Language is such a beautiful gift, especially when left unspoken or unwritten. A traveller can cross continents with a smattering of many languages or none. When one is not blind-sighted by a common spoken tongue or written word, one uses all one’s sensory gifts which together, accurately, give one a greater understanding of the message being conveyed.
A Life Sensory System
In many ways a common language dulls our other senses, it’s become the Windows Operating System of our lives. We unconsciously hear or read words we recognise, and react to them with little reference to our own life sensory system. It gets worse if the words also come from a source which has authority over our reaction. More often than not, we take that as an instruction and despite our life sensory system raging against any particular instruction, we consciously disengage our other senses to act on these words. In fact we abdicate responsibility for using our own life sensory system, and subordinate our life purpose, values and conscience to this higher authority.
History in just the short memory of the last 300 years shows example after example of leaders* at all levels abdicating responsibility for using their own life sensory system, to follow orders. Years after the events in question, these same leaders are crying and shaking with shame and humility at their betrayal of their own purpose, values and conscience. In a recent interview with the oldest Nazi Camp guard to stand trial for his part in the Nazi death camps, he recalls perfectly his actions 70+ years ago as if he committed them yesterday.
[*a ‘leader’ is one who, directly or indirectly through others, chooses to willfully affect the welfare of others.]
Unlike SemCo, created by Ricardo Semler – read Maverick – where workers interviewed and selected their leaders based on the value the leader would bring to the business and team; most leaders are imposed on people, they are appointed ‘somewhere’ and arrive in-charge and as the authority. Invading armies have similar habits but are self-appointed.
Actions which we as leaders take, that defy our own life sensory system, leave an imprint on our heart so deep it’s as fresh as the branding a slave gets on their body. It stings, we flinch, we have nightmares, we feel our shadow side emerging and dominating, not unlike Tolkien’s Gollum/Sméagol character.
When we do things despite our life purpose, values and conscience, they haunt us and despite the false bravery we sometimes display, especially when in the company of those with whom we commit these acts.
To fully access our own life sensory system we need to understand it and become conscious of its parts; each part’s purpose, how they interrelate and how to keep them healthy and functional. With all change one first needs to understand why we react the way we do now to the spoken and written word and disconnect this reaction* and replace it with that which reflects our our life purpose, values and conscience.
[*a technical understanding of Changing Habits can be found in two LinkedIn posts I published on April 9, 16 2015]
To access, utilise and master our three brains we need a compass, a Moral Compass, to navigate the implications and consequences of decisions, actions and reactions I, as an individual leader, am accountable for. Not a proxy to someone else, but as if “I had conceived of, and made the decision myself.”
Getting into the decision levels of management and leadership right now would distract from this post. Suffice to say if you are accountable for passing down a policy or decision, you must in all events prepare and protect all those you are appointed to lead and not just some…. e.g. the much vaunted shareholder. The shareholder shares one aspect of ‘value’ with you – risk and profit. Don’t forget the ‘risk part’, so when storms come, they come… Paraphrasing Simon Sinek’s excellent principle: “A culture where people expand zero energy protecting themselves from one another, their manager and the organisation but unite, form and face a common purpose together.”
The 3 Amigos
The Gut Brain – our vehicle (body) maintenance system. We don’t (generally) consciously poison ourselves our others. The gut brain is well documented and has systems, independent of the head, for monitoring and optimising the performance of the body. The performance of this vehicle, we drive through life in, is managed by a gut brain which tells us when something looks, feels, sounds, smells or tastes wrong [ a lion; a punch; a scream; fire; sour milk]. In life and in business we get a gut feel about most things before we get ‘brain data’. “What’s your gut-feel on this deal / person / interview / politician?”
The Heart Brain – our conscience maintenance system. A sense of joy, happiness, pride, euphoria, love and plain fulfillment all emanate from the heart. The opposites can obviously listed. Some which exist around us, as we live and lead, that truly resonate include a sense of despair, loss, being lost, hopeless, pointless, purposeless. Viktor Frankl, the founder of logotherapy [from the Greek word logos “meaning”] and holocaust survivor wrote a masterpiece in his book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ in which he examines how one finds meaning in all circumstances from watching millions being systematically being killed, to living after a partner dies and finding a simple purpose in one’s own life.The heart sense talks to core of ‘being’ – our purpose – and without it, we drift without direction.
