I was in a meeting recently discussing the take down of Harvey Weinstein and others accused of sexual harassment, and the rise of the #metoo campaign. We were freely exchanging opinions about these trends in culture, except for several men who declined to add to the conversation. When I asked them about their thoughts on the matter, and they replied that there wasn’t anything they were willing to add; because, they said, the truth was that they were only allowed to agree with the perspectives already in the room. As much I as prodded to elicit other points of view, they remained firm. They weren’t angry, resentful, or upset about it. They were just unwilling to risk a damn word.Read more
Emergence. A word filled with openness, possibilities, and novelty. I often witness it with teams I work with, and it is truly beautiful to see a group of people unlocking new ideas that will carry them a little further. The resulting burst of positive energy and motivation creates momentum and amazing outcomes. As a facilitator, it’s a real treat to be part of the process. (more…)Read more
While I’m not aware of my fears all the time, when facilitating groups, my “big fear” becomes very alive.
Will I be able to serve this group well? Will I be able to intervene when necessary? Or, will I fall into my habitual pattern and avoid getting messy? And so it goes, on and on, the inner voice of anxiety. (more…)Read more
“I hate this exercise,” she announced in moment of quiet as the group sat working diligently on their own.
“I am sick of having to use my own oppression to teach white people about their privilege,” one of the only women of colour in the group angrily proclaimed, sitting back, arms crossed, challenging my authority, attempting to bring the group onside. (more…)Read more
I have been trying to find purpose and meaning in my life for a long time. Looking back, I would say at least since high school. What is it that we, and in particular I, am here for? What is it that will bring me passion and fill my heart? I searched for it in my Mechanical engineering studies and found bits and pieces. I also looked for it in during my MBA, but didn’t find too much there. (more…)Read more
As aspiring individuals and coaches alike, we are often inherently biased towards short term outcomes. Maybe as a coach, you’re looking ahead at six sessions where you are committed to quickly impacting your client’s life. Or, perhaps you’ve committed to six months to making some more substantive changes in your professional context and are eager to see the results. Or maybe the challenges you’re grappling with are changes that will inherently take you the next two years of concerted efforts to generate. (more…)Read more
As a psychologist and political scientist, I always felt drawn to two “acupuncture points”; engaging systemic structures and causes that give rise to deeply challenging societal conditions, and serving individuals in their own evolution into “being for life.” In my work right now I’m addressing both of these expressions through several new and exciting projects in societal development, conflict and negotiation? (more…)Read more
It’s 2001 and I’m standing on an elevated ridge in the White Mountains of Maine in the United States. My map is laid out in front of me on a flat rock, and with compass in hand I’m triangulating our group’s location. We are about to immerse our team into a thick deciduous forest for about 15 miles. The orienting calculations we make now have everything to do with our success of getting to our extraction point before we run out of food and fuel. It’s these fine measurements here on this ridge that will allow us to be successful later on. And with the right understanding of our location right now, we can calibrate each bearing, shoot from tree to tree, and plot an accurate course through the forest. (more…)Read more
A few years ago, I was asked to work with the board of a housing co-op who were having issues around workload equity. Resentments were brewing because a few members had become burdened with the lion’s share of the work. Before our first meeting, I was warned about the board’s ‘problem child’: a longtime member who often derailed meeting agendas with her combative style and strong opinions. (more…)Read more
“Let’s have a working lunch so we can make sure to get through all the content.”
When a client says something like that to me, I experience contraction and agitation. Why? Because this frame places a premium on the “content” (or the “it”). I am now simply a “content” dispenser and the groups I’m working with are passive consumers. I momentarily imagine myself sitting in front of the group reading aloud from a large book. (more…)Read more
Geologists have identified five mass extinctions in Earth’s history. Yet as the vast majority of life has been wiped out, our planet has continued to adapt and generate conditions for life to flourish once again. Unfortunately, many experts consider us to be living in a sixth mass extinction right now. And although we can situate this in a historic pattern, our current predicament is also a novel situation. Never before has a single species been almost entirely responsible for a mass extinction. Yet this is precisely the reality we are faced with today.Read more
In this short video clip below, Diane Musho Hamilton shares her wisdom about how emotional maturity increases alongside our willingness to feel our own difficult emotions such as fear, confusion or anger. Moreover, the degree to which we can be present with others’ emotions depends on how comfortable we are with our own.Read more
A poet is someone
Who can pour Light into a spoon,
Then raise it
Your beautiful parched, holy mouth.
