How effective is your organisation at making change stick?

First published on LinkedIn September 28, 2016

People often think transformational change is all about aligning your organisational structure with your strategy and improving the efficiency of your business processes.

They are partly right.

Your organisation is a system with three basic levers – strategy, business process and people.  Transformational change most commonly addresses the issue of aligning strategy to business processes through restructuring.  But unless you also engage your people in your strategy and nurture the right team culture to deliver it, your organisation will look good on paper, but will fail to live up to your expectations.

The role of leaders in making change stick

There is another lever that determines your overall chances of success, and that is your leadership capability to hold these disparate yet connected elements of the organisation in alignment.

The problem with many transformations is that they overplay the rational and structured elements of that system (strategy, organisation and business process), underplay the emotional connections (people, engagement and team culture), and often do not assess leadership capability at all.

So, how effective is your approach at making transformational change stick?  How have you engaged your people in the new strategy and nurtured the right team culture to deliver it?  And how as leaders will you hold it all together?

Take part in my research project

I am undertaking some research into the factors that make organisational change stick, which considers this systems-thinking view and other factors that promote or inhibit change.  I’d be very grateful for your opinion.  The survey will only take a few minutes.

You can take the survey here

Please share with your network

Many thanks

Jeremy J Lewis
@growthepig

The Great Big Data Swindle: aka you don’t Grow the Pig by weighing it

First published in LinkedIn August 9, 2016

It’s not the quantity of data that’s important – it’s the way you use it that truly matters

– Matthew Sharp, Senior Hacker at LinkedIn

Weigh the pig

We all know (especially if you’ve ever listened to me ranting on about it) that you don’t Grow the Pig by weighing it.  And yet everyone’s talking about Big Data. The truth is you should only measure what you can use.

The first example of Big Data dates as far back as William the Conqueror.  His commission in 1086, twenty years after the invasion and defeat of the English in 1066, heralded the end of the Dark Ages. He commissioned the report to assess the extent of the land and resources owned in England so he could maximise the tax due. He needed the tax revenue to wage more war in northern France.

It took around a year to complete the data collection.  Some 900+ years later, a vault in Kew holds the resulting two volumes.  It really is an astonishing story. Commissioners were dispatched to create a comprehensive survey that would provide irrefutable evidence of every single landowner, villager, smallholder, tenant and slave, together with the extent of land owned, occupied and the livestock grazed upon it, as well as details of all buildings. Across the whole of England! It was said at the time that “there was no single…pig left out” (which seems apt here). Its definition as irrefutable fact led it to being named after the Christian tradition of Judgement Day, or Domesday, where every soul is laid bare for judgement.

Anyway, William the Conqueror knew how he was going to use his Big Data, to tax people. Ironically, he died before Domesday was completed. Do we know what Big Data is being collected for nowadays? Do you know why you would want to collect Big Data on your customers, processes, people, and what you are going to use it for?

Domesday today

At a societal level, here in the present day, governments and large corporations appear to be maintaining Domesday databases through Big Data. In fact, Big Data goes beyond databases.  Those governments and large corporations managed it through interconnected networks using the power of the internet and social media. And now, instead of manually collecting all our data by hand in large ledgers, they do it automatically in these vast technology networks that track and model everything from simulating the outcome of referendums to predicting what you will do tomorrow based on your credit score, geographical location and shoe size. Ok, so I made that last bit up, but you get my drift.

Liz Ryan (CEO of the Human Workplace) observes that “when in doubt, fearful humans put their trust in data! (Bad choice)”. Should we put our trust in Big Data, or is it all a bit too much like Big Brother, all a bit too scary? Surely it is us who provide the data that makes Big Data scary. It’s scary not because the machines we have created are getting smarter, but because we are now processing information on such a scale it is impossible to keep track of it.

Paralysis by analysis

And the truth is that data will only go so far. The measurement of demographics, credit cores, shoe sizes, whatever, is useless. What matters is the interpretation of that data into meaningful decisions.  Keep your data limited to what you can use to make effective decisions, and learn to use it, talk to your customers and staff and discuss it. Progress your collection to more sophisticated analytics when you need to, but avoid the pull to paralysis through information overload. Do not let the tail wag the dog, or the pig, for that matter.

