Category Archives: relationships

Creating an Observer Culture: From harmful hearsay to an open feedback culture

Observer
Courtesy Prawney @ Morguefile

Leaders need observers

In a world of information overload, a leader’s ability to be the sole key observer in keeping an organization abreast of trends, innovations, and market changes is diminishing. There is an ever-increasing multiplicity of social, economic, technological, environmental, and political factors impacting business. Leaders depend on the keen observation of others. How can a leader maximize the benefit of what is being observed?

The observer obsession

According to the Oxford Living Dictionary, the verb observe is to notice or perceive (something) and register it as being significant. Do what employees deem significant match what management deems to be? Collective opinions matter. To add some perspective, on just one day there are on average 500 million tweets and 95 million pictures and videos shared on Instagram. Every 60 seconds on Facebook: 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded. (Source: The Social Skinny).  What do these mindblowing numbers mean for leaders?

Observer bias

The Cambridge Dictionary defines an observer as a person who watches what happens but has no active part in it. Are observers always able to remain objective and/or independent of what is being observed? Take a brief moment to look at comments on any social media site; division and divisiveness appear to be on the rise. At any level of an organization, including the executive, individuals are both subjective and objective observers. Leaders encouraging objective observation focus on organization-oriented outcomes as opposed to those that are driven by special interest. A leader’s job is to not only be aware of his or her own observer bias but also that of others.

Forget water cooler chat

According to a two-year-old Pew Research poll, 86% of US adults aged 18-29 are social media users. With every new young hire comes a prospective employee who is used to regularly sharing observations on various social platforms.  Employees want to share their observations. And organizations can profit. How can leaders improve the quality of employee observations?

 The idle mind is the devil’s playground

Unfocused observers can go rogue, using information for selfish gain and harming others, creating a toxic gossip-filled work environment. Social networking policies are restrictive and punitive in nature. Their sole use to deter unproductive social media chitchat promotes a secretive and covertly defiant workforce. What is the point of observing if not to share with your followers? Organizations need to address the root of the problem. Is there a better way to reel in the idle mind?

Focus the observer

Give your employees something you want them to observe! This also tests their mindset to see if they are in line with the organization’s mission and purpose. When employee attention is focused observations become more targeted. This is how organizations reap the rewards from an ever-growing observer workforce. Focus the observer’s attention on a specific goal, service, or product. Always have employee attention clearly directed toward developing the organization and enhancing its performance and purpose. Are your employees currently focused on improving desired organizational outcomes? If not then how can you shift their focus?

Focused observers create an open feedback culture

When management seeks clear observations from its employees, deleterious chitchat wanes. Innate pro-social behaviors kick in. Believe it or not, people want to work together. Everyone benefits from a culture that promotes pro-social interactions. A group of focused observers creates a peer culture that derives constructive feedback and not harbor toxic rumors. Safety to verbally contribute increases. Speaking up is now associated with sharing an innovate idea or an improvement of some kind. Making your voice heard now brings the organization forward and not a colleague under. Feedback becomes solution-oriented. Possibilities become the focus and not what is not possible. An open feedback culture with focused observers creates an atmosphere of collaboration and collective wisdom sharing. Which organization doesn’t want that?

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Specialist. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. All stakeholders benefit in a culture that supports exploration, play, inspiration, and connection. He is also the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

Intergenerational learning ensures viability & innovation

Intergenerational Learning
Intergenerational learning is optimized when all generations are acknowledged and valued for their contribution.

Intergenerational learning is a top priority

Intergenerational learning is needed more now than ever before. Labor markets are struggling to meet rising human resource demands and simultaneously remain innovative. In a blog titled, Leveraging Europe’s Ageing Workforce, the author reports on how a declining pool of potential EU workers in a growing job market is resulting in the frenetic search for qualified and engaged young workers. In the US, the economic situation does not fair better.

A perfect storm is brewing. The combination of a decreasing labor force participation rate, baby boomers retiring, an expanding wage gap between high school and college graduates, and the skyrocketing costs of higher education are well documented. This harsh reality is set against the backdrop of a spiraling national debt that has surpassed $21,000,000,000,000. Let us not forget the ominous and bitter consequences of the 2008 global financial crisis. A corrective course of action is needed to avert a similar or worse fate.

What can we learn from older generations?

Companies need older workers! That is potentially good news for older workers seeking employment, as long as employers see the value in hiring them. By 2024, one in four U.S. workers will be 55 or older, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. How should older workers be regarded in a digital age? How can the labor market incorporate their experience and wisdom? Older employees are typically seen as expensive and replaceable by younger and less expensive counterparts. But is this entirely true? 

Older employees have established networks. They have experience overcoming organizational challenges and achieving lofty goals. Their know-how and connections optimally position them to offer guidance and support. Their trained soft skills can help younger colleagues refine theirs. By sharing their stories and listening to younger generations, senior employees are a source of inspiration. Solely viewing them as a financial burden is not only short-sited but also detrimental to an organization’s future in today’s market. Regarding them as a vital asset inspires new purpose and fresh meaning in their work life, boosting their morale and productivity.

What can we learn from younger generations?

