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Leadership Spotlight: Sergio RojasMarch 25, 2016

Sergio Rojas is the Head of Project Management and Business IT for Riksgalden in Sweden. He is also the Chairman of the Global Association of SoL Communities. In this video, Sergio shares a high level perspective on the role of leadership in a globally connected world and the inner skills leaders need to gain to work with fear, conflict, change, and diverse contexts. Sergio is a graduate of Integral Facilitator’s 3-day Next Stage Facilitation Training.

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How to Leverage Creative Tension for GoodMarch 4, 2016

If there were a word for our chapter in history, it might be “interconnected.” Organizations, teams, movements, individuals, economies, ecosystems. Is there any part of our lives untouched by accelerating connectivity? Our curiosity and imagination—aka, advance into novelty—is weaving us together. And as we get closer, we can’t avoid experiencing the uncomfortable and exciting paradox of our differences and our similarities.

When we bump up against each other, we get more opportunities to delight in the new and different. And we also get more bewilderment, non-understanding, not-knowing or downright conflict. Whether you desire it or not, interconnectedness brings more contact, more friction, and therefore more creative tension.

So, what?

Well, if we add to this observation the findings of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, we get some very compelling implications. Especially for the worlds of work and leadership.

Here’s the Harvard study In a nutshell: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” (That’s a direct quote from Robert Waldinger, fourth director of the now 75-year long study of adult development.)

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Understanding Evolving World ViewsFebruary 15, 2016

Many of us live very interconnected lives, working and traveling across cultural and geographic boundaries. With this greater ability to bridge distances, comes increased challenges of difference and diversity. Our differences are exciting, but can be incredibly stressful—and for good reason. In our evolutionary history, humans were far more likely to be killed by another human, usually from a different tribe, than by any other predator. Hanging together ensured our survival—and we are still sensitive to difference as a possible sign of danger.

A significant difference that occurs between us in our work lives, loves lives, and social lives—one that Ken Wilber has repeatedly pointed out as being of great significance—is differences in world views. How we see the world, and the interpretations we make about it can result in enormous divisions. Something like Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl can be seen as creatively courageous or as a step backward historically. Agreement about what’s good and how we ought to live can look more and more impossible.

It is important for anyone in leadership positions today to understand how our world views evolve, and to explore how these differences can be worked with. We use a simple map for exploring world views: The Ego-centric stage with its emphasis on protecting the self, and the danger of narcissism; the Ethno-centric stage with a strong sense of community, safety, and stability which may stagnate in its conformist values; the World-centric stage which brings an immense expansion of identity, but global scale problems, and the Kosmic-centric view which frees us from the boundaries of space and time, but also insists that we re-engage the other levels.

Understanding worldviews affirms the notion that with greater maturity, comes greater perspectives and an increased capacity for care. Our identity can become more fluid, which leads us to empathize and join with others more freely—even when on the surface our differences appear significant. As we develop, our view of the world can outgrow the limitation of black and white thinking, and prejudice and fear decrease. Because our identity isn’t so rigidly fixed on ideas about “us” and “them,” we can meet others with curiosity whether or not they understand us—or agree with us. This brings along an invaluable ability to empathize, connect, relate, and bring people together for coordinated action.

Being willing and able to join with others across differences makes us a more stable, trustable influence, which is ultimately what skillful leadership rests on. For those leaders and change-makers who are wrestling with our most complex challenges, bringing people together is an essential skill that requires empathy, compassion, and the ability to integrate differences without rubbing out the creative tension of diversity.

Diane Musho Hamilton
Co-Founder and Lead Teacher, Integral Facilitator®
Author, Everything is Workable, a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution.


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What’s the flavor of your collaboration?January 11, 2016

It’s easy to take evolution for granted when your team is standing at a whiteboard looking at a bunch of colored sticky notes.

But the very fact you have a whiteboard, that you are standing together, and that anyone in the group can move the sticky notes are all clues to the mysterious evolution of work culture and collaboration.

If we care about leadership, governance, and participation, we can’t afford to ignore the role of evolution in collaboration today. But let me back up just a bit.

One of my biggest insights (not an original insight, alas, but still a significant one for me and my clients) was the evolutionary development of culture. It revealed how to include more and make distinctions through increasingly complex perspectives on collaborations.  

You might have already heard about Spiral Dynamics, based on the work of Clare Graves. It is a particularly useful outcome from decades of post-modern socio-cultural research and study, giving us the capacity to see aggregate structures of culture or group worldviews, to anticipate how they evolve, and to guide efforts to effectively work with worldviews and help support the healthy expression of each stage.