(rant over)

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

#growthepig is my philosophy of organisation design and development

Take Alan’s advice: a three-step approach to become a trusted business adviser

First published on LinkedIn July 13, 2016

To paraphrase Alan Partridge, “Lynn’s not my wife.  She’s my accountant.  Hard-worker, but there’s no affection.”

The work of corporate support functions has changed.  This applies to accounting, human resources, learning and development, legal services, risk, IT, corporate strategy and planning, financial and systems analysis, project and change managers and more.  In fact for anyone who has professional experience, limited direct authority over the use of their expertise and the desire to have some impact at an organisational level.

Regardless of Alan’s view, the traditional role of hard-working expert represents only half the story.  You must be able to have that expertise listened to and used.  To do this, you require a commercial ‘business-like’ mindset, a collaborative partnering approach and the skills to develop trusted adviser relationships.  Dare I say it, to develop a certain affection?

The most effective way for professionals in corporate functions to gain respect, lead change and add value to their organisations is to develop these skills.  I have helped the corporate functions of B2B and B2C private service sector clients and clients in the Health sector do this.  Whilst each of the organisations I’ve worked with is unique, with its own unique set of circumstances, they often share similar challenges, i.e. how to:

  • Find the time to cut down on doing the work in order to build relationships?
  • Get business managers to take accountability for its finances, people, IT investment, etc?
  • Prevent the professionals from ‘going native’?
“Knowing me, Alan Partridge; knowing you, my trusted business adviser; Aha!”

You start by adopting a new professional mindset (‘Knowing me’), and go on to develop deeper relationships (‘Knowing you’) and then consistently apply these fundamentals in your role (‘Aha!’).

Knowing me

Professionals are increasingly anxious within organisations.  Two examples of the risks corporate functions face from their customer-facing colleagues are continual downsizing of the ‘back office’ and the democratisation of information through technology.  Professionals in corporate functions must continually demonstrate their worth to the organisation.  And be seen to do so.

Unfortunately, professionals have an unconscious tendency to pay more attention to their own discipline than the direct strategic goals of the organisations they work for.  We call this ‘basic-assumption’ mentality.  In this mode, the corporate function’s directs its behaviour at meeting the unconscious needs of its members by reducing anxiety.  However, professionals have been trained to use their basic-assumption mentality in a sophisticated way that supports the organisation’s strategic objectives.  This sounds confusing, so let me give a few examples[1]

Finance

Chartered accountant firms require their junior staff to be dependent on senior staff while they are training.  This approach delivers a qualified accountant who insists on being independent and behaves hierarchically to juniors.   They review all their subordinates’ work and hold on to decision-making.  This is the basic assumption of dependency, which is sensibly deployed to manage risk.  Remember the partners of the accounting firm are personally liable and stand to lose their all their worldly possessions if things go wrong.

There is a high risk of this behaviour degenerating into an insistence for freedom for its own sake.  This leads to a lack of accountability to the organisation.  It can lead to a culture of subordination and hierarchical power requiring unquestioning obedience from juniors (and business managers).

Human Resources

The HR professional deploys collaboration with management as the best way to deliver change.  We call this the basic assumption of pairing.  Pairing is a psychological coping strategy where a helpless person assumes two other people will come together to create a messiah baby to save their world.

If overplayed, such a collaborative approach can lead to colluding with the business, whilst simultaneously refusing to examine whether HR interventions help or support the organisation’s strategic objectives.  This can lead to a culture of ‘soft’ HR outputs without the requisite action required to make the change.  For example, creating future-oriented organisational vision and values statements that end up merely as posters on the office wall.

Information Technology

IT professionals have the capacity for sophisticated use of the fight/flight basic assumption mentality.  They sell their proposed technology solutions to clients whilst defending against alternative solutions with doomsday premonitions of catastrophic outcomes if they are not heeded.

