Systems Thinking – We Need It

Perhaps because I’m working on a couple systems thinking training modules for a client of mine, (and I’m most grateful for them) this is top of mind.  Though my longing for leaders (political, civil, religious – all leaders) to think systemically, has been percolating for quite some time.

In its simplest form, systems thinking is about looking at the whole first and the parts or components secondarily.  Analytical thinking is just the reverse.  I didn’t perceive that systems thinking was utilized when Obama Care landed our door and Congress had to pass this legislation in order to read it and learn what was actually in the bill (this is more than my opinion – I was invited to participate in a few calls with members of the Obama administration to discuss this act after it was passed).  I didn’t perceive a great deal of systems thinkers regarding the myriad of state-led responses to Covid-19.  And I pray that we don’t miss another needed opportunity to use systems thinking in taking steps to heal our country in light of unnecessary force to detain a man of color, which likely contributed to his death.

My soul cries for unity in our country.  That doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything and that we can’t have opinions.  As Morgan Freeman recently posted on LinkedIn, just because we don’t agree on everything doesn’t mean I don’t like you or that we can’t be friends.

And something to consider.  When we use an analytical approach to solve a systems problem, we are likely to end up with unintended consequences.  It’s time to start with our desired future state.  I really think that most of us want to live in a country in which we feel we are equally respected and have the ability to satisfy our very basic of needs:  safety, love, shelter, etc. and thrive, if we desire. This ideal state must be crafted with input from many who are represented in our country (the system).  And in keeping with systems thinking, we’d develop key performance indicators (KPI’s) so we can measure if we’re on track to achieve our desired state.  Next, we do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to define our current state.

Then we work on strategies and action items to bridge the gap between where we are (current state) and where we desire to be (future state).  Lastly, it’s imperative to do an environmental scan.  What obstacles or barriers might make it difficult to work through the plan?  What might be changing in the environment that would affect the plan?

I’m a coach.  Coaches have been using systems thinking for years.  It’s how we help clients vocalize their truths.  I have found, in my years of using systems thinking, that if representative voices are involved in crafting the plan, the pieces of the puzzle come together, and together, we create unity.

Connection is Key

As human beings, we are naturally social creatures. We crave connection! However, too many of us miss genuine opportunities to connect. We may be thinking about what we want to say, or otherwise be distracted. One of the keys to really connecting with others is attentive listening!

We’ve all sat through that training session where we were told hearing is not really listening. A few weeks ago, I was attending a meeting and a gentleman who like me, is self-employed, came up and introduced himself to me. I smiled, repeated his name and stated, “we’ve actually met before. I met you a few months ago at this same meeting.” It honestly didn’t bother me that he’d forgotten we’d already met. It was a busy networking meeting and I’m quite sure I’ve forgotten introductions too, because I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully present (big disconnection habit). What surprised me was that when we were done with our exchange, I stated, “it was nice to see you again” to which he replied, “well it was nice meeting you.” Indeed, did you hear a word I said? Probably, but did you listen to what I said? If he was really interested in connecting with me, he could have said something to the effect, “Thanks for reminding me about our earlier introduction. It was great catching up with you.”

How about you? Are you just hearing others or really listening? Unlock your power of connection!

What Your Recruiting Practices Say About Your Brand

A brand’s reputation is everything.  What many don’t think about is that your team members are the most visible ambassadors of your brand.    

As an example, your Talent Management or Recruiting function is an outward-facing department.  These professionals spend much of their time crafting job postings and managing the recruiting process from receipt of applications and resumes to hiring. All these actions (or lack thereof) reflect your brand. 

As a long-time Human Resource professional, a comment that I frequently heard from friends and those in my networking circles, was they usually didn’t hear from companies to whom they’d applied for a job.  In fact, a survey mentioned in a 2018 eBook by Phenom People estimated that only 2% of Fortune 500 companies communicate a candidate’s status throughout the recruiting process. 

An online article published on March 19, 2019 on Flexjobs, suggested some of the reason’s candidates don’t hear back from potential employers could be because:

*The company’s staff are just too busy

*They are afraid of legal ramifications

*They are just plain rude

While there were several other reasons listed, the first two are excuses I hear from companies as well.  And to be honest, I think they are all problematic.  Do you really want your brand’s reputation to be linked to any of these excuses? 