“Age shows wisdom, but wisdom shows no age” – Unknown author

As born digital natives, young employees today may lack in work experience and social competencies, but their ability to navigate in a digital world is unprecedented. In my parenting book What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth, I outline the EPIC Model, a learning framework embodied by those most adept at learning: young people. The Model consists of four components: exploration, play, inspiration, and connection. Using this framework optimizes intergenerational learning.

Regardless of age, we all have the capacity to learn. Young people can help older ones reignite the innate ability to explore, play, inspire, and connect. Subscribing to such a philosophy allows one to remain open to new possibilities. Organizations adopting such a philosophy remain viable and innovative. Creating an open learning culture improves both employee and organizational performance.

Generational labels impede intergenerational learning

Once GenX, GenY, and GenZ are mentioned, a debate ensues to determine the beginning and end years of each. As if a birth year reveals everything you need to know about a person. A heated discussion then follows to agree upon several descriptors applicable to hundreds of millions of people. Anyone who can memorize some random dates and a few adjectives becomes an immediate generation expert. If it were only so simple!

Labeling people usually leads to stereotypes. Stereotypes usually lead to some form of discrimination. Here are some warning signs of age discrimination. How does this domino effect ameliorate an aging and shrinking workforce? It doesn’t. It does the opposite. It perpetuates the current situation. What happens when organizations place more emphasis on reciprocal intergenerational learning?  How would intergenerational learning impact workplace culture, productivity, and creativity in your organization?

Intergenerational learning in action

Intergenerational learning requires commitment and time. Who has time for that? Time taken now to create new possibilities, improve collaboration, and ignite productivity saves time in the long-run. Processes, where information and conversations that matter most can be discussed from all perspectives, are vital. When all stakeholders participate then all members can take ownership and responsibility for the outcome. 

For technical learning, apprenticeship programs and continuous training keep all stakeholders up-to-date with current trends. Mentoring and reverse mentoring also help young employees with on-boarding. Storytelling or various circle methods can be extremely helpful in creating space for reciprocal know-how sharing and open feedback.  Excursions and celebrations build social bonds and create a sense of achievement and belonging. A neutral facilitator may also be preferable when starting out or dealing with more serious issues.  There are numerous ways organizations can fully embrace the benefits of intergenerational learning other than simply creating multigenerational teams and hoping for the best.

About the author

Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Specialist. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. All stakeholders benefit in a culture that supports exploration, play, inspiration, and connection.

IoT and how it reflects interconnectedness in nature

IoT
Symbiotic relationship (Pinterest)

IoT – What is the internet of things?

The Internet of things (IoT) is a system of interconnected computing sensors able to transfer data over a network. IoT does not require direct human involvement to function. Chips implanted in devices or machinery combine operational technology (OT) with information systems (IT). Real-time data exchange through IoT allows for interoperability, enhancing efficiency and performance of a device,  product, or service.

IoT in the workplace and beyond

In 2016, the top three industries in IoT spending were manufacturing, transportation, and utilities. Global spending on IoT is projected to reach $1.3 Trillion in 2020 (IDC). According to Statista.com, a leading provider of market and consumer data,  the number of connected devices will increase six-fold from 15 billion devices in 2015 to 75 billion in 2025.

Not only will IoT be the standard in the workplace, but it will also be pervasive in our private lives, from personal belongings to inside our bodies. According to a 2018 article from Business Insider, thousands of Swedes are having microchips implanted in their bodies, no longer requiring them to carry keys or IDs. A simple wave of the hand unlocks the house door or identifies who you are.

IoLT – The interconnectedness of living things

The interconnectedness of living things is the interdependence of all organisms. For millions of years, the animal and plant kingdom has been developing and evolving a complex and intricate system of interdependency that benefits all species. Humans are becoming more cognizant of the need to care for the natural resources that all living organisms, humans included, are dependent upon.

Nature’s interconnectedness is as astonishing and complex of a system as there is. Nonetheless, it works rather effectively and efficiently through the use of six varying symbiotic relationships. Interdependence requires each stakeholder to uphold a degree of responsibility regardless of status or position. A system overcomes challenges and effectively deals with setbacks when all stakeholders fulfill their role. A breakdown at any point impacts the entire system. It is not a coincidence that the IoLT and IoT diagrams share similar patterns. What can we learn from nature as human interconnectedness and complexity increases as a result of IoT?

IoT
The interconnectedness of living things (Science Bob)

IoT
Internet of Things

The importance of IoLT

Just as industry and technology sectors see the value of the internet of things, so too are we becoming more aware of the importance of the interconnectedness of all things living. IoLT has the answers to cope with the potential threats of IoT. It is imperative we look after nature. How we care for nature will reflect how we cope with digitalization. Maintaining the quality of air, soil, and water, and minimizing our ecological footprint is more noticeable with the increase in air pollution, water contamination, deforestation, and global warming. What societal changes are we noticing from digitalization?

Nature not only ensures our survival, but it also helps us solve complex human problems. Studying photosynthesis to improve solar energy. Using snake venom to help find cures for cancer and diabetes. Kingfisher bird anatomy inspiring the design of bullet trains. These are but a few examples of biomimetics or biomimicry. Naturally occurring elements and structures greatly help us in taking the next evolutionary step. We still have more to learn.