Frustratingly often, IT projects do not deliver the purported benefits.  When that happens, the fight/flight mentality degenerates into denial of responsibility, assertion that the IT professional is still right and that the business managers need to change to exploit the technology in full.  Projecting responsibility in this way disables the professional/client relationship from productively devising a course of action to resolve issues.  This can lead to a culture of paranoia and aggressive competitiveness.  It can also lead to a preoccupation with the ‘enemy within’ as well as perceived external enemies.   And it can lead to the promulgation of complex and bewildering rules to control these dangers.

Professionals really need to look at themselves and recognise the approach they are prone to taking.  Only then can they choose a new professional role and identity.

Knowing you

When professionals have gained a deeper understanding of themselves, they can choose a productive professional identity (i.e. one of collaborative business partner).  They are then better placed to notice what drives and motivates the business managers they are seeking to partner.  Developing relationships is probably the most important single thing a professional can do.  In this way they can avoid the dual risks of (a) being treated like a ‘pair of hands’ to do the tasks their business colleagues cannot or do not want to do and (b) being treated like a specialist expert who sits outside the workgroup and can only comment from the sidelines.  Importantly, avoiding these risks actually saves time.

Not only can professionals avoid these risks, but they can transcend them to become a trusted business adviser.  They do this by sitting within the workgroup and operating collaboratively (read: high support and high challenge).  This allows them the opportunity to help the business take accountability.

It also allows them to develop into the strategic partner that not only turns data into insight, but also brings perspective and commerciality.  This enables them to retain their professional integrity without going ‘native’.

Aha!

These skills are neither magical nor mysterious, but come about by mastering the basics of ‘knowing me, knowing you’ and practising the skills needed to deepen relationships.

I often run business simulations and action learning sets with clients so they can practise and reflect on their progress in developing their collaborative partnering skills.

And so the penny finally drops.  As Jim Rohn once said, “Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practised every day”.

And I agree.

And even, I suspect, would Alan Partridge.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

[1] These examples have been adapted from the work of Jon Stokes (1994). The Unconscious at work in Groups and Teams: Contributions from the Work of Wilfred Bion, in Anton OBHOLZER and Vega Z. ROBERTS (Eds.) The Unconscious at Work. London, Routledge.

 

I am not a four-letter acronym, I am a free man

Updated copy of a post first published on LinkedIn July 6, 2016

The 1960s TV series, The Prisoner, invited viewers to consider the psychological implications of being labelled and conforming to collectivist ideals, versus being a free-willed individual.  “I am not a number, I am a free man,” proclaimed protagonist Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan).

Well, I have decided I am not an ISFP, or whatever my personality type says I am.

“An ISF-who’s-doing-what, now?” I hear you cry.

Millions of people across the world have undertaken an assessment to determine their personality type.  There are other behavioural and personality type psychometric instruments out there.  However, one of the most recognised and commonly used is the psychology of Carl Jung, as adapted and interpreted by one Isabel Briggs-Myers and one Katharine Cook Briggs (aka the Myers-Briggs thing).

Personality types

Here comes the “science”.  In a nutshell, four dichotomies determine your personality.  Firstly, how you take in (or Perceive) information, which you can do in a detailed, sequential sort of way (Sensing) or a big picture, snapshot sort of way (iNtuition).  Then, you need to consider how you make decisions (or Judgements) based on that information, which you can do objectively (Thinking) or empathetically (Feeling).  One of these Perceiving or Judging dichotomies will dominate your approach to dealing with the world.  Finally, you will put your energy into your dominant approach either by focusing on the external world (Extraversion) or by internalising it (Introversion).  The answers to these four dichotomies yield 16 personality types, each identified by a four-letter acronym.  Only it’s not “science”, it’s just a metaphor for observable behaviour.  you might as well refer to the Native American Medicine Wheel or even Astrology to determine your personality.

Confused?  You should be!  Yet we are told how these four dichotomies apply most often to you determines your personality type.  This in turn determines how you are likely to respond to external stimuli.