The worldview of a group influences what the group sees and what it leaves out. What it values, and how it makes meaning of what it perceives. Worldview greatly influences collaboration, because shared meaning is one of the essential ingredients in effective collaboration.

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Ten Directions & Meridian University CollaborationJanuary 7, 2016

The Ten Directions and Meridian University collaboration enables students who are pursuing graduate degrees at Meridian University to concurrently complete the Integral Facilitator certificate program for academic credit towards their degree program. 

The Meridian University degree programs which are eligible to receive academic credit for participation in the Integral Facilitator Certificate Program are:

  • Integral MBA in Creative Enterprise
  • M.A. in Psychology
  • Ph.D. in Psychology (meets the educational requirements for psychologist licensure in California).
  • M.Ed. in Educational Leadership
  • Ed.D. in Organizational Leadership

How it Works  (more…)

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Facilitator Neutrality—Not What You ThinkDecember 4, 2015

Judges, referees, mediators and facilitators are trained to be neutral. But neutrality is often misunderstood. We think neutrality looks like a distant, overly rational character with horned-rimmed glasses sitting back like a pondering judge, or the oh-so-nice peacekeeper in comfortable shoes smoothing everything over to the point of obsequiousness. The word neutrality can be conflated with the idea of being neutered; that is, lacking life force, energy, or being just plain bland. And the truth is, nobody wants that person in front of the room leading a discussion, particularly if it is about something you care about.

Actually, true neutrality is completely enlivened state of mind. It is not detached, emotionally removed, indifferent or static. Rather, this neutrality involves an acute ability to identify with each perspective in a conversation, to see the truth in each comment, however partial or incomplete it may be. At the same time, it is fluid; true neutrality is equally able to detach from an idea or let go of a position in order to include more truths. In this way, neutrality is a form of flexibility involving the art of picking up the truth, then shifting gears and letting a perspective go momentarily in order to keep the conversation moving.

This is one way in which neutrality when facilitating groups is a practice akin to meditation. The practice of meditation is not absent of experience. Rather it is a full experience of experience—and then the experience of letting go. When we are truly neutral, we can engage viewpoints and pick up perspectives. But we don’t react to them, and we can set them down just as easily when the next moment calls for something different.

True neutrality is dynamic. It requires full, embodied engagement. Nothing is left out. Not our mind, our emotions, not our body. Neutrality requires us to feel. The more we feel, the more we can let go. We learn to bring our feelings online; our sensitivity to energy, engaging from position of involvement rather than observation. In this way we engage our own life force as a facilitator — our own dynamism — which in turn enables greater participation and involvement from everyone around us.

Diane Musho Hamilton
Co-Founder and Lead Teacher, Integral Facilitator®
Author, Everything is Workable, a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution.

Listen to the recording of a Ten Directions’ live call with more on this subject: Neutrality is Not What You Think

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Getting Real About PowerSeptember 30, 2015

The heroic leadership model has been on the decline for years. Increasingly it is being replaced by an interest in collaborative and facilitative leadership practices. What does this shift mean for our understanding of the distribution of power, and for how well we work with power dynamics?

Our archetypes of heroic leadership are shaped by concepts of power. Heroic leaders wield the power of command and control. This model of leadership is most outstanding in its efficiency, and often in effectiveness. Sharing power is slower, unwieldy, requiring more communication and process, and is therefore at odds with hierarchical structure.

In contrast, collaborative leaders are expected to distribute power. Their perceived strength is derived from their ability to “empower others,” to influence the quality of groups and teams such that each person can make a unique contribution, feel valued, and share in the ownership of the mission.

This is why collaborative leadership is also facilitative. Facilitating collaborative engagement requires generosity, people skills, shared values, and an understanding of systems. It also demands true openness to the unknown, and a mindset that values the creativity and the mess that sometimes entails.

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How Unconscious Bias Holds Collaboration BackSeptember 2, 2015

As a collaboration facilitator, the vast majority of the work I do is with software development teams, which are notoriously male dominated. In the last few years, the tech industry has become hungry for more women and is throwing a lot of money at “the problem.”

Intel announced that it is investing $300M to attract and retain more women. Facebook and Apple now offer $20k egg freezing as an employment benefit so women can delay having children for their careers. And Microsoft has committed to increasing Diversity and Inclusion Training. There are also more and more scholarships available for women and minorities in the hopes of developing a more diverse talent pipeline in the tech industry.

