Monday, March 30, 2015

HOW DOES YOUR BUSINESS APPROACH HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES




So much is happening in the world of business that few have time to think about, let alone address any human rights issues.Most organisations take note of and act on human rights issues only if they (or their supply chain arrangements) are directly affected.

Shell South Africa once owned prime land for a service station development in the notorious District 6, Cape Town. Then Chairman Ken Geeling did the right thing and took the decision (unpopular internally) to sell off the land and not proceed with any development - long before any public pressure arose.

The subject is huge, some of the areas being working conditions, epidemics, child labour, discrimination in many guises, rights to land, vote, education, water, privacy, freedom of religious practice ..... and policy options range from acknowledge/comply - to respect - protect - improve/remedy - widely campaign

Most still work on the basis of keeping their nose clean, basing decisions on minimising damage to reputation, minimising the impact on spending or profits - seeing these as thresholds not opportunities. So they might when pressure builds, change a supplier, manufacturer, distributor. Very few contemplate withdrawing from a market, calling for sanctions, campaigning to rectify bad laws, putting their heads above the parapet.

Ultimately the driver for significant, leading action is based on courageous leadership based on sound virtues, heading up oranisations wanting to be not only the best in the world but also the best for the world. Firms who operate from a higher purpose perspective may embrace human rights issues - Proctor & Gamble have initiatives to provide communities with fresh drinking water, provide education for girls .....

(Photo of Malala Yousafzai)

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Man Must Fight

“In peace, there’s nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood” – King Henry V, Act 3, Scene 1. (Shakespeare)

My love affair with boxing

Boxers (pugilists) practice the "the manly art of self-defence". (Pugnus = fist, Pugnāre = to fight). The sport has been around for 5000 years, and was popular in Ancient Rome.


My father was a tough, outdoor man. A tradesman and not a book reader. He forced me to give up my piano lessons and take up boxing in an attempt to push me out of my shy, timid demeanour, and lack of confidence. I found that I loved it! The combined smell of resin, leather, sawdust, canvass, smelling salts, Vaseline, liniment and sweat still evokes distant memories of battles fought, won and lost. In those days amateur boxing was not about brutal bashing. Marquis of Queensbury rules applied and boxing was more akin to the feint, parry, block and thrust of fencing. It was about anticipation, reflexive responses, slipping or rolling with your opponents punches, footwork, ring craft, counter-punching to switch defence to attack … About adrenaline rushes but also about disciplined training regime, composure, agile responses, getting into the flow zone. I became the first South African champion ever from the Western province, was honoured in the Mayor’s parlour. I have a newspaper clipping that talks about Williams’s twinkle toes and piston-like left jab! (I'm on the left in the pic above).

I believe that through the sport I learned something about respect for one’s opponent, perseverance, losing gracefully, the development of appropriate self- esteem, and settling conflict ‘in the ring’ then shaking hands.
Boxing has its fair share of detractors. Certainly a too-high percentage of professional boxers are at risk to the neurogenerative condition of Dementia pugilistica (punch-drunk syndrome).
Since the early 1950s some medical doctors have advocated that the sport be banned.

Heroes

I loved imagining myself as the hero in countless boxing heroes-journey stories:

• Identified with Huw who learned to box and defeat the local bully (How Green Was My Valley – Richard Llewellan)

• Was thrilled by the exploits of Welsh coal miner Jimmy Wilde, who fought in the early 20th century, was inducted into boxings’ hall of fame in 1959 and was possibly the best, most courageous flyweight or any-weight boxer who ever lived. He became known as “the ghost with a hammer in his hand”. Years later, his skills were echoed by heavyweight champion Muhammed Ali who latched onto the power of visualisation when he said “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Your hands can’t hit what your eyes can’t see”.

• Excited by Baby Jake Matlala overcoming the odds, at a height of 1.47 meters, or 4-foot-10, becoming the shortest boxing world champion ever. 

• Watching movies depicting lives and struggles, such as Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, The Hurricane, Cinderella Man …

• Being disappointed when Roberto Duran gave up and walked to his corner during his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard saying no más (no more)

• Sharing Willie Toweel’s pain. After drawing with Robert Cohen for the World Bantamweight title (previously held by his brother Viccie Toweel), he defended his South African Featherweight title and knocked out Hubert Essakow who soon after died of brain injuries. He was a religious man, was never the same again, subsequently held back when he had his opponents in trouble.