The problem with all of this is that people are, well, people.  We are just trying to categorise certain observable behaviours.  Neuroscience now shows that our rational and emotional minds are quite able to be trained to respond in whatever way we choose to any given situation.  So why straight-jacket us with a “type”?  And why make that type so darned complicated?

The concept of preference

What if we viewed some of these types simply as behavioural preferences?  What would these preferences be?  It turns out four such behavioural modes will suffice.  It seems having 16 types really does seem excessive.

What if we could recognise we already have relatively easy access to more than one behavioural mode, say two or even three of these modes?  Would personality typing continue to be appropriate to define us?  I suggest not.

I know I extravert my perceptions and introvert my feelings (apparently this means I work with bursts of energy and makes me a P), but I am quite able to plan out my day too (J).  I’m also happy taking in information in different ways (S and N) and applying both rational thinking and emotional feelings (T and F) to make decisions.  I spend long periods of time focusing on others’ needs and taking in others’ perspectives (E) and I spend long periods of time on my own reflecting and making sense of that data (I).

I am all these things and more.  We need a behavioural psychometric that understands people.  I believe I have found one such tool, called MiRo.  I use it a lot in my organisation development consulting, coaching and facilitation practice.  I’m so excited about it, I have recently become accredited to provide training to others to become MiRo Practitioners.

If you think there’s a better way to help people understand and adapt their behaviour, then I’d like to hear about it.  Get in touch to share your thoughts.  Alternatively, click here to find out more about the MiRo behavioural psychometric.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

We need a changeforce, not a workforce!

First posted on LinkedIn June 20, 2016

Let’s face it, as far as the Knowledge Economy goes, the concept of a traditional workforce is dead and buried.

What is a workforce anyway?  A force that does work, perhaps?  What work?  Why that sort of work?  How does it do the work? Where and when does it do the work?

Today’s knowledge economy reality
Traditional Workforce rules of engagement                Today’s Knowledge Economy reality
What A manager tells you what to do A leader sets direction and expects you to get on with it
Why You do it for pay, recognition and the social aspects of going to work You do it because it aligns to your own vision of what you want to achieve as well as the organisation you work for
How You get some training in what to do You get some development in how to take accountability for delivering the organisation’s purpose
Where In a workplace such as a factory or office Anywhere you can get Wi-Fi or 3G
When ‘Nine to five’ Anytime that suits

 

Clearly some aspects of today’s reality can lead to organisations taking the proverbial ****, such as expecting people to be always available and willing and able to turn things around in the hours of darkness between working days.  That said, the new reality enables personal agency and demands people take accountability for delivery, and when the freedoms of technology are used judiciously, this can help with choice and work life balance.

One thing’s for certain, change is accelerating at an incredible pace.  Politically (Irreversible Public Sector cuts, coalition governments, referenda requiring us to take accountability to determine our own futures), economically (1 in 7 are now self-employed), Sociologically (Big Society) as well as technologically.

Perhaps the new normal requires a new approach to the idea of a workforce?  Perhaps organisations need a changeforce, rather than a workforce?

A force for change

A changeforce still needs direction from a leader to set the course, but they would know how to go about delivering that course because they have been raised on dealing with and leading change, they do it because leading change aligns to their personal life choices, and they definitely do it any time, any place, anywhere, because they are truly ‘always on’.  The average Smartphone user already checks their device 150 times a day (source: Vodafone).

I’m reminded of a military analogy – the armed forces spend much of their training developing the skills the troops need to do their jobs (i.e. the ‘hows’).  In ‘theatre’, when a commanding officer instructs the troops what is to be done, (s)he does not waste time telling them how to do it.  They already know.  Rather, the ‘what’ direction is interpreted by the troops on the ground into ‘how’ to get on with it by drawing on their trained-in skills.

A changeforce should therefore spend most of their developmental time learning how to be a force for change.  This is NOT learning project management skills, but rather learning how they will go about:

  • Communicating the change vision with clarity
  • Engaging others in change
  • Facilitating organisational learning
  • Assessing organisational readiness for change
  • Realising the benefits of change.

