Love at Work

We’ve just been reading World Vision Australia CEO, Tim Costello’s chapter in the recent Australian Institute of Management publication, Love @ Work.

It looks like we’ve been reading pretty much the same books as Tim over the
last five years. Well, that’s probably an unfair comparison. Reading the chapter
we think Tim may have read many more books than we have in that time. But let’s
say we’ve read most of the books he refers to.

We started with the last chapter and haven’t looked at the others yet but
we can say it is compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in "leading
with heart".

Tim reviews social movements through the ages and looks at what motivates
people like William
. We hadn’t know that 45 years elapsed between the time Wilberforce

first presented evidence to a committee of the Privy Council in 17888
at the age of 29…until the final Commons reading on 26 July 1833 abolishing
slavery in all British colonies. [and that] Wilberforce died three days later.

For all that, this is no sentimental soft motivational piece. Costello carefully,
painstakingly and forcefully constructs his argument and finds room for critiques
of many modern movements.

We rather like his calling of so called "Gurus" and consultants
as charlatans. (Of course the latter title does not apply to ourselves.) Mission
statements such as Exxon’s “The
customer comes first” get revealed for what they are — platitudes designed
to hide the truth that senior executives come first (thanks to a reference
Art Kleiner ).

Tim uses culture change "guru"
Ed Schein’s willingness
to compare his methods to those used against POWs in communist prison camps
as one example of how the latest "spirituality at work" movement
may in fact be just another method to bleed employees dry of not only their
physical and emotional health but of their souls as well.

We have quite some respect for the group Costello regards we think positively
but with caution — Senge,
Kahane, Jaworski Kleiner
and Danah Zohar :

Their books have a complex mixture of personal narrative, management theory,
tribal wisdom and New Age views on particle physics and human nature.

Through all this he builds a dilemma around spirituality at work. On the one
had it may satisfy the need to find fulfillment at work and bring more of ourselves
to creative solution making. On the other hand is the ever present danger of
misuse and abuse.

Tim quite beautifully creates the argument that perhaps the solution to this
dilemma is not to think about spirituality so much as think about Love.

Some have wondered whether such altruistic love that transcends ordinary
human limits might require and inflow of love from a higher source. But whatever
faith background one does or does not come from, altruistic love is at the
core of what makes individuals, families and societies whole, The very fabric
of society is held together by those people and associations who work for
the common good and not their self-interest alone.

We hope you buy the book.

BOSS True Leaders list

August means leaders for AFR

Each year in August BOSS publishes its True Leaders List.
This year is the sixth edition of the list. One of the things it does
for Spiral Path is to make us stop and think about how our feelings
about leadership have developed over the last 12 months.

BOSS editor Helen
wrote this year’s piece. We think she adds an air of experience
and ever so slightly deeper style than last year’s author, Catherine

This year’s piece nicely teases out the changes in perception of leadership
over the last 12 months. Certainly, the panel believes the hero CEO
is dead. We’re not sure they’re right about that, but it’s nice to
hear them say it.

The usual suspects are along with perhaps some surprises in Greg
and Noel

Having shared some experiences with him more than a decade ago, we
were very pleased to see quiet achiever Craig
included in the top 25.

So how has Spiral Path’s thinking about leadership changed over 12
months? Perhaps the greatest change is that we are less likely to think
of leadership as a quality that some people have and others don’t.
We are more likely to think of leadership as something some people
do in the situation they are in at the time and perhaps won’t be able
to in another situation. We think of David
, a visionary, inspiring and loved principal at Melbourne’s Methodist
Ladies’ College
. His experience at Wesley
was reported to be quite different.

We think True Leaders is useful in getting each of to think
about what parts of ourselves we bring to our role as leaders. This,
we believe, is the real work of a leader. Not useful, we think, is
looking for qualities in other leaders that seem to make them ‘successful’
and then trying to emulate them.

Sex at work

Friday’s Financial Review carried an article entitled “Sex Case: It was friendly”*

The article is about a sexual harassment case brought by a partner in one of Australia’s (and the world’s) largest companies “alleging ‘a culture of discrimination, harassment and bullying’, claiming numerous male partners sexually harassed her while management failed to adequately adress her complaints.”

Regular readers will know that Spiral Path has regularly become passionate about the elimination of all forms of sexual harassment. The AFR article goes on to say:

“[The company] admits that at a young leader’s conference in 2004, a video was shown including a woman sunbathing topless after which a partner asked: ‘Christina, is that you sunbathing on the beach?'”

