Kindness at work

By Stanley Arumugam

A little kindness goes a long way. I remember my first job as an intern psychologist at Spoornet, a very Afrikaans organisation at that time. I was anxious, being in a new space in so many ways. My colleagues mostly White Afrikaans, at all levels were kind in welcoming me, helping me to be successful at my job and we continue to be friends over the years.

Some organisations are not wired in that way. They believe that ‘tough is best’; the workplace is harsh and survival of the fittest is better in the long term. Yet we know too well how the resulting ‘macho’, patriarchal leadership style (in both men and women)causes comes at a high cost of toxic organisations.

We don’t need fancy engagement strategies. Start with the basics of ubuntu, of common humanity. Be kind to one another. Kindness is expressed in respect and honouring the dignity of another. The rest will follow. St Paul in the Bible reminds us in 1 Corinthians 13 that Love is kind. William James put it clearly, “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

This week, where might you find opportunities to be kind?

Taking responsiblity to change

By Rick James

Change only occurs when someone, somewhere takes responsibility for a situation. Kurt Lewin, the father of organisational change theories, pointed out more than fifty years ago that the first stage in change involved ‘induced anxiety or guilt – a realisation that I am in some way responsible’. Instead of externalising blame onto other people, they realise that they are in some way responsible and that they can do something about it. Perhaps then I should not be so surprised that the OD exercise that has had the biggest impact on the organisations I work with is simply when I stop and ask people to answer:

  • How have I contributed to this situation which I complain about?

I tend to send people away on their own to prayerfully listen to God about how they have contributed to a situation. In dealing with hurt and frustrations it is important to get people out of a ‘blamestorming’ attitude. It allows God to bring conviction, not people to condemn each other. I have often found that changing people’s physical environment helps in this, suggesting they listen to God while going for a walk or sitting outside. The key is to create a safe space to consider the question in a meaningful way.

This week:

  • If we look at our own lives, where are we blaming others for a situation?
  • Let’s stop and ask ourselves: ‘How have I contributed to this?’

Leading with love

By Stanley Arumugam

Good leaders love their teams. It feels almost sacrilegious to connect work, leadership and love. Somehow we have been socialised to believe love stays outside the workplace. The Sufi poet, Kahlil Gibran, teaches us that ‘work is love made visible’. 

To some extent, the industrial revolution commoditised people and sanitised any emotion in the workplace. They become an object in a big machine. We talk about system, process and results and lose the people. Yet we know that every person coming to work is looking for an expression of love and a sense of belonging, which is our primary need. In the absence of loving workplaces, we have corporate toxicity, abuse and burnout. We can show workplace love in some practical ways: daily/weekly check-in with staff; paying full attention when speaking to staff, especially with distracting technology; giving open, honest feedback in a kind and constructive manner and being open to receiving feedback as leaders. All of our corporate wellness, diversity, inclusion and development programmes can be leveraged for good when intentionally grounded in love. 

The Forbes article, Leading With Love: An Unconventional Approach To Leadership, seeks to balance professionalism and caring. “With the right boundaries intact, showing genuine concern or compassion for the people you lead will not diminish your respectability or reputation as a strong leader, but it will instead bring out the best in them while fostering an environment that is conducive to thriving…Showing love is not a license for your team to be incompetent. Instead, it conveys that their job performance is not the only thing that matters to you as a leader. They matter too.”

This week, how practically might I lead with love?

Intercessory prayers for peace in Ukraine

By Charles Câmara

Dear sisters and brothers, once again Europe is facing an armed conflict. Worse still, a war is unfolding between two neighbouring countries, Russia and Ukraine. Not since the Second World War has Europe experienced such horrific situation, which impacts nations far beyond the conflict area. In trust, we turn to our Heavenly Father and pray:

For all those in power in the world, that they work together to end ongoing armed conflicts and wars, as well as tirelessly work to promote peace and reconciliation among all peoples and nations.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For the political leaders of the world, that they refrain from launching new armed conflicts and wars, neither today nor in the future, neither in Europe nor anywhere else on earth.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For those in power in Ukraine and Russia, as well as in international organisations such as the United Nations, the European Union and NATO, that they use all their power to reduce the conflict, and work tirelessly to discern peaceful solutions that benefit all parties through diplomacy and sincere dialogues.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all military leaders and soldiers in their respective countries, that they do not use more force than the situation allows, and that they respect international laws that prohibit use of force against civilian population.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all the spiritual leaders of the world, that they use their abilities to convince the political authorities that God is love and wants all nations and peoples to live in peace, as loving brothers and sisters on this earth.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For all the people who are in the conflict-impacted area of Ukraine, that they experience the solidarity of the world, and that the world generously receives people who have been forced to leave their homes from the horrors of the armed conflict and war.
Lord, hear our prayer.

For religious orders, congregations, missions, institutions and organisations in our church, that we among the younger and older faithful continue to instil Faith in that a peaceful world is possible to accomplish with God’s assistance, Hope in that the Reign of God will be established on earth as it is in heaven, and Love that exists in the people’s hearts will be the driving force to live in peace and harmony with each other.
Lord, hear our prayer.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for hearing us and being with us in our anxious moments. Grant us the courage and strength to be Your collaborators to promote peace and mediate reconciliation, everywhere, now and always. In trust we pray, through Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace and Saviour of the world. Amen.

How do I pray in times of conflict and war?

By Henrik Sonne Petersen

Many of us have gathered to pray for Ukraine these past weeks. Some of us have even been invited to pray with Christians from both Ukraine and Russia. But it has not been easy to pray. How do I pray in times of conflict and war?

The Bible describes several approaches to prayer:

The Psalms reverberate with prayers that give voice to anger, fear and anxiety, alongside joy and overwhelming relief (when the Psalmist realises that God is present amidst this troubled world). A repeating chorus throughout many psalms is: “Why are you downcast, my soul?… Put your hope in God”. We are called to patience and hope, looking out for God even in places where he seems not to be.

We see Jesus embodying another approach when Jesus says to priest, who has lost his daughter, “Do not fear, only believe”. It sounds insensitive, even arrogant, to say something like that to a person who has lost a family member. But Jesus calls this man, and us, to resist the temptation – even when faced with death – to let fear take over. Faith, not fear, should lead what we think, believe and do.

I’m sure there are also other ways to pray. But let’s reconsider the question: How do we pray facing war, insecurity and evil? I wonder if Jesus might respond: ‘This is how you should pray… Our Father…’ When we pray the Lord’s Prayer with war and conflict at the front of our minds, we see that it involves so much – solidarity with the suffering, seeing God’s love at work, resisting temptation, God confronting evil… Sometimes the prayer, Our Father, is the only suitable response to impossible situations.