Remaining human for the sake of posterity

As IoT results in the continued digitalization of work and home, interactions with technological devices are on the rise. Practicing pro-social skills and maintaining human connectedness will be paramount in adhering to a moral and ethical framework as digitalization becomes more predominant in everyday life. It should come to no surprise that political, economic, and social divisiveness becomes even more hazardous to our overall safety and security in a digitalized world. The use of IoT for ill intention or for the sake of taking advantage of certain stakeholders is a real and existing threat.

Empathy, compassion, listening, and understanding are all vital human traits that require continuous practice. A machine needs only to be programmed once to learn a task. In contrast, humans need to continuously train skills in order to maintain proficiency. If we don’t, we risk losing the ability to remain human in a world that becomes more capable of widespread harm with each passing day.

 Trust and transparency in a digital world

The breadth of challenges posed by IoT seems to span as wide as the potential benefits. What data is being collected? For what purpose is it being collected? Who has access to the data?  What impact does IoT have on security and personal privacy? These are just a few of the crucial and complex moral questions arising from data collection and use arising from the internet of things.

Creative cooperation and information sharing can lead to the survival and prosperity for all. IoT must be used with the common good of all in mind to reap large-scale rewards and avoid large-scale catastrophe. Similar to the delicate relationship between the plover enjoying a free meal and the crocodile a dental cleaning, trust, intention, collaboration, and transparency are paramount when dealing with complexity.  In a millisecond, a quick snap of the jaws is all that is needed to end the mutual benefits of this symbiotic relationship. The 200 million-year-old wise crocodile knows better. Do we?

IoT
The symbiotic relationship between a crocodile and plover for the benefit of both species (smallscience.hbcse.tief.res.in)

About the author

Jean-Pierre Kallanian is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Specialist. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. All stakeholders benefit in a culture that supports exploration, play, inspiration, and connection. Learn more at www.epiconsulting.org

The mistrust of leadership, the rise of self organization, and the need for facilitation

Facilitation

The mistrust of leadership

In a time of increasing mistrust in leadership, the need to use facilitation is on the rise. Corruption comes in many shapes and colors. Nepotism, deceit, secrecy, abuse of power, finger-pointing, data manipulation, bribery, blackmail, lack of transparency, intimidation, bullying, and all forms of discrimination are many of the behaviors used to artificially control a system. These self-serving tactics cause undo harm and distracts individuals, groups, departments, organizations, or even a country from fulfilling its mission, achieving its goals, and developing. The result is a squandering of valuable resources to plan, implement, monitor, and sustain a culture of chaos and deceit.

Prolonged and unchecked abusive behaviors are destructive in many ways. First, they erode trust in the leader. Second, people begin to lose faith in systems and institutions afflicted with leaders who act with apparent impunity. Third, unethical tactics used to perpetuate an unjust system are usually illegal and/or violate human rights. Fourth, a culture of abuse becomes the norm. Finally, on-going dysfunction takes an enormous physical, emotional, financial, and psychological toll on human resources.

Look at the news headlines. Be it in the financial, government, industry, or social sector, the unmasking of criminal and scandalous behaviors at high levels of organization is rising as is the mistrust of leaders promising to champion constituent interests. In today’s world of technology and visibility, it is easier to manipulate information and take advantage of others. It is also easier to be revealed as a fraud or perpetrator. Leaders are being called to show their authenticity, be transparent about their intention, and be accountable to the collective. And so it should be.

The rise of self organization

As faith in leadership diminishes, self organization is taking hold of management structures. Although processes and tools of flat and decentralized forms of management are useful, they are not the panacea to all management and leadership woes. Hierarchy alone is not inherently unhealthy. Incompetence and abuse in hierarchical structures are.

Human interactions and processes determine outcomes. Abandoning structures without examining root causes of its failure and adopting self organization can lead to similar problems. Self organization naturally results even in hierarchical settings when trust, clear intention, and transparency are apparent and space is given for people to be authentic. Although self organization can be triggered by poor leadership, it is not the only reason.

People use their profession to fully realize their potential. More popularly referred to as self actualization, I refer to this need as power, or feeling worthwhile to self and others. Authenticity, purpose, and posterity are becoming more important with each subsequent generation.  Collectively we are realizing there is more to life than working to survive and counting down the days to retirement. People are actively taking steps to fulfill the need for power in professional settings and proper facilitation in self organized structures is a sustainable means to that end. 

The need for facilitation

Human systems include both hierarchical and flat structures. Both usually occur simultaneously and both include the human element. We are social animals. Our first introduction to human systems and the most influential is our family of origin. We are literally born into it, no voting, no interview, no choice. Your relationship to your parents and elders is one of hierarchy. Your relationship to your siblings and cousins is flat. Another important system in the formative years is the educational system. There too exists the dual organizational structures. A student’s relationship to her teachers and administration is hierarchical and that to her peers is flat.

Self organization is what should occur under true leadership. True leaders create environments of exchange and learning where departments and teams can make decisions and act interdependently with other counterparts. Facilitation is successful when individuals feel safe and can share their ideas. Facilitators create a culture where disagreements are not seen as personal attacks and feedback is not taken as negative criticism.

