Tag Archives: Coherence

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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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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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Catalyzing Engagement & Intimacy in GroupsApril 16, 2014

How can we become more capable of working with whatever comes up in our lives in a way that actually supports the growth and evolution of all human beings?

When we cultivate presence, we are more able to work with the here and now, take more perspectives, and embrace more of our experience—including dissonance and conflict.

We have more choices, and more capacity to address the full complexity of what is happening—in the energetics of a room, in the emotional domains, in the realms of power and authority, decision making, and conflict.

Being able to open up to a deeper reality beyond our own notions of what’s going on in a group begins with three essential moves:

  1. Owning your first person experience.
  2. Recognizing and naming your experience.
  3. Moving from autonomy to communion, or I to We.

Often, the last move can be quite challenging.

How do we catalyze a group to become more coherent, and deepen the quality of engagement and intimacy?

One of the pillars of Flex-Flow experiences in groups occurs when individuals shift their awareness from first person experience to the experience of the group or the whole.

As facilitators, leaders, and participants, we can generate greater coherence and enhance the quality of our work together by shifting our group’s awareness from “I to We.”

By shifting our attention to others, sharing our impressions of the collective space, and noticing coherence and common characteristics of the moment we can significantly heighten our participation in the group awareness.

Here are some practices we’ve explored in our workshops that you can take into your life and work:

CULTIVATING COHERENCE AND COMMUNION IN GROUPS

  • Try inviting your group or team to share their observations about the physical space you are in: what do they notice about the lighting, colors, the feel of the space? What sounds, smells, and textures do they appreciate? (This can be especially helpful for virtual teams.)
  • If your group is virtual, invite them to imagine and conceptualize the  virtual room your group is inhabiting together. What kind of physical space would this group like to inhabit?
  • Sometimes a group can be aware of its explicit project or goal, yet it’s members can be misaligned on the level of shared purpose or intention. Invite each participant to share their personal intention for the meeting or for your group’s shared efforts and goals.
  • Invite input as to why each participant is here, what their hopes are for the gathering. Explore what people notice right now, in their sensory perceptions, in their bodies, and what it feels like to participate.
  • Take time to appreciate the unique personal qualities of the other individuals as contributors to the group.
  • Often, deep coherence and alignment arises paradoxically when a group is able to articulate its differences, obstacles, or struggles. As a leader or facilitator, explore giving voice to the unspoken tensions or struggles you perceive, and invite the group to bring these “shadow” elements into open discussion and exploration.
  • Name the “obvious.” In other words, reflect back to your group what you are seeing, sensing and hearing. Recognizing clearly what is arising in this moment invites us to become more open to ourselves and to each other.

Hopefully, after reflecting on these practices, you’re curious about how these kinds of techniques could be used effectively with a wide variety of group cultures and styles. To deepen your learning, you might find it helpful to reflect on these questions about your own approach:

  • Are there other effective practices or techniques you’ve used or experienced that have cultivated a sense of “we”?
  • What framing would you employ if you were bringing these practices into a variety of different group cultures and styles?
  • Where do you notice your edge as a facilitator being challenged when you imagine yourself engaging these practices in your groups and teams?

Individual and collective development are interrelated, because as we develop, our experience in groups changes.

We become more at ease, less fearful, less instinctively competitive and self-protective. We feel more freedom to be ourselves, and we have fewer struggles with the otherness of others.

We have access to creativity, we enjoy the support of others, and at the same time, we are willing to experience more authentic challenges. We live with liveliness and vigor.

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