• Being glued to the radio listening to what is said to be one of boxing’s all-time classic fights – Arnold Taylor versus Romeo Anaya. Arnold was bloodied and beaten, knocked down four times, yet found the strength to somehow get up and knock out Anaya in the second last (14th) round, and win the World Bantamweight championship.

• Watching ancient Muay Thai in Thailand and being riveted by its tradition, ritual and spiritual inner - strength component

Relatively recently I found out about Nelson Mandela’s love of boxing.




In Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela he says, “I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one's body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match…
Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour, and wealth are irrelevant
 . . .”

Another African hero, Dr Kachinga Sichizya - guitarist, singer, author, and Zambia's first brain surgeon, who preaches a message of love - was the top boxer at his university and loves the sport.

Gene Tunney who was World Heavyweight champion during the 1920s, defeating idolised Jack Dempsey twice (perhaps a reason for his lack of popularity), likened boxing to a strategic game of chess, was passionate about the arts, opera and literature, and known for being fleet of foot and rapid-fire jabbing, wrote “As a West Side kid fooling around with boxing gloves, I had been, for some reason of temperament, more interested in dodging a blow than in striking one”. He was bullied at school and steered into boxing by his father. Tunney wrote Man Must Fight, which title is borrowed for this article.

To think on

I suppose some subconscious driver was at work to trigger the writing of his piece – perhaps our daily news being saturated by conflict around the globe.

Humanity seems to carry a primal, animal instinct to fight brutally at the personal, tribal, country and institutional levels (including religious crusades and jihāds). From road - rage to wars. Any day’s news confirms this. We know that we each have an inbuilt flight or fight response mechanism. This may be nurtured and driven by honour, power, control, greed, upholding macho status, fear, being the protector. In Western culture we put wealth, strength, influence and winning on pedestals. Fear, weakness, failure do not feature in our abundance. We fight for causes, the truth, freedom, struggle against injustice and oppression, defend territory, overcome bouts of disease and inner demons, to progress . We have a propensity for self - preservation. We find justifications and rationalisations for our actions when we need to. We seek to impose our wills, and resist backing down or turning the other cheek.

This fighting goes beyond the mere physical and may be overt and passively aggressive – witness angry disputes, the military model that characterises some businesses, political ‘infighting’, snide remarks, put-downers and other forms of psychological abuse. Our legal system is more geared towards the adversarial than mediation. On two occasions I've been involved in David and Goliath conflict with big corporations, both lengthy and dibilitating (part of their tactics) and prevailed. Even certain business practices and behaviours may be viewed forms of violence against society and the environment.

If not directly involved, we find ourselves in someone else’s corner or engaged spectators, sometimes baying for blood. "In the brightly lit ring, man is in extremis, performing an atavistic rite or agon for the mysterious solace of those who can participate only vicariously in such drama: the drama of  life in the flesh. Boxing has become America's tragic theater" (Joyce Carol Oates  On Boxing  Dolphin/ Doubleday 1987).
Warrior and Protector archetypes are deeply entrenched in our psyches.

In the grand scheme of things, our efforts at handling conflict, resolving real or perceived collisions of interests, achieving peace and harmony have been puny, to say the least. One of my favourite writers, Theodore Zeldin, says, “So far, humans have used three strategies to deal with their enemies: fight them, run away or somehow manage to love them. But none of these methods has been particularly successful, and the world is still full of enemies”. (An Intimate History of Humanity Vintage 1998)

Richard Rohr (in his newsletter on Contemplation - 7th September, 2014) states that our lower level minds are dualistic. It 'takes sides', is judgmental and oppositional: "Whatever is unfamiliar, or whatever it does not already understand or agree with, is judged as totally wrong". So we need to develop a higher level of consciousness.

These are such huge issues. Whether or not fighting in any form is justified, perhaps there’s a fourth strategy and it’s worth considering:
What is the source of wars and fights among you? Don't they come from the cravings that are at war within you?” - James.4:1


 A RESPONSE FROM SAUNDRA KELLEY

Fighting is something about which I have mixed emotions. As a child, I sat many an hour with my grandfather watching what he called “wraslin,” on television. To me, those oily, sweating men bending themselves into impossible positions and contortions was almost comical, and considering it was on American television, it probably was.

On a trip to the state of Alabama with my grandmother, we came upon a heavily loaded Ford Falcon. Drawing close, we saw a man with curlers in his golden hair, the car dipping dangerously on the side where he sat. Passing, we realized that little Ford was loaded with wrestlers on their way to a match, and one looked a lot like a wrestler nicknamed “Gorgeous George.” On a red clay back road in south Alabama, we had discovered the secret to his blond curls – pink hair rollers! Seeing him later on the screen, however, revealed a powerful man who could fight.