Facilitation is more than creating an agenda and keeping time. Group facilitation requires an advanced set of social skills. True facilitation lies in the facilitator’s ability to ensure the group’s psychological well-being. They create space for all to participate and feel appreciated. Facilitators can mediate differences and help the group find common ground to move forward. Facilitators have the ability to listen to the real message. They assess group dynamics, knowing when to check in, slow down, suggest a break, or move the conversation along. Learn more about facilitation in a recent blog by Susan M. Heathfield.

One person doesn’t need to have all the answers. There are plenty of well educated and experienced people looking to join others in fulfilling their shared need for power. There needs, however, to be at least one person who can hold the space for intention, authenticity, and the collective to manifest. Facilitation skills are workplace competencies of the future. Organizations emphasizing process facilitation are wise as they will naturally produce highly functioning and innovative self organized teams.

The dangers of phony leaders and why authentic leaders are desperately needed

Phony leadership and its consequences

Phony leadership arises when those feeling neglected are used for the sake of the leader’s need to be in a position of power for self-serving reasons. Phony leaders play on fears and focus their attention on emotionally charging their fanbase. This creates a level of fanaticism, jeopardizing the cohesiveness of all compatriots. Authentic leaders play down fears and focus their attention on emotionally discharging all stakeholders. This creates a level of security and fosters cohesiveness.

Authentic leadership seeks common ground amid differences. They view differences as opportunities for creation and innovation. For the authentic leader new possibilities abound. Phony leadership in contrast views diversity as something to contend with, a threat to be defeated. A phony leader uses divisive tactics that create an “us versus them” mentality. Primitive methods using conflict and chaos are used to rule, not to serve.

The longer an unfit leader remains in power, the more likely respect for the position itself diminishes. Worse is the loss of faith in the institution for which the position is responsible. A group of people losing faith in a person is sad. A group of people losing faith in an institution vital to their livelihood is tragic. Therein lies the true danger of phony leadership.

When egos lead, phony leaders follow

Phony leadership is cowardly leadership disguised  as brave leadership mainly to protect the leader’s fragile ego. Poor leadership is visible to all, except usually to the phony leader. The ostensible reason one assumes a position of leadership is for the sake of serving others. It quickly becomes evident that the phony leader is in the role to sustain his ego.

As long as phony leaders maintain a loyal and demonstrative fanbase–even if through falsehoods and rhetoric–a cult-like following results. A phony leader creates a self-centered culture by making only a certain group believe someone is listening to just them. It is the equivalent of a parent showing extreme favoritism to one child while completely neglecting the others.

Such manipulative tactics creates a “me first” mentality, mirroring the ego driven persona of the phony leader. This dynamic creates a classic codependent relationship between the phony leader and his followers. All the while the neglected rest become disenchanted. This is the paradox of phony leadership. A phony leader rises to power by taking advantage of those who are neglected, only to do the same once in power.

The courage to step down

When transparency and truth reveal a leader’s incompetency, it is not time to denounce, deflect, and counterattack. It is time to face the truth and step down. Leaders serve all, not just their most loyal fanbase. If stepping down is how to best serve everyone, then that is the decision to make. Not doing so only confirms how unfit the person truly is. A bruised ego may result, but those being led will appreciate the leader’s respect for the position’s duties, the title itself, and the institution he represents.

When an ineffective leader steps down it is a sign that the leader went in with the right intention. The leader wanted to lead a group and not let her ego lead her. It didn’t work out. Yes, this can happen to leaders too.

Authentic leaders understand the importance of having the right person in the job. Fake it until you become it may have its place in the world, however, not in positions of leadership where the livelihoods of a community, organization, or nation is at stake. In a world that operates and responds in real time, fabrication of information, impulsive reactions, and emotional instability (just to name a few) can have a significant impact, up to and including global implications. It is in everyone’s best interest that a leader not fit for the position step down rather than continue and put others at risk.

Authentic leadership in action

Authentic leadership is without pretense. Their role is to invite, not exclude. Given the multitude of information transmitted each minute from various sources around the globe, it becomes even more critical for leaders to be able to hold the space for all truths. Authenic leaders are not only containers, but also colanders. Taking in information is just the first step. Sifting through it all to find common ground amidst the multiple voices is the second step.

Finally, it is the leader’s role to create a culture where the themes that matter most can be addressed by those affected. This is once again holding space for differing opinions and conversations to safely take place. It is like hosting a party whereby all guests feel welcomed, are focused on a purpose, and can speak openly and listen carefully.

With a focus on the prestige of being a leader and the benefits associated with it, many are interested in playing the part. How many are actually fit to fully embrace the role? Authentic leaders take pride in their title, but this is not why they assume leadership roles. Serving others and responsibly fulfilling their duties keeps the authentic leader’s ego in check. Phony leaders create a platform for themselves to be the top performer. Authentic leaders create platforms for others to be top performers.

Quotes from leaders
Source: www.leanleader.org

North Korea Solution – Step back and demilitarize

In the shoes of North Korea

In June 2009, I participated in a Negotiation training at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington DC. North Korea had just pulled out of the Six-party Talks two months prior and one of our exercises was to bring North Korea back to the negotiation table. Sound familiar?