So I’m curious; how’s your changeforce development shaping up?

 

Jeremy J Lewis

Committed to making a difference in organisation effectiveness and sustainable change

Does your organisation pay attention to its heart, mind, body and soul?

First posted on LinkedIn June 16, 2016

A whole person is made up of heart, mind, body and soul.  Okay it’s a metaphor, I know a whole person comprises blood, organs, flesh and bones, but go with me for a moment.  I believe an organisation (which is a human system after all) has a heart, a mind, a body and a soul too.  People need to attend to their hearts, minds, bodies and souls to stay healthy and to thrive, especially in times of change.  So, why don’t organisations do the same?  Making changes stick requires you pay attention to your organisation’s heart, mind, body and soul.

The power to organise defines the organisational mind

Let’s start with the mind, the appeal to logic (or logos as the Greek philosophers would have it) so prevalent in how organisations are designed.  Why is paying attention to the organisational mind important?  People are rational and need security and recognition for their work.  Paying attention to the organisational mind connects your business processes to your strategy and it demonstrates a thought through design for efficiency and effectiveness.  The power to organise defines the organisational mind.  It is attended to through org structures, planning processes and performance management.

Organisations demonstrate heart through engagement

Then there’s the heart of the organisation, the appeal to emotions (or pathos).  Pathos is important in decision making (as now evidenced through neuroscience).  It connects people to your strategy and demonstrates a developmental approach to help people fulfil their potential.  Organisations demonstrate heart by how well they engage their people.  This requires clarity of communication, offering support and nurturing people to develop their careers in pursuit of their aspirations.

Actions speak louder than words

The body of an organisation is its people.  It is how they undertake your business processes to deliver the strategy.  It is, as Herb Kelleher, Chairman of Southwest Airlines puts it, “what people do when no one is looking”.  More than anything else, this defines your organisation’s culture.  It’s what connects people to your business processes.  Attending to culture demonstrates you value the real life internal workings of your organisation.  Developing this enables you to keep it simple, get it right first time and truly create a customer-focused culture.

You need soul to turns ideas into actions

The organisational soul is what holds all the other parts together.  It balances the needs of the organisational heart, mind and body.  It connects strategy, process and people, and it demonstrates the ability to turn ideas into actions to deliver the strategy.  The organisational soul is leadership; leadership that gives clarity of direction, support to develop skills and behaviours and reinforce those behaviours day-to-day, and ensures there are consequences for success or failure to deliver.

I work with clients who know they need to develop their organisations, but who are frustrated by the change they want to make not sticking.  I believe to make change stick you need to attend to the heart, mind body and soul of your organisation.  How does your organisation fair?  Does it pay attention to its heart, mind, body and soul?

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

How to build a better multi-agency leadership team through group coaching

First posted on LinkedIn June 7, 2016

Last week, I was working with a multi-agency leadership team comprising local government, health, police, private and third sector partners.  They are grappling with some particularly acerbic social issues; those so-called ‘wicked’ problems that defy linear, planned change and disregard ordinary leadership techniques.

Strategic focus

This group seeks strategic alignment across multiple agencies each with its own agenda.  They want to agree ways of integrated working and to shift their collective mindset to build their understanding of a very complex issue.  The fledgling team are building the capability to deal with it across organisational boundaries and, most importantly of all, they want to build trust to lead a borough of several hundred thousand citizens towards a brighter future.  They are operating at the cutting edge of societal leadership.

Group coaching

Colleagues and I have offered several coaching sessions.  We commenced with exploring how the members of the group would work together and quickly, possibly too quickly, moved into detailed action planning.  As coaches, we noticed how the group all too readily opted to work on a detailed, task focused agenda; one which was probably too ‘safe’.

Thankfully, we recognised and surfaced what we had observed and challenged the group to occupy a more strategic place; one of challenge and support; one of leading complexity.  Our coachees then started to experience a sense of togetherness.  At last week’s session, the fifth in the series, agreed no less than 27 individual actions focused on what they want to achieve, how they are going to progress them and how they will build trusting relationships between themselves.

