Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Past Shapes the Future

Today while unpacking some boxes of “keepsakes” I was delighted to find an essay I did in college, I was 19 years old and studying in the Correctional Worker program. We had recently toured a number of federal penitentiaries in Canada and had to write an essay on the experience. Mine was titled “Prisons, People and the Personalities” March 2, 1984. And, it was done on a typewriter!
As I read through the fading ink on yellowing paper, I was taken back more than half a life ago to my first career, working as a Correctional Officer. The essay demonstrated where I had grown and changed as a professional, and how my past careers had shaped who I had become today. But what also struck me is how much I focused on my values in this report. Values of integrity, honor, forgiveness, trust, hope, compassion and doing the right thing. These same values are a foundation of who I am and how I run our business today.
  1. Part of the essay focused on what I referred to as The inmates code (Gresham Sykes). It is intriguing to see that the inmates code, has great reference in the boardrooms, and staff rooms of every business and organization. Here's how I described the inmate’s code (developed by Gresham Sykes) in my 1984 report : Don’t interfere with inmate interests- don’t rat on another con
  2. Don’t lose your head
  3. Don’t exploit inmates
  4. Don’t weaken- you should be able to “take it” and maintain your integrity in the face of deprivation
  5. Don’t be a sucker
Here is how we can use those same codes but in our teams, and workplaces today to maximize workplace wellness, healthy teams and productive workplaces:
  1. Don’t interfere with one another’s interests: avoid gossiping (of the negative kind), be careful what you say (people remember and are impacted), and don’t purposefully place people in uncomfortable or compromising positions.
  2. Manage your emotions before they manage you, work through issues and conflicts early before they turn into bigger and more complex issues, talk to the person the issue involves. We show people how to treat us by how we act ourselves, make sure we are teaching people well.
  3. Keep your promises, say what you mean and mean what you say, follow through and be trustworthy.
  4. Maintain your values, act with integrity, and be open to learning
  5. Do your research, trust your gut, and ask for help