Yet in addition to tackling this gender disparity issue from the outside and increasing the number of women in the field, there’s an invisible interpersonal dimension which also needs attention—but is hardly ever addressed.

Here is the challenge: there are underlying dynamics of how gender differences play out in teams, and if they are poorly understood or not effectively addressed they impact team performance, creativity, and culture.

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Working with Subtle Energy in GroupsAugust 19, 2015

There are important skills that come online when we begin to facilitate groups using the Integral framework as a lens through which we view our work. One is that we include the “bodies” in our awareness; that is, the gross, subtle and causal bodies (in the language of the Integral framework). The gross reality may be referred to as the dimension of form, Nirmanakaya in Tibetan Buddhism; the subtle realm (transformation realm) is called Sambhogakaya; and the third body, Dharmakaya, is the very, very subtle domain of our experience.

In the context of facilitation, these three distinctions become important, particularly when we become sensitive to the energy of groups, and gain an interest in actually using and working with energy — much like an acupuncturist works with energy in the body.

As facilitative leaders, we want to enable energy to flow evenly and coherently in our work, because groups become more efficient and enjoyable when we do. When energy in a group is agitated, discombobulated, or incoherent, the facilitator can work to soothe and cohere the energy of the group. Likewise, when energy is sluggish, slow, dense or stagnant, the facilitator can find ways to stimulate it, bringing the flow into balance.

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Increasing Energy, Usefulness and Efficiency in Everyday MeetingsAugust 7, 2015

In my work as an Agile ”Scrum Master” and Team Coach, I’m often confronted with the problem of how to spice up routine technical meetings and create genuine engagement among team members.

Although there are very good reasons why the Agile/Scrum framework encourages routine meetings, the “shadow” aspect of everyday meetings is an all-too-familiar experience that may appear in a variety of different forms:

  • Resistance to the meeting itself “Not another one!”
  • Boredom “Let’s get through with it.”
  • Participants easily distracted “This conversation doesn’t concern me, there’s so much I should be doing instead of this.”
  • No coherence at beginning — joking around, not starting on time, etc.
  • Same activity or discussion repeating itself over and over.
  • Less and less attention to structure and preparation “We know what to expect of the meeting and how to do it, we can just show up and start right away.”
  • Not a lot of listening, thinking about what I’ll say instead of listening.
  • Being physically present and mentally absent (vs being fully present and engaged).
  • The Scrum Master does the meeting by himself “It’s YOUR meeting anyway!”
  • Monologues take us away from priority subjects.

As a Scrum Master, one of my goals is to help the team self-organize and take ownership of every part of their work. Keeping that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned as an Integral Facilitator that I use to bring a bit of “magic” into these meetings.

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Using conflict as a group thermostatAugust 7, 2015

Every facilitator knows that conflict in groups can actually be a good thing. It’s often a healthy sign that a group has established enough basic trust to raise tensions. Skillfully navigated, conflict can build trust, strengthen relationships, and enhance the effectiveness of team functioning. Poorly navigated, conflict can be a real setback for group effectiveness. That skillful navigation is key, and a central part of professional development in our field.

I for one am always interested in deepening my understanding about the alchemy of group conflict from masters. That’s why I recently attended a Next Stage Facilitation Intensive with Diane Musho Hamilton. Diane is an accomplished mediator and facilitator, having worked for decades with heated conversations around race, gender, culture, and religion. She is also a transmitted Zen teacher, which I figured would have some sort of interesting impact on her work. I was curious to see her in action and learn from her style. And I was not disappointed. One key learning stands out about working with conflict in groups.

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Facilitating Drama: When to impersonate a chickenJuly 31, 2015

I’ve always thought of myself as a no-drama type of guy, but when it comes to group facilitation, I think it’s actually the drama that lures me in.

A while ago I saw a TED talk by Andrew Stanton (screenwriter best known for “Finding Nemo” and other Pixar hits), where he quoted playwright Richard Archer who said “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.”

In terms of facilitation, that’s an equation I find myself in the middle of: The difference between my anticipation of what’s possible + the uncertainty that it will come to pass = The Drama.

My anticipation of what is possible when things “go well” comes from the best experiences I’ve had in groups—authentic, productive, touching, depthful, transformative connections and creativity between people. Group experiences at their peak. Yet my awareness of all the things that could possibly derail the experience—including my own cynicism, judgment, fear, ego, technical problems, unmanageable conflict, poor ground rules, etc.—also coming from my worst experiences with groups, produces an uncertainty that’s just as strong.

Right in the middle of the anticipation and uncertainty, there’s me. Conducting while listening, guiding while trying to constantly tune in to information about what to do or not do to best serve both my intention and the group’s collective intention.