One by one participants volunteered to represent the United States, China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan. When it came to North Korea the room went silent. At this point in my career I was managing a group home for youth in conflict with the law and had been in the counseling psychology field for over a decade. I sat for a moment and thought about it. North Korea now had an eager representative.

I do not remember the exact details of the negotiation process, other than it ended quickly and without an agreement. The frustration in the room was palpable. I was in control because there was nothing to negotiate. They wanted something from me (at least a few did), but I didn’t need anything from them. I said what I wanted and no one could do anything about it. My sense of perceived power was immense. The greater their frustration, the more emboldened I became. Sound familiar?

How the US could deal with North Korea – A Case Study

North Korea
Which of the six countries is not on the map?

Fast forward several years later. I was still the director of the group home and in came a referral from Boston. “Jerry” was short and stocky in stature and was as tough as they come. He was  heavily gang involved and had recently survived multiple gunshot wounds. His gang allegiance was so strong, that he’d rather return to be with his crew and possibly get killed, than stay in the program. He didn’t care. He wanted out and started behaving accordingly.

Jerry immediately began threatening and posturing towards staff. I went to have a look. It did not go well. My presence escalated the situation. Jerry felt more threatened and as a result he started threatening me. I had to keep my ego in check and depersonalize the situation. Had I taken a similar threatening approach, having over 600 pounds of combined staff weight near me, it would have ended up in a physical restraint. The risk of injury to either Jerry or my staff was extremely high. No one wanted that.

I could sense Jerry’s rational state was deteriorating and his desperation was increasing. This young man had everything to fight for and nothing to lose. A physical intervention would have only condoned an old pattern of using threats and violence as a method to fulfill needs. Such a response would have been at a physical and psychological cost, as well as a potential financial and legal cost. Furthermore, how as role models could we help him if we behave exactly as he does? Sound familiar?

Jerry needed to feel safe and assured that we were doing our best to de-escalate the situation. So what did I do? I left. As the director, my responsibility was to ensure everyone’s safety and doing so required me to step back and withdraw. My job was to build trust and model the behavior I was asking of him. Before leaving, I told Jerry that we would do our best to work with him and that his cooperation would be appreciated. Jerry left the next day to another program which he ended up completing. Win-win.

Although a different situation, there are some similarities and key takeaways for how the US could choose to deal with North Korea. As this is a multi-party affair, let’s look briefly at the five other countries to better understand their perspective and consider alternative peaceful solutions.

North Korea

What does North Korea really want? Ostensibly to become a nuclear power equal to the US and not be threatened by potential US military action. Why does North Korea feel so threatened by the US? First, the United States and South Korea have had a military alliance since 1953. Second, nearly 30,000 US troops are in South Korea, regularly conducting extensive military drills on North Korea’s doorstep. Third, Japan, which is only 600 miles away, hosts the largest number of US military in a foreign country–nearly 40,000 troops–and hosts the Seventh Fleet, the largest of US navy’s sea forces. Lastly, is the island of Guam, which hosts a US military base of about 4,000 personnel and is about 2,000 miles from Pyongyang.

Whether real or imagined, North Korea most likely interprets this robust military presence–which could easily attempt to invade a small country–as an imminent existential threat. This fear needs to be acknowledged and seen as a trigger for North Korea. Former US President Jimmy Carter said it best, “Until we’re willing to talk to them and treat them with respect as human beings, which they are, then I don’t think we’ll make any progress.”

Japan and South Korea

From the North Korean perspective, Japan and South Korea are most likely viewed as extensions of the US military arm and threat. One can assume that both Japan and South Korea want peace and security in the region. Kudos to Japan for keeping its cool and not responding in a rash way or with retaliatory comments in light of the two recent missile launches over its country. There is something to learn from their outward show of calmness in an otherwise tense situation. Japan and South Korea are wisely looking for a peasceful global response, and not solely relying on American muscle.

Russia and China

From the outside, both Russia and China hardly appear to be encouraging North Korea to stop their nuclear development and testing. According to a Chinese spokeswoman, “The situation on the Korean Peninsula is complicated and sensitive.” Is it really? It only appears complicated for the US, South Korea, and Japan. China and Russia are barely batting an eye, although they both have the better relationship with North Korea and can be most influential in bringing peace to the region. As for North Korea, their nuclear capabilities are only improving.

Both Russia and China are most likely also not pleased with America’s extensive presence in the area. They are set to conduct joint military drills next week. It could be advantageous for Russia and China for North Korea to have nuclear capabilities. For the two super powers, North Korea is a checks and balance on the peninsula and a thorn in the side of the US.

Recommendations to De-escalate tensions with North Korea

De-militarize the area and step back

The United States must lessen its perceived threat to North Korea by stepping back from discussions and reducing its military presence in the area. Lowering fear and anxiety increases the level of safety in a crisis situation and makes the possibility of dialogue more likely. Russia and China would likely approve of such measures as well and the US could no longer be blamed for raising tensions and escalating fears.

China and Russia need to take a more active role with North Korea

US Secretary of State Tillerson aptly responded after the most recent missile launch over Japan when he said, “China and Russia must indicate their intolerance for these reckless missile launches by taking direct actions of their own.” Russia has been relatively quiet stating that more sanctions are not the answer. China only states that “all parties should exercise restraint”, however, North Korea seems to be exempt from this plea. One begins to wonder what they both truly want as an outcome.