Breakthrough performance

I have seen this group grow through the forming-storming-norming-performing stages of Bruce Tuckman’s famous teamwork theory (Tuckman, BW, 1965, Developmental Sequence in Small Groups, Psychological Bulletin 63, pp384-399) in a matter of weeks.

This I believe vindicates the approach the coaches took in the early days of focusing on the ‘how’, resisting moving into tasks until the group was ready.  It also goes to show the importance of a group coach whose presence is at once essential to the group’s development and is also irrelevant to the group’s purpose.  This is because (s)he is but one who facilitates the discussion.

Undisciplined problems disrespect conventional leadership development.  Group coaching is far from conventional and I believe offers a disciplined focus that is most appropriate to such wicked issues.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

I am both absolutely essential and totally irrelevant

First posted on LinkedIn May 19, 2016

Tomorrow I am facilitating an Action Learning Set for a group of managers and senior managers who are in the middle of a partnering skills developmental programme.  They will have been practising partnering techniques they have learned.  They are coming to share their progress and blockers, and help each other build confidence in their new skills.

What is action learning?

Action learning is a process by which participants study their own actions and experiences in order to improve their skills and performance.  This is done in conjunction with others in small groups called Action Learning Sets.

Research has shown that action learning develops real-world wisdom rather than traditional educational processes that tend to focus purely on knowledge.  It is particularly suited to leadership and management development in organisations.  This is because participants are working on real problems in the real world that affect real people, rather than solving individual puzzles (such as developing budgets on spreadsheets).

Both learning approaches require taking action, reflecting on that action and making practical changes to the actions to be taken next time to improve performance.  However, action learning in groups propels the individual further and faster in the real world.  This is because their peers are helping them see the results of their actions on other people.

The role of the facilitator

And as facilitator of this process, my role is to intervene as little as possible, so that the participants do as much of the work as possible.  I will hold the space on behalf of the group so they can focus on helping each other.  I will ensure ground rules are observed and I will manage the process of the session.

Arguably, I am totally irrelevant to the group, who are quite capable of running this for themselves.  Equally I am absolutely essential… my presence will create the right conditions for the group to maximise their learning.

If I do my job well, they will hardly notice me, they will feel confident they can run the next session themselves, and then my continued presence will be totally irrelevant…

I will know my presence was absolutely essential.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

Three tips to give effective performance improvement feedback

First posted on LinkedIn April 15, 2016

Let’s start by busting a commonly held myth.  Here is how NOT to give effective performance improvement feedback:

  1. Butter them up – find some platitudes or feedback on what is going well
  2. Give the ’difficult’ message
  3. Say “But…” and then reinforce the positives.

Let me be clear… this method of ‘sandwiching’ developmental feedback between two piece of good news DOES NOT WORK!

In a study at the University of Chicago, behavioural science professor Ayelet Fishbach conducted a simulation in which one half of a class gave negative feedback to the other half.  The half receiving feedback thought they were doing great.

Why did they walk away with a positive impression of their performance when the students giving feedback set out to let their them know that their performance was unsatisfactory?

“Negative feedback is often buried and not very specific,” according to Fishbach.

According to Kurt Lewin in his seminal work undertaken in the 1940s, effecting change is like an ice cube: you unfreeze it, change its shape, then re-freeze it to lock in the change.  Change guru Ed Schein suggests there are three critical components to the unfreezing process:

  1. Disconfirm worldview
  2. Create a level of guilt or anxiety
  3. Provide a psychological safety net.

As an example, one of my team members failed to deliver a report on time and even when I followed this up with her, it was subsequently not written to the required quality.  I looked her in the eye and explained clearly and succinctly what the likely outcomes would be.  I reinforced it was her responsibility to ensure those outcomes were positive (step 1).  After a little resistance and further discussion, I could see in her eyes that she understood and felt responsible.  She was for sure a little guilty at having let me (and herself) down (Step 2).  I closed by offering her my support by way of a review of the report before it was finalised (Step 3).

