Professional scruples

Oh dear, it has been a rather long time since I have blogged. Well, nearly a month, and I got told off by my blogging other half for cluster blogging. “That is not the way you are supposed to blog”, he told me. Ok, point taken, but is quite representative of me – a bit all or nothing. I think I need to stagger things more – is there a delayed send/publish setting like in Outlook?! I guess I could just write it and post it later. Hmmm.

Anyway, part of the reason that I haven’t blogged much over the past few weeks is that I have just been stupidly busy. Firefighting and juggling.  Firefighting various issues cropping up around certain projects – namely our new Strategic Learning Environment – and juggling just about everything else.  This gives so little time to think and really reflect about what you are doing. So probably leads to you, me, one, making less thought-through decisions, which then results in more firefighting, which the results in more juggling. And there is one beautiful, vicious circle.

Recently, when I have had time to reflect I have felt that I am in some weird game of professional scruples.  Constantly trying to do the right thing but having twinges of conscience about whether this is the right thing – and what the “right thing” even means any more.  Even writing this blog is problematic as I can’t go into detail as then I would be betraying confidences and trust – big values of mine but these past few weeks I have been questioning my own integrity.  I want to blog about this as I don’t like feeling unsettled and part of my own integrity I think is being honest, but you can’t be honest about everything for obvious reasons.  Suffice it to say that I think the disconnect that I feeling between decisions, behaviour and values, is to do with an expectation that certain behaviours are expected depending on what process, policy or procedure you are involved in BUT often those very processes, policies and procedures are flawed, misused, unclear or just don’t think about people as individual human beings with emotions, feelings and value sets of their own. This leads me to feel stressed, I think, and problems of conscience as I feel I am expected to act in a certain way within a certain set of circumstances yet then as I spend so much time trying build relationships with individuals, listen to them, respect their confidences and viewpoints, that this behaviour does not sit well with the other behaviours.  It is like being in some game of professional scruples. Or schizophrenic.

What to do? Of course, one should be as true to ones values at all times and where there is an “expected” behaviour that might challenge values, do all one can to question and change that “expected” behaviour. However, that is easier said than done.  There are only so many “battles” one can fight or challenges one can make. I just don’t have the energy.  And, I value time spent with individuals as vital so I would rather spend time trying to develop trust and relationships in that way as this is the behaviour that tallies more comfortably with my own values.

So, I was trying think of other ways in which I could conserve a bit of my own energy and reduce my stress – or at least the disconnect that I was feeling around behaviour and values.  Obviously the two are related as the more stressed you feel, the more tired you feel.

As I was attempting to plough through my email backlog on Sunday morning (never a good thing to do) these thoughts were niggling away at the back of my mind when I came across an email from Goose Educational Media – a colleague at City put me onto this site (thanks Anna!) which is a great resource on new books around leadership and management. The email was about Robin Sharma‘s new book (which I have, unread) entitled The Leader who had no Title. The Goose Educational Media review highlights some of the key ideas in the book but two struck me as perhaps helpful for my own current professional discomfort.  Firstly, around legacy – how do you want to be remembered when you die?  What do you want people to say about you?  This is not an unusual concept in leadership developed but I liked the take here about positivity – use the “image” or legacy concept as a way to help you lead more positively by constantly thinking about creating a positive impact with those you meet.  The second citation that struck me was this one about leadership vocabulary:

“They don’t gossip. They don’t complain. They don’t condemn. And they never swear. The only words they try their best to use each day are those that inspire, engage, and elevate.” (from Robin Sharma, The Leader who had no Title, p114 cited

Hmmm, I thought. I cannot say I do this in all honesty all the time and then had a toe curling moment of discomfort when I thought of the ranting sessions I had had the previous week. Although reflecting about this increased my discomfort in a way it did make me think about how I can be more inspiring, engaging and elevating. And perhaps not think about issues as battles to fight, but be confident that I can give a positive message or at least attempt to inspire people to think differently.

Thinking in this way has helped me feel that I am slowly bridging the gap between my values and the expected behaviour around me.  It is going to take time and I also think that I can be very hard on myself – I should cut myself some slack as one can never be positive all the time. However, when I posted via twitter/facebook a call for suggestions as to how I should be positive this week among the many, varied options offered to me, one of my colleagues (@AjmalSultany) said “be positive and an inspiration by looking at all the blessings you have in your life”.  I think this is so true. It is very easy to get into a ranting mindset where we only look at the negatives.  By trying to work with people about how to make things better, being thankful for what we have and what we have achieved. And a recognition that most of the time people are just doing what they think is the right thing and trying to do a good job.  What is the “right thing” for one person may not be for another but if we take a bit of time to acknowledge the good, perhaps then we can all inspire each other and engender greater understanding of what “right” actually means – or at least be comfortable that there are many “rights” less “wrongs”.

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