As long as the US, South Korea, and Japan continue responding in kind with threats and displays of military might, China and Russia can continue watching a game that has been playing since 2003 when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). The second benefit of the US stepping back and demilitarizing the peninsula and area is that China and Russia will be put in a position to act and not just make comments about what others need to do. The international community would then soon see whether both China and Russia want peace and stability in the area or not.

Positively encourage North Korea to denuclearize

There is a third benefit of the United States taking a back seat and de-militarizing the peninsula and area. North Korea would have a difficult time justifying its reason to continue its nuclear weapons program. This increases the chances of them reducing weapons testing and manufacturing. It also increases the chances of them coming back to the discussion table. If North Korea still continues on its current path, then international consensus could put pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program.

US and Russia need to take action on Pillar 2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

The United States and Russia need to show the world, not just North Korea, that they are serious about global denuclearization. Why should a country disarm when the ones telling them to do so do not do it themselves? Why should some countries be allowed to have nuclear arms and others not?

The Second pillar of NPT is Disarmament. It states “all Parties undertake to pursue good-faith negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race, to nuclear disarmament, and to general and complete disarmament.” The second and third points of this pillar must be the focus for all nine nations in possession of nuclear weapons, especially the United States and Russia who each have a nuclear arsenal of around 7,000 capable weapons. Of these, each have around 1,800 that are operational. Next comes China and France with about 300 nuclear weapons apiece.

The North Korean nuclear weapons crisis can happen anywhere, therefore, the threat of nuclear weapons needs to be broadened beyond North Korea. Let North Korea be a reminder of what is at stake if all nations, especially those with nuclear capabilities, do not take the mandates of NPT seriously. Let North Korea bring to everyone’s attention how nuclear armament threatens regional as well as global peace and development.

Progress begins when the United States does exactly what it is asking of North Korea–to denuclearize. The United States, Russia and China must lead by example and fully comply with the NPT mandates. This is active leadership. This is being a leader in a nuclear world.

 

 

A warning about the use of labels on people

We are becoming more selective and conscious about what we ingest and purchase. Therefore, the accuracy and descriptiveness of labels become more important. A healthier lifestyle, environmental concerns, and social responsibility are a few reasons we immediately search for labels once a product has caught our attention.

No matter how attractive the product is, just one ingredient, one raw material, or even the product’s origin is enough for the consumer to disregard an otherwise appealing product. This use of labeling is for both the benefit of the individual and the community. This is, however, where the benefits of labels stop.

In an age of overwhelming access to information, where everyone wants to share their knowledge about anything, we are naturally becoming more skeptical of what we read, hear, and see. Everyone can’t be right, so who is telling the truth? There is usually some truth on all sides if we can all listen.

Humans by nature discern the goodness, safety, health, or value of things. We do this instinctual. From an evolutionary standpoint, a slip in judgment could have been a matter of life or death. The problem is, too often we make one-sided judgments of people and therein lies the danger of labels.

Opposing views, as displayed in the political arena, are usually not resolved through dialogue and an inquisitive process to further understanding. Rather, differing viewpoints are labeled in ways that are dismissive and demeaning. When the character of a person or group is solely characterized in a manner that diminishes their worth and tarnishes their reputation, a democratic process of open dialogue between two or more human beings cannot take place.

Bullying results. On a larger scale dictatorship under an umbrella of fear and aggression results. Such a manner of conduct breeds animosity and divisiveness.

The one who wins at dehumanizing and defeating his neighbor by brute force rises to the top. This a dangerous political method. It systemically condones uncivilized behavior, allowing it to become the accepted way of dealing with differences. We are seeing the damage this divisive behavior brings to our diverse communities.

Once labeled, a person is usually reduced to several unflattering stereotypes associated with the label. Once dehumanized that person is perceived as less than human. Their needs, their voice, and their value are therefore diminished. They become oppressed.

From this stage, it doesn’t take long for the marked person or group to be susceptible to discrimination, mockery, neglect, and abuse (physical, verbal, and emotional). And in extreme cases significant harm and death can result. This is the case when precursors to acts of genocide are examined.

Continue reading labels on products sitting on store shelves and hanging on racks of retail stores. They provide an accurate description of a product.  A label on a bag of organic apples grown from a local farm helps the consumer determine value and worth.

Most labels used to describe a person or group, however, are not completely accurate and usually decrease the value and worth of someone. This can become a slippery slope where oppression and injustice arises. Refrain from using labels on people and instead seek to understand. Use great caution before consuming a demeaning and dehumanizing label placed on a person. Take the time to look into what is not on the label.

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns: We are possessed

Possessive adjectives and pronouns

People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.” -Epictetus

How often do you use either a possessive adjective or pronoun in your daily communication at home or at work? Does their pervasive use bring about happiness by showing true possession of something or someone? Or do they harbor seeds of unhappiness and disappointment by having us irrationally believe that we possessive objects or people when we, in fact, do not?

