As the New Year approaches it's a time to look back, celebrate successes and look forward to new opportunities and challenges ahead.
For many, this year will be one of our most challenging. I am hearing people say that – for the first time that they can ever remember it's as though 'we're all in this together'. Somehow that feeling of 'sharing the pain' has a way of easing the pain.
Being part of a team – sharing experiences together – being in a community and together creating the future are some of the most powerful needs of human beings.
When we join a company, a team, or an organization we do so with the hope of being welcomed into a well-functioning, healthy environment that is so compelling and exciting that we look forward to work every day. This expectation – and the deep disappointment that comes when it is not realized – is, in fact, an echo of our own individual wholeness and our most basic need for belonging, appreciating, and understanding.
Strengthening Our Organizational Immune System
We know instinctively that a healthy human being needs to be part of a healthy human community. This sense of health – the recoiling from all that is toxic in human relationships – is the fundamental touchstone we need to hold in our consciousness at every moment of our organizational lives.
When the body is healthy, the immune system works at all times to protect it, immediately identifying and attacking any threat to the body's health. The body learns about new threats and creates warning flags to alert the immune system.
These flags arise from cells, directing the immune system to know where and how to target their action and to marshal the internal resources to restore health. Cancer cells, for example, lose the capacity to pass this important information along to the immune system. When cancer forms inside our bodies, these warning flags are not erected to call the immune system to action.
Strengthening our Individual Immune System
We need to understand that the conditions necessary for creating healthy organizations are, in fact, the same conditions necessary for creating healthy individuals. We need to test and examine our beliefs about the balance between personal independence and the collective good – what I need in the context of what WE need. And we need to learn how to stand comfortably and confidently on that edge.
Raising Our Flags
It is as important that WE – both individually and collectively – monitor the health of our business culture, organization, teams, and one-on-one relationships – especially during times of challenge and economic crisis. Everyone in the organization must have the power to raise a flag if he or she needs help handling challenges, whether they arise from within the organization (conflicts) or from outside in the form of economic challenges we are all facing together. We need to look at challenges not as threats, but as opportunities to learn.
Each of us must be empowered to be part of the team, to watch and listen for challenges and respond to them. Each of us must become alert to challenges and listen in new ways to one another so that we add to the collective ability of the organization to respond quickly and proactively. With this level of awareness in place, we can better recognize how to respond by drawing on the wisdom of the whole organization.
There is, in fact, no I – only WE. Deep down we are not individuals, but rather collectives, billions of cells working in concert, networked together in an exquisite equilibrium via a common genetic code buried in each and every cell. But this amazing, self-healing system operates unconsciously within each of us: When it fails, disease results. When it works, we all learn, grow, and nourish one another and live in a state of health. What keeps it working are our Vital Instincts for mutual success.
As 2009 approaches, let's turn to each other to draw upon our deepest, most profound wisdom for ushering in new ways of thinking in the world. We are a global family.
Judith E. Glaser is the Author of two best selling business books:
Creating WE: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization – winner of the Bronze Award in the Leadership Category of the 2008 Axiom Business Book Awards, and The DNA of Leadership; and the DVD and Workshop titled The Leadership Secret of Gregory Goose
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