“You know that your happiness and suffering depend on the happiness and suffering of others. That insight helps you not to do wrong things that will bring suffering to yourself and to other people.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
In many faith traditions, the way forward to enlightenment, knowledge, redemption, and even salvation, can best be found by orienting yourself towards the needs of others. By considering your own wants and needs less, you can become better fulfilled.
I have heard clinical psychologists describe treating patients with debilitating conditions of depression and anxiety and the need to help them to focus outward, to be less intensely directed toward their own inner state. This shift can be most helpful to those patients as they begin a recovery process.
And when I have worked with organizations in trouble, I often notice a considerable inward orientation, a great tendency toward company working conditions, and a culture that emphasizes the needs of employees and leaders.
This is not inherently wrong or bad. Employee engagement and high levels of staff satisfaction are vital to achieving and sustaining success, but in such inwardly oriented organizations, there often is something blatantly missing: the patient, client, or customer. The needs of those who are served in these organizations can seem much like an afterthought.
For most if not all not-for-profit organizations, their mission makes quite clear why they exist and who they serve. If not, it’s probably time to revisit the mission.
Among other strategies designed to positively change the performance trajectory of an organization, I like to ensure that an inward gaze becomes redirected outward. I start with the mission.
During leadership and all staff meetings, I will pivot a discussion toward the mission by asking how an issue will impact patients or what the customer service implications might be of a decision being discussed. If a particularly self-centered point is being argued, I won’t instinctively cut if off but rather will ask the one making that point to reframe it in terms of what is in the best interests of those served.
It never ceases to amaze me how reorienting the organization toward its own historical mission in this manner helps to reinforce positive and productive behaviors while the absence of such an orientation only further erodes confidence, engagement, and employee satisfaction.
Spiritual teachers and social scientists understand how important an outward orientation can be to reaching a desired state. The same lesson can be applied to culture building within an organization, most especially one struggling to regain its own footing.
Start with mission. It’s the way out.
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