The Head Brain – our super computer and habits system. So much is written about this brain, I will leave it to those who rage between the right and left brains purpose (creative, logical, memory storage) being separate or in fact having similar but with dominant functionality. The head brain is the essential repository of all learned behaviours, skills as well the acquiring, disseminating, storage and retrieval of all knowledge and wisdom. It stores all learned processes and methods from tying a shoe lace to composing like Mozart. It encompasses all and more but it does not FEEL emotions, for feelings refer to your gut and heart.]
So to the Moral Compass. It was conceived from the need to help leaders tap into heart, head and gut to balance your reactions, decisions and actions. It also crucially checks your consistency against your purpose, values and conscience. An inconsistent leader is about as trusted as what?… …nothing.
Using you life sensory system and working towards a common purpose the Moral Compass examines 4 major areas:
North: [head and heart] the Integrity in your Intentions -are your intentions true and do they reflect your purpose and values? Is there any bias in your intentions, any selfishness, any willful harm? Do your intentions harm the purpose and meaning of others. If not and all is well with your intentions and integrity, look West.
West: [heart] has Consideration been given to all affected? If you affect someone or body are they aware it is going to affect them? Without breaching laws that risk lives or the entire business, how can you best include, inform and prepare those affected? Does compassion enter your heart as your think, react, decide and act? How can they best prepare for your decision? If complete consideration has been given, look South.
South: is your Intuition valued and listened to? Can this harm you and/or others. Are you stopping and listening (metaphorically) to your gut. It is incredible how often people say retrospectively. “I wish, wish, wish I had listened to my gut.” As explained above the gut brain is an independent, sizable (cat’s brain) system, sitting around your gut, warning you that your, or your peoples, vehicle is probably is in danger. We have all heard the old adage of “I was in too much of a hurry to stop for petrol/gas.” Well we all know the conclusion to that story. If your gut feel is OK, look East.
East: do your have true Commitment to deliver for everyone? One of the greatest failings in leader is ‘the empty promise’. People who took you at your word, people who suffered or made or adjusted or toiled …. whatever it was in exchange for your commitment to deliver your part. Whether it was to except losing their jobs quietly, or start a whole bunch of additional work with the promise of something (money, role, promotion, recognition) but you didn’t deliver. This is the part of the moral compass that comes back and haunts you. Get it right and you are seen as an all round solid person to follow.
The Parable of the missing Millions
I recall siting in on a client’s board meeting, I’d been hired to observe the Moral Compass being deployed by the executives and non executives. The client, a bank, were a little short on their numbers that quarter and thus the year-end. The person in charge of financials slipped out a single piece of plain paper, with just number on and told the Chair “I have a solution”. The Chair nodded and the person explained “We have xxx, xxx, xxx in unclaimed dormant and deceased accounts, we are not legally or by policy required to pass interest payments to these accounts [let’s dispense with technically how it is done] and we can, without it ever coming out, ‘not pass the interest to these accounts’ and make our numbers.” The room was completely silent, for minutes. The Chair sat back and waited, then asked “Are you saying it is legal in all senses and no one would ever find out, and we would make our numbers?” “Yes on all three questions” came the reply.
I wrote two words on a piece of paper, folded it and passed it to the Chair, next to me, who completely ignored it.
The Chair sat forward, looked directly at the finance person and smiled “Genius!” The finance person smiled, and sat back. “Genius” the Chair repeated, “exactly the kind of genius who explained how to gas 6, 000,000 people. You are fired, get out.” Things changed quite a bit on that board in the ensuing months, the Chair didn’t like the silence around the table. “Just gut feel, but it felt like ‘If I had said yes, they’d all say yes’. Some had to go because I need more heart and gut than head at a board level, we can all count and everyone’s an expert on 20:20 hindsight.” The Chair never opened or asked about my piece of paper, didn’t need to….that Chair has a Moral Compass.
Thank you for reading this and please feel free to pass it on…