Monday, 29 December 2014 00:00
We are in the midst of another festive season. A brand new year is just a few days away from us. Holidays give us time to refresh, reflect and renew. I personally got a much-needed break after a few ‘mega months’ with regard to duties and deliverables. Today’s column on Human Results is just a relaxed reflection on the way to embrace 2015 and how to meaningfully engage in value creation on all fronts.
Caring through carols
I observed that many corporates organised Christmas carols during recent weeks. It has become more than merely an annual ritual but a deeper organisational phenomenon in strengthening employee engagement. Participating in carols is a demonstration of unity, solidarity and team collaboration as a set of professional colleagues. In turn it helps the needy in society as well.
Let me briefly touch on one common carol we hear ‘Mistletoe and Wine’. It was made popular as a single by Cliff Richard.
The child is a King, the Caroller sing,
The old is past, there’s a new beginning.
Dreams of Santa, dreams of snow,
Fingers numb, faces aglow.
Christmas time, Mistletoe and Wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts on the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see
A time for living, a time for believing
A time for trusting, not deceiving,
Love and laughter and joy ever after
Ours for the taking, just follow the master.
Christmas time, Mistletoe and Wine
Children singing Christian rhyme
With logs on the fire and gifts in the tree
A time to rejoice in the good that we see.
As Wikipedia tells us, this was written by Jeremy Paul, Leslie Stewart and Keith Strachan, it was originally performed as part of the musical Scraps (later re-titled ‘The Little Match Girl’. The musical was based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale, but relocated to the streets of Victorian London) at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, London in 1976.
As written, ‘Mistletoe and Wine’ had a different meaning from that which it came to be known. The writers wanted a song that sounded like a Christmas carol for the scene in the musical where the little match girl is kicked out into the snow.
Well-to-do carol singers perform the song in the play, though they are actually indifferent to the fate of the little match girl, who is starving to death on the same street. Richard liked the song but wanted to change the lyrics to reflect a more religious theme, to which the writers agreed. Cliff’s 99th single, it became his 12th UK number one single, spending four weeks at the top in December 1988 - selling 750,000 copies in the process. It was the bestselling single of 1988 in the UK.
Time to rejoice in the good that we see
Yes, it is the time to rejoice, in the good that we see. However, a challenge arises. Are we seeing the good in us as well as in others enough? We live in a time when meetings are started with the question: “What went wrong last month?” We are very good at catching people doing things wrong. An institutionalised negativity is a common phenomenon in Sri Lankan workplaces. I think this is the time for us to change. We should catch people doing things right. We should ask the question ‘What went right?’ more often. Positive focus is one vital ingredient for consistent performance.
In order to change for the better, we need to recharge ourselves. There is no better time than this festive season to do so. I am talking of the need to take care of the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of our lives. This is an opportune time for renewal, an awakening to the reality with focus on being better. We need a renewal in each of the above facets, in making 2015 a meaningful period of prosperity.
The human body is the vehicle that takes us through the journey of life. Being healthy and fit are of the utmost importance. Finding quality time for physical exercise on a regular basis will be one sure cure for physical inactivity.
Having a healthy dietary pattern, in opting to be fit than fat, is another vital need. Now, make the decision to allocate time for it, and to respect the commitment. That is what renewal is all about.
It is to do with sharpening ourselves. As Stephen Covey highlighted as one of the seven habits of highly-effective people, ‘Sharpening the Saw’ is essential for growth and success. Ensuring that knowledge and skills are regularly updated and upgraded is what we need to focus on.
Tom Peters gave a challenge to US managers a decade ago. Look back for past six months and see whether you have acquired any new knowledge or skills. If the answer is ‘no’, you are stagnating with a blunt saw.
With internet as a vast ocean of knowledge offering a variety of informal learning approaches, learning has become part and parcel of our lives. As Socrates said a long time ago, we learn from “the womb to the tomb.”
There are people who have successfully passed their exams, but have failed miserably in their lives. Being aware of constructive emotions as well as destructive emotions surrounding our lives is the first step. Laziness and anger are two common examples of destructive emotions. Enthusiasm and determination are common constructive emotions.
As experts on Emotional Intelligence (EI) say, self-awareness should lead to self-regulation. That is when you are in control of your emotions and then channel them towards achievement.
This is especially true if you are at an organisational leadership position. As Daniel Goldman, who popularised the EI advocate concept, leaders should be 70 % more emotionally intelligent than others.
As we know, no man is an island. Human beings are social animals. human connectivity is an essential requirement for any community to foster. In a high-tech world where speed is a key factor, high-touch dimension of relationships should not be neglected. I have seen many achievement-oriented executives who are ‘married’ to their jobs while their neighbours take care of their families.
A renewal should ensure the fostering of relationships with the team at work and more importantly with the team at home. Building better relationships, taking quality time off from your work to be with your loved ones, involving yourself in voluntary work are some of the popular activities in this respect.
The four renewals above are not possible without underpinning one to all of them, which I call spiritual renewal. There is a difference between being spiritual and being religious. One can visit a church, temple, mosque or a kovil every day and be constantly at loggerheads with their neighbours. Being spiritual is much deeper in moving beyond rituals and being righteous. It required a set of values that governs your behavior. Honesty and integrity can be the commonest examples. Harmony between your set of values and the corporate values of your organisation will ensure long-term association of you and your organisation.
Renewal to results
Awakening of one’s physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual dimensions should lead to better understanding of oneself. Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their seminal HBR article titled ‘Making of a Corporate Athlete’ describe vividly the importance of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual “capacities”. According to them, organisations cannot afford to utilise their employees’ capacities, while ignoring their physical, emotional and social wellbeing. They offer us further insights in these aspects:
“In a corporate environment that is changing at warp speed, performing consistently at high levels is more difficult and more necessary than ever. Narrow interventions simply aren’t sufficient anymore. Companies can’t afford to address their employees’ cognitive capacities while ignoring their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. On the playing ﬁeld or in the boardroom, high performance depends as much on how people renew and recover energy as on how they expend it, on how they manage their lives as much as on how they manage their work. When people feel strong and resilient – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – they perform better, with more passion, for longer. They win, their families win and the corporations that employ them win.”(Loehr and Schwartz, 2001)
The key point here is the need to have a balanced approach towards performance. Renewed employees will reinforce their commitment towards assigned tasks in achieving the expected results.
The way forward
We need to go beyond festivities to ensure focused action leading to fabulous results. Renewing ourselves is absolutely essential with that respect. May the year 2015 usher in an era of prosperity through productivity. That can be only possible by having the rigour of going for stretched targets with a renewed commitment as a well-balanced person in delivering humane results.