The Key to Organisational Happiness is KindnessAug 25, 2006
This morning I read in the Australian Financial Review (25th August 2006) about Johann Goethe (1749-1832), a “fully rounded man of the world: poet, novelist and practical statesman, traveller and businessman.” The article was written by Paul Monk, managing director of Austhink Consulting, in response to a new book about Goethe, “Love, Life, Goethe: How to be Happy in an Imperfect World” by John Armstrong.
Paul quotes from the book to point out that Goethe “is at ease and yet he is completely in earnest” and that he “tried to communicate a cheerful pessimism: to see life as it is and yet to enjoy it as it is.” Rather than focussing on those things in life which might overwhelm us, or finding someone to blame, or looking for what must be done to avoid possible hazards, Goethe believed that “hysteria rather than complacency was the greatest danger. Therefore a significant task for art and culture might be to calm us down, to bring order and harmony – so that we can do what we need to do.”
So Goethe filled his life with all the things he loved – good wine, good fine, good company, sex as well as his political work and business acumen. It seems that when he rid his life of hysteria, when he felt at home in his life, there was plenty of room for enjoyment, for happiness, at work and at play. Paul closes his review by suggesting that “We might seek something of the cheerful enjoyment of food and sex, the sense of aesthetic proportion, the attention to practical affairs that characterised Goethe. Above all, if we are the citizens of affluent societies, we might see in Goethe a kind of model of the integrated and balanced life, neither frenetic nor anxious, neither gloomy nor relentlessly acquisitive. We might …seek to keep others calm and rational…By such means we might actually find a reasonable kind of happiness in an imperfect world.”
This review really brought home for me the value of fully embracing what is good in my life. There is an element of surrender here, surrender to what is good in us and others, surrender to kindness. Kindness to ourselves, first and foremost. Kindness to others by living in this way. And kindness to this planet which gives us life. And I finally understand that, in being disciplined enough to be kind to myself in this way, I can make the most difference to this world in which I am fortunate enough to live and to which I open my eyes each day.
Applying Goethe’s outlook to organisations, what if the primary focus was to be grateful for and appreciate what is good in each and every one of the people with whom an organisation interacts? What if through that focus each person could contribute of his or her very best? What if each person was happy with the culture, the way of doing things, that was created in such an environment?
There would be no hysteria, no freneticness, no fear or no blame. Rather the organisation would be experienced as a place of calmness, harmony, and trust. Ethics and respect would rule. There would be no need of PR or other advertising to persuade the marketplace that the organisation was worthy of staff or customers. All would come flocking to the door, closely followed by investors, because the reputation of the organisation would be a trustworthy investment.
Perhaps for organisations, as with each other, such kindness really is the key to lasting happiness.
And isn’t this the core of good Social Responsibility?
Food for thought…
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