Could empathy and compassionate curiosity be the silver bullet?

Today I am reposting a blog I did for Action4AgricultureChat to allow me to  also repost this wonderful post from The Ethics Centre “I’m sorry *if* I offended you”: How to apologise better in an emotionally avoidant world

I recently signed up for a workshop with Amy Gallo,  an international expert in dealing with difficult people

If we are honest with ourselves we can all be difficult to deal with if some-one touches the wrong buttons at the wrong time.

I manage a capability building program for young people who are “doers” and changemakers

I often find myself fielding calls asking for advice on how to handle people who are resistant to change

The first thing I say is “This is not my area of expertise”

Whilst I have done multiple workshops across the world with world class experts like Amy. Its one thing to learn the theory, its another to put into into practice, another to find safe spaces to practice it and the mega important one finding the role models in the Compassion Curiosity Framework space  that you can surround yourself with, learn from and channel when you need to

What my years of training has allowed me to do is identify the people who do it well and they make my heart sing

I saw an extraordinary example when I watched Series 12 Episode 2 of Call the Midwife recently

This 4 min video collates the scenes that I am referring to. Watch how Sister Julienne role models the Compassionate Curiosity Framework ( hear Kwame Christian talk about the framework here )

1. Acknowledging emotion

2. Getting curious with compassion

3. Engaging in joint problem solving

what an ideal time to extract this from Sarah Wilson The Ethics Centre post 

What *if* we offend or harm unintentionally?

I was presented with the above ethical quandary while writing this. Someone on social media commented that she’d wanted to approach me recently but felt she couldn’t because she had two kids in tow at the time. She figured I’d judge her for being a “procreator” given my climate activism work and anti-consumption stance. It was an unfortunate assumption. I had only last week written about how bringing population growth into the climate crisis blame-fest is wrong, ethically and factually (it’s not how many we are, it’s how we live). 

Of course, her self-conscious pain was real. But did I need to repent if I’d done nothing wrong, and certainly not intentionally (indeed, I’d not acted, in bad faith or otherwise). 

I decided there was still a very good opportunity to switch out an “if” for a “that”. I replied: “I’m sorry that you felt….”. And I was. I didn’t want her to have that impression of judgement from another, nor to feel so self-conscious. I was sorry in the broad sense of feeling bad for her. Feeling sorry can be a sense of tapping into a collective regret for the way things are, even if you are not directly responsible. 

The real opportunity here was to take on responsibility for healing any hurt, and to speed it up. If I’d listed out and justified why this person was mistaken (wrong) in feeling as she did, I’d have also missed an opportunity to be raw and open to the broader pain of the human condition. 

Doing good apology is essentially an act in correctly apportioning the tasks required to get the outcome that we are all after, which, for most adults, is growth, intimacy and expansion. Ruttenberg makes the point that some indigenous cultures work to this (more mature) style of repentance (as opposed to cheap grace), as well as various radical restorative justice movements. I note that the authors and elders who contributed to the Uluru Statement from the Heart often remind us that the document is an invitation to all Australians to grow into our next era.  

and to help us all do it better – the full post from The Ethics Centre

“I’m sorry *if* I offended you”: How to apologise better in an emotionally avoidant world

As we gear up for a referendum on a Voice to Parliament next year, I’ve been wondering if we need to have a better look at the way we say sorry.

We live in a highly binary and individualistic world that struggles to repent well. Yet we are increasingly aware of – and flummoxed by – bad faith efforts at the gesture.  

Witness the fallout from former Prime Minister Scott Morrisons’ baffling response speech to being censured last week in which he refused to apologise to the nation. I reckon we ache to do better; we want true healing. 

We could start with looking at the way we so often insist on whacking the Almighty Absolving Qualifier “if” when we issue an “I’m sorry”. I’m sorry if you’re offended/upset/angry. We go and plug one in where a perfectly good “that” would do a far better job.  

But an “if” negates any repentant intent. Actually, worse. It gaslights. It puts up for dispute whether the hurt or offence is actually being felt and whether it is legitimate. Attention switches to the victim’s authenticity and their right to feel injured. Did you actually get hurt? Hmmm…. 

Things get even more disconcerting when the quasi-apologiser thinks they have done something gallant with their qualified “I’m sorry”. And will gaslight you again if you pull them up on the flimsiness of it. What, so you can’t even accept an apology!  