Over time, I’ve encountered many gifts that the study of poetry can offer to my capacities in leadership; of these, three stand out: concentration, inspiration, and play. (more…)Read more
In this 1-minute video clip below, Diane Musho Hamilton shares her insights about the fluid and dynamic quality of emotions. She describes our human tendency to either repress our feelings or wallow in them, and how we can instead learn to receive their energy and wisdom as they flow in and out of our lives and relationships.
This video offers a glimpse into what you can look forward to in our new live online training, Willing to Feel: Essential Skills for Emotional Maturity. This inspiring course will support you to learn to ride your emotional swells in service of more meaningful and empowered relating, leading and collaborating. You can find out more or register here.Read more
Great poetry and great leadership both have the capacity to open our hearts to the wild immediacy of this very moment. Both have the capacity to arrest our attention into startling contact with the aesthetic beauty and living truth of our shared being. Both have the capacity to create bridges that communicate information and meaning, and – beyond that – to transmit an ineffable aliveness that can touch our deepest longing.Read more
For those of us interested in adult development, too often we tend to focus on stages. In particular, we zoom in on those higher, more complex and seductive forms of maturity that presumably are waiting for us to discover their beauty, added power and desired relief. They reside “up there” in the heights of our preferred hierarchies.
For many of us, the experience of adulthood involves what I call “completion projects” in The Elegant Self. Completion projects are our unexamined drives to become (or appear) more whole and complete. Because they are unexamined, they are the unseen agendas that appear to have most of us. (more…)Read more
Twenty years ago, I made my debut as an organizational psychologist. Perhaps influenced by academics and my former life as an accountant, my envisioned ideal was a neutral, even stoic, helping professional. But I failed spectacularly; I have always had preferences and get very passionate around values, ethics and methods in organizations and leadership. I’m also sensitive to dynamics and emotions in the room, find myself contracting when conflict and stress arise, and become deeply touched by the lives of my clients. (more…)Read more
Some of us tend to orient towards listening and reflecting others, while some of us are more comfortable with expression. In this video clip, Diane Musho Hamilton talks about how the ability to express ourselves with penetrative clarity hinges on how well we receive and listen to others–and vice versa. Skilled communicators are not confined to wherever their habits or strengths orient them. Instead, they are able to fluidly move between both poles of penetrative expression, and receptive listening, in service to what is needed in the moment.Read more
A big ah-ha from the field: Successful self-management depends on this.
Many teams and organizations, especially in the last few years since the rise of Holacracy and the popularity of Reinventing Organizations, are transitioning to self-management—or at least sniffing around the possibility. (more…)Read more
I needed a breakthrough. Two important group facilitation events loomed in my near future. While I felt excited about them, I also felt terrified. As a lifelong writer who is more comfortable in the writing cave and in one-to-one mentoring situations, the very thought of guiding a group of writers gave me a chill. This was something I had veered away from religiously. But now, doors were opening and I felt called to step across the threshold. I could no longer say no. (more…)Read more
Different streams of evolution flow at their own pace. For example, the responsive movements of culture are more dynamic and exciting. By contrast, genetics develop at a rate that no human lifespan sees, with changes unfolding over the course of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of years. While we may see advances in editing and augmenting genes for more healthy and adaptive human beings, until now this remains only a possibility.
Meanwhile, the rate of individual development straddles the middle ground between culture and genetics. Here we see a series of personal transformations spanning throughout our childhoods, turbulent adolescences and the many diverse forms of adulthood we traverse through our lives.
The social and political currents in the United States are a perfect example of this cultural flux. For some, President Trump’s rise to power is precisely the advancement they have been hoping for. For others, the past 18 months represent a regressive backward turning of the clock.
Why Does Sitting Meditation Help Facilitation?
The question came up in our last public Integral Facilitator call about how the practice of sitting meditation contributes to being able to DO something differently. Certainly, it helps to unwind the nervous system, develop focused attention, and relax the tight grip of self-identification. But while It may support individual well-being, it is hard to see how in the middle of a tense or confusing meeting, the practice will help us act in a fresh way that makes a difference to others.
For me, as a consultant on diversity and inclusion (D&I), “Diversity Work” is a radical call to embrace difference. It is a means of challenging our conditioned patterns, biased views, and unjust practices.
Fundamentally, it is about liberating ourselves from old patterns in order to care more deeply for each other, and creating fairness in our relationships that allow us to discover new and dynamic collaborations.
When I communicate with the companies I work with I assert that legislation and policies are necessary (whether that be new hiring processes or putting cameras on police). But, I am also clear with them that that is not sufficient, because legislation and policies only regulate bigotry, unjust practices, and institutional oppression — they do not end it.
For long term, positive culture change we must include inner transformation to end bigotry and institutional oppression. And there is a crucial orientation we must take, I believe, to successfully support the organizations and people we work with in transforming.
We, as consultants and facilitators, must orient our clients and teams to the interpersonal dynamics in the here and now.Read more
Thanks to Google’s recent analysis of high performing teams, the popular press on leadership and innovation is abuzz with an interest in “psychological safety.”
According to Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson, psychological safety (her term) is present when members of a team or group believe that they will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns, or mistakes.
Google’s research found that psychological safety is key (maybe the key) to high performance, matching Edmonson’s findings that it drives an organization or team’s ability to learn and innovate—particularly for people working in fields that are rapidly changing, uncertain, and ambiguous. (In other words, all of us.)
“Psychological safety” can sound clinical to some—in our work, we understand it as a description of a generative and safe group culture. Therefore, if you wish to improve performance, start with culture design. By designing a more accepting, tolerant, adaptive, flexible culture, you will increase safety, support, and influence the performance indicators you care about.
In order to help clarify what you can do to positively influence the culture you’re in, let’s take a closer look at the building blocks of a psychologically safe culture.Read more
Increase transparency. Share power. Create self-managing teams. Become a learning organization.
If you’re an evolutionarily-minded leader and you want to embrace the future of work along these lines, how do you do it?
Are all self-managing systems of governance more or less the same, or are some better suited for your existing culture? Is your job to select the “best” (Most popular? Easy to understand?) approach for evolving your team or organization, and stick with it long enough to reap the rewards? (…Is Slack really all you need?)
How do we really change the way people work in meaningful ways?
While it is certainly true that changing the way we organize, make decisions, and share power will influence the way we understand and approach our work together, exterior innovations are only half of the change story—at most. Whether you’re trying to change a life habit or an organization, it’s tempting to orient to change as an exterior problem to solve. If I just do this behavior, things will improve.
Transparency, power sharing, distributed leadership and self management are all behavioral adaptations to complexity. We’ve hit upon these adaptations precisely because the current way isn’t working. But whatever the current way is—it isn’t merely what we’re doing. It’s how we’re understanding; thinking, making meaning, feeling, imagining, envisioning and identifying.Read more
In my experience, any time we engage in a conversation about our differences with an intention to prove the other side wrong, we’re heading for a dead end. When we take a right-wrong stance to any conversation about difference — whether it’s about race or gender, politics or religion — it reveals that we’re more interested in affirming our positions (and our sense of self tied to those positions) than anything else.
Engaging this way also rests on a hidden belief: that the tension between our differences can be fixed. Even if by some miracle – by simply pointing out why “my” difference is right and “yours” is wrong – I do convert you to my side, this at best creates a false harmony. False, because it keeps our psyches untouched, our perspectives unchanged, and our ways of being with one another limited. The only real victory in this case is a shallow truce that avoids a greater complexity and, ultimately, a greater intimacy, in favor of a more complacent sense of safety.
As a facilitator, I’m interested in working with groups that are keen on developing themselves. I’ve found that one of the most essential ways we can foster growth is through engaging our differences. Consciously engaging our differences is transformational for our ability to learn and grow through relationships.
As I experiment with different ways to support curious, keen-to-grow groups, I’ve come to rely on some basic orienting frames for engaging differences in a way that has the greatest transformational impact.Read more