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Civilizing Corporate Culture

Civilizing Corporate Culture

This week, I’ve been thinking a great deal about what counts as a “civilized” corporate and workplace culture. That’s because I’m deep into the editing process with my new book, Slow Leadership: How to Civilize Your Workplace, which will be published this Fall. The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that much of corporate America — much of the Western corporate world, if it comes to that — has taken a large step backwards in recent years in providing truly civilized working conditions.

Here’s what a typical workplace culture looks like:

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  • Business demands have gotten steadily tougher. Organizations demand their staff work longer hours, often at a faster pace. The reason? To beat off competition from other businesses doing the same thing. It’s a vicious cycle — a no-holds-barred game where the stakes are constantly raised. No one seems to consider the alternative of stepping aside and allowing the lemmings to race each other off the cliff.
  • More and more roles are declared to be “professional” ones. Professionals don’t work set hours, they do whatever is needed to get the job done. Of course, the other side of this should be that they can ease up or take time off when there isn’t so much work. This doesn’t seem to happen; there’s always work piled up and waiting. It’s seen as being “uncommitted” to act like a professional used to act and let up on the effort, so the effect of “professionalization” on working hours is all one way: upwards.
  • Many workplaces present people with a continual, manic experience, full of rush, hurry, pressure, distractions and escalating anxiety. Professional and managerial-level staff skip meals and breaks, dash from one meeting to another and work hours even the unskilled laborers of the past would have felt were oppressive.
  • As a result, people have less time to spend relaxing or attending to family and friends. Fathers (and many mothers too) see less of their children, have less energy to devote to bringing them up as they would wish, and are too tired when they are at home to give their family quality time and attention.
  • The workplace has become more than central to many people’s lives. It’s become the place where they spend more time than anywhere else. The place that grabs at their attention, even when they’re supposedly having time off away from work. So they skip vacations, phone in to the office from those holiday beaches, carry cell phones everywhere in case someone — anyone — from work needs to call them at any time. Work has taken over their whole existence.

It seems to me this isn’t a civilized way to live. Sure, these people are prosperous (mostly) and many are genuinely committed to what they do. But can it be right, here at the start of the 21st century, for people to face working pressures far greater than any since the oppressed mill-workers of the Industrial Revolution?

That’s the question I’ve been asking myself. To me, a civilized workplace needs to meet these criteria, as a minimum. Anything less than this cannot, I believe, lay claim to being a civilized place to work:

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  • It must operate in ways that ensure everyone is treated with the dignity benefiting a fellow human being.
  • It must recognize work as part of life, but not the whole of it. People who choose to set family and non-work commitments on a par with their work must not be penalized or devalued for doing so.
  • It must be free from discrimination, bullying, unfair pressures and any exploitation of the weak.
  • It must be a place where ethics are adhered to in deeds as well as words, and honest dealings are the norm.
  • It must recognize and honor values that go beyond the obvious financial and economic ones.
  • It must be a place where people make choices on the basis of what is right — intellectually, ethically and spiritually — not simply what is currently expedient.

How can we achieve progress towards making our offices, laboratories and manufacturing plants into places we can be proud of? By encouraging every leader, no matter how few are in his or her team, to accept these standards and implement them as best they can. Grass-roots movements are usually unstoppable, once they attain enough momentum. This one can be too.

As the anthropologist Margaret Mead said:

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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Adrian Savage is a writer, an Englishman and a retired business executive. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his serious thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for everyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership; and his crazier ones at The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on October 9, 2018

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

How to Write a Personal Mission Statement to Ensure Peak Productivity

Most of you made personal, one sentence resolutions like “I want to lose weight” or “I vow to go back to school.” It is a tradition to start the New Year with things you want to achieve, but under the influence resolutions are often unrealistic.

If you’re wondering when will be a good time to write a mission statement, NOW is the time to take a personal inventory to make this year your most productive year ever. You may be asking yourself, “How am I going to do that?” You, my friends, are going to write personal mission statements.

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A large number of corporations use mission statements to define the purpose of the company’s existence. Sony wants to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products” and 3M wants “to solve unsolved problems innovatively”. A personal mission statement is different than a corporate mission statement, but the fundamentals are the same.

So why do you need one? A personal statement will help you identify your core values and beliefs in one fluid tapestry of content that you can read anytime and anywhere to stay on task toward success.

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For example, Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire came to the realization that he had lost track of what was important to him. After writing a personal mission statement, we saw him start his own business and he got the girl, Renee Zelleweger. Not bad, wouldn’t you say? A personal mission statement will make sure that, through all the texting, emailing and constant bombardment of on-the-go activity, you won’t lose sight of what is most important to you.

Mission statements can be simple and concise while others are longer and filled with detail. The length of your personal mission statement will not be determined until you follow this simple equation to create your motivational springboard for 2008.

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To begin your internal cleansing, you will need to jot down the required information in the following five steps:

  1. What are your values? Values steer your actions and determine where you spend time, energy, and most importantly, money. Be specific and unique to yourself. Too much generalization will not be as effective. It is called a “personal” mission statement for a reason.
  2. What are three important goals you hope to achieve this year? Keep your list of important goals small and give them a date. It is better to focus on the horizon and not the stars. Realistic goals are keys to ultimate success.
  3. What image do you hope to project to yourself? How you see yourself is how the world will view you. Think about this carefully. Your image should encompass what you look like and feel after you have achieved your goals.
  4. Write down action statements from each value describing how you will use those values to achieve your three goals. Start with “I will…”
  5. Rewrite your statement to include only your action statements. Make portable copies for your wallet, car or office.

If you followed the steps above, congratulations! You have just written your first personal mission statement. Your personal statement will change over the years as your goals change. You can have more than one statement for the different compartments of your life such as your career, family, marriage, etc.

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Writing a personal mission statement is an effective method to ensure your productivity is at its peak. It is an ideal tradition to start so that when next year rolls around, the outdated practice of resolutions will be something you permanently left in the past.

Featured photo credit: Álvaro Serrano via unsplash.com

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