I had a rich, senior businessmen do the if-sorry job on me recently. “I’m sorry if you’re angry,” he said in a really rather small human way. Rather than standing there miffed, I replied, “Great! Yep, you definitely fucked up. And so I’m definitely and rightly angry. Now that’s established, sure, I’ll take on that you’d like to repent.” 

I heard a well-known doctor on the radio the other morning very consciously (it seemed) drop the if from the equation when he had to apologise for making remarks about a minority group (in error) in a previous broadcast. “I’m sorry I said those things. I was wrong. I’m not going to justify myself. There are no excuses. I was in the wrong,” he said. It was a good, textbook apology and he probably wouldn’t land in trouble for it. 

But, and it immediately begs, is that the point of an apology? 

For the wrongdoer to stay out of trouble? For them to neatly right a wrong by going through a small moment of awkward, vulnerable exposure? 

What about the victim? Where do they sit in apologies?

I recall listening to a radio discussion where all this was dissected. The point that grabbed me at the time was this: In our culture, the responsibility of ensuring that an apology is effective in bringing closure to a conflict mostly rests on the victim, the person being apologised to. No matter the calibre of the apology, it’s up to the person who has been wronged to be all “that’s ok, we’re sweet” about things. They are effectively responsible for making the perpetrator feel OK in their awkward vulnerable moment. (And to keep the pain shortlived.) 

And so a successful apology rests in the victim’s readiness to forgive. 

Which is all the wrong way around. At an individual-to-individual level it’s cheap grace. The wrongdoer gets absolved with so little accountability involved. 

At a macro level, say with injuries like racism or sexism, we can see the setup is about a minority class forgiving, or bowing once again, to the powerful. 

I managed to find the expert who’d led the discussion –  Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, a New York-based Rabbi and scholar who’s written a book on the matter, On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World, a title that says it all, right? 

Ruttenberg argues we are doing apologies inadequately and in a way that fails to repair the damage done precisely because we privilege forgiveness over repentance. 

So how to apologise like you mean it

Drawing on the 12th Century philosopher Maimonides, Ruttenberg sets out five steps to a proper apology. 

1. Confession

The wrongdoer fully owns that they did something wrong. There’s to be no blabbing of great intentions, or how “circumstances” conspired; no “if” qualifiers. You did harm, own it! Ideally, she says, the confession is done publicly.

2. Start to Change

Next, you the work to educate yourself, get therapy etc. Like, demonstrate you’re in the process of shifting your ways. You’re talk and trousers! 

3. Make amends

But do so with the victim’s needs in mind. What would make them feel like some kind of repair was happening? Cash? Donate to a charity they care about? 

4. OK, now we get to the apology!

The point of having the apology sitting right down at Step 4 is so that by the time the words “I’m sorry” are uttered, we, as the perpetrator, are engaged and own things. The responsibility is firmly with us, not the victim. By this late stage in the repenting process we are alive to how the victim felt and genuinely want them to feel seen. It’s not a ticking of a box kinda thing. Plus, we’ve taken the responsibility for bringing about closure, or healing, out of the victim’s hands. 

 5. Don’t do it again

OK, so this is a critical final step. But there’s a much better chance the injury won’t be repeated if the person who did the harm has complete the preceding four steps, according to Ruttenberg and Maimonides. 

Does forgiveness have to happen?

I went and read some related essays by Rabbi Ruttenberg just now. The other point that she makes is that whether or not the victim forgives the perpetrator is moot. When you apologise like you mean it (as per the five steps), I guestimate that 90 per cent of the healing required for closure has been done by the perpetrator. And it happens regardless of whether the harmed party forgives, because the harm-doer sat in the issue and committed to change. The spiritual or emotional or psychological shift has already occurred. 

I should think that, looking at it from a victim-centric perspective, this opened space allows the harmed party to feel more comfortable to forgive, should they choose to.

It’s a win-win, regardless of whether the aggrieved waves the forgiveness stick. 

(The Rabbi notes that in Judaism, as opposed to Christianity, there is no compulsion for the harmed party to forgive.) 

 

When you dont know what you dont know

 

Few areas are more critical to the security and well-being of young people than decent work. It impacts on every aspect of their lives: independence; mental health and well-being; and social interaction.

 

 

Image source

When I found myself managing a National Careers Institute grant to support young people from all backgrounds and experiences to thrive in a career in agriculture, the first thing I discovered was there was a great deal I did not know about this space and I was going to need a lot of support.