Later, growing up on stories about champion boxer Muhammad Ali, the man who was almost too beautiful, with a perfect physique and lightning quick moves gave me a different angle of what it meant to fight. It seemed he fought for the art of it, an art form painted in bright red blood, which eventually damaged his brain function. Watching him dance around the ring, striking his opponent, taking blows, avoiding others, and winning was always exciting, but not the blood; not the injuries, not the potential for death that could follow.

Hardwired into modern man, according to Graham Williams in his newsletter Man Must Fight is the desire for battle. Growing up in South Africa, his father, a tough outdoorsman, forced his son to forsake the piano and to use his hands in the manly sport of boxing. Boxing as he learned it, however, is not what we see in today’s commercialized moneymaking syndicate sport. According to Williams, “Marquis of Queensbury rules applied and boxing was more akin to the feint, parry, block, and thrust of fencing. It was about anticipation, reflexive responses, slipping or rolling with your opponents punches, footwork, ring craft, counter-punching to switch defense to attack … About adrenaline rushes but also about disciplined training regime, composure, agile responses, getting into the flow zone.”

The approach Williams describes from his youth, seems drastically different from what we see today, which is truly a blood sport. As an example of the honorable sport of boxing, he shares the late Nelson Mandela’s words about boxing. In Long Walk to Freedom, “I did not enjoy the violence of boxing so much as the science of it. I was intrigued by how one moved one's body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match… 
Boxing is egalitarian. In the ring, rank, age, colour, and wealth are irrelevant . . .”
What Williams shows us is a way to use our physicality in an intelligent, managed way to resolve conflict and come out of it shaking hands. Who does that now?

Saundra Kelley, Storyteller & Author
423-946-9359
http://www.saundrakelleystoryteller.com
saundrakelley.blogspot.com
Listen to the Wind, Find the Story Within




Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Developing Leadership Character for a Needy World


If you just say ‘Save the world’, it doesn’t help. You have to pick the right specific behaviours” – BJ Fogg 1



What the world needs now …

 The miser visits a rabbi to complain how miserable he is. The rabbi takes him by the  shoulders and places him in front of a mirror.

            “What do you see?” he asks.
            I see myself mutters the miser.
            The rabbi steers him to the window and asks, “What do you see now?”
            The miser responds, I see people and trees.”
            “The difference says the rabbi, “is the silver on the mirror”.

This story relates to how we see virtue and vice operating in a commercial world that is part window ‘out there’ and part mirror ‘in here.’  When we look through the Rabbi’s window what do we see?

 There is a lot wrong in the world in which business operates. A third of all food produced in the world goes to waste. At the same time “under-nutrition was the main underlying cause of death in children under five, causing 45% of all child deaths in the world in 2013”.2  

The gap between the rich and poor is getting even wider.  85 individuals have the same wealth as half the people on our planet.3    

We could point out much more, but suffice to say that virtuous business organisations can make a huge difference.  What the world needs now are organisations led by virtuous leaders.

Our hope is that more organisations will change their strategic narrative and become forces for good in society, and in this way build their own sustainability.  This requires us to look in the mirror. Without doing that we cannot reflect, and reflection is a prelude to change.

Richard Rohr says that “we mend and renew the world by strengthening inside ourselves what we seek outside ourselves, and not by demanding it of others or trying to force it on others”.4   

An advocate of ‘inward bound leadership’, Andre van Heerden, Director at the Power of Integrity New Zealand, says: “The global leadership crisis will never be overcome by skills training, which merely asks: “what can you do?” It will only be resolved by education which asks: “what sort of person will you become?”

 
What character virtues should be developed by leaders and their organisations?

Developing leadership character in a needy world is a huge challenge. We’re talking about leaders and their organisations going beyond legislative compliance, going beyond tacked-on corporate social responsibility programmes, beyond ‘cause marketing’ for public relations purposes, beyond notions of sustainability programmes as a competitive edge, beyond ‘doing well and doing good’. We’re talking about business deciding that its core purpose is to contribute meaningfully to planet, people and profit. About being a force for good.  About operating  from a basis of meaningful character virtues.