If your recruiters are too busy to craft a thoughtful email that lets candidates know you appreciate their interest and you will be reaching out to those candidates whose experience and qualifications best match your needs…something is wrong.  Get some help from Upwork or other websites from which you can hire as much or as little talent as you need to get the job done.

If you are afraid of legal ramifications, I would suggest that you invest in training.  Teach your recruiters and hiring managers what they should or shouldn’t say to a candidate.  If someone has been interviewed by you, they deserve follow up communication.  If you are afraid you will say something that will put your company at risk, you are likely in a position in which you should not be interviewing candidates (without proper training).

Unfortunately, being rude seems to be the rule of the day.  This week I spoke to a friend who had two great interviews with a company and was assured he would hear back by X date.  Three weeks later and still no communication.

I recently took over a search for a client.  One of my stipulations was that I be permitted to contact every applicant to let them know where they stood.  Any that were interviewed would receive a phone call regarding next steps.  There were over 100 applicants for this job.  I lost count as to how many thank you emails I received from candidates I had to thoughtfully reject. 

We all just really want to know where we stand.

I believe candidates and companies are at their best during the recruiting process. Do you really want a prospect to assume that your company’s team members are overworked, unqualified or rude? I’m guessing this wouldn’t match with the values listed on your company’s website. 

Instead of justifying lack of communication to candidates, make your brand stand out!  And the following are great reasons:

*Candidates do talk

*It’s respectful and professional

*That person you are rejecting may not be a team member, but may be a lifelong customer

Guard carefully your company’s reputation.  It’s like trust.  It’s easy to lose and difficult to rebuild!

Choose Your Destiny

This week I had the joy of speaking with a prospective client in the Gulf Standard Time Zone, a half a world away.  In preparation for the call, I did a little research about this country, their culture, business etiquette and more.  I wanted to be respectful in every way that I could and not offend the person with whom I would be speaking.

During our Skype call, I was fascinated with their command of the English language and knowledge of western culture.  I later learned that years ago, they obtained their master’s degree here in the U.S.  What really touched me the most was when they described the area in which they now live.  They mentioned that there were Hindu temples, Islamic temples, Jewish synagogues and Christian Churches in their enclave.  They described their culture as one in which everybody gets along.  While people in their culture disagree with each other, they have found a way to be respectful and tolerant of other’s beliefs and they don’t struggle with religious or political extremism. 

I had to admit I felt a little sad.  At one time in my life I would have had said the same about our culture in general.  I am reminded of a favorite quote from either Frank Outlaw or Mahatma Gandhi, “Watch your words, they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny”.

When we speak hate, we engage in hateful actions which become habits.  We become hateful.  I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want a destiny filled with hate.

On the other hand, if we exercise intentionality in our words and actions and seek first to understand.  We may become curious and inquisitive.  We may become known as someone who does not judge others immediately based on actions but strive to understand their intentions.  And our legacy may be one of tolerance, understanding and love.

We don’t get a repeat on our life. Choose wisely!

Bullying – Rite of Passage?

My first book will be published in just about one month! Exciting, right? Yes, and no. I chose to write this book to help shine a light on a very important topic; to help kids (and families) see that suicide and taking other’s lives is not a necessary outcome of being bullied. It was by far the toughest challenge I’ve undertaken to date. Bullying has become so pervasive in our society and something to which many have turned a blind eye.

What makes me an authority on the subject, you ask? I guess you’ll have to read the book. But let me just share this. In the past week, I’ve had people (who didn’t know I’d written my book) tell me about their kids who’d been bullied. I had another adult share the emotional scars that childhood bullies gifted her. And a lovely woman, with whom I spoke last night, wrote a paper on adult bullying and why it needs to stop.

I’m a systems-thinker and I look for root causes. I believe adult bullying needs to stop, but the challenge is, the bullies from the playground are now running businesses, leading churches, holding political office etc. We seem to condone bullying as a childhood rite of passage. I believe we all have the right to a bully-free passage as children, as adults, as human beings.

In 1980 we determined that Sexual Harassment was not appropriate. It’s a violation of title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I’ve been told that no federal legislation has been passed to outlaw bullying because it can’t be tied back to any type of discriminatory behavior, unless it’s targeted bullying based on discrimination of a protected class.

Well, before the constitution was written, the Declaration of Independence was signed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…”

I am grateful to the 56 men who chose to sign our Declaration of Independence. And I’m grateful that the pursuit of Happiness was identified as one of our unalienable rights. And I will be grateful when other voices speak up to challenge the defensibility of bullying as a rite of passage!