Ingredients are Baked In

Most, if not all, of the problems and conflicts in organizations, stem from cultural issues, baked in before you started working there.

“This is how we do things here.” (Status quo)

“Isn’t everything going great here?” (False expectations/Poor feedback loop)

“Don’t say anything and it’ll just get ‘better’ on its own.” (Silencing response)

“It’s always been thing way here. Why are you trying to change things now?” (Shaming)

“The last time someone tried that, not only didn’t it work, but they also got fired.” (Threats/Retaliation)

“The pot always gets stirred around here about something.” (Fake/False Conflicts)

The statements represent the issues that can be overcome with courage. But, especially in organizations where the status quo needs to be preserved for people at the top of a hierarchy to “win,” more often than not, statements like those above represent organizational cultures where courage is in short supply.

Baked in fear, power misuse and abuse, failures of courage in leadership, ignoring and avoiding real issues, and denying reality—these are all based in, supported by, and encouraged within cultural milieus that must change.

Or else the future of work, leadership, innovation, and growth will remain far away indeed.

Caring Costs

Caring costs.

It costs to be empathetic to your employees’ emotional needs.

It costs to be mindful of the non-verbal messages you’re role modeling.

It costs to be engaged all the time in the active act of actively listening.

It costs to develop connections that gain you nothing in the short-term.

It costs to care when that caring may not be “enough” for the other party when what was really desired by the other party was a transactional act, not a relational one.

Caring costs.

But what else are you going to invest your emotional energy in?

What Are You Paid To Do?

What are you paid to do?

What do you believe you are paid to do?

What does your employer tell you that you are paid to do?

What does your spouse believe that you are paid to do?

What does your family believe that you are paid to do?

What does your supervisor believe you are paid to do?

The systems at work, in the community, and even in the home are structured around the unstated, often unvocalized, answers to these critical questions.

It used to be that larger institutions defined these answers with clarity and provided a sense of reassurance about the answers.

It used to be that people either appealed to the authority of these institutions when their fellow travelers weren’t answering them in pre-approved ways, or when the answers seemed to be getting cloudy for everyone on the team.

It used to be that social norming and group think really kicked in on the answers to these questions, making the answer seem “obvious” and “normal.” So much so, that to even ask the questions out loud would have seemed foolish and blind.

Maybe even rebellious.

But now, with the erosions of power, with authority getting its bluff called everywhere, and with conflict and incivility on the rise because of increased role confusion, asking the questions above—and getting coherent answers to them—for yourself, is the beginning of attaining true wisdom.

Not wisdom based in learning what other people have experienced and then dealing with it, but wisdom based on knowing yourself thoroughly, first.

Not wisdom based in reassurance—because there will never be enough of that—but wisdom based in courage, candor, and clarity.

And then having the courage to ask—and to guide—others through answering the tough questions.

Leaving Workplaces

Studies show that people don’t leave workplaces, they leave bosses.

And at a deeper level, people don’t leave workplaces, or bosses, they leave the conflict cultures that are developed, tolerated and supported in the organization.

We can argue all we want for better workplaces (that certainly happens in this space) and we can all argue for people trapped inside of organizations to be more intentional and use better strategies to address the conflict cultures they are already in (that happens here as well) but what’s tolerated, developed, and supported must change first.

Or else, we must come to the realization that we pick the conflict culture of the organizations we’re working for.

And we pick to stay there, in spite of them, as well.

Finding Your Tribe

Social tools allow us to connect with other people now more than ever before through three important ways:




Finding the people who believe in your message, who desire to be educated, or who want to be entertained, is easier now more than ever.

Of course, it’s easier now more than ever, for the noise of a thousand million voices to drown out—not the finding of others who want to communicate with you—but to drown out the ability to connect in a meaningful way with others who need the connection.

Organizations have always sought to use communication connection tools to push agendas, send messages, and to ensure conformity.

But it’s easier now more than ever, for those organizations—governments, churches, political organizations, bureaucracies—to be circumscribed by the individual in search of connection rather than spectacle.

The hardest things during this 4th revolution in human communication are not going to be finding your tribe, or cutting through the noise, or battling against the forces of conformity.

The hardest things are going to be as follows:




And every system that we have set up from our last revolution (the Industrial one) that remains in this one, was designed to squelch, manipulate, or channel in “socially appropriate ways” starting, continuing, and ending.

So, get to finding your tribe.

Go start.

[Opinion] Doing More Work with Fewer People

There are now computer programs and algorithms that can render daily, rote, assembly line decisions faster at scale than human beings can.

