Tag Archives: enlightenment

How Can We Be Prepared? The Smart Way!

24 Jun

I think most people would agree that we have to be prepared for whatever may happen, but that is easier said than done! The way we balance our preparedness makes a major difference in balancing between day-to-day life quality and future consideration. At work it is similar. We prepare by following appropriate studies of our subject, e.g. Human Resources, and ensuring that we understand key principles and how various aspects should be handled and why. We have prepared by learning the theory of our subject, but how ready are we to convince others to follow what we are able to do and be impressed by our interactive demeanor? We have to understand the environment we are working within and people we are working with to be truly effective.

One example of attempting to be prepared, that I remember very well, is when I set-off on my first extended travel journey many years ago. When I look back it is unbelievable how much stuff I decided to take with me. I bought a very large backpack and filled it and had items attached to it including the following:

  • A small tent I bought at the railway lost-property office
  • A suit (Burton’s) in case I found a job in Paris (the official purpose of the trip was to take CII Insurance exams at the Paris centre – more an excuse than true objective!)
  • Foreign language dictionaries, some “Teach Yourself” language books and writing materials
  • A plastic bowl and cleaner in case I had to wash clothes
  • More routine travel stuff and shoes etc.

As you can see, I was well prepared for some specific things, but not really for travel. For example:

  • Apart from some Youth Hostel information I had no travel guides and although there were cities I wanted to visit, I had no idea what I would do when I got there (anywhere!)
  • I had a shortage of day-to-day comfortable clothes, particularly for walking
  • My backpack was so heavy I was bowed over as I walked – I had not considered (sensibly) that I may have to carry my luggage with me while sightseeing

Travel was so different in those days (pre-EU) with no cell phones, electronic devices or internet. Most information I obtained from information booths at train stations or from other travelers. There were also currency restrictions and a maximum of £40 could be taken out of the UK at that time – not that I had much more available!

So, I was very well prepared for things that were unlikely – finding (or wanting) an office job so early in my travels and imagining I would have time to spend learning languages. In contrast, a key pastime became visiting breweries and enjoying free beer and just enjoying the company of other hitchhikers!

My “portability” issue was quickly resolved. I stayed at a Youth Hostel in Suresne (Paris) for a week or so and left most of my luggage there as I set-off towards Yugoslavia. I was certainly more trusting in those days, but when I returned a few months later everything was still there – and I hadn’t needed any of it! On subsequent similar trips I took only a small bag and that was perfect. I had flexibility and comfort and was able to concentrate on what was most important – becoming familiar with other countries and other people some of whom I am still in contact with and influenced my ultimate (so far) move to Canada.

How important do you think it is to plan and thoroughly prepare? Looking back and considering the twists and turns in life – and changed interests – I think it may be more important to became very skilled at recognizing and knowing how to respond to opportunity and sometimes enjoying going in totally different and unanticipated directions. What do you think?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

Perchance to Dream! What Does it Mean?

4 Jun

Well, I spent Tuesday night at one of the Toronto Sleep Clinics (Bathurst and Dundas), hooked up to extensive sleep measuring equipment and today, maybe as a result, feel sufficiently motivated to write another post about my medical experiences this year. The referral to the Toronto Sleep Clinic was made when I was discharged by Sunnybrook, as my sleeping habits were not considered particularly healthy. My sleep pattern, for as long as I remember, was to sleep little overnight, frequently work into the night and then early in the morning and during the day possibly have episodes of tiredness. 

I knew nothing about sleep studies until this current experience and was amazed to read that so much information is gathered from an overnight stay that it forms the basis of an 800 page data report that takes four to five weeks to analyze. I can hardly wait for the results!

I had to complete questionnaires before and after my period of recorded sleep and there was a strong link between stress/concerns of the participant and sleep. Questionnaires are interesting. I have completed many and usually face the same dilemma. If there are, for example, one hundred questions/statements to be rated on a scale of 1 to 5, I may be interested in or have strong feelings about one or two, but have little interest in most and rate them all the same – usually positive as that seems a reasonable default if I feel nothing negative.

I have to say that my overnight stay at the sleep clinic was very comfortable with my own room and very attentive and friendly staff to help and encourage. They were able to rationalize the concept of recording the sleep pattern of people with difficulty sleeping, over an 8 hour period, and what I thought would be very difficult – remaining in bed until 7.00 a.m. – was not a problem. I recorded waking up about eight times during the night, but they were just interludes between quiet times and a few nice dreams.

I had to feel comfortable about my every move being watched, listened to, and recorded, and the absence of any privacy, but my other hospital stays in 2015 had prepared me for that. The watchfulness of the staff was particularly demonstrated when after a series of pleasant dreams I sat up to think about them and almost immediately a nurse came in to make sure everything was o.k. 