I am very grateful for that support and particularly grateful to the people who introduced me to the knowledge, expertise and support networks I now find myself surrounded by

Best practice principles put young people and employers at the centre of the experience. Source National Youth Employment Body

I have long been a fan of the communities of practice model where people with common goals work together for the greater good. This grant has allowed me to join one and I am grateful to the Brotherhood of St Laurence and Mission Australia  for the opportunity.

I am also very grateful to career education specialists Janine Wood from The Careers Department and Lucy Sattler from StudyWorkGrow for sharing their knowledge 
Image Source 

I am very grateful for the people who have identified best practice and shared their knowledge with me

I am very grateful to the Atlassian Foundation and Atlassian team members helping me master program management software .

I am also very grateful to long term team members Opal Heart Media and Ground Creative who look after our media and web services.

We are all working together to explore a model for agriculture that offers young people an enriching experience of work that sets them on the path to independence and future security.

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Action4Youth has three phases 

Young people as changemakers

“Just keep going”

“If I knew how hard it was I would never have started”

“If you believe in your heart that you need to do something, and you know in your heart it’s right… and especially when you’re in a position to make the change, you can’t back away from it,”

Quotes from people who inspire me.

Last night at the NSW Banksia Awards it all came full circle

In 2015 we had two Young Farming Champions determined to be agents of change and we had a big idea to crowd fund them to send them to COP 21 in Paris

That was when I found out Australian agriculture can be its own worst enemy

The main stream press were mega excited.

On the other hand believe it or not some very influential ( at the time ) rural press journalists and the stale, pale, male fraternity farmers on Twitter were very determined to assure the world these young people didn’t represent them.

The CEO of NFF at the time even wade in to assure his stale, pale, male base that these young people didn’t have his support

Last night these two young people took out the Youth as Changemakers Award at the NSW Banksia Awards

In fact half the award winners last night came from the agriculture sector. I am so grateful these young people had the determination and grit to stand up for what they believe in and inspire others to flex their courage muscle

And then there was this

Two of the four finalists in the Ministers Young Climate Champions Award were Kreative Koalas schools with St Brigid’s Primary School being named the winner

It is such a joy to work with young people. It is such a joy to work with their teachers. Extraordinary humans like the team at St Brigid’s and the Centre of Excellence

Hon.  Matt Kean announcing the Ministers Young Climate Champion Award

My advice.

Whoever inspires you. Just keep channeling their mantra

“Just keep going”

“If I knew how hard it was I would never have started”

“If you believe in your heart that you need to do something, and you know in your heart it’s right… and especially when you’re in a position to make the change, you can’t back away from it,”

Social impact – if you could wave a magic wand what would you fix?

I work in the social impact space and I am appreciating participating in peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset..

Inspirational speaker panel- How awesome are peer learning groups, being exposed to new stimuli and having opportunities to reflect and reset.. 

A fortnight ago I had a 30 min zoom call with some-one who asked me some great questions including what success looks like for me.

After a fortnight of:

I am confident I now have a lot more clarity on what the 5 pillars for success looks like for me underpinned by the 5th pillar

  1. A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life
  2. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap
  3. Clear Pathways to get between  1 and 2
  4. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags
  5. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together

If success is a marathon not a sprint how far have, we travelled?

  1. Excitingly we have travelled a significant distance to achieve No 1 – A fit for purpose education system that prepares young people for the reality of work and supports them to thrive in life.

Great examples include:

The main roadblock to the finish line appears to be the focus on ATAR scores instead of the  The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration which will require a significant culture change in schools and an attitude change by conversative politicians.

  1. A fit for purpose agricultural workforce strategy and roadmap. The good news here is we have crossed the starting line.  The Action4Agriculture team look forward to having their Action4Youth initiative funded to experiment and see what works, what has potential and what we can park
  2. Clear Pathways between 1 and 2. I am confident if funded Professor Felicity Blackstock can bring together a team of bright minds to make this vision a reality
  3. Agriculture fixes its social and environmental justice red flags. We know what we need to do, building a critical mass to make it happen is another thing. We must focus on the huge cost of inaction on this one
  4. The agriculture sector connecting, collaborating, codesigning and creating success together. This one is particularly close to my heart and I will continue to work with my tribe to celebrate the wins on this one – no matter how tiny

What are you optimistic about?

Advocacy – facts matter but it is how you use them that determines how much impact you have

Advocacy is a science – a lot of smart minds have spent a great deal of time researching what works and what doesn’t and how to tailor (frame) your message to the audience you want to reach. 

