There must be a better way

The recent attacks in Paris, Sinai, Beirut, Kano and too many other places are atrocious, terrible and an aberration. Is the answer an eye-for-an-eye or are there other ways? Whereas the heinous crimes and criminals need to be dealt with firmly, have we not evolved further as mankind since the crusades centuries ago? Too many politicians, supported by the media, all over the world make shameful use of stereotyping, generalising and polarising people, and bombard us with a focus on the differences between us. The really sad reality is that we appear to buy into this. The populist rhetoric gets votes, but does it really serve mankind and create a better world for us all?
Stephen M. R. Covey came up with the economics of trust, relating Trust with Speed and Costs. With any decrease in Trust, Speed goes down and Costs go up. Within the current context it may be frivolous to use it as an example, but whenever I pass through airport security I think about this. Whereas many airports have made significant investments (read Costs) to try to increase Speed, I cannot help myself by wondering if there is not a better way.

The day I travelled back from Amsterdam to Geneva inspired this post. It started with my early morning taxi being 7′ late. Luckily, my first appointment being, what I thought, 37′ late, my second taxi to the train station being 20′ late and then my train being a further 25′ late in arriving, the last thing what I needed was that the wonderful and costly security system selected my carry-on bag…….. In itself this is not that big of a deal. When it became obvious that the majority of the security personnel appeared more interested in when their shift was over rather than searching my suspicious bag, it had the potential to become a bigger issue.
An interesting dilemma presented itself. Do I address my concern with the staff or not? After all, given all the delays of the day, I was cutting it fine to catch my flight while still wanting to buy some goodies from my home country. By speaking up one always risks the wrath of the security personnel, which could really end up in me missing my flight. Luckily for me there was a female member of staff, who finally took charge of my hand luggage and, after some obscure manipulations, informed me “everything is ok” as if this was something I had not expected, knew anyway and should be relieved about; “you have passed”!

What I did not yet tell you is that the early-morning taxi driver never expressed any type of remorse and actually had the audacity to ask me if I knew the way where we were going? What I also omitted to tell you is that it turned out that my first client, who was 37′ late according to my calendar, was “only” 7′ late according to his; he was still late and apologised very profusely, which I did in return a little bit later after it turned out that his calendar was actually right! What you further do not know is that the second taxi driver was someone whom I had met before, who apologised and reassured me that I would make the train I wanted to take; I did, thank you. The final item I have not shared with you yet is that, whereas the train conductor was excellent in explaining that, and why, the train was late, he did not once apologise for this and appeared to have treated the lateness as something normal. A new, what sounded like a younger conductor, did apologise for the delay when he announced our arrival at Schiphol. I felt better.
In my work as a Leadership Coach a lot of attention is paid to how emotionally intelligent leaders are and what the impact thereof is. It is defined as “the ability to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively and consists of four fundamental capabilities: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skill” (Daniel Goleman). Can you derive who was emotionally intelligent and who was not? If not, find the answer by guessing who had a positive impact on me and who did not, or, even more basic who got the tip/compliment and who did not?

Back to airport security as a symbol of the society we have manoeuvred ourselves into. There must be a better way, don’t you think so too? Being recently inspired by Frederic Laloux’s book Reinventing Organisations, I wonder what it is going to take for our world to adopt his principles of Self Management, Wholeness and Evolutionary Purpose; all grounded in Trust. Laloux describes Top Leadership and Ownership as the necessary conditions for this to happen. As long as too many leaders in the world pursue Greed over Sense of Purpose, Anger & Hatred over Compassion & Love and Ignorance over Understanding, I have serious doubts. As the people, i.e. the Owners, we should take Ownership, stand up as leaders and say, “enough is enough”!

If there is one thing I have learned, it is that as human beings we have way more in common than that we are different. Don’t get me wrong, there are, have been and always will be bad people out there who have their own stories why they are the way they are. By the way, how much effort has been put into truly understanding their issues and needs? The question is if we should really cater everything that we do to this tiny, tiny minority of mostly disenfranchised sorrow souls rather than focus on the large majority of well-intended people. What I would like to suggest is that by activating a bit more of the emotional intelligence, we are all capable of, by showing more compassion, empathy and social concern, we reconsider our relationship with trust and put solutions in place that really create a safer and better world. What do you think?

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