I recorded in earlier posts how my dreams at the hospital were about alternative reality, changing the situation in quite a nice way. At the sleep clinic, my dreams were more standard (for me) including travel (London, Montreal), collectibles and friendly encounters. The collectibles I dreamt about in this case were medals that somehow connected to a church exhibition (same dream sequence) I attended. Probably I consider dreams about collectibles (not a precise category) as among the most interesting. I may be browsing through old books or photos and find interleaved notes (or other “treasures”), or find an old guitar, or even selections of true collectibles including coins, stamps, books, comics and various antiques. I think my interest is primarily the uniqueness of the dream items and what they represent rather than their value. With an old guitar, I can play it and often better then in “real life” – a real bonus!

In this post, I cannot offer any advice or insight into the sleep assessment process. I received no feedback following the session which is probably not surprising if, as previously mentioned, they first have to review 800 pages of data about me. However, the objectives are important and can be very helpful and the experience is quite pleasant. I look forward to receiving the results of my assessment and the only advice I will give to people considering such a study is not to drink too much in advance as being unhooked from masses of wires and electrodes to be able to go to the washroom (each occasion and then to be re-hooked) can be daunting!

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

How Can HR Empower Employees to Reach Full Potential?

16 May

This is a very interesting question as reaching full potential can mean many different things depending on the context. When a parent wants a child to meet his/her full potential, it probably reflects the values of the parent and traditionally may mean doing well at school, getting a good job, raising a nice family and other similar things. We want to be proud of the achievements of our children.

When an organization wants employees to meet their full potential, it is usually more for the benefit of the organization. Theoretically if the employee is working at a higher level, work output should be at a higher level, but that may not be the case. In striving to meet full potential, an individual may actually lose interest in his/her job. As long as the person (ignorance is bliss) thought of the job as his/her reasonable “lot in life” there would be acceptance and some engagement, but if the “I could/should be doing better” is too strong, the current job may be handled in a cursory way waiting for rightful destiny.

Expanding the concept of “full potential” further, why should HR attempt to empower employees to reach full potential and what would that mean? Here are some thoughts:

  • It could mean that the employee develops stronger values and work standards that result in more thoughtful application of the employee to the job and some continuous improvement combined with great results
  • It could mean that the employee gains a fuller understanding of life totality and starts to see employment as a very small part of life – a necessity to earn money – but in general a diminishing aspect of enlightenment. The employee could easily lose interest and transfer interest to more meaningful (his/her opinion) things

There are risks (as throughout history) in making people too aware of reality, but if the objective for HR is truly to empower employees to reach full potential, there can, I believe, be mutual benefit in a mature organization, but greatly influenced by a number of things and particularly employee expectations, including :

  • If the employee’s self-worth is increased (encouraged by HR) the person would expect to be promoted or be paid more
  • If the employee is moving towards achieving full potential, he/she would question information more and the company could not just pretend to be great communicators. There would have to be a forum for employees to intelligently and positively discuss and question company information that more commonly may be given one way in less enlightened organizations
  • If the employee is encouraged to reach full potential, there must be reasons, in an organizational context, to justify why the employee should make the additional effort
  • HR people, the teachers, are equally employees and should be equally committed to their own progression and able to give testimony why and how fulfilling full potential benefits people and should be able to give personal business examples. This may be difficult if the HR person is very young and clearly still evolving

Achieving full potential is also complicated because it is a more holistic concept than just being loyal to one function or one manager. Traditional career advancement would in many cases not give sufficient incentive and the way the company operates would have to be adapted to focus on a workforce encouraged to attain full potential. For example:

  • Company values that emphasize the commitment to employees reaching full potential. Not just words, but realistically thought through (before being a stated value) with applicable strategies
  • More open internal job postings with the good of the total organization being most important and individual managers not able to prevent employees in their function from transferring elsewhere within the organization
  • More emphasis on developmental transfers to allow progression of employees through expanded experience and understanding
  • Less emphasis on hierarchical relationship and programs (e.g. HR programs) where managers are required to judge employees. A parent/child type environment is not really conducive to an employee developing full potential as it is not logical to tell an individual how he/she must evolve
  • An environment within which TRUST is a key value and should be reflected through policies including accepting the employee’s self opinion on various subjects including performance management, attendance and acknowledgement of improvement needs on matters that may often result in discipline

What do you think? Is promoting employees to meet their full potential realistic in most organizations or does it conflict with the way most organizations operate? If it is practical, what benefit is it likely to bring? Can HR hope to succeed in promoting employee potential if other managers and particularly senior executives are not similarly committed or significantly developing their own potential?

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

I Must Admit HR is Getting Better, Better all the Time!

