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Seven steps to working in harmony

'Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative," the writer HG Wells once said. However, what happens to employees or executives who have made great contributions to an organisation in the past but cannot adjust quickly enough to the new environment of the competitive battleground? Should we let them go?

Certainly, we should not retrench them. Since they were such good performers for so long, they should be perfect role models for others, even if they are no longer stars in their field. Besides, being grateful for people's service is something that organisations must practise. Some people may not contribute as much now, but the company should recognise all the good things they did for the organisation in the past.

Working in harmony requires a number of supportive conditions. As described above, listening to veteran and senior executives is the first of seven conditions I'd like to discuss today.

The second is welcoming ethical and moral guidance from respected thinkers and opinion leaders. Human beings usually know what is right or wrong, but regularly addressing and reinforcing moral integrity in the workplace is more necessary than ever in today's uncertain world.

Peace of mind: In addition to listening to senior people in the organisation and thought leaders, organisations should encourage mindfulness and spiritual practice. This third suggestion aims to allow employees and executives alike the opportunity to achieve peace of mind in order to work happily. When the time arrives that they have to make a tough decision, they can decide with full confidence, conviction, commitment and acceptance of any consequences.

Spiritual practice is a natural way toward peace of mind. Most human beings have religious faith or spiritual belief of some sort. Practices in line with those beliefs help many people create a comfort zone where they can regulate their emotions and feel calm.

The fourth element of working in harmony is taking care of people who are less competitive and need help. It is a fact of life that not everyone can be a star. It is also certain that an organisation cannot work well if everyone is a star; there would be chaos because no one would listen to anyone else.

Hence, it is natural for any successful organisation to have the right combination of team members -- both high achievers and average or even slow performers. The latter often don't get the respect they deserve. To work in harmony, the organisation has to ensure that everyone will be protected from abusive behaviour and treated with respect. That way, people will perform to the best of their ability.

Communicate regularly: Compliance with the rules is the fifth discipline that an organisation must encourage. Rules, regulations, principles and norms usually take a long time to be agreed on and put into practice in the workplace. But they form the core of our understanding about how to behave in a community or organisation, just like driving on the left side of the road. Although there is nothing that we cannot change, rules are something that should not be changed too easily, especially if the change is just to favour some top executive's preference.

Agreement and consensus: Working in harmony also requires agreement and consensus among related parties. Regular communication is essential in order to allow each party to know where the others stand. Meetings on regular issues, such as weekly department meetings, should be agreed on beforehand. That way, everyone can effectively manage their time.

Timetables must be firm and rescheduling should not be allowed at the whim of a senior officer. Otherwise, it will send a signal that the meeting is not really important. Participation with a neutral and open-minded attitude is strongly recommended. It is also advisable to avoid the silo effect, in which one focuses only on one's own interest or that of a department rather than the company's benefit.

Last but not least is "meeting ethics". Not only should team members meet regularly, but also they should adopt proper practices. Calling a meeting with suitable time for preparation, especially the content of the meeting, is crucial. A clear and agreed agenda must be communicated well in advance. Being on time, both at the start and finish, is also important in order to demonstrate respect for others.

The above seven principles, if implemented properly, can help to effectively unite members of an organisation to work hand in hand and achieve a shared vision. They are perfectly in line with the five key ingredients of ethical leadership -- ethics, values, principles, compassion and respect for others -- which I addressed last month in the article "A practical path towards ethical leadership".

It is the job of the CEO and also the board of directors to ensure that all seven of these conditions are the norms in the organisation and are widely perceived by everyone involved as essential.

Sorayuth Vathanavisuth is principal and executive coach at the Center for Southeast Asia Leadership and lectures at Mahidol University's College of Management. His areas of interest are corporate strategy, executive coaching and leadership development. He can be reached at