I’ve blogged extensively on here about emotions, feelings and more of the human-centric elements that cause us joy, anxiety and confusion.

It’s all been in an attempt to shift. Shift my mind, spirit and way of being towards something better, more flowing and productive even.

What’s apparent to me, is that this type of #shifting is essential in us all. It helps us make sense of those willing and unwilling experiences we have inside of systems. Systems that in and of themselves are #shifting.

I belong to a professional cadre called HR but which encompasses a range of variable elements and factions within it. I identify myself as an HR professional with a Chartered status and interest and professional viewpoint shaped by the system I operate in. And yet at times, it’s frustrating, challenging and tiring to see how many of my fellow practitioners are either underwhelming in their endeavours, how some seem to take pleasure in shooting down their fellow professionals and how we work to a complex set of circumstances that we find ourselves critical of trade bodies, journals and the oft-demonised thought leaders.

Yet within in, and around it HR has so much to offer.

This was underscored by my recent experience teaching 20-something HR Masters Students from Italy. I was there to help them understand, learn and become enlightened towards the #shifting nature of our professional field.

To say it was an enriching experience does it no justice. It was like a gentle revolution of thought, perspective and outlook. I am now actively working with not only the body who commissioned me to do this work, but 3 of the practitioners who are in the earliest of stages of their careers in this field.

I’ve found energy, belief, agitation, dreams and desires that show this profession can and will do more #shifting of its own. Because at an individual level, they have shifted even over 3 days together.

Jeroen van Bree is a practitioner who shifts my mind and enhances my view of the world. He has penned a masterful, evidence-based and highly theoretically-linked piece on LinkedIn here. Such a compendium of excellent distinct but related pieces on how, at team/unit level, we are trying to shift what we do, how we do it, who with and what with. It shows the #shifting that is needed to understand the complex layering of organisational life.

It got me thinking about two shifts and I made the point in the comments: #Shifting optimisation and #shifting actualisation.

With #shifting optimisation this is the constant pursuit of getting the most from the resources, systems, processes, structures, flow that we have with the work we’re there to do. It is apparent from the way many businesses operate that a constant fluidity and shape-#shifting is needed. Indeed fellow EODF member Stelio Verzera has perfectly encapsulated this in his Liquid-O theory.

In this, the constant #shifting that is needed from an organisation is the pursuit of being comfortable being uncomfortable. Being stable by being unstable and yes, being agile.

With #shifting actualisation, we have to think about Maslow’s much-quoted state of Self-actualisation; but beyond that is Nilofer Merchant’s #Onlyness. The ability to stand in your unique space, to appreciate your gifts and ways and to understand your part in ideas that can create the breakthroughs you and the world need. We see not the “arrival”; it is more likely that actualisation is the constant attention to a #shifting story. If we arrive, we should celebrate — albeit, briefly. For if we truly hit that state of arrival (actualisation), how long before the world is #shifting and we have to reimagine and adjust to keep or adapt to that in pursuit of actualisation?

It is in the complex interplay between optimisation and actualisation that we appear to be. Our work may seem like a daily grind in our work clothes (the fluorescent jacket of the warehouse operative, the suit of the lawyer, the gown of the doctor and the hard hat of the construction worker) yet in that grind, somewhere is optimisation and actualisation and a complex #shifting dynamic of circumstances and choices.

So what’s the point in this apart from some overly verbose prose to state the bleedin’ obvious?

An impending change. A new product. An adapted service. A problem that has just arisen.

We ALL work in these situations. And we’re all subject to others’ views of optimisation whilst we’re putting our efforts and energy into not only that but our own actualisation. Arguably, therefore, we have three things at play:

  1. The system that optimises. Yours or other’s decisions/actions will create this;
  2. The actualisation of you. Your choices, approaches and experiences that give you fulfilment, sense of achievement, worth, esteem, success, development and flourishing; and
  3. The interplay between the two.

David Marquet (of Turn This Ship Around fame) stated 3 years ago: The Leader’s role is to fix the environment and not fix people. This sits firmly in step 1. Our role as the “doing” entity is clearly following 1, aiming for 2 and absolutely in 3.

Thing is, the leader is perhaps not aware of the need that 1 should enable 2 and therefore absolves themselves of any difficulty that 1 creates in 2. They may be unaware of it and therefore step 3 isn’t something they probably even think about.

Yet we the worker are #shifting between all 3 and certainly in 2 and 3. This imbalance creates the tension, friction and frustration we see in low engagement, stress, loss of talent and more.

So the point of this piece is to appreciate the #shifting nature of things, the optimisation and actualisation demands and what we can all do to make 1–3 become a more conducive flow of energies across all 3 areas. That should truly achieve high levels of optimisation (even in #shifting circumstances) and will absolutely help others achieve actualisation.

In self-management principles and the work I’m experiencing using an adapted Agile methodology in change and transformation, 1 is focused only on the product/solution that is needed and 2 and 3 are therefore given more space to flourish and be engineered by the self-managed people doing the work. They essentially create their 3 to achieve not only 1 but their 2. There is limited management interference which hampers 2.

So leaders, get out of the way once you’ve inspired people by your actions in 1. Then people, get on with leading, designing and doing and shape 2 and 3 to be yours.

People sometimes wonder why I’m so allied to self-management principles and I hope this post helps understand why this is so.

Choices we make in #shifting circumstances appear to not only need us to be optimised but maybe, an optimised state can only truly be achieved when we’re #shifting to actualise.

We need to do more #shifting, clearly.



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Perry Timms

Perry Timms

CEO PTHR |2x TEDx speaker | Author: Transformational HR + The Energized Workplace | HR Most Influential Thinker 2017–2021 | Soulboy + Northampton Town fan