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Talking about race in the wake of tragedyJune 26, 2015

How do we open up a conversation about race in the wake of tragedy like the one that took place in Charleston, South Carolina?

Every painful conversation is unique, and every context may require a different approach from the facilitator. Whether you’re holding a town meeting or community dialogue or an informal conversation around the dinner table, in my experience, the best place to begin any truly challenging discussion is with our immediate, felt experience. In our conversations about race this last week, I would begin with the emotional impact of the news of the shooting in South Carolina.

I would pose a simple question like, “How is everyone feeling right now?” and then allow perspectives to pour forth. The expression that I would first want to support is an emotional one, that of pain and loss in the room—the pain of the murder of innocent people and the loss of the nine beautiful souls who died at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church.

It may seem obvious, but people will often rush over emotions to problem solving or political strategizing or discussing facts—but it isn’t satisfying. Presencing the sorrow and grief is fundamental to our human experience and it is unifying to a group. It binds us in the heart, reminding us of the vulnerability we share and of our capacity to care. Sorrow is softening, humanizing, and humbling. So we need to open space for the pain to pour forward, and for the emotions of grief, of loss, of sadness to actually come into the room.

The gut wrenching pain of the murder of innocent people is conveyed by sorrow, grief and loss. The gut wrenching pain of the murder of innocent BLACK people AGAIN comes in a wave of anger, torment, and outrage.

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Cultural mastery is the new frontier for project managementJune 12, 2015

For most of my career I’ve been involved in the Project and Program Management fields.

In 2002, I attended the first PMI Certified Project Management program at the University of British Columbia, and following that I earned numerous certifications in that discipline—from PMI, Agile, and Scrum to Queen’s University Project Leadership Certification and Negotiation and Leadership trainings.

I’ve managed numerous projects, programs, and portfolios in financial and health sectors, worked with over 50 Project Managers, and interviewed over 200 of them. In addition, I’ve been privileged to have the opportunity to mentor and coach some excellent Project and Program Managers.

Throughout all of these experiences, I’ve witnessed the unique challenges that I and my fellow colleagues go through time after time in applying our systematic learning in complex situations—especially when we find ourselves in uncharted territory.

For seven years, while managing a portfolio of five programs and projects, some of the top challenges that would always show up were a lack of engagement with customers, sponsor(s), the project-team, and end-users. Sound familiar?
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Facilitator as Space-holder Or Conduit for Group Energy?June 5, 2015

For the past ten years, my work as a facilitator has primarily focused on diverse groups where multiple stakeholders need to come together around a shared purpose—often large international non-profits or multiple organizations.

A year ago, I had a client situation where two people had an intense conflict during a gathering I was facilitating and I felt terribly unequipped how to deal with the situation. I knew I needed more training in order to fully serve my clients amidst these kinds of intense, unexpected conflict situations.

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One thing you can do to improve your facilitationMay 22, 2015

One of the most important things a facilitator needs to practice is facing the fear of criticism that comes from standing in front of a group.

Every time you step in front of a group, whether you are a beautiful and seriously talented pop star like Beyonce or a quick, clever media personality like Jon Stewart, a politician or an athlete or a car salesman, there is a certain amount of criticism coming back at you, even when people are your fans.

Usually it is not spoken, sometimes it is, but the criticism is alway present in the field on a subtle level, which means we feel it and often unconsciously defend against it. The people in the room are sorting through their experience: do they trust you, do they approve of what you are doing, do they want to go where you are taking them?

A good performance will transmute the criticism in the moment into a beautiful and coherent energetic field, but the next day in the papers and in retrospect, the criticism might come  back.

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Facilitation can set you freeMay 15, 2015

When I facilitate, I’m usually scared. Excited, curious, engaged. But definitely also scared.

Scared of being obtuse and failing to deliver what the group needs. Scared I’ll offend someone. Scared something will happen that I can’t handle and I’ll freeze, revealing my incompetence.

In short, I’m scared I’ll get booed right off the stage.

Standing in front of a group of people is evocative. Whether you love the adrenalin or you hate it, there’s always a spike when you find yourself look out across a sea of faces that are all staring back. At. You.

So I’m just going to come out and say it: people are scary to me. Not all of them equally or in the same way. But in a very real sense (as we often talk about in the Integral Facilitator program) it makes sense that we might be scared of other people—historically, humans were many times more likely to be killed by another human than another predator.

And yet despite the obvious statistical risk of annihilation, I find myself drawn to the practice of facilitation like a dainty moth to its fiery demise.