Here are two examples

One is best practice

Source: Coalition for Conservation

The other is an opportunity lost

Source

In April our Young Farming Champions will be participating in a workshop under the tutelage of the wonderful Gaye Steel former National Marketing Manager of McDonalds and Telstra.  Gaye will share with agriculture’s Next Gen advocates the dangers of reinforcing the negative ( agriculture’s area of expertise) and how to flip the conversation (like to the Coalition for Conservation have )

Agriculture advocacy – one face palming moment after another

I took some-one to lunch today to say thank you for the all the pro bono work they had done for me and our organisation.

I selected the restaurant because it knew it featured the produce of one of our supporting partners. A partner I am very proud to be aligned with. The menu featured a number of branded produce yet not once did the restaurant team members tell me and my dining partner why this produce was on the menu. The big question is why?

Agriculture – how do we make it an esoteric career choice no more????

I remember when I was returning to the farm and still doing a few shifts in pharmacy and I would meet new people and they asked me what was my day job I would alternate between saying I was a farmer and a pharmacist

I remember vividly the day some -one replied “That’s an esoteric career” when I said I was a farmer . ( BTW I had to look up the word esoteric later)

This inspired me to go on a journey and work with the Action4Agriculture Young Farming Champions to “normalise” careers in agriculture.

How are we doing that?

We start by telling people agriculture- farming, food and fibre is so much more than the farm

  • It starts before the farm with custodianship of the land and the sea.
  • It progresses to encompass the farm itself;
  • The stage between the farm gate and the point of sale, which includes value-adding; and shaping of, and by, buyers’ preferences.
  • Throughout the process, there is a significant supply chain component.
  • None of the players in any of these stages stands alone. They are all linked in a web of interdependencies, where harm to one weakens the whole (for example, poor labour hire practices injure the reputation of the whole sector); and, conversely, enhancement of one strengthens the whole (for example, a focus on continuous learning in one industry spills over into another).
  • Cooperation among the players in the various stages benefits the entire sector more than if one gains a temporary benefit by disadvantaging another.
  • Unlike the 20th century, the 21st century has seen a growing realisation in the various elements of the Australian agriculture (farming, food and fibre) sector that they all hang together, and that cooperation is more constructive than conflict.

Source 

Then we go on a journey to show and tell and highlight:

We talk about where the growth jobs in agriculture will be in the future

And we advocate to ensure that everyone feels physically, emotionally and identity safe in their workplaces

And we share this with the world in our monthly Muster 

 

A career in agriculture is not for the faint hearted – Do we spend enough time building human capital and resilience ? 

I am forever curious and I spent yesterday reading the National Agricultural Workforce Strategy 

A career in agriculture is not for the faint hearted – Do we spend enough time building human capital and resilience . Graphics source 

The strategy confirms that Australian agriculture is a complex and sophisticated system. Its performance relies heavily on the quality of its people. It highlights the need to:

  • modernise agriculture’s image
  • attract and keep workers
  • embrace innovation
  • build skills for modern agriculture
  • treat workers ethically.

I love the way the report talks about agriculture being so much more than the farm and to recognise this the committee chose to use the term “Agrifood”

It is a spectrum comprising a number of stages. Starting before the farm with custodianship of the land and the sea, it progresses to encompass the farm itself; the stage between the farm gate and the point of sale, which includes value-adding; and shaping of, and by, buyers’ preferences. Ultimately it is the end consumer’s preferences that dictate the workings of each stage. Throughout the process, there is a significant supply chain component.

It goes on to say

None of the players in any of these stages stands alone. They are all linked in a web of interdependencies, where harm to one weakens the whole (for example, poor labour hire practices injure the reputation of the whole sector); and, conversely, enhancement of one strengthens the whole (for example, a focus on continuous learning in one industry spills over into another). Cooperation among the players in the various stages benefits the entire sector more than if one gains a temporary benefit by disadvantaging another. Unlike the 20th century, the 21st century has seen a growing realisation in the various elements of the Australian AgriFood sector that they all hang together, and that cooperation is more constructive than conflict.

The committee noted with concern

 the converging problems of agricultural workforce shortages, reduced employment opportunities for young people and poor perceptions of agricultural jobs and careers.

 

As we face increasingly complex major global and domestic challenges, Australia’s social and economic future is reliant on a fit-for-purpose education system and easy to navigate training pathways that equip young people with the skills they need to transition through school, to higher education and/or the workplace and thrive

The committee then made this beautiful statement

If the sector places capability development of its people at its core, if a general recognition prevails that this is a highly diverse sector encompassing a number of stages, if the ultimate arbiter is acknowledged to be the expectations of citizens and the tastes of consumers, if industry leaders rise to the challenge, and if they unite to plan actively to recruit and educate the new workforce, Australian AgriFood will not just survive in the 21st century. It will thrive.

