Finding Freedom to Make a Difference
Posted on 21st May 2021 at 10:38
‘Finding Freedom to make a difference’ is a statement that deeply resonates with my experience in organisations - in my role as employee, manager and board member; I also hear it from colleagues and from the clients I work with.
Finding freedom is an ever present feature of organisational life.
Almost everyone I have worked with wants to make a positive contribution to the organisation they work with. However, the experience is often something different – they find that their perspective, expertise, ideas and working style is not always valued, welcomed, sought out; can be resisted and rejected. They experience a lack of freedom to express themselves, to make their contribution, to achieve the impact and success they desire.
This leaves people frustrated, cautious, angry, resentful, stressed, listless, and lacking motivation.
I find it useful to think of Freedom as being located in three different domains.
Freedom is an internal quality. Our experience of a lack of freedom is often due to negative internal voices that are chipping away at our confidence, spontaneity, and restricting our contribution. It can also be that our unmet expectations create a sense of frustration – we want the pace to be faster or slower, more innovate, more collaborate or less collaborative, more big picture or more detailed.
A lack of freedom is also be a feature of organisations and their cultures. Organisations have priorities, systems and processes which require things to be done in certain ways. They have cultures which value certain types of contributions, have unwritten rules about what can and can’t be talked about, have subtle ways of marginalising certain types of contributions and are protective of what it considers to be important. Trying to bring a contribution which is counter cultural can be very challenging.
The larger context within which organisations operates can be very constraining. Organisations have to increasingly work with lots of complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity. This can be difficult to navigate. The way to solve complex problems is through collaboration with others, both within and beyond the organisations – this can be very challenging. Often there is an experience of a lack of resources: not enough customers, insufficient funding for charitable organisations and public bodies, not enough valuing or recognition for the service or produce that is being provided; too much or too little regulation.
We all spend a lot of our time working within or engaging with organisations. So what can be done about the experience of a lack of freedom?
I’ll answer this question myself.
In my work within organisations I have sometimes found myself in a particular role, working with certain individuals, within particular teams, in a specific organisation, where I experienced a lack of freedom. I found this deeply frustrating, stressful and painful. I would often think ‘If only……… things were different’
The most significant shift I have make in discovering greater freedom is internally.
I experience greater freedom when:
I overcome my tendency to belittle the value I place of my own contribution
I turn down (too much to turn it off altogether!) my internal critical voice that cautions me to stay quiet, keep safe and blame others for not being what I want them to be
I take a risk and speak and find that what I have to say, to my surprise, opens up a different, deeper, better conversation and a space for others to contribute their truth
I tune into my deeper purpose and ask myself ‘What is consistent with my life’s purpose? and use that as a compass point to help be decide
I recognise that there are lots of resources available to me, I just need to spot them
I stop resisting the way things are, stop wishing they were different, stop trying to control things to fit in with my expectations. Instead, accepting what is and started from there
I orientate myself to my journey of growing into, as yet, unimagined possibility
These approaches have energised me, strengthened my resolve to more confidently and courageously make my contribution. They have helped me decide to persist in certain situations and when to move on.
Finding Freedom to Make a Difference - to what extent and in what ways does this statement resonate with your experience?
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