So, when it comes to giving difficult performance management messages, remember Ed Schein’s advice.  Here’s some tips from me:

Step 1: Disconfirm worldview
  • Do you have the authority and leverage to be able to tell people their current performance is below par, that it is not meeting its objectives and that change is needed?
  • Have you instilled a clear view of the outcome (i.e. changed behaviour) that is sought, and over what time-frames?
Step 2: Create a level of guilt or anxiety
  • In disconfirming the worldview, are you able to pierce through the person’s current perception of themselves that has created a defence against criticism and locked them into their current behaviour?
  • Doing this demonstrates there is guilt and anxiety through the feedback you have given, and crucially that this anxiety is located around the specific area of behaviour that is problematic.
Step 3: Provide psychological safety net
  • How can you offer support to the other person so that they feel safe in working on changing their behaviour?
  • What do they need from you in order to be able to work on it?
  • Be explicit about how you will both work on this together and check progress together within the agreed overall timeframe for change.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

A two-step programme to give yourself time to #JustBe

First posted on LinkedIn March 16, 2016

Busy, busy, busy

It strikes me that we fill our lives with stuff to do: reports to write, meetings to attend, emails to send, phone calls to make, presentations to prepare, endless lists of things to do…  And when we’re not at work, there’s endless lists of things to do too: our fitness regimes to maintain, our food to cook, our homes to clean, our children to drop off, our children to pick up, other people’s children to pick up, …

We allow ourselves to self-persecute; we allow our diaries persecute us; we allow our to-do lists persecute us.  I know people who love making to-do lists.  Their to-do lists even include “Get up” and, “Have breakfast” so that they can tick them off with a sense of achievement.  This I fear is a step too far.  You know it’s really gone too far when you start off a new to-do list with the item, “See other to-do list”.

Striving for efficiency

And even when you know this self-persecutory doing behaviour has gone too far, the only solutions out there appear to be aimed at doing things more efficiently: Smart Phone Apps that get you organised so you can do more, books that help you create an efficiency programme so you can do more, methods to take control of your email inbox so you can do even more…

I remember one of those personal efficiency type training courses I attended as a junior manager many years ago; we were shown how to categorise tasks into three types: ‘A’ tasks – those that our performance was measured against, ‘C’ tasks – those that were just stuff that came across our desks and ‘B tasks, which covered pretty much everything in between.  Then we were told that personal efficiency sprang from scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our diaries.  Who knew?  A colleague and I were paired up at the end of the course to keep in touch and check in with each other to see how we were getting on with scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our demanding work schedules.  So, I rang him a few weeks later to inquire into his progress.  “I’m far too busy to start with all that crap,” he replied.

We become victims entirely of our own making.

Finding time to #JustBe

What if you could find a way to balance all this doing with more of the being we need to rediscover ourselves.  It is said we are human beings after all, not human doings.  What if you could find the time to #JustBe.  Then you might just discover your life’s purpose, your Dharma.  This requires us to reject being a victim and to choose being vulnerable instead.  To choose our own potency over self-persecution.

And this starts with giving yourself permission to #JustBe.  There is a time to do and a time to be.  I like to think of each day as having three parts – a morning, an afternoon and an evening.  That’s 21 parts to a week.  Many of us are contracted to work for 10 of those, that’s less than half.  In reality, many of us are conditioned into working a lot more of them.

Step 1: Make a list of the things that help you #JustBe.  My list includes go for a walk, take a bath, play music.  Then schedule some #JustBe time in your diary.  Your diary will still be full of things to do, but now there’ll also be space to be too.

Step 2: Here’s the biggie.  Clear your diary.  I dare you.  Just thinking about doing it can be scary, vulnerable.  Liberating, isn’t it?  Your diary becomes an ocean of space to #JustBe.  You now have the choice to schedule in some things to do.  A choice.  All life is a choice.

Choose wisely.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig