New Manager

The power of positive action

TT Srinath | Updated on March 25, 2014

Organisations must foster an atmosphere of mutuality, respect and co-creation to grow

Organisations are primarily born healthy. All promoters conceptualise, design and build their enterprises in the hope and belief that it will last beyond them and perhaps even grow into an institution that will be revered and respected. Therefore there is a lot of positive anticipation that goes into the creation of an organisation; there are no politics and there is a spirit of joie de vivre.

Yet as the same organisation evolves and grows, politics creeps in, silos begin to show up and the spirit of co-creation and bonhomie that pervaded the organisation is lost. What is it that causes such fracture, such fragmentation?

Sartre, the existential philosopher of the last century and proponent of awareness, maintained that so long as we celebrate scarcity, so long as we rejoice in poverty and denial, individuals will be set against one another and positive co-creation is impossible. As long as the spirit of scarcity is internalised, people will see each other as targets to be destroyed, even if only subtly and not overtly stated.

Restoring co-creation

How do we therefore restore an attitude of co-creation and togetherness?

Adopting an approach of abundance, nourishing the belief there is enough for all and remembering that “a candle glows brighter by lighting another one and not by extinguishing it”, will transform intent from attempting to “reduce” to one of “expanding”.

Resources will be deployed to increase wealth and create plenty.

Goldratt, the famous physicist who advocated ‘the theory of constraints’, emphasised through his seminal writing that organisations must divert their attention to expanding ‘top line’ and expansion of earning, instead of reduction of cost.

A few years ago, an advertisement by a popular petroleum company said: ‘Tighten your belt’. The picture on the billboard showed an emaciated man, with his tongue sticking out, a pained expression on his face and gasping for breath.

While the advertisement certainly communicated the message of lack, it also effectively destroyed any possibility of imagining prosperity. This therefore is what happens when you focus on what you do not have, rather than what you do. In a similar fashion, in organisations, when our attention is drawn to what we do not have, or the little we have, everyone scrambles to carve out a share for himself unmindful that if we collaborate maybe we will all get a little and will therefore not have to fight. Yet for this to happen we must direct our attention towards those resources that we have, the positives available, the plenty that abounds and the strengths we embody.

We must cultivate an attitude of positive anticipation rather than depleted pessimism. When we train our attention to look at possibilities, even intractable situations become easy to cope with and our energies are available to invest in resolution and solution finding.

Time for change

Organisations must discover a new grammar that engenders:

Framing questions that we ask of one of another in a manner that is neither interrogative nor provocative yet supportive, curious and evocative.

Go into meetings with the intent to have a dialogue not debate.

Take what is being said with the belief that there is no hidden or ulterior motive.

Share data based, observed and factual information.

Provide enabling rather than punitive feedback.

Recognise the potential of ‘immediacy’ rather than post-mortem.

Be ‘zero based’ in attempting to solve issues.

When such shared values are advocated and practised the organisation will soon return to well-being and health.

Organisations, particularly younger ones, require members to constantly think of organisation welfare, growth and prosperity.

Given this belief, it behoves the leaders, the primary drivers, to encourage an atmosphere of mutuality, respect and co-creation.

In the absence of such an environment, people will wage battles with one another as they scramble to mount the imagined throne. What they are unaware of is that there is no throne to capture but a round table with space for all.

The writer is an organisational and behavioural consultant. He can be contacted at ttsrinath@vsnl.net

Published on March 25, 2014

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