And that’s not just hyperbole—my “demise” is actually waiting for me on the other side of that threshold of fear. The demise of the scared little Lauren who wants to have all the answers, avoid uncertainty, perform, and be liked.

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Feeling Good About Yourself?April 3, 2015

I remember doing my first graduate lecture on the further reaches of adult development close to fifteen years ago. I stood up in front of a classroom of people, all whom were older than me, and began my lecture. It was an intense ride. I couldn’t feel much of anything that was going on in the students I was presenting to.

Me, I was too busy attending to the conceptual distinctions in my own mind. I was busy sharpening my intellect. Soon after finishing I could dimly see the aftermath. It was as if an intellectual gatling gun had gone off for the better part of three hours. Metaphorically, you could say I pulled the trigger and didn’t let go until the very end of class. Sure, I opened it up for questions, but my ability to be present and make heartfelt contact with the students in front of me was many years off in my own maturity.

Instead of feeling my own anxiety and uncertainty, I chose to attend rigorously to the sharp and nuanced distinctions in my conceptual world. Instead of acknowledging the nervousness in my hands and the fluttering in my gut, I turned my attention to the multilayered relationships between various theories of adult development. I wanted to deliver unparalleled resolution on the subject matter. And attending to my intellectual prowess was a lot easier than accepting and attending to my embodied sensations of inadequacy and uncertainty.

I share this brief flashback for one reason: I was profoundly wrong in one of my orientations. Then, I taught adult development from a purely conceptual vantage point. Now, I approach development entirely differently.

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Meeting Complexity with ReceptivityMarch 28, 2015

Recently I have been facilitating a group of 22 leaders that is about to begin a major transformative process.

A newly configured team, they are coming together via a recent integration of three different organizations to collaborate on an organizational renewal strategy to move into the next era.

When we first met, what immediately struck me was the complexity of the group. The breadth and level of detail in their discourse just simply boggled my mind.

Ask them whether the new organization was a department, division, or a business unit, and you’ll hear 22 different ideas. Ask them why they are coming together, or where they are going and you’ll hear 22 different ideas.

Many individuals in this group also have strong and diverging opinions about what this new team should focus on and they are more than happy to present the facts to back up their case. And as many as that held reservations about proceeding and were clearly not yet fully “in”—and they all feel they’re responsible for an almost endless set of plans, commitments and priorities.

In short, it’s a recipe for mind-numbing incoherence and immobility.

Which is more or less what started to happen… (more…)

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This idea should dieMarch 21, 2015

Is there an idea that you think should be taken out of circulation? A commonly held notion that’s holding us back, that’s outdated, or that you wish would just fade out of use, to be replaced by a more helpful idea?

I’m asking (sincerely) because of a podcast I recently enjoyed that was focused on just this topic — “ideas that must die.” (Freakonomics, maybe you heard it?)

Theirs were pretty big—”the universe” (to be replaced by the multiverse), “true or false” (an idea isn’t ever really one or the other), and “data is enough to tell you truths about the world” (the role of intuition in scientific discovery), amongst others.

What I like about the question is how it shines a spotlight on our ideas as…a design choice.

Our assumptions, preconditioned awareness and biases shape our experience and behavior. We stop using outdated tools when they are replaced by more effective ones, so what about the toolkit of ideas we’re carrying around with us all the time?

I also like the question because it’s rascally and iconoclastic. Just asking it feels like blowing a fresh breeze through the stale corners of my mind.

So I wanted to turn the question into a tool for upside-down thinking about a subject I’m interested in. What happens when I start looking for ideas I’d be willing to kill off?

Ok so here we go, a quick and dirty first try.

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The Betrayal of Authentic LeadershipMarch 6, 2015

Authenticity is a popular topic that I frequently hear discussed in a number of different contexts. In personal growth, relationships, professional development, leadership and performance—authenticity shows up as a highly desired trait. This widely pursued aim is especially prized in hyper-individualistic cultures where every individual’s uniqueness is one of the unquestioned goals.

Whether you’re at home with your partner and your family, at dinner with friends, pursuing the next athletic win, or in the office leading and managing the next steps for organizational success, this idea of being more authentic, and the cultural preference to be authentic, often seduces us as “the way” we should or ought to be able to show up.

While being more authentic is a popular frame of reference for working on ourselves personally and professionally, most of us fail to clearly define it. It remains a nebulous, unexamined term that can, and often does, change.

In our drive to be more authentic we often are captured by two unexamined assumptions. Both of these assumptions are mistakes if we value adult development and growing new capabilities.

