How do I know?

I’ve just made a decision.

The decision was to resign as a director of a company I helped to set up.

The decision was by no means clear cut and it involved resolving or accepting inner conflicts which the decision-making process created.

As well as being the subject of this process, I have also tried to be objective as possible about what was going on inside me as I struggled to reach a position I could live with. This post is the ‘report back’.

First, a bit of context. I have a part-time job in the NHS and also run a modest little business offering Public Relations and Coaching. The company of which I was a director is nearly two years old and has over most of that period been very much in a development phase. Like the other directors, I have bought shares and provided loans to keep the business going to the stage where it might actually begin to generate sales and income. The business has just achieved its first couple of contracts.

My journey of self-discovery over the past 7 years or so has helped me understand myself better. An expected or hoped for consequence is that I will be able to make better decisions and judgements. My career is littered with setbacks, wrong turns and occasional breakdowns. I wanted the last phase of my working life to be different and better than what went before.

To simply describe why I felt the need to even make the decision to resign my directorship would be to rationalise and justify. The idea of making the decision had deep emotional roots – driven by fear and anxiety – which quickly mingled with the emotions raised by the potential consequences of taking the decision – driven by fear and anxiety!

I wanted to reduce my workload. Towards the end of 2013 I was becoming less happy, more stressed and feeling pulled in three directions. All three activities were subject to changes that looked like making me busier – I know some people enjoy doing stuff but I’m a reflective soul and I like to feel on top of what I do. That means restricting the amount of ‘doing’ work I do (though I seem to have no such restrictions when it comes to thinking and discussing). I was aware that my having to pay attention to three distinct and increasing activities at one time was arousing old anxieties in me…fear that I would ‘drop the ball’ somewhere and shatter my always fragile self-confidence by evoking negative judgements of my competence in key others. A feeling of increasing disengagement from the business and my fellow directors (the bonds which bind were for me getting weaker, not stronger and differences between myself and the others seemed to be growing) meant that I knew which sandbag to jettison from my sinking balloon. So far so clear.

But then came the doubts. After two years of effort and careful nurturing, the business is just about to take off and possible economic rewards might be just around the corner. My resignation would create additional work and commitment from my fellow directors who would resent me, or even hate or ex-communicate me. And was this just another example of my quitting when the personal going got a bit rough? What does it say about my loyalty, resilience and powers of persistence – non-existent? Could I not just bide my time and see how things turn out?

To resign or not to resign, that was the question. Shakespeare’s Hamlet knew a thing or two about the horns of a dilemma. The philosopher Kirkegaard said that whatever decision one makes one will regret because one will never know where the other path led to. As humans we are also more motivated by loss than by gain. Any decision usually means losing something – in this case I stood to lose face, lose the respect of my fellow directors, lose respect for myself (was I running away? being a whimp? not standing up to my responsibilities and duty to others?), miss out on being part of a successful business…

In the end, I decided that losing time for me and my thinking/contemplation was the more powerful motivator. I wanted a bit more of my life back without sacrificing the financial compensations I receive. I chose today’s time and money over tomorrow’s. Having made the decision (in my mind) I felt I had to act on it quickly before the doubts flowed back in.

That’s not to say the decision has made me happy, yet. I have made the decision and the plan is now to move on quickly and not dwell on the agony of not knowing whether it was right or wrong.

Decision-making is not a cold, rational process of weighing pros and cons because every pro and con carries emotional weight.

I can’t help feeling that even in my darkest days in the early 90s I would have made the same decision and that makes me wonder how far I’ve travelled on my journey of self-discovery and whether anyone can be truly self-aware.

Have I given in to my emotions yet again and is that necessarily a bad thing?


Changing organisational culture: a moral and disciplinary project

Barclays takes a leaf out of Big Brother?

Complexity & Management Centre

This post is another contribution to thinking about organizational culture in preparation for the Complexity and Management Conference due to be held 7-9th June this year, 2014, which will be dedicated to this theme.

The Christmas period provided a very good example of the dominant thinking about organisational culture change, which I wrote about earlier in a previous post on this blog here. The new CEO of Barclays Bank, Anthony Jenkins was the guest editor for BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme, Today, and he used the opportunity to draw attention to ethics, leadership and organisational transformation. You can find some of the clips from the programme here.

The banking world in general and Barclays in particular have been rocked by a number of scandals, including mis-selling of financial products and the manipulation of the inter-bank lending rate, LIBOR. Jenkins sees his task as rebuilding the…

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