Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Despair. What is the point?

It is easy, so easy to despair that we can do anything in the face of conflict.

Sometimes conflict's stranglehold on society and individuals feels so tight that it is easy to give up.

I read the news today, oh boy... Lives lost in an argument about the loss of life? That makes no sense at all.

We see these heightened conflicts being played out to their awful fatal conclusions and wonder what is the point? What hope have we in bringing about change.

The same is true in organisations as it is within society. Look at teams and individuals. There is always one, a bad apple, the cat amongst the pigeons. We have initiatives, really freaking great ideas, great big whoppers of ideas, and yet we stay silent. What is the point? It'll never float. It will be bombed, sabotaged, passively supported while at the same time being willed to fail.

Managers go on course after course to help them get over their reticence and give some real feedback, you know, like useful feedback. And it sounds great and, yes I can see how that will make a difference, and we try it. And what happens? We still get the tears from our colleague, or the defensiveness and the sulking. And you know, maybe it is just easier if we just avoid the whole thing.

But but but then we are complicit in average organisations. We are contributing to an organisation remaining in its status quo. We are conspiring to restrict the organisations growth and development. And I'm thinking, its just a hunch, that that is not how we see ourselves, our contributions or our companies.

No, this accursed despair needs to be driven out, put in a box and thrown out into the back yard, like the worry weeds that Tom Waits muses on in his concert film Big Time. Take those weeds and choke 'em.

Let's recognise despair for what it is; a debilitating self-deception that tells us it is alright not to try, try and try again.

When it comes to conflict in the organisation, well then sometimes all it needs is one small change in ourselves and that can turn a stagnant backwater of dissent into a vibrant new river of communication, carrying many with it on its way to who knows where. And sure, there will be white rapids, but we can get through them. It might be challenging, it might be a little bit frightening, but which would you prefer and which approach does your organisation need?

I heard a story the other day that a ship captain had calculated as he was leaving port in South Africa, headed for Australia, that if he changed his course by just one degree that he would miss Australia altogether. The smallest change can make a massive difference and for that reason alone, we need not despair.

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