Material possessions

We commonly use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show ownership of things. “This is my car.” Is it? You pay for it, you insure it and drive it, but is it really yours? What if it is stolen. Whose is it now? More importantly, how does your perceived possession help you deal with the loss? “I can’t believe my car was stolen! Who would steal my car?” This an extreme example but even a scratch on your car can trigger strong emotions due to your perceived possession.

Think of all the hurt and conflict that results from things done to people’s perceived possessions. Possessions end up possessing us. At any time, any object you possess can be damaged, destroyed, or lost.  Your belief about the possession ails you, not what happens to it. The stolen car itself does not cause your grief, rather it is your perception of the car you once used! Having less possessive attachment to an object results in a less reactive manner when something goes awry. Your happiness also benefits when objects and seen for what they truly are.

Personal relationships

We often use possessive adjectives and pronouns to show possession in relationships. “This is my son.” “My spouse is waiting for me.” Showing possession in relationships is equally misleading. You cannot possess a person. Rationally we know this, however, deceptive possessive language clouds our ability to make this distinction clear. “There is no way my son would ever steal, but some other thirteen-year-old would!” My spouse would never leave me!”

In both cases, the idea of possession blurs the ability to see the son or spouse as individuals. The misconception of possessiveness in relationships leads to hurt and pain when expectations in the relationship are not satisfied. Parents, partners, and coworkers personalize behaviors that belong to the other person when they fail to see the child, partner, or colleague as a person who also exists outside of the relationship.

What do we really possess?

Feelings and thoughts may not always be in our immediate control, but we are always responsible for our words and actions. Use possessive adjectives and pronouns when talking about your verbal and physical actions.  No one can make you say anything or behave in a certain way. All that we utter and do are truly all that we possess.

Everything else we claim to possess is just an illusion. Using possessive adjectives and pronouns in any other context can easily mislead someone into believing he or she actually possesses an object or person. Believing these untruths can bring more unhappiness to a person when suddenly there is something wrong with the object or person or if the object or person is no longer with you.

The solution

Be mindful when using possessive adjectives and pronouns and find other ways to express yourself when describing objects or people in your life. For example, instead of saying, “This is Anne, she is my wife” say, “This is Anne, we are  married/partners/a couple.” If someone asks, “Can I borrow your car?” answer with, “Yes, you can use the car.” and not “Yes, you can use my car.”

Happiness is not about the objects and people you believe are in your possession. Happiness is about how you treat them with your words and actions. It is about taking ownership and being mindful when you speak and act. No one can take that away from you—unlike your car—nor can you blame others. The world would benefit tremendously if we all spent more time and energy taking responsibility for our words and behaviors instead of trying to possess objects and people that truly do not belong to us or anyone.

The benefit

Managing family, relationships, and work is about how well you interact with others respond to life events. Understanding and accepting what is in your control—namely your thoughts, words, and behaviors—is paramount in improving your ability to cope. Knowing that you only have control over your response empowers you to focus your energy on that.

Minimize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns to describe objects and people. Focus and internalize the use of possessive adjectives and pronouns when referring to your thoughts and feelings, and most importantly to your words and behaviors. Doing so will improve to your well-being. Family, friends, colleagues, as well as strangers, will benefit from your efforts as well!

About the author
Jean-Pierre is a Process Facilitator and Human Systems Specialist. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. Jean-Pierre has dedicated 18 years of work to youth and families in both the United States and Austria. He is the author of “What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.”

Organization development can benefit human development

Organization development

How can we improve human race relations? Businesses have organization development (OD) to improve relationships and performance within organizations. If the general human population placed as much emphasis and resources as businesses do on achieving organization development goals, human development would take giant leaps forward. Humankind would benefit and prosper.

How wonderful would it be for humankind to achieve OD goals? I have rewritten generally accepted organization development goals and replaced two words. I changed the word “employees” to humans and “organization” to humankind. Let’s have a look.

1. To increase the level of inter-personal trust among humans.
2. To increase humans’ level of satisfaction and commitment. (Commitment is in reference to the organization’s mission and values. Here it implies commitment to the greater human good—posterity).
3. To confront problems instead of neglecting them.
4. To effectively manage conflict.
5. To increase cooperation and collaboration among humans.
6. To increase humankind’s problem solving ability.
7. To put in place processes that will help improve the ongoing operation of humankind on a continuous basis.

Imagine what humankind could accomplish by achieving these organization development goals!

How committed are we  as a race to achieve these goals? Look closely at each goal and think globally about where we stand today. What comes to mind? It becomes quite clear that organization development specialists should be in high demand worldwide!

I name the process of achieving these human development goals as “humanship”. You can read more about it in my blogpost titled, “Relationships: How the word undermines itself”. According to the OD objectives, whether in business or in society, development is impeded by: mistrust, dissatisfaction (with the ability to fulfill basic needs), lack of commitment towards a shared goal, avoiding problems or making them worse, and a lack of supports, models, and incentives to continue developing.

Looking at the world today, conflict is front and center. Why do we struggle as humans to collectively achieve goals 1-7? What is getting in the way of human development? The answer: We mistakingly apply the business development model—profit and growth—to the human development model. Herein lies the problem.

Businesses (as a private entity) achieve profit and growth when other businesses are not as successful in achieving their goals. Humans (as a collective entity) do not profit and grow when other humans are not successful in achieving their goals.  On the contrary, this is when conflict arises. Unfortunately, to the detriment of our collective well-being, we have primarily adopted the business model of growth and profit for our own development .

