Wednesday, May 31, 2020

How Can It Be Done?

I receive some wonderful, thoughtful and inspiring comments from people who read these posts. Last week, Ellen wrote a comment that, once again, made me stop and think hard. In case you missed it, this is what she said:
I love your mix of effective and civil and have enjoyed the fact that you balance these two in your test. Like you... I too remain concerned with how systems have promoted an inhumane atmosphere for workers and leaders. I am very interested in the motivations and tactics to turn that around for those who are ready for change. What do you think?
For those of us who believe the workplace can — and must — be made a more civilized place, Ellen’s comment points to the essential question: How can it be done? What will convince those with the power to instigate change to turn away from the barren, ego-driven demands of the typical command-and-control methods of leadership to embrace new, less inhumane ways? Is it even possible?

I took several days to think over Ellen’s question. I don’t say I have the answer — maybe you can see a better way — but this is what I believe will be the best route to significant change.

It isn’t by trying to convince people by logical argument — though there are few arguments to support driving people to the edge of burnout and beyond, and many that will show a more humane route is likely to be better for profits as well as people. Few conventional leaders take much notice of logic. Nor will it be helpful to appeal to people’s better natures. Sadly, such appeals seem increasingly to fall on ears deafened by the constant clamor to make ever greater profit.

I believe the only way to win over more business owners, directors and organizational leaders is by showing them — showing them a civilized, humane and satisfying workplace works. Not only works, but works better than the alternative; better than pushing and driving and harassing people to deliver results they would produce — yes, and more than produce — willingly and with joy, if only they were trusted to do so.

Civilizing the workplace will take hundreds and thousands of individual leaders — people like you who read these posts — taking whatever action each one can to introduce the ideas of Slow Leadership into their own teams, sections, departments or divisions. It will take small business owners who are ready to try the great experiment of being both an entrepreneur and a leader whose actions make the lives of those who work with them better. It will take leaders at all levels and in every walk of life — in healthcare, in education, in every profession and type of business endeavor, even in government — each doing what they can in their own areas of accountability: making small changes, adjusting what can be adjusted to improve people’s experience of work, showing, by their actions, that you can have efficiency and profitability along with humanity and civilized methods of organization.

Organizations are always ready to copy what they can see works. That means it’s up to us to show them this way of leading people truly does work. If we can do that, I believe more and more will join us. If we can’t, nothing will change. And that’s a prospect I don’t think anyone should willingly accept.

Don’t wait for others to act. Don’t wait until change has become widespread and general. If you do that, it probably never will be. Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come. Nothing can stop hundreds of thousands of individuals intent on making change, however small each change may be. There’s no need to make a fuss. It doesn’t have to be some grand act of defiance. Simply do whatever you can, in whatever way is possible, to change your own workplace to become a more humane place. Do it for yourself, for your colleagues and for those who will come after. If enough people act this way, change will come … and come soon. That much, I believe, is certain.

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