely, unless you make ready, strengthen your sense of presence and resolve, and clarify what’s important to you before entering the arena. When all around you is swirling, it’s important that you don’t start swirling too. You can go into it convinced that all will be well, that the integrity of your ego and confidence will remain intact. Some people go the other way, actively wanting their personalities to be displaced, dissolved, and reformed, but the consequences of that can be disastrous.
People work in difficult environments for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they love the buzz, the conflict, and the drive. That stress can get addictive. Sometimes it’s because they feel like they have no option but to, on account of financial necessity. Sometimes it’s out of a sense of family loyalty. Whatever the reason, the most difficult work environments often shroud their cultural unsustainability through high employee turnover. Staying in a difficult environment for a number of years will grind anyone down, even if you rise to the so-called top of the pile. Sometimes it’s as simple as your adrenal system just deciding to pack it in.
For survival and personal sustainability, it becomes crucial to learn to distinguish yourself from your environment and to learn to sense the pressures that draw you away from yourself. You participate in any environment, but the environment, the cultural climate, does not have to define you. Neither does it have to squeeze out any and all possibilities for you to define yourself inside and outside your work in ways that don’t align with the intensities, toxicities, or pressures that tend to characterise your working day.
Leaving a difficult environment of your own free will takes clarity, integrity, and numerous moments of opportunity and pure luck that in time wake you up to the possibility that there may be other ways to live your life. Listening for those moments, and learning to move with the timing of the context of those moments, is a skill usually earned with scars, whether metaphorical or real.
I won’t be able to get over to it myself, but tomorrow morning (8am – 10am) there is a very interesting Culture Change event happening in London, the 2015 Behavioural Finance Forum:
“Since the financial crash of 2007 and 2008 there has been huge pressure for reform and change in the culture of the financial services industry – and how it recruits, rewards and motivates its people, how it treats its customers, and how it communicates with its shareholders.
The Forum will bring together thought leaders from the leading financial and professional services companies, universities, business schools and the media, to discuss and debate:
- A war for talent: why recruitment models need to change
- Culture change in action: the balance of ethics, risk and profit
- Serving, not selling: culture change and customer relationships
- Big Data tsunami: HR, technology, change”
For more information and some interesting Culture Change resources, visit: http://www.behaviouralfinanceforum.com