There are experiments beginning with artificial intelligence programming, that promises to make decisions faster, cheaper, and more rationally and accurately than human beings, without getting clogged up with all that mushy “emotional” content humans bring to such decisions.

There are discussions about the disintermediation of low wage, low motivated, human workers with automation and robotics in places where such technology has never been seen.

There are even more discussions about paying people a pittance for a lifetime to do less of rote work, so that they can do the creative work resulting in outcomes and products that currently many of those same people want for free—or low cost—via a connection to the Internet.

Talk of all of these advances—algorithms, A.I., automation, robotics, basic income—are often made in certain media outlets, with breathless enthusiasm; while quietly, where many people live, we still go to restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other establishments where human beings are laboring for a wage that is minimum, trying genuinely hard to do meaningless work that is truly the last vestiges of a system showing signs of collapsing all around us.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, in certain media outlets the much talked about “winners” in society are still lauded via social media, television, and viral videos. Much of the news cycle focuses on the comings and goings of the mythical “1%”, while many of the people that act as a buffer between those “1%” and “the 99%” (you know…the middle class…) are working in jobs which appear to offer less and less financial reward, for doing more and more unrewarded work. Places where the corporate mandate to “do more with less” is not really about doing more work to produce outcomes that matter with fewer people; it’s really about doing more busywork that doesn’t matter, with fewer engaged people, while watching salaries remain stagnant.

The technological advances that are gradually seeping into our society are going to reshape the work landscape. The distortions of reward versus effort will be rebalanced in favor of effort. But neither of these events are going to happen in the way that they did in the past: There are no more third party advocates for workers (unions) at scale; and there is little empathy for those organizations and individuals expending effort to actually do work that means something (emotional labor) for little pay.

This is a conflict, no matter how many ways you slice it.

Policies and regulatory changes by governments would help to ameliorate much of this tension. Heart changes in the “1%” and “the 99%” would do a lot to reduce the social friction such changes are creating.

It appears that neither of those changes are on the horizon.

But there is a way out: It requires individual efforts, and individual leadership, in order to work though. And there’s no immediate, tangible, reward or recognition for being successful at it, which is why many individuals refuse to take it on.

Do more work that matters with fewer people.

The myth of scale that we were all sold in the Industrial Revolution was clear that, in order to “get rich” an organization (or individual) had to grow past just doing work by themselves. The myth of scale also reinforced the ego-driven, industrialist idea that, if a small group of dedicated people are doing hard, emotional labor and leading a small tribe of equally dedicated people, with no immediate, tangible benefits, then that work can’t possibly make a dent in the universe.

Well, like most myths, that one is no longer true. And while navigating the communications revolution of the Internet seems daunting to many people, and organizations, there are other revolutions coming, in the Internet-of-Things, and in the development of block chain programming.

The greatest revolution however, has yet to happen. And that is the one in the human mind, and the human heart, that unites with other humans to lead them into doing the only work that can’t be done by a robot, an algorithm, a computer program, or even intelligence—no matter how artificial.

And that’s the work of connecting, collaborating, and relieving the hearts of human beings embroiled in loneliness, disconnection, and conflict. And in doing that work, human beings will come to realize that the tools aren’t what makes the profit; it’s the people connecting with other people in a meaningful way, that makes the stock price tick up a tenth of a point every quarter.

Imagine if the global financial, spiritual, and emotional economy was based on fulfilling those principles…

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Strategy] Building Better Work Relationships

Relationships at work are third level relationships.


First level relationships are familial ones, all the way from the family in your house that you grew up with to your cousin Wanda in Oklahoma. Second level relationships are close friends and associates, schoolmates, neighbors, etc.

But the people that we work with are not ones that we would have chosen. Even in an era of choosing yourself, or four-hour work weeks, the vast majority of us still work under conditions that resemble the ones that our grandparents worked under, albeit with less pollution and physical effort.

And, for the foreseeable future, since human beings are going to continue to build organizations, establish and maintain hierarchies, and engage with mechanisms of active and passive social control, there will always be workplaces.


With that being said, the question becomes, how does a person build better work relationships? With everything that we now know about neuroscience, psychology, the genetic code and even the world of software and computers, developing the resources to build better workplaces should be easy. But it’s not. And what’s even more distressing is that the most common solution proposed, with access to all that knowledge and data, is to replace humans with software programs and/or mechanical objects.

Robots are fun and AI is coming, but we are a long, long way from building something—well—more human than human. So, here are the top five ways to build better relationships, one human to another:

  • Empathy is huge—and we don’t mean in the “touchy feely” way that empathy is often thought of. In a workplace culture, empathy begins with Wheaton’s Law and ends at actively listening to someone else. Even if you disagree with them.
  • Do emotional labor—we wrote about this last week, but it bears repeating: in the economy that we all work in—no matter if we are co-working with others or on a distributed team—doing the hard work of caring, listening and acting out of self-interested selflessness is the only way forward.
  • Remove the fear—acting out of fear: of getting fired, of irritating a boss, or of confronting a co-worker, has to be jettisoned. Fear is a common reaction when things that matter to us (i.e. our values, our needs our emotions, etc.) are threatened. But, the brain only knows what we tell it. So tell it good, factual self-talk, rather than allowing biases and false ideas to fill the brain space.
  • Lead on doing the hard things—this is the 2nd hardest thing to do in building better work relationships, because there are so many things that we would rather avoid. But doing the hard things that are also the right things, is the only way that an organization can survive. Which leads into the last thing…
  • Leave if it doesn’t fit—most of the pushback that we get around the five things comes down to this statement “If I do all of these things that you suggest and nothing changes, not even the place I work, then what do I do?” This statement reveals a common workplace false parallel: A person’s value is not determined by their work. There are other positions, cultures and value systems represented in other workplaces out there. And if you’ve already done the hard work of building better work relationships, do you think that this work will make you less employable in the future, or more employable in the future?

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

[Strategy] Trust is not Scalable

Conflict resolution is not scalable, because trust is not scalable.

Make no mistake though, the products of trust are scalable. And the results of trusting an organization, a brand or even another person are scalable.

But trust is not scalable.

And the reason that it’s not is nuerologically and psychologically complicated, but basically, trust wanes the further removed my relationship is from another person. Not a brand, and organization or a system, but a person.

Conflict resolution in organizations, thus becomes unscalable, because the trust at the core of resolving conflicts doesn’t exist in the first place, because the parties involved are far too separated by the barriers of organization, values, culture, mindsets, behaviors, beliefs, etc.

This is the reason mediation works so well for neighborhood disputes, but not so well for sexual harassment lawsuits. When conflict resolution processes become a strategy, rather than part of an overall organizational culture, they fail miserably. Mediation, conflict resolution and other forms of ADR, should be at the core of a culture’s development as an organization grows, so that the products of trust—increased revenue and productivity to mention just a couple—become expected.

And so that, when disputes arise—and they will—the trust is already there and litigation (and even more untrustworthy, unscalable process) becomes unthinkable.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

On a War Mentality for Peace

Peace (and peacemaking) isn’t dramatic. It doesn’t move the meter of the nightly news or go viral in social media.


Long form presentations about the nature of human beings, the integration of peace into lives, or the hard work of making the hard decisions, to change destructive behavior to proactive behavior, doesn’t make for very good entertainment.

Or so we collectively assert as a society and a culture, by the nature of what we show each other on traditional media, social media and what gets the attention of the seven second attention span.

Conflict and drama are exciting and get the endorphins flowing, but peace and the pursuit of innovative change is only interesting to an elite cadre of therapists, conflict consultants, social workers, lawyers and others.


Going to peace is just as compelling as going to war. People die, people fail. People succeed and people struggle. So do organizations and nations.

It’s long form drama. But with seven second attentions spans, and the reduction in intellectual understanding to the seventh grade level, how can we expect audiences to be drawn into the obvious drama of making peace?

Education can get us there, but moving the meter on the human heart takes a bit longer.

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT:

On a Peace Mentality for War

Nations, organizations, and individuals lionize war because it represents the baser human emotions, and cuts through the fog of the everyday and the mundane, making choices black and white in a world of grey.


Nations and organizations mount up and prepare for war through moving troops around, creating new agreements and pacts of protection and creating safe and secure supply lines.

Nations also prepare their populations for the act of warfare through psychological and emotional reinforcement of the reasons for going to war through the use of propaganda, opinion journalism and rousing public speeches.

The war mentality is so ingrained in a population that the positions normally associated with peace—collaboration, cooperation, abundance, and on and on—become twisted to represent other things.

The way to appropriately apply the peace mentality to war, is to use the same steps that countries—and organizations—use to go to war:

  • Preparation
  • Relationship building
  • Information gathering
  • Information using
  • Bidding
  • Closing the deal
  • Implementing the agreement

But how many organizations, or nations for that matter, end up getting stuck on one of those steps and then throwing the whole process out, and moving into the preparations for war, in spite of “best intentions?”

-Peace Be With You All-

Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: