What is consciousness and why does it matter to your dairy? Consciousness is the capacity to catch and learn from reality, to be attentive and paying attention to our internal world and to the world that surrounds us.
It is what allows us to adapt to our environment and to act in order to get the most out of our potential in life. As humans, we are able to think and act beyond instinctive impulses and conditioning – we are able to “manage” ourselves.
And even though we can manage ourselves, being autonomous is a possibility, not a gift – we need to develop it through conscious choices.
Developing consciousness in yourself, your team and your organization helps improve a dairy’s bottom line, profitability and net results – and it does it in a sustainable manner.
Developing consciousness requires dairy employees to make better decisions (many times saving the business money), to learn beyond what they know and to come to work wanting to be there, not just because they need a check.
We spend so much of our lives at work, in the magnitude of 60 to 90 hours per week, which ends up being 60 to 70 percent of our waking life per week, that the following questions need answered:
How would I like my time at work to be? What difference do I want to make for the company today? What is my professional purpose and how close am I to fulfilling it? Do I feel a balance between my dairy work and my personal life at this moment? Am I feeling like my work makes a difference and that I am contributing to the dairy business?
Scroll down or click here to watch a video of Jorge discussing this topic. To see this video in Spanish, click here.
Work-related activities constitute an essential part of our lives. Consequently, to carry it out consciously is an aspect equally essential of a conscious life.
To achieve it, it is necessary to reflect over the fundamental questions concerning human reality and existence, and to allow those concepts to guide our decisions in the organizational environment.
Nathaniel Branden in his book The Art of Living Consciously shares with us his thoughts on living consciously:
“Living consciously is a state of being mentally active instead of passive. It is the ability to see the world in other ways. It is the intelligence that enjoys its own function.
Living consciously is trying to notice everything that is relevant for our interests, actions, values, intentions and objectives.
It is the will to face the facts, not only the good ones but also the bad ones. It is the desire to uncover our mistakes and to correct them … It is the search oriented toward expanding our knowledge and our understanding, not only of the exterior world but also our own interior world.”
Ask yourself: What would it be like to bring our full selves to work like this every day?
Without conscious employees, conscious managers and conscious owners, dairy organizations can’t achieve excellence – it is even hard for them to survive in the long run. So what makes an employee conscious?
I have found so many different ways in which being conscious has been described and categorized, but for practical purposes, let’s use seven qualities to distinguish conscious employees: unconditional responsibility, essential integrity, ontological humility (which are attributes of personality), authentic communication, constructive negotiation, impeccable coordination (which are interpersonal abilities) – and the seventh quality is the condition that makes possible the other six: emotional mastery.
It might seem simple to understand how these qualities are defined, but it is hard to put them into practice. For example, a supervisor fires one of his best workers because he made a mistake and when the supervisor saw the mistake, he exploded, firing the employee on the spot.
Later, the supervisor realizes it wasn’t that big of a deal, but didn’t admit to the manager that he made a mistake in firing the employee. In this case, the supervisor might need to work on and develop more consciousness in humility and emotional mastery.
When thinking about your own dairy organization, you might think in terms of conscious employees and unconscious ones, to compare and contrast them in simple terms. (See Table 1)
This can provide a brief guide to reflect upon your own actions and behaviors in managing a dairy business.
How do we evolve or change consciousness in our dairy business then?
Well, the good news is that it is possible. The so-so news is that it starts at the top; it starts with the leaders.
Think about this: You might want to increase consciousness in your business so Joe over there in the feeding area will be more accurate in feeding and try to help save money on feed costs, or for Fernando in the tractor cleaning pens to try harder not to hit the gates and treat the equipment better so it will last longer.
But three months ago you offered them a raise and never followed through on your word – or told them you would change the shifts around to be fair, but never went through with it. You can’t ask people at all levels of your organization to be more conscious unless you are willing to take the lead, to show the way.
We can think in terms of different levels of consciousness at different levels of the organization as well. You will find different levels of consciousness among employees, or one team may have a different level of consciousness than another about something, and there is also the collective consciousness of the business.
There isn’t one particular way in which human consciousness is changed or can be changed, but it definitely begins with having a wake-up moment in which you realize, or wake up to, the fact that you have been seeing things one way, doing things one way or even being one way, and you realize that you have got another possibility or series of possibilities for seeing things or doing things – or being a certain way.
It involves a paradigm shift in which you see yourself with an opportunity to change, even though you realize that it may not be easy.
You ponder the possibilities for change, what might be the advantages, the disadvantages – what actions the change may require from you. Internal or external forces can force us to go into a different level of consciousness (God forbid, being diagnosed with a disease, the loss of a loved one or the loss of significant financial wealth).
One successful way to change consciousness in a dairy business is through leadership development done in phases. (See Figure 1.)
The first phase involves working the self, the Being, to increase knowledge of the self, internal consciousness and personal leadership.
The second phase involves the Doing, in which we expand development to team processes in which the leader is involved, to measuring tools for performance, to team leadership, effectiveness and human interaction.
The third phase is about Having, having success, having results, sustaining what we have produced, reaching profitability and being successful.
Through this kind of process, which evolves over several months, dairy leaders begin by assessing themselves, taking a look in the mirror and asking themselves some tough questions.
As you continue down the journey of changing consciousness in your business, consider the role you play as a leader in leading a change in consciousness.
Then you can consider favoring the development of consciousness for all of the parts involved. Also consider stimulating your employees to investigate the world with rigorous scientific reasoning and to reflect, with a moral reasoning as equally rigorous, about the role they play in it.
You might also invite your employees to observe themselves, to discover what it means to live a virtuous life, full of meaning and happiness. You can invite them to think about their colleagues as humans beings, instead of seeing them as human resources.
Finally, it is important to help dairy employees understand how the products they produce and the customers who consume them sustain their growth and well-being. A conscious business promotes peace and happiness in individuals, respect and solidarity in the community and the achievement of the business’ mission. PD