Special Guest post by Mindful Millie
No sooner had eager thumbs finished scrolling their iphone newsfeeds than I started to get helpful suggestions at work, quoting the stat and asking if we can get some information or “fact sheets’ out to people?
Naturally, in my eager to please way (I’m a total harmoniser on any personality profiling tool), I obliged, and a fancy factsheet pinged their inboxes (I can deliver!)
A few days later, once the warm fuzzy feeling of “helping” had dissipated it was replaced by another, far less comfortable feeling I preferred not to face often…shame? embarrassment? Did I just fall for the oldest safety trick in the book to “fix” and “tell”? All I needed was to close out a corrective action on this item and I was in safety heaven! It got me thinking though, what is the role of an organisation in times of crisis and uncertainty?
After realising I didn’t even have a reliable definition of organising, a rainy Easter afternoon conversation with my friend and trusted mentor Rob Long led me to the following definition by Karl Weick that “Organizing is a consensually validated grammar for reducing equivocality by means of sensible interlocked behaviours”.
Huh? An hour into the conversation I felt clearer. So basically, we “organise” to feel secure & feel safe, and through this belonging we find comfort (whether it be through paid employment, membership with the local footy club, volunteering etc”)
Hang on, did I just type the word comfort!?
Cue google search and comfort is defined as “the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress”
Now, I don’t know about you, but I have never seen the word ‘comfort’ on any strategic plan or the “values and beliefs” statement our organisations proudly display (unless you work in pastoral care or the funeral industry). Perhaps we need poetry and song more than we need factsheets?
“When the night has come, and the way is dark
And the moon, is the only light you see
I won’t be afraid, no I won’t be afraid
Not as long, not as long as you stand by me.”
My shame grew, how can a factsheet possibly seek to provide comfort? The issue of domestic violence is so complicated. How could I even think a fact sheet would help a would-be perpetrator reconsider raising a hand or a victim find the courage to seek support?
So why then, do we trip over ourselves in times of crisis to help without stopping to consider what people really need?
Just look at the sheer volume of information flooding us right now. Our inboxes are filled with webinars on working from home, crisis management, mental health seminars etc etc etc. All very well meaning and perhaps fulfilling our desire to be doing something (anything!) to regain the loss of control we all feel?
So, what’s changed in organisations right now? The way we “organise” has changed. The norms are gone, we can’t be there in the workplace with those we could just “be with” previously via a coffee or a chat when we sensed it was needed.
In times of crisis we realise the non-measurable and often taken for granted things we take from “belonging” in organisations, clubs and groups… comfort, trust, security.
So, lesson learned, my red cheeks subsided, and I realised I’m no victim here, I’m in a position within my organisation to be able to ask why we need yet more information, & importantly, what value will it add? To gently steer well-meaning colleagues away from our tendency to” tell” and fix” to satisfy our need to “do something”.
But…hang on, there’s still something missing? (my problem-solving grey matter whispers)
Maybe I was asking the wrong question all along?!
Instead of asking “what is the role of the organisation in times of crisis and uncertainty” maybe I should consider “what do people really need in times of crisis and uncertainty?”
Can we provide this with a fact sheet?
My enlightened brain now sniggers…..No!
So how do we provide comfort?
Martin Buber said “All real living is meeting”
The worlds inhabitants are certainly doing some “real living” right now, but how can we let go of control and simply be there to “meet”?
A conversation, a check-in, listening & just being there (albeit in new and different ways right now)
We don’t need a fact sheet to tell us how to simply “be with” people to provide comfort, we just need to find different ways to do it.