So the intent was to write a message of seasonal good cheer. But the news of recent days is making that a bit tough: violence, abuse, intolerance, professional misconduct, breaches of trust. A lot of hurt, anger and fear. Ho Ho Ho?
The strange synchronicity is that we were doubting if it was a good time to release the report about Fear (see sidebar). But (and spoiler alert – end of that story about to be revealed) the wisdom and practical advice of the good people who gathered for the Inspiring Catalysts event at Futerra earlier this year is that we should not ignore or run from our fear. But rather walk towards it, understand it, change our relationship with it and even embrace it. As Jim Collins says in ‘Good to Great’, “Confront the brutal facts and know you shall prevail.”
It is also clear that anger can be as much a motivator for people leading change as the positive vision. It is through witnessing missed opportunities, injustices and bad decisions in our workplaces and out in the world that we may reach the tipping point and act. As Daniel Goleman opened his seminal work, Emotional Intelligence, with the words of Aristotle; “Anyone can become angry – that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way – this is not easy.” Any anger we feel about what’s going on at work, in our teams or out in the world, it is because there is something we care about that’s at risk or being hurt. If we didn’t care, we wouldn’t be angry about it. Like the findings from Fear, when we look beyond the anger and discover what it is we deeply care about we are then in a better position to act mindfully, compassionately and effectively to do something about it.
It’s also worth bringing a bit of Zen thinking to the news; just as the most important thing about a cup is not the cup, but the space it contains allowing it to hold the drink, it’s useful to hear what is not said: millions go to work and school and get home again quite safely. Everyday we experience the care and consideration of others, often strangers, who are simply being human and doing their work and living their lives well. For most of us, food, water and power are brought to us. Waste is taken away. When things go wrong, many strive to put it right. There are acts of kindness, courage, patience, boldness and wisdom. Work and life are big – it’s all there to find, and we can see what we seek. There is much to appreciate and celebrate. There is much we can choose to be grateful for. Oh, and don’t forget to save a little recognition and appreciation for yourself.
Finally a strange muse came to mind. Stories are funny things. They speak to us in different ways. And we can put the pieces together differently to gain new perspectives. As James Kerr shared in passing on something he was sent: what’s the well known story here?… A young girl arrives in a new country, kills the first woman she meets, teams up with a bunch of misfits and they set off together to murder again. Answer: The Wizard of Oz. We can see familiar stories in new ways. So without allegiance to any particular philosophy or faith, a look at the seasonal Christian story is interesting from a ‘leading for transformation’ perspective: The wise saw something was up and went looking. The ‘powers that be’ heard something was up, and feeling challenged, set out to kill it. The first to know what was really going on were those who spent time outside, nearest the animals. Even if you bring something good you may face lots of rejection, but someone will give you a break. Humble beginnings are OK. The wise give something to the young. You may not be able to articulate your message at the outset. That’s OK. You can still start something that will change lives.
Though of course if at anytime you get to thinking that you are the Messiah, you may need some professional help!