First: Authenticity is not the same as competence

The first assumption sees authenticity as some way of being that is more competent than you currently are. Unfortunately, authenticity and competence are not synonymous, although many of us would like them to be. (Authentic leadership is not necessarily more effective leadership, it’s just leadership that feels more “at home” to you.)

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Everything the Same, Everything DifferentFebruary 26, 2015

There is an old saying in Zen: Everything the same; everything different. This is a truth that is so obvious that it goes without saying. We live in a universe that is one unified whole. The myriad things come from the same unknown source, are made of the same basic materials, existing within the same dimensions of time and space, and operating under the same set of physical laws and principles. Nothing is left out of the universe, and yet, out of this fundamental sameness pop infinite, extravagant differences.

Difference abounds. Quarks are different from atoms, molecules are different from cells. Single-celled life forms are different from plants, plants from animals, animals from human beings.

I am different from you, we are different from them, they are different from those other guys. (And usually, it is those other ones that are the problem). Life builds up in complexity, and it is said that the most healthy ecosystems are those containing the most diversity.

The paradox of sameness and difference in the context of human interaction is again so obvious that we might not care to note it. Of course, we are the same. Obviously, we are different. We like the sameness, until it becomes dull and heavy, and conformity burdens our conversations and dogma confines our mind and restricts our ability to grow and change.

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Being a Tuning Fork for Collective IntelligenceFebruary 18, 2015

An excerpt from “Will the Next Buddha be a Sangha? Responding to the Call to Influence the Future of Collaboration” published in Integral Leadership Review, January-February 2015

In the early 2000s I was retained to lead a cross-border merger integration project for a major utility. This was an extremely challenging and emotionally intense experience for the employees, for the new management team, and for the merger integration teams who now had functional responsibilities for aspects of the ‘new’ smaller and leaner post-merger organization.

In the new post-merger culture, there was a strong preference for learning in teams, and working collectively was valued.

The mandate we were given was to create a new, higher-performing culture using an empowerment framework that relied on more engaged and facilitative approaches to getting work done. One of our key areas of focus was to help people learn how to use more reflective processes and bring team learning into the organization.

As the integration process unfolded, we saw a complete bifurcation in the performance spectrum. One of the key differentiators was the level of facilitative leadership displayed by the team or department leader and their willingness and capacity to engage others.

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Grow Your People, Grow Your OrganizationFebruary 5, 2015

In 2007 Accenture surveyed over 900 top executives in some of the world’s largest companies across North America and throughout Europe, China, and Japan about the need for more advanced management capabilities. Of those surveyed, nearly 50% of leaders said that their organization was not well suited to producing executives with the capability to manage and lead in the face of rapid change.

It’s clear that today’s professional environments demand greater sophistication of knowledge work; broader global perspectives, infrastructures, and multi-national systems; as well as leaders who are able to self-initiate, self-direct and self-manage. Yet at the same time, high performing leaders continue to be in short supply.

Whether we peer into big business, government, mature non-profits, mid-size companies or startups, the findings are similar: strong leadership is needed and the demand for it vastly outpaces our ability to ready the next generation of leaders to thrive in today’s business climates.

One of the few strategies that can help us to develop greater leadership aptitudes is the use of developmentally crafted curriculum, exercises and assessments. However (and unfortunately) most leaders in organizations are unaware of this body of research, and they aren’t using it to drive leader development in their organizations.

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Command, Control, or Consensus: How to Decide?January 15, 2015

Lately, I have been listening to the audio biographies of some of the U.S. Civil War generals—Ulysses Grant, Robert. E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, to name a few. People ask why a Zen teacher has even the slightest interest in military history. The short answer is that I am curious about leadership that calls for a flurry of strategic and tactical decisions under pressure, and in the type of person willing to make those urgent calls.

General U.S. Grant is known for unwavering loyalty to the Union cause and for his relentless pursuit of his plan. Robert E. Lee, the commanding general of the South, is remembered for his aggression, speed, and use of audacious movements in the face of overwhelming odds. Stonewall Jackson, also a rebel and the most eccentric of these generals, was a genius of stealth, maneuver and surprise. He was capable of moving an entire army as if by magic, without leaving a trace of his whereabouts nor an indication of where he would appear next.

In his genius, Jackson may be the most supreme example of command and control leadership. He could maintain the cover and agility of his army because he never shared his intentions with anyone—I repeat—anyone.  He never disclosed his considerations, he never revealed his conclusions, even to his own officers. He refused to elicit their views on the matters of the war, tactical or strategic, but when an order was given by Jackson, they were simply expected to move. If not, his soldiers and officers were severely disciplined.

