Simple Wisdom

Post date: 24-Sep-2014 18:49:45

Life truly is an on-going learning experience and apparently the learning I needed to explore this week, as provided by the universe, the divine or serendipity (depending on your perspective) is all around conflict in organisations.

Whether between management and board, within staff teams or between staff and management, it appears that discord, distrust, conflict and hurt are, if not inevitable, certainly endemic. Given the sector that my work is focused in, I was tempted to conclude that sentence by saying "in the caring sector". However friends and family have been helpful in widening my perspective and assuring me that it is equally common in the business or for profit sector too. So perhaps it is simply a natural, and therefore yes indeed inevitable outcome of human endeavour when more than two people (or is that more than one?) are involved.

Over the last ten days, my work across a range of organisations and with a variety of individuals has tried and tested my own personal and professional skills and resources to deal constructively with various conflicts. Working in some instances as facilitator, in some as coach and, in some as an integral part of the problem, I have been challenged to apply with rigour all the tools at my disposal to at least improve every situation I came in contact with. It has been a tiring week at many levels and yet also one of the best in a long time. I have been affirmed that the tools and skills of applied positive psychology really are effective in hard times while simultaneously being reminded how hard it can be to find the self discipline to apply them when most needed.

The thought of reflecting on this experience and extracting the learning to share in a blog was mulling in my head yesterday evening when something else emerged to render the whole endeavour null and void.

My wonderful eight year old daughter asked me to look at her homework (in a week when my head and heart are full of conflict management, it is my children who get squeezed out - she shouldn't need to ask!). What she showed me, in her beautiful penmanship, were her thoughts on how to be a good friend and protect against bullying. In her class at school, they are each to write their own ideas and then use a selection to make a class video.

And so I finish not with the distilled wisdom of my professional experience of organisational psychology and development. Instead I leave us all to reflect on the simple and insightful wisdom of an eight year old in the hope that we might all make our workplaces more like her vision for a healthy playground. For "friend", read "colleague" and I think, like me, you'll see how she cuts straight to the core:

Things you should do for a friend

1. Do stand up for them

2. Do play with them when they're lonely

3. Do share your things

4. Do a favour for them when they want you to

Things you should not do to a friend

1. Do not get them into trouble

2. Do not tell them what to do

3. Do not make fun of them

4. Do not leave them out

My sincere thanks to the beautiful Tuathla Whelan for the best and most moving advice I've had in a long time!