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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 15, 2019

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them in 7 Simple Steps

Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination:

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1. Make a list of your goal destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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2. Think about the time frame to have the goal accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

3. Write down your goals clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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4. Write down what you need to do for each goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write down your timeframe with specific and realistic dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule your to-dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule so that you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Review your progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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