In spite of this, he wasn’t immune to input. Early in the war, he created a war council comprised of his closest lieutenants, precisely to include their thinking. But when they made what he considered to be an inferior call, he never asked them again what they thought. They resented his autocratic style in the beginning of the war, but after they realized they were in the company of the genius, they became his devotees.

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Availability—Inviting the “bigness” of youJanuary 9, 2015

“When you can relate to the present moment, make choices and distinctions, and bring those into the collective—that is where the facilitative and the leadership role really meet. When that happens, you’re able to help a group have the capacity to relate to presence and be available to what is emerging. That’s the interface that we’re interested in. That’s where we start to see performance outcomes in organizations, things that are meaningful—greater cohesion, higher performance, more productivity, bigger breakthroughs, and capacity to collaborate across sectors. That’s when we gain greater capacity to work in a multi-stakeholder way with our most difficult-to-solve problems.” – Rebecca Colwell, CEO, Ten Directions

In the midst of a conversation, a meeting, a conflict—what are you available to?

Your team, or the people you’re meeting with right now—how available is this group? And to what?

In your group or organization’s normal habits of functioning, what kind of information and insight is readily available? And what is (kept) out of reach?

Often when we think about the goals and aspirations we have for ourselves and our organizations, we’re likely to think of things like “agility”, “innovation” and “responsiveness.” Sexy goals. Aspirations that embody power, swiftness, capability.

And a lot of people spend a lot of time making assertions about what generates desirable qualities like agility, innovation and responsiveness. Undoubtedly, there are many (some more lasting than others) paths up the mountain.

We value those qualities, too, because when they are present, they usually generate engaged participation and increased well-being—both of which we want to foster more of in the world.

But when we get curious about these desirable qualities, we approach them from a reverse-engineering perspective.

What leads to innovation, creativity, agility, and responsiveness?

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You Can’t Facilitate What You Don’t KnowDecember 10, 2014

My Zen teacher, Genpo Roshi, once told me a long time ago, “You can’t work with a voice that comes up in the room if you don’t know that same voice in yourself.”

What Roshi meant is that anytime you are facilitating a group of people in a dialogue or group process, and a participant expresses a thought, a feeling, a perspective or “voice,” you as the facilitator need to quickly locate that same experience in your own interior awareness; that is, if you want to remain present, congruent, and trustable in front of the room.

This idea is not an entirely new idea in human development circles. Jung pioneered the idea of shadow work, which is the psychological practice of bringing the unacknowledged, marginalized, or shameful parts of experience into awareness. The same phenomenon occurs in forms of Tibetan Buddhist practice and in many shamanic rituals.

Likewise, philosopher Ken Wilber has repeatedly emphasized in his writing that anyone who wants to fully awaken should not not only meditate, but also find a method for including the difficulties of conditioned existence and acknowledge the disavowed “shadow” elements of his or her mind and life.

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Agile Leaders—More Maturity, More OptionsDecember 4, 2014

There’s a substantial body of research that supports the idea that managers and leaders at higher stages of development are more effective than those at lower stages of development. This holds true for most meaningful measures of business and organizational effectiveness. Post-conventional or what we sometimes call “post-heroic” forms of leadership and management out-perform and out-maneuver less developed individuals.

Research into nearly 500 managers across a wide range of industries reveals the 80/80 principle. 80% of managers scoring near the bottom of the Leadership Development Profile were found in junior management positions. In contrast 80% of the individuals testing near the top of this developmental assessment were found in senior levels of management. (For those of you not familiar with the Leadership Development Profile, it was created by two of the most trustable names in adult development, Bill Torbert and Susann Cook-Greuter, and has over 40 years of research behind it.)

What this means is that when your capacities develop or mature, you get more options. More choices become available. More diverse behaviors become viable responses. Vertical development yields greater response-ability. Vertical development yields greater command, and more influence.

So, following from that, it also means that if you’re interested in climbing the organizational ladder, one of the most essential tools you need to invest in is your development. And, there’s a good chance that in order for you to even thrive at your current position—let alone add complexity to your job description and responsibilities—you may need to develop.

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“The opposite of Love is not Hate; it’s indifference.”Elie Wiesel

Last month, I wrote about The Awakened Takeover. Which is another way of saying I *dared* to articulate my deep intention and publish it for the world to see. And now…it has me by it’s teeth.

In it, I included this call to action:

Care more, open yourself to more perspectives, and you can’t help but become more engaged and optimistic.