3 May

It does not seem so long ago, maybe two or three years when HR seemed to be going through a period of great uncertainty. A lot of discussion was about why people disliked HR, why HR was not respected and why HR was not at the table. At the same time (and earlier) HR seemed troubled about HR identity and was seeking to align more closely with business partners which, in many cases, seemed to include less emphasis on people and less emphasis on the HR problem solving role and ability to respond to challenges.

HR people have been frequently criticized for being too reactive, but today, it seems, it is becoming not only respectable but critical in our constantly changing environments. New style HR people (similar to many in the past) are able to react promptly to deal with issues and in many cases convert reactive into transformative to further interests of the organization.

The improvement in HR that I have noticed, from sentiments expressed by many HR people, is a significant increase in professional confidence and renewed pride that we have distinct skills to benefit an organization. Our skills complement other functions but our skill pattern may be significantly different and being a business partner does not mean agreeing with everything presented to us. We must take a stand when necessary to support achievement of organizational goals that may sometimes differ from the direction pursued by some functional executives.

With this new, more practical thinking, we also seem to have greater confidence in looking within our function and taking steps to revitalize HR including critical evaluation of programs that may have been key to HR for many years. For example:

  • Less emphasis on large somewhat fixed HR programs (e.g. performance management) and more emphasis on a more modular approach using the integration of mainstream data rather than stand alone HR programs
  • Being fully part of the business and with high credibility HR people close to the action (ear to the ground) and at any time ready to respond to support organizational interests and deal effectively with any organizational challenges and       threats
  • Not being obsessed by being at the big table, but making sure we are at the right small tables (e.g. functional) where the action takes place and we may be involved early enough to be part of the strategic thinking and contribute positively rather than challenge after the fact when people already feel committed to the planned action. With such a strategic and business focused role, HR would automatically have a very legitimate place at the big table and the new confidence and practical support of HR would be welcomed
  • HR confidence that our specialist expertise on people issues translates into present and sustained business advantage and we are able to sell concepts in the most practical and acceptable way.  Not only employee issues, but significant focus on our community, our customer/sales focus and external resources of various kinds that may be critical and needed at any point
  • The evolving more pragmatic HR seems more ready to take a strong stand on critical matters (e.g. ethics and corporate values) and to achieve this recognizes the need to develop the appropriate negotiating and diplomacy skills. We cannot just be stubborn people in an HR world of our own (sometimes the problem with old style HR) but be straight-talking business-sensitive leaders able to gain the respect of those we deal with
  • HR is coming of age by the way we seem ready now to question all our HR beliefs. It is very difficult not to develop a bias and our bias may have matched perfectly the conventional way of doing things in the past, but be outdated based on the technological capability now available. We must grasp the opportunities and be leaders in redesigning how we do many things and how we may train and impart user confidence during a period of organizational transition.
  • The success of HR in the future may depend very much on the ability of HR to attract the right talent and be able to meet staffing needs with the minimum of delay. I would have liked to say that HR has simplified and made the process more practical, but there still seem to be major philosophic differences between different HR people. There are HR people who make the selection process very complicated and try to match such things as attitude. There are others who support a simpler and more objective process. The key to success would be HR’s contribution to effective organizational design to ensure that the culture of the organization is able to assimilate most employees, regardless of different styles. I believe trending, particularly, by HR generalists, is moving more towards a simpler recruiting process, but at this point, opinions continue to be very divided

I must admit HR is getting better – it’s getting better all the time! I offer some thoughts on this subject which I believe are supported by many modern day HR realists and seem consistent with the beliefs of many HR students who, of course, will soon be setting the HR trends for tomorrow. HR improvement is dependent on realistically acknowledging evolving business and people differences and expectations and balancing them in the most appropriate way. Success of HR depends on us knowing who we are, what we can do and to updating and adapting much of what is already in place to reflect the present as it is and move confidently into the future. I believe an increasing number of HR people are committed to change and that gives reason to feel confidence about the future of our profession.

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

 

Beware Small Men Who Cast Long Shadows!

28 Sep

The actual quote that caught my attention was “When small men begin to cast long shadows, it is a sure sign that the sun is setting”. The origin seems unclear, but what it conveys seems sombre and foreboding. I interpreted “small men” as “small minded people”. Not men of small stature (short) but men (or women) who may be deficient in many ways, but, nevertheless, exercising a dangerous level of control over our lives and our world. The sun setting is a warning that our future, if any, could be perpetual darkness – all gone. If I use the term “small men”, as explained before, it is not referring to stature or only men.

Who are these “small men”? I am sure we all know some. Many are motivated by personal greed and skilled in finding ways to justify action against anything affecting their personal gain or selfish ambition. They may act alone, or in concert with likeminded people. Collectively they can influence the structure of our society and divide people into those who use (for control or gain) and those who are used (most of us!).

Who allows the undeserving to control our lives? History confirms the pattern and the way those in power cling to power and their domination over average people. In our part of the world, it is only since the Industrial Revolution that there has been a progressive move to improve the lot of employees and working conditions, including limitations on child labour and other exploitive practices. It required legislation and the passing of such legislation met with intense opposition from the traditional ruling classes and nouveau riche business owners. They feared the increasing power of political parties representing the working classes, and giving too many rights to the people (including unions) that may inhibit their businesses.

It is not in our history to care too much about other people. It may be in our various religions, but interpreted by people in a “safe” and convenient way. We may establish social conventions to satisfy obligations of our faith, but generally making sure they do not close doors to personal opportunity, that may, by many, be seen as including exploitation.

Those in high places control by preserving their power. Frequently they try to convince us that it is the best way – that their power somehow benefits us and we should follow them. Big men are committed to what they say, take their responsibilities (for our future) seriously and without being completely unselfish, do nothing intentionally to harm us. Small men have personal goals we cannot trust, may pretend to care about people but do not and do not really care about the future (sustainable environment) much beyond their own lifetime. They may not deliberately harm or disadvantage people, but are indifferent to their fate if they are not important to their pursuit of wealth and power – or caring may limit their personal gain.

Times are changing. When we were small, my mother told us repeatedly about the horror she felt when they announced that that Atom bombs had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, wiping out much of the population. In many respects, she saw this as the beginning of the end and a terrible testimony to the capability of men to destroy. She had lived through the war and peace came at a terrible price. Destruction by fire (primarily bombs) continued to be a great fear during the cold war. War and destruction was the fear in peoples’ minds and could be visualized in very graphic terms. In our lifetime, the battle has become very different and distinguishing between friends and foes, big men and small men, is very difficult – they are often indistinguishable.

We have to think it all through and draw our own conclusions. To do that we have to reason and question, including principles we have lived with all our lives. The person who may appear big, successful and caring and claiming to protect our interests and freedoms – is he really a small person casting a long shadow and slowly turning off our light and our world, as the sun goes down?

Thank you for your interest and for caring – I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have,

Ian

Has Civilization Dulled Our Senses?

22 Jul

Can we really claim our civilization is advanced? Technologically it may be, our achievements are incredible including space travel and DNA mapping, but has human potential – except to live longer – really advanced?

Our senses, particularly sense of smell, have been assigned very routine functions. For city folk, we hear more than we want to hear and need to keep music up high to mask background noise. When we are not looking at city sights – other buildings – we are frequently viewing things at close range on screens rather than seeing the real things. Our sense of smell has been pushed into the background with more emphasis on what we don’t want to smell than what we do want to smell.

It is not, I must admit, my dream to be in wide open spaces using our human senses to their fullest capability, but that may not be a bad idea. Our senses function in conjunction with our brain and if they are allowed or encouraged to function at high sensitivity, it may correspondingly open our minds and heighten our ability to experience – possibly make us wiser and understanding more.

That would be a form of enlightenment and, of course, enlightenment in earlier generations was associated with drugs. That is convenient because our world today is obsessed by drugs. In the attempt to prolong living, it is now possible to detect thousands of things (including dangerous foods) that need to be treated with medication.

So, most of the population are on drugs (legal or illegal) of one kind or another. They obviously alter our senses, particularly as the function of many is to lessen pain and anxiety. They are used for understandable reasons, but the downside is that they must, to some extent, also be dulling our natural senses.

In addition to medication, exercise programs are followed by many people. There are logical reasons, but in many ways they are responding to the body as though it were a machine. The moving parts are particularly well maintained, but not necessarily the control panel – the brain. If the brain controls the moving parts, could exercising the brain deal with aches and pains and other problems better than forcing movement of the body to try to overcome the programming of the mind?

Are we truly evolving as increasingly enlightened human beings or has our environment and social focus put us in a holding pattern? Are we, in effect, trading some higher values to achieve longevity and more physical (superficial?) goals? In many ways our lives seem more adapted to receiving facts, dealing with physical issues and living longer than to experiencing at the highest level possible and harnessing the potential power of our minds.

What do you think? Are we advancing solidly ahead, or at most, standing still?

I was attempting to learn from from a film about the Chauvet Cave in France, filled with ancient art from more than 20,000 years ago. I expected to be struck by the contrast between that time and now, but instead I learned that the apparent closeness of our ancestors to their environment and use of subtle symbolism was at a very advanced level. I learned to be more humble and to suspect that our ability to experience our environment and relationships may have diminished rather than heightened over the years! A sad thought in spite of all our technological advances.

Thank you for your interest. I look forward to any thoughts and comments you may have.

Ian

p.s. This post is adapted from an earlier post (November 2011) on Toolbox for HR, but it seemed appropriate to use as an introductory post on my new blog.

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