The process of deciding on specific virtues to be developed is dependent on each business organisation and its situation. Here are two models to start your reflection:




 
 
 
The Heartstyles indicator5 encourages behaviour shifts from ineffective to effective and from personal to other focus based on the positive character virtues of love and humility. This model is based on a belief that the quality of one’s life, character and leadership comes from an attitude of the heart.
It is mirrored by the 7 da Vinci virtues as described in The Virtuosa Organisation6, and a twin belief that who we are determines what and how we do and lead.
 There is clear overlap between the two models:  
·       Engaging the shadow is in order to expose and confront the less desirable side of ourselves, taking off protective masks, overcoming controlling and other dysfunctional behaviours, and fears, sources of pride and envy. And thus to develop our authentic, vulnerable, compassionate selves
·       Curiosity plays a powerful role in bringing understanding, overcoming fear of the unknown, obtaining perspective that reduces the scope for pride. Curiosity is the trigger for transformation through continuous learning
·       Love (of self and others) is also instrumental in driving out fear, prejudice, competitive behaviour - enabling us to effectively relate to and seek the other’s best interests and personal growth
·       Taking Responsibility for our actions, relationships, and the growth of others drives our own growth and results in the workplace
 
It’s also easy to see obvious connections between the models, and virtues and vices identified over the centuries (as one example - by the Catholic faith7):
 
·       Humility is the virtue that counters pride ...  Pride is a ‘sin’ based on undue and inappropriate appreciation of one’s self worth. Conversely, the virtue of humility is about modest behavior, selflessness and the giving of respect.
 
·       Kindness, or brotherly love or love for one’s neighbor, is the virtue which counters the sin of envy. Envy, in contradiction to God’s law of love, is manifest in a person’s sorrow and distress over the good fortune of another person. Conversely, kindness and brotherly love is manifest in the unprejudiced, compassionate and charitable concern for others”.
 
In short, unless character virtues undergird knowledge, skill and presence, our leadership efforts may be misdirected.  Unless an organisation’s vision, strategy, mission and objectives are informed by a virtuous purpose, it becomes just another entity, and worse – one not contributing to the common and greater good. Everything is based on virtues.
 You've gotta have heart!
Miles and miles and miles of heart!
Oh, it's fine to be a genius of course!
But keep that ol' horse before the cart!
First you've got to have heart! 
(from the musical Damn Yankees by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross)
A cautionary note
The leader should be absolutely convinced that virtues-based leadership is the right way to go. “In virtuous organizations, employees collectively behave in ways that are consistent with the best of the human condition and the highest aspirations of human kind”.8   There can be no half measures nor confused motives.  As Arnold Smit of the University of Stellenbosch Graduate School of Business says: “ … if a set of agreed-upon values, as is so often found in business, is not anchored in the hearts and minds and behaviours of virtuous individuals, they will remain superficial, surface phenomena. (Virtues, in contrast and by their very nature, are embedded in the people within whom they manifest)”.9
There is a danger that leaders may adopt ‘good’ behaviours for the wrong motive. This can be fuelled by promises of better market performance or higher profitability, for example:
·            Sustainability. “In addition, 31 percent of companies say sustainability is boosting their profits and 70 percent report that sustainability has a permanent place on their management agenda”. 10
·            Doing good.  The title of an article about Richard Branson’s book is a giveaway: Screw Business As Usual, And Make Your (Huge Piles Of) Money By Doing Good.11
·            Operating from a foundation of ideals, values, mission, purpose, deeper meaning. The sub-title of Grow is the give-away: “how ideals power growth and profit at the World’s greatest companies” 12
For advice on all aspects of what it takes to develop a virtuous organisation, and selecting and institutionalising virtues appropriate for your organisation, contact:
foxes@icon.co.za
 
References:
2.  Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome from 19 to 21 November 2014.
3. Oxfam ‘Even it Up’ report, 2014 http://www.oxfam.org/en/campaigns/even-it-up
4. Rohr, Richard  Daily Meditations, Centre for Action & Contemplation
8. Horne, Amanda Virtuous Organisations
http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/amanda-horne/2012080323377   August, 2012
9. Smit, Arnold Virtuous Talent for A Sustainable Future in Human Capital Trends: Building a Sustainable Organisation  ed: Italia Boninelli & Terry Meyer  Knowledge Resources  2011
10. Kho, Jennifer Report: More Corporations Turn To Sustainability For Competitive Edge and Profits
http://www.forbes.com/sites/jenniferkho/2012/01/24/corporate-sustainability-soars-mit-study/
11. Ferenstein, Gregory Richard Branson: Screw Business As Usual, And Make Your (Huge Piles Of) Money By Doing Good
12. Stengel, Jim Grow: how ideals power growth and profit at the world’s greatest companies Crown Business NY 2011