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It has to be mutual

Posted on Friday, February 23rd, 2018

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Mutual exchange - Stones on beachMany people choose the period of Lent to abstain from something, whether that be a food, drink or an activity. Traditionally you would choose something that is likely to be difficult to give up, however if you are not clear on how to balance this abstinence, you could end up giving up and feeling like you have failed miserably.

In principle, Lent lasts for 40 days and nights, and the idea is to give up something that is likely to be ‘difficult’. This can be something that is potentially not good for our health anyway, like chocolate, smoking or alcohol.

What do you balance the empty space with?

People who find they are ‘going off’ or ‘stopping’ something without being clear about what they will receive (in exchange) to balance off the hardship – can often come up against some subconscious resistance. Often the good intentions of ‘lent’ are forgotten well before the 40 days and nights have lapsed. I know that I have certainly been guilty of this, in the past!

The importance of mutual exchange

The idea of Lent got me thinking about the concept of mutual exchange – which is one of the key components of healthy, sustainable relationships.

Mutual exchange requires that both sides give as well as receive, with a clear need for this to be balanced over time. This is as true in our relationship with ourselves, as it is with our families (and loved ones) and indeed with our professional relationships within organisations.

Perhaps a more sustainable approach might be to consider what we will start to receive AS WELL AS what we will stop giving, or give-up. This sense of mutual exchange could provide a better chance of making it through the 40 days and nights!

Mutual Exchange - Balancing stones

Mutual exchange in an organisation

When we are engaged to review an organization, our approach is to do this from a ‘whole system’ perspective. We take into consideration many facets, acknowledging the tangible indicators of vision, strategy and performance results – and explore beyond them – looking at the culture, leadership and potential invisible dynamics that are at play.

There are some key aspects that enable a healthy flow in organisations, and one of those essential ingredients is a felt sense of mutual exchange between employees and the organisation.

Healthy flow can be clearly witnessed when you find employees being willing to contribute to the ongoing success of the organisation (and often go above and beyond what is expected). There is a definitive sense of liveliness and energy in the organisation – where ideas are flowing and feeding into a pipeline of innovation.

There can be many reasons for the lack of mutual exchange, including:

  • Major redundancy programmes whereby those that remain feel guilty
  • A lack of balance further back in the organisation’s history will continue to show up in various forms, until it is acknowledged
  • A private/family owned business will often have the family dynamics playing through the organisation
  • A lack of mutual exchange between the organisation and it’s wider (external) ecosystem will often by replicated within the organisation
  • Leaders who, based on their own personal history, have challenges in their capacity to give

How to regain vitality, the flow of ideas & productivity

The first and critical step in regaining this flow and vitality is to get to the source of what is causing the blockage – so that any lack of mutual exchange (or other invisible dynamic) can be appropriately acknowledged.  Once this has happened, the system (and those within it) can settle into a healthier position around their contribution and positive movement can be regained. The organisation then has a chance of harnessing its highest potential, rather than dowsing the flame. 

I work with my highly experienced team in putting together specific solutions to deal with some issues much like the lack of mutual exchange in organisations. If you would like more information on our ‘whole system’ approach, please do get in touch.

Similarly, if you sense there are some unhelpful invisible dynamics at play in your organisation that may be restraining full realisation of potential, please drop me a direct email and book a confidential conversation with me.

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Tess (O’Kane) Cope is the founder of The Transformation Agency and has extensive experience within organisational and personal development across both the private and public sectors – working within global and UK based organisations at Board level – media, distribution, financial services and healthcare sectors. She works with senior management teams and HR leaders across a range of diverse organisations and specialises in Cultural Transformation, Leadership Development, and Executive Coaching. She is a qualified practitioner of a range of diagnostics, psychometrics and integral methodologies which she applies for whole system sustainable change with clients.

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