Yet looking back on my own path, not caring enough was never the problem.

In fact, there was a time when it felt like it WAS the problem.

Being able to take more perspectives, we get inundated with more information and our circle of care expands. The world pulls on us in new, more diverse ways. We don’t just see need everywhere, we feel it. Our care pulls into new and different relationships with the world—and that gives rise to a very distinct kind of challenge.

This is the challenge of how we cope with how much we care.

It’s true for me. I can recall a stage in my life when I became so overwhelmed by the stresses of public affairs and world issues that I stopped watching the news and reading papers. I would run the other way when water cooler conversations turned to current events. My only recourse in response to the overwhelm (read: care) was to unplug and disengage.

My struggle wasn’t that I didn’t care enough.

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The Art of Disappointing OthersNovember 7, 2014

Most people won’t recommend disappointing the people you report to as a strategy for furthering your career. It’s simple: your boss or the board you report to are to be pleased by your work, not disappointed. Right? Not necessarily.

I want to share with you why disappointing the people you report to can be more efficient in garnering greater respect and demonstrating larger capacities. I call this The Art of Disappointment.

The first thing to understand is that supplying the people you report to with what they want is not a wise strategy. It communicates complacency. Yes, this strategy yields a particular kind of trust—but one that is rooted in dependability.

Merely executing on the expectations of others who hold organizational power over you demonstrates a lack of vision on your part. It means you can’t lead yourself.

Fulfilling the vision, agendas and desires fashioned by others demonstrates you’re a solid employee but not a worthy leader. Be too consistent in merely following your marching orders, and you’ll be communicating a message you might want to carefully reconsider before sharing it with the people who determine who gains new responsibility in your organization.

Now for those reading this who don’t have the ability to consistently execute on the demands handed to them, this isn’t for you. Don’t get ahead of yourself. This message is for those who’ve already spent many years delivering solid, predictable and valuable work day in and day out. While many people want to skip some steps along their professional development in the hopes of getting ahead faster, premature deployments of complex strategies can have undesirable outcomes. Consider this your warning.

But for those of you who know the heart of discipline, sacrifice and commitment and are ripe to take your professional development to the next level, this is for you:

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The Integral Facilitator’s Nightmare (oops) ChallengeOctober 17, 2014

I took an interest in the clip that was all over the internet last week of an episode of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, the comedian-talk-show-host exchanging with Sam Harris, the atheist-turned-mindfulness author, and Ben Affleck, the actor. If you haven’t already seen it, here’s a link to view the clip of their heated discussion.

Bill Maher begins the discussion by asserting that both he and Sam Harris have been trying to make the case that “liberals need to stand up for liberal principles” like freedom of thought and speech, religious freedom, freedom to leave a religion, and equality for women, minorities, and homosexuals, but says you can’t say those things about Muslims.

Sam Harris responds by asserting that, as he said, “Liberals have failed when it comes to theocracy, and have been sold this meme of ‘Islamaphobia’,” which is the problem of conflating criticism of Islamic doctrine and with bigotry towards Muslims as people.

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The desire to impact and influence our world in lasting and meaningful ways is one of the most important maturations of adulthood.

Erik Erikson, the first developmental psychologist to propose a developmental model covering the entire lifespan from birth to death, called this drive for greater influence generativity. He contrasted this immensely generative, service-oriented stage of life with what he called stagnation. Instead of devoting life to serving the mosaic of humanity, when we are caught in stagnation we remain largely self-centered. Instead of focusing on the broader community, organizational and institutional well-being, we remain fixated on what’s good for “me,” “myself” and of course what’s “mine.”

Yet longitudinal developmental research conducted at Harvard University and spanning over 80 years reveals an interesting fact: If we do not remain selfish enough to take care of ourselves, we cannot be the generative human beings we are supposed to be as we mature into adulthood. The individuals who just give again and again burn out. Because they are not resourcing themselves in the essential ways, they often detract from the larger well-being of their communities, organizations and institutions. Instead of being a brighter exemplar of how to live, those who don’t take care of themselves become reminders of what not to do.

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The Awakened Takeover: A ManifestoSeptember 30, 2014

If what you do every day is somehow trying to close the gap between the human condition and human potential, then you are already participating.

We are so aware of the many complex challenges unfolding on a global scale—rifts in how we get along, as well as disturbing patterns in how we are treating each other, other species and the planet—that we risk becoming numb.

Our purpose is to do everything in our power to grow authentic, facilitative, deeply present leadership we need to deal with these challenges.

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