I came to agriculture from a 25 year career in retail and I have always been frustrated by the lack of desire or lack of availability in the agriculture sector to upskill from a human capital perspective.

For example  I spent 3 years at uni learning pharmacology – my degree did not prepare me for the world of retail but the University of New England and Financial Management Research Centre (FMRC)  filled that gap 30 years ago. I don’t know of anything similar in agriculture except the Rabobank Business Management offering . I havent done the Rabobank course so I don’t know if it covers team management and motivations.

I was so impressed by the FMRC course I still have the manual 30 years later

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Is agriculture having enough conversations with our team members? Are we doing regular surveys like this one from McKinsey? What do we know about our team members?

There is some very important work being done by Professor Peter McIlveen and Dr Nicole McDonald looking at the Vocational psychology of agriculture. (e.g., the skill, knowledge, openness to change, and motivation of farmers). Their research couldn’t come at a more important time

This research by McKinsey shows why we shouldn’t guess and why the research is so important. 

Source 

When being too intense, too driven, too outcomes focused is not good for your health .

This week I participated in an extraordinary workshop for 200 CEOs of “for purpose” organisations across the country

Our first session was with Dr Jemma King ( if you every get a chance to be part of a workshop with Dr King – grab it with both hands )

She shared with us a recent survey on close to 100 CEO’s who self assessed their level of stress

As you can see from the graphic 85% of CEO’s previously survey were in the amber zone for an average of 12 months and if I remember correctly Dr King said one should not be in the amber zone for more than 6 to 8 weeks. She said if the CEOs were feeling like this, its highly likely their team were too

We were then put in break out rooms and given the hypothetical if we were these CEOs how would we ensure self care for ourselves and pastoral care for our team members.

The mood in the breakout room was quite gloomy as we reflected on the impact of 2 years of pandemic, never ending adverse climatic events and now war.

So I suggested we use a positivity hack I learnt from the wonderful Cynthia Mahoney

I suggested we all share something that bought us joy this week

They suggested I go first and comparing their answers to mine was a HUGE wakeup call for me.

Mine was work related, the rest of the breakout room was a mix of nature, family and pets

One can be too intense, too driven, too outcomes focused. I want to thank my break out room team mates for giving me more clarity

Now  what tiny habits do I need to start before it becomes the norm for me to identify nature, family or pet moments that bring me joy and I ultimately enter the creative calm zone?

 

Are winning awards a blessing or a missed opportunity – what could a fit for purpose award system look like?

I am forever grateful to the people who raised awareness of the work our organisation Action4Agriculture (formerly Picture You in Agriculture) is doing.

I am grateful for the people who nominated me for awards.

I am grateful I was awarded agriculture’s most prestigious accolade.

I will be very blunt it’s what the award giver does when some-one wins the award that tells you whether the award was about them or the greater good.

My experience is too few people/organisations who lift people up and give them a platform for their cause have thought about what their role is in the “collaborating and co-design” process for the “greater good” looks like

We cant do it alone and we cant do it in silos. Organisations who genuinely care about the greater good embrace their award winners and say how can we collaborate and co-design a better world together

As one of those award winners I am finding award giving organisations who genuinely walk their talk short on the ground.

We can create a better world for everyone or we can better our world.

That’s our choice.

The last twenty years has taught me there are so many people doing extraordinary things that could be brought together to multiply their impact.

What has your experience being ?

What could a fit for purpose award system look like?

The text below is from a recent newsletter identifying the the top climate non profits. Is the fact there are so many non profits in this space part of the problem.?

Have we lost the capacity to connect, collaborate and co-design?

Are humans the problem?

There are SO many important causes to support (e.g. human rights, human health, ending poverty, ending wars, education, racial/social/economic justice, ending world hunger, animal welfare, and many more). They’re all 100% worth supporting.

But we are at risk of losing all of the gains we’ve made over the decades in these areas if we don’t address the overarching planetary emergency.

Because the planetary emergency is not only undermining all of these issues simultaneously – it’s threatening to take out the very building blocks of our society and economy.

Society relies on a healthy, stable biosphere for food, water, clean air, shelter, livelihoods, and much more…and our biosphere – this place we call home – is under attack.