IN TOUCH : Daring to care

Someone in your office is upsetting others with thoughtless put-downs. Should you confront them with the results of their behaviour? It’s not an easy question and comes with whole bunch of variables – your relative positions of power or longevity in the company, fear of confrontation, need to be liked, and whether you care enough about the person or the situation to take the risk of speaking out.
Whether you or your organisation ‘dare to care’ is the question Christine MacDougall asks as founding director of Australian company Syzergy, which specialises in enabling people at work to “speak the truth with compassion”.
In New Zealand recently and speaking at an NZIM Women in Business Networking Series, MacDougall says truth has to come from place of caring and service – not as an attack or need to be right. The trick is to “get beyond your own stuff” and care more about others. And to do that, you first have to have good handle on your own purpose whether in the workplace, community or family.
Just as kids know whether ‘no’ really means ‘no’ or just ‘maybe’, adults are very aware whether or not they’re getting message from the heart, notes MacDougall.
“Once you are clear as to your own purpose and what are your values, your non-negotiables, then you can communicate with much more clarity. But you do need to do the inner examination – am I speaking from the need to be right, or wanting to make you wrong, or maybe I want vengeance. If any of those exist then it’s the wrong conversation to have because there’s barb in the tail.
“In our Dare to Care programme, we put people through seven-step pro-cess to actually learn how to take look inside. Often when people go through the process, they recognise they are the problem – in other words, they don’t need to have the conversation but they need to clean up their own act.”
Borrowing Gloria Steinem quote: “the truth will set you free – but first it will piss you off”, MacDougall says this is worthwhile work but it ain’t easy.
“There can be tremendous resistance or fear around it – but most organisations I work with are already moving in this direction. They absolutely get that if they want to be sustainable healthy workplace of choice, then they need to engage at that level. And when we get right down to it everyone gets that the significant conversations occur at heart not head level. It’s not rocket science.”
She believes women’s nurturing tendencies and communication abilities are particularly relevant in today’s organisations but notes that many struggle to combine this caring side with voice of power, intent and clarity.
“In male domain the question is how do I do this without losing my power. How do I stand in my heart without actually becoming mushy, vulnerable – walkover. The reality is that if you come from heartfelt place, the more inspirational you are and the better choices you make.”
Right now the world could do with more women leaders because there is “very evident need to bring compassion and heart into leadership”.
MacDougall herself speaks with evident passion about what has been her vocation since she was introduced to coaching nine years ago.
“I realised that was what I was supposed to be doing. In the beginning I coached just about anyone who had pulse and would pay me. Now I work specifically in the corporate area and have evolved this programme which is real passion.”
The programme looks at how best to build organisations; how to set strong boundaries at work; how to stand firm to your principles; and how to do all this with both professionalism and compassion.
The main stumbling blocks are ego, ignorance, lack of awareness or capacity to understand different perspectives. Then there’s sheer inertia. Often people don’t make stand for what they believe in because they don’t believe they can make difference or they don’t want to get involved in too many conflicts or causes.
That, says MacDougall, is why you need to be very clear about why you’re here, so you can choose stance most in line with your self and your values.
“Because there is only so much of each of us to go round. It’s both simple and complex. Ultimately our work is about speaking up about what really matters and transcending your own stuff to do that. It’s about holding to your bigger self.
“You have no right to complain unless you put yourself on the line and do something – take stand for the best in yourself and in others, because it matters.”

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