We know a lot of men would complain about Christina’s reaction. We can hear
them complaining “You can’t say anything anymore.” But what was the subtext
of the partner’s comment? What he was really saying was “I would like to see
your breasts.” Put that way it was clearly an offensive comment.

But we wonder what the subtext to the subtext was. Why do we men make comments like that? Our guess is it is because we really want to say “I find you attractive” or “I think you are quite beautiful.” But that would put us in a vulnerable position. We have expressed our inner selves and face rebuttal. To say either of these things is not to say “I’ve fallen in love with you.” It’s not an advance. It’s just stating how we feel. The problem is that we fear your response. So to protect ourselves we put you down and try to make you feel powerless. That’s because from the time we first began to notice girls, we have never had (or made) the opportunity to talk about how we feel. So we have no language to talk about how we feel about you.

Spiral Path believes we need to find that language. We men need to learn to express our attraction with dignity and respect.

*I can’t post a link to this article because AFR requires payment even to get to the link now. If you would like a copy of the article, contact me and I will send it to you.

The Doomsday Scenario

As a teenager in 1969, I was on holiday in Perth
with my family staying with
my father’s parents in their old home. One morning something happened
that I remember vividly but I think I have never spoken of before.

I was thinking about waking up and drifting in and out of sleep. Then I heard
the most powerful rumbling whole being shaking sound. I don’t know if it
was a dream or a vision but no one else spoke about it so I have always believed
it was a private experience.

The sound seemed to continue for a minute or so although it may have been less.
My thought at the time was that I was in the midst of a nuclear explosion. The
Third (and surely final) World War had started and soon it would all be over.

I woke up to the most surreal scene. Nothing had changed. Everything was just
as it had been the night before. Everyone was carrying on as normal. It was as
though the war had happened but had left everything looking the same. I hadn’t
heard about neutron bombs
at that stage but if I had, I would have thought that
the war had been fought with some new weapon. Something that left everything
looking the same on the outside but hollow on the inside.

Surprisingly the experience didn’t frighten me but it did take me into
an altered state for much of the rest of the day. Eventually I came to realise
that my experience had not been part of the physical world, but to this day I
am left believing it was real nevertheless. I do not often stop to ponder what
it meant but from time to time I do.

I relate this story here because it tells something of the similarity of the
world we now live in and that of the sixties.

As a teenager, we lived with the Cold War with a constant threat of massive nuclear destruction.
We all knew the acronyms ICBM and MAD and
the tension between the Soviet Union and the USA
was constant news. The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in my lifetime although I was too young to know much
about it when it was news.

Then in 1967 the Six Day War between
Israel and the Arab nations started. Seeing
the first news of the attacks and Israel’s march into Egypt on TV, my father
remarked “I guess we’re about due for another world war.

The later part of the sixties was a time of hope in the midst of extreme fear.
The sixties saw the sexual revolution and we saw the ‘Flower Power’ movement
in San Francisco. All this took place in the real knowledge that the world could
end tomorrow.

But the world did not end. We survived. The threat of all out nuclear war receded
and a new age seemed to be dawning with the amazing events in Berlin, Moscow
and South Africa. At breathtaking speed the Iron Curtain had fallen and Apartheid
was gone. The threats to world peace that had hovered over us all my life were

But it was a brief interlude. Any final illusions we had that interruptions to
peace were the death movements of a dying animal were shattered on September
11, 2001

People growing up today are living with the same constant fear that lead to my
dream in 1969, but there seems much less hope. There is no sexual revolution
and no flower power.

The threat of terrorism is a constant in our lives with the news of a new threat
to blow up planes on transatlantic flights from Britain
breaking as I write this.

World demand for oil has caught up with the limits of our ability to produce
it with Chinese and Indian demand only starting to kick in. The free run given
to the West from cheap imports from China and cheap services from India is coming
to an end.

The doomsday clock is ticking.

The doomsday scenario is important for us. Not only is it a real potential scenario
that maybe we can’t or won’t do anything to avoid but, more importantly,
I believe that only by looking this scenario in the face and tracing out the
shadow of its hand do our minds become fully open to alternative scenarios.

The alternative scenarios I am thinking of range from groundbreaking new inventions
(such as new sources of energy or radically more efficient ways of using the
energy sources we have available) to the next social revolution.

