Posted by: knightbird | June 24, 2015

Doing the Right Thing

Self interest is a powerful force. Because the human being is programmed to survive, we often do what it takes to survive. I believe it’s driven in large part by the development of our fear response starting with gestation. Let me explain this concept a little further.

Our fear response protects us from physical harm. If we are confronted by a threat, some very basic response occurs. First, the threat registers in our Limbic System-what behavioral practitioners call the fear response. Reaction is lightening fast for a reason. The Limbic System essentially acts, then tries to understand. Our prefrontal cortex is rendered impotent, for the most part. When a threat is detected, the Hypothalamic/Pituitary/Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis) fires and floods our body with Cortisol. At that time, both energy (glucose) and oxygen flow are substantial reduced for the brain. In other words, the brain sacrifices function for protection. We literally stop thinking because all of our resources are being shifted towards saving our life. The reaction is rapid and thinking will not change reaction. We will perform as nature intended, by fighting, fleeing or freezing. Restoring function to our thinking brain will require effort on our part.

We have many other protective mechanisms formed in response to the existence of what I refer to as “non-physical” threats. If you boss threatens you, it’s not a physical threat. But your threat response doesn’t know that and may escalate in reaction. What do you do? In most cases you freeze and do nothing. But you might argue back (fight) or leave (flee). The list of non physical threats is huge and you encounter them every day.

To protect yourself against nonphysical threats, you learn responses that mitigate the threat. Or, should I say, your brain learns. Lying is one response that might deflect the threat. How often do you hear “I didn’t do it” or “It’s not my fault.” Blame is another common response. It’s John or Mary’s fault.”

Another protective factor is to elevate our competencies. The Dunning-Kruger effect has us believing we are among the most competent a what we do. Any criticism is deflected by devaluing the critic. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about” or “I am the one who does his job.” He’s worthless. We also form trust in certain people, whether they deserve that trust or not. When trust evolves into a political (mutual supportive) relationship, a lot of bad can be done.

Doing the right thing requires overcoming a lot of defenses. We justify the defense to ourselves and anyone else who will listen. How do we overcome this resistance to doing the right thing?

Dr. Deming counseled us on a method. Treat the entity you are involved in as a system. Work, play, social gatherings and other pursuits lend well to systems thinking. First, the system produces most of the errors and defects. So we need to eliminate the blame and shame that permeates most of our engagements. It really isn’t our fault most of the time. We just need to find the real explanation. And that takes a systems approach. What are the facts, ones that can be observed. We can’t rely on hearsay because hearsay is terribly unreliable in many cases. We need to eliminate penalties and evaluations, unless they are seriously a part of factual inquiry.

And we need to cultivate a scientific ability to inquire. Not by cross examination, but through collaboration and discussion. We need to understand Root Cause and the depth of inquiry achieved through asking the 5 Why’s. But we also need to know when to inquire, and when to let things go.

And finally, we need to do the right thing for the right reasons. To make things better is a right reason. If we accept responsibility for something we did that was not right, we can make it right and learn how not to do that thing again. We learn, and incorporate it into our life to make that life better If we do it the right way, we can also make a lot of other lives better. Think about it.

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