Günter Grass on Work, Leisure, and the Tyranny of “Busy”

“If work and leisure are soon to be subordinated to this one utopian principle – absolute busyness – then utopia and melancholy will come to coincide: an age without conflict will dawn, perpetually busy – and without consciousness.”

―Günter Grass, From the Diary of a Snail, 1972 (photo credit: AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

The Kind Approach To Meeting Madness

It’s absolutely possible to reduce the need for meetings if you focus on clarity and trust. In fact, it’s the kind thing to do. We all have tasks we have to complete and goals we want to reach. Meetings are an interruption. Let’s think with kindness about how to reduce the meeting madness.

A high-functioning team needs shared clarity on each of its members’ roles, and mutual trust that its members are empowered to do what they are accountable for doing. As a team, the time you invest upfront in establishing clarity and trust pays off. How? You all get back the time you would lose in every pointless daily or weekly status meeting that you allow yourself to avoid.

My rule of thumb is that you should almost never have a meeting unless you need the direct input of meeting participants to make a decision. Decisions and status updates can be communicated asynchronously, when team members understand each other’s roles and trust each other’s capacities.

​If it seems strange to think of meeting overload as a failure of kindness, consider the question this way. Many meetings are simply a proxy behavior that takes the place of action and decision making. This happens for two common reasons. One, organization: no one has clear enough accountability, so teams need to come to the table repeatedly to hash out ambiguous decision making. Two, leadership: consciously or unconsciously, a leader wishes to diffuse responsibility for uncertain outcomes by delaying them or multiplying the number of people involved.
When kindness becomes a key part of your interactions, these gaps go away, and the hidden pretext for proxy behaviors goes away. You and your colleagues can then come solidly back to acting and deciding.

Managing scarcity: Time, Knowledge, Money, Attention, and Kindness

I found this recent overview of the theory of scarcity quite insightful. Time, knowledge, and money are all limited quantities, whose limitations must be managed.

And I would add two more scarcities:

Attention. The way to manage limited attention is to master the art of prioritization (as in time management), while training yourself to add a layer of focus to it. There’s a reason why mindfulness has become such a cliche in our always-on world of digital distraction.

Kindness. Intentional compassion is a kind of muscle that people must exercise. Build strength by managing reactivity, pausing, and being intentional about how what you do not only achieves your ends but affects others (directly in your path, and more systemically).



Kindness Communication has launched!

I chose the First Day of Spring 2015 to launch Kindness Communication, an idea that has long been on my mind. Kindness Communication brings together what I have learned across many roles as an employee and as a leader, as a team member, a mentor, a manager, a consultant, a decision maker, or an advisor. You can read more about the intent behind Kindness Communication in The Goal.

I can be honest and vulnerable enough to admit that this start is only the beginning of a journey. In past business ventures, I have held myself back from starting until the vision was clear, and the model was fully formed. Here, I’m more comfortable letting the venture take its own shape, and letting it develop organically from the interactions that are spawned by the simple fact of launching

In coming months, as I hear from people I have worked with in the past, and as I connect with new colleagues who are inclined to kindness, the contours will sharpen. The end result may be as simple as a rallying point for better collaboration and teamwork, or as complex as repository for thought leadership and supporting service offerings that help create a kinder workplace.

And in case you’re curious, Kindness Communication will run in parallel to Syncresis, the venture I began in 2007. Syncresis is as healthy as ever and will continue to focus on the digital marketing challenges of the healthcare industry at a time of unprecedented change. So, Kindness Communication is an extension of what we do at Syncresis, with the focus directed onto sharing how we work as much as the outcomes of our work.

More on Kindness Communication to come!