The prevalence of consumerism preached daily through media and advertisement has brainwashed us into believing that humans develop like businesses: by building capital (growing materialistically) and profiting financially. This works for business development, but not for humans. Human development works when we think collectively, not privately as businesses do.

Organization development goals can and should be human development goals. If OD goals can be improved in the workplace they can also be improved in society. In order for this to happen, the terms growth and profit must be redefined for human development.

Human development must view growth and profit as a collective benefit. Businesses grow and profit by monopolizing resources and taking away sales from competitors. Humans grow and profit by sharing resources and giving to others by not seeing them as adversaries.

Relationship: How the word undermines itself

Relationships are vital to human existence. Taking on numerous forms in families and partnerships and existing in all systems, we are essentially in some degree of relationship with somebody at any point in time. Much of how we define ourself is through relationships.

Here is an example: I am mother, wife, sister, asian, vegetarian, painter, runner, and writer. Some of these categories describe what the person does, but all identify her as someone who is similar in relation to others. At least one other person is like her in some way and sometimes that has more meaning than the activity or classification itself. We even conceptualize and make decisions about experiences and objects in relation to one another, whether buying a consumer product or deciding where to go on holiday.

Human relationships are often hierarchal and have certain responsibilities associated with each person or group involved. The level of hierarchy and degree of responsibility is subjective and determined by those involved. Outside influences such as culture or tradition usually have a significant influence in this decision as well.

Look at the definition of relationship by Oxford Dictionary. Complications arise with definition 1.2 which reads as follows:

“The way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.” 

Herein lies the potential for conflict between individuals and groups. How one party regards the other will influence how that party behaves towards the other. Likewise, how one party is being treated by the other will influence how it regards that party. Here are some common examples of relationships where hierarchies do or may exist:

parent / child          teacher / student          politician / constituent      boss/ employee          doctor / patient          prison guard / prisoner partner / partner          perpetrator / victim          clerk / customer          therapist / client          famous person / fan             wealthy / poor         ethnic or religious majority / ethnic or religious minority            educated / non educated       law enforcement / law breaker

With real or perceived hierarchy, either party can easily loose sight that both are human and have shared needs. By putting aside how they are connected, one is better able to see the other as a person. This makes the obvious visible. Perceived or real abuse of power and control quickly diminishes the ability and need to relate and understand one another as humans.

We often forget that our most basic relationship to one another is human to human and not title to title or label to label. Forgetting this simple fact puts any individual and group relationship at risk of conflict. Our humanness always exists in any relationship regardless of the nature of the relationship.

A new word like humanship or personship needs to replace definition 1.2 to help remind everyone of our most fundamental connection—human to human—particular in unhealthy and harmful relationships. How are you humanly treating the other person in the relationship? This question minimizes the harmful impact of real or perceived abuses of hierarchy. It can help stop abuse of power or the mistreatment of others in dysfunctional relationships.

For example, a wealthy person may feel superior in relation to someone poor, purely because of the definition of the relationship, which is in regard to purchasing power. The definition of the relationship alone points out differences of status which can influence differential attitudes and treatment of one another. Another example could be a school principal seeing her role as more important in relation to the janitor due to the differences of job title, position on an organizational chart, and responsibilities. In both cases, the relationship does not erase the fact that both are people.

The word relationship should just describe how two people or groups are connected and not describe attitudes and behaviors towards each other. Why? Because the differing roles and duties—more so when hierarchy exists—inherent in relationships can diminish one’s ability to regard and treat the other as a person. One can be easily consumed by how the roles in the relationship should be played out according to societal norms, disregarding the human element. Let’s revisit some previous examples by replacing the word “relationship” with the words humanship/personship to describe how one regards and behaves towards the other.

My relationship to Mary is that she is unemployed and begging. I pass by her each day on my way to work. What is your personship to Mary? My personship to Mary is one of acknowledgment and concern as she is a person with the same human needs as me. I greet her and occasionally give her some change.

What is your relationship to John? John is our school janitor. How is your humanship like with John? My humanship to John is appreciative and respectful. His contribution to the school’s maintenance and cleanliness is imperative in creating a positive learning environment and I tell him that often.

For the sake of all relationships, the word we use to define how individuals and groups regard and treat one another needs to stress commonalities and humanness and not denote differences or hierarchy. The word relationship, by its definition, undermines that goal as people and groups are in numerous forms of relationships where differences, not similarities, are highlighted. The words personship or humanship keeps our fundamental connection to one another as person to person or human to human. This helps improve any relationship by ensuring positive regard and proper treatment of one another regardless of the relationship. Using either personship or humanship removes the hierarchical structure and superior attitude and behavior that may arise with it.

We are always behaving to fulfill shared basic human needs regardless of the relationship we are in when doing so. Next time you are asked “What is your relationship like with …..?” begin your answer with “My personship/humanship with….” Notice if there is a difference in how you conceptualized the relationship. How did your attitude and behaviors change toward the person or group?

Basic needs bind us all regardless of our relationship to one another
Basic needs bind us all regardless of our relationship to one another