In developing the firm of the future, many articulate and insightful academics, authors and business leaders have made suggestions of what those kind of businesses might look like. Most of these suggestions include ideas about how to move away from 20th century business modelling to 21st century concepts. They include moving from competition to collaboration, short term extractive to long-term net positive, from exclusive to inclusive, from ego centric to soul centric, and from silo to systemic. All of these things are recognised as important, but just speaking them aloud doesn’t mean we know how to do it. Achieving this kind of deep change requires us to be better at creating relationships and communications with our neighbours than we are today. I believe that ‘right relations’ is the cornerstone on which we can build integrated, thriving futures and that we have to start with a recognition of inter-dependence. Why?
We have 7 billion human neighbours. Soon we will have 9 billion human neighbours. Over 70 billion animals are raised for slaughter for human consumption every year. It’s estimated that there are over 75 million pet dogs in the USA and 45 million in Europe. There are an estimated 3 trillion large trees and no-one can even begin to count the insects. We have a lot of neighbours on planet Earth! The numbers alone might suggest that ‘right relations’ between us and our neighbours should be of interest to us in some way.
By the way ‘right’ isn’t about the binary idea of right and wrong. It indicates a collective endeavour that strives towards an inclusive understanding. Eleanor Roosevelt probably said it best:
‘‘Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual; the neighbourhood . . .; the school or college . . .; the factory, farm or office. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination.
Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
The rapid increase of numbers in the past 100 years – a very short time compared to the long periods of gradual change through which conditions developed in the past – has exacerbated the urgency of establishing right relations in the world. Suddenly the distances separating one people from another have shrunk; happenings on the other side of the world are being seen and heard in our hands. People are travelling as never before; we have developed habits which make us economically dependent on others in almost every country.
We are indissolubly linked, growing up together in the great circle of life that is unfolding on our Earth. We are in continuous contact with each other, not only socially and physically, but also through the inter-penetrating currents of our thoughts and emotions. We are parts of a whole, like the cells of our own bodies – each an individual, yet each also part of humanity. We are members of our family, citizens of our town, we belong to our country, we are units of the whole of the human race and we are part of an integrated whole of life on earth.
What helps us to forge better relationships with others?
In the companies I have been lucky enough to work for which are operating in a way that makes them the most attractive to employees, most sustainable for the future and most socially and environmentally ‘friendly’, the values I see showing up most consistently are a sense of responsibility, understanding, compassion, love, sharing and harmlessness (do no harm) which are all links in the chain of right relationships. The characteristics they work hardest to avoid are selfishness, fear, hate, ambition, pride and sense of separation. They foster a sense of team versus individualism, confidence and courage, humbleness and inclusion.
These values and attitudes are cultivated through insightful leaders and are brought into the lived experience of interacting with the brand. If we are to bring these qualities to the companies we work for and with, we first we need to start with the establishing those right attitudes within ourselves. Then we can set free the flow of right relationship, breaking down the barriers and opening the way for expansion into the life of others.
Easier said than done right? What can help? Here are a couple of simple exercises I use with clients and with myself on a regular basis which I learned from my own spiritual mentors to help us on the way to inclusive life relations.
Shifting Your Attitude to a ‘Difficult’ Person
- Select a person with whom your relationship could be improved – someone you have considered ‘difficult’ or challenging.
- Before you go to sleep tonight, spend some time thinking about this person you know and write down 10 authentic positive observations about him/her in a notebook or journal.
- Repeat this evening exercise for at least 2 to 4 weeks.
- Use your observational skills to record any noticeable changes in your attitude
- Finally, review the work achieved.
Look forward into your day and think about all the people you might come into contact with. Imagine these relationships being carried on in the right way, see them as “right relations” and if some of the contacts are likely to be difficult, try to see what resolving factors might be brought to bear and what changes you could make in your own attitudes. Try to think about your relationships as living, golden threads or channels through compassion, thoughtfulness and harmlessness can flow freely.
Try to review each day’s event before you go to bed. Any time after 5 pm (best not just before sleep so as to be more alert, and improve the quality of the exercise), find a quiet place. Breathe deeply to relax the body. Close the eyes to turn inward. Review your day backwards as if looking at a reversed movie – this makes it much lighter and prevents the negative emotions that ‘replay’ if you do the review forwards. It keeps you objective and in charge. Try not to be critical of yourself or others as you do that.
Then re-vision your day forwards. At each point where you find you would have preferred to think or act in a different way, decide how you could have acted differently (not how others could have acted differently, they are responsible for their actions, you are not!). Try to do this without judgement, just observing yourself with detachment. With that change in mind, imagine yourself in the same and similar circumstances. Now you have the chance to act differently! Run it through several times in your imagination until you have in mind the ideal thought patterns and behaviours. This will then become impressed in your memory and be available to you in the next similar circumstances.
Doing this review each evening helps to discover where in life we would like to bring more ‘right relations’ without being regretful. A positive solution based review strengthens the energy flows via the heart centre.
Gentle Appreciative Inquiry
As long as you can maintain an attitude to yourself of appreciation as opposed to self-denigration, and observe yourself from outside of yourself, with a willing and joyful attitude to self-discovery and learning these are great questions to ask yourself at the end of each day whenever you feel you have time and inclination!
- Where did I maintain an unconditionally loving attitude today?
- Where did I look for the good in others and myself today?
- Was I accepting, and understanding of myself today?
- Where did I practice compassion for myself, and others?
- Did I seek to understand the needs of myself and others today, and if so how did this play out practically?
- Do I need to forgive myself or others for any events of today – am I still holding on to disappointed expectations and their harmful consequences? How quickly did I forgive?
- How well did I strive for fairness for all?
- Where in my life am I not showing up with ‘right relations’ and how can I change that for the better – joyfully?
Once you feel comfortable working with these exercises, perhaps you might want to try to set up a small discussion group within your place of work to see if you can all work on these exercises both individually and collectively through your business.
Re-visioning forwards how your department or business as a whole has interacted with others on a single day can be very enlightening. How would your business behave differently if you carry out an exercise which maps how it interacts with others right throughout the whole organisation on one single day?
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Jenny Andersson is a brand & business strategy consultant working with organisations and start-ups to transform their future prospects through purpose-led enterprise. With over 30 years’ experience in brand communications, Jenny has worked with many of the world’s leading brands to integrate social and environmental purpose including Virgin, Levi Strauss and Timberland. She holds an MBA, MSc in Psychology, is a Fellow of the RSA. She curates The Purposeful Enterprise Online Summit 2016 first held on 11-13 April, 2016. If you would like to work with Jenny on activating purpose inside your business, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential chat.