Regardless of the type of changes that we need to adopt as a society, at the
core of those changes must surely be the need to bring more ourselves and our
creative ability to the task of creating alternative scenarios. And our most
influential social institutions — corporations — must surely play
a central role in bring more of our creative ability to social and industrial

The twentieth century saw the development of the modern corporation. By its end,
opportunities for organic growth had become limited by the sheer size to which
corporations had grown. The immergence of the junk bond market enabled growth
by acquisition to continue for a few more decades.  Lazonick & O’Sulllivan
suggest this has been achieved at the expense of reinvestment in our commercial
enterprise with the consequent destruction of long term productivity. (Lazonick
and O’Sullivan 2000). Corporations themselves are not only facing the doomsday
scenario through external pressure, but also by becoming empty on the inside.

Individually, I believe bringing more of ourselves to creating the future is
about bring our soul to work.

In similar fashion. corporate survival is dependant on corporations, like the
tin man in The Wizard of Oz, finding their soul.

Telstra’s Shareholder Value

Hmmm, Telstra has decided not to proceed with its FTTN rollout.
Interesting use of the Shareholder Value concept. SpiralPath understands that Shareholder Value is supposed to be a solution to the agency question. That is the “principal” (ie owner) wants to do something (ie run a business). The principal doesn’t have all the resources to do this so they employ an agent (manager).
Managers, as we all know, are lazy and want to be paid as much as possible for doing as little as possible. So the principal has to add incentives to make the manager work harder and, in particular, to do what the principal wants the manager to do.
Lovely theory. All the problems of agency solved – except the costs. So we bring in shareholder value. We simplify the whole thing. We pay executives huge salaries with added stock bonuses if they can do one thing – increase the share price. Even the most dumb witted managers should be able to understand this.
Except in cases like Telstra. The managers become so engaged in the task of increasing shareholder value they forget that shareholder value is simply a measure of how well they are serving the interests of shareholders. So single mindedly focussed in fact that they will refuse to do what shareholders (in this case, the Australian Government) want because it will reduce the share price.
Twisted logic indeed.

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Why do we organise?
I’ve been thinking about this question lately.
A more fundamental questions is why do we work?
A lot of people would laugh at this question with the simple response “we work to earn money.”
I was discussing this with a client recently after we had both had a short break. We spoke about how we enjoyed the break immensely but it was becoming a fast receding memory for both of us. My client then said to me

That’s why we work. We work to earn enough money to take a holiday.”

Hmmm. I’m not so sure. I like my work. I’ll go even further. I love my work and I’m passionate about it. I get tired quite often and I enjoy getting home each night and putting my feet up. I enjoy the weekend and it’s hard to start again on Monday morning. There are parts of my work I would rather not do – it would be very nice if the administration just did itself. But the real work, the part where I am working with a client – that’s what I live for. Well I live for other things as well, but the essence of my work is wonderful.
But maybe I’m one out.
Here’s another take:

Work hard and the world respects you. Work hard and you can have anything you want. Work really extra super hard and do nothing else but work and ignore your family and spend 14 hours a day at the office and make 300 grand a year that you never have time to spend, sublimate your soul to the corporate machine and enjoy a profound drinking problem and sporadic impotence and a nice 8BR mini-mansion you never spend any time in, and you and your shiny BMW 740i will get into heaven. [from Mark Morford’s column at]

That certainly is a common perspective.
But deep down, I am convinced that something else is driving us. Today, I started thinking about it in terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy.
Sure we work to feed, clothe and house ourselves. Most of us in the West have got that covered (although I am not for one moment forgetting that there are many in the West who struggle to meet even these basic requirements.)
As I re-read Maslow, I am warming to the parallel with why we work. Going one step up his scale is Safety. Yes we work to make ourselves safe. Partly this relates to our personal lives – to save enough to keep ourselves fed, clothed and housed throughout our lives. But also at a communal level – we work to provide the infrastructure we need to be safe.
The next level is love and belonging. Again, work enables most of us to have and to provide for a family. We also work to belong to something. To be part of something.
Coming along to the BMW 740i we have self-esteem and status. This is where it really starts to get interesting. Why is status so important to us? Because we are all so uncertain of ourselves? Because deep down, we all have a need to prove ourselves to ourselves? Hmm? I think somehow, I’ll be coming back to this theme. But I don’t want to dwell on it here because Maslow’s next two levels are really fascinating – Self-actualisation and Transcendence.
Put aside for the moment arguments about whether Self-actualisation is an end itself or simply a means to Transcendence – just ask yourself the question “What would it be like to reach transcendence in work?”
Comment it you like. Of just come back to follow the discussion.