I emerged from college with a solid sense of the daunting scale of our world’s environmental challenges. Yet, I was comforted by the array of amazing systems, tools, and technologies that would be of much benefit to mitigating these issues: permaculture, green urban design, alternative energy technologies, and so on. However, I quickly realized that many of these solutions were not being integrated into society. And if they were, it wasn’t happening near fast enough. (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
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.Read more
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.Read more
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:
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.Read more
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?
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…)Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
Last night I learned something I didn’t expect to learn about leadership from watching The Lost World: Jurassic Park.
This lesson comes from an old adage: “Never bring home an injured baby Tyrannosaurus Rex.”
First, replay this gripping scene in your mind’s eye:
It was a dark and stormy night. Scientist Julianne Moore warned activist Vince Vaughn, injured T-Rex in his arms, saying that taking the injured dinosaur to their trailer laboratory was “going to be really, really bad.” Even if you don’t remember this scene, you’ve already guessed (1) he didn’t listen, and (2) it was really, really bad. (Raging Ma and Pa Rex pushed the lab over the 500 foot cliff into the churning sea below. And, worse yet, I don’t think Vince Vaughn ever apologized.)
What’s this got to do with leadership and collaboration, you ask?Read more
Like most kids, when I was a little girl I eagerly anticipated the transition from school to the freedom of summer. But the real highlight for me was the opportunity to travel up the hill to the public library (much more mysterious and shadowy than our protestant elementary school library) once a week to select new reading material. I climbed the hill, pulling my red wagon behind me; I was allowed to borrow only as many books as filled my wagon, providing I returned them all by week’s end.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little greedy.
I became adept at making spatially savvy selections. I strategically selected non-slip covers and optimized book size and packing techniques so that I could maximize my ‘haul’.
Oh, how I loved pouring through those treasures…and the anticipation of what might be in the next wagon.
Fast forward to today, and my tables are stacked with books. Long lists of bookmarked sites. A contact list full of people with ideas, expertise, connections. RSS feeds, Twitter, Stumbleupon, MashUp, Pinterest etc. An almost insatiable interest in what is new, what is relevant, what is trending, and what is necessary and important for me to know—for me to be adequate to the task, to be relevant and on trend.Read more
Our work life today depends on our ability to effortlessly collaborate with others while executing our goals with precision and ease.
And every one of us—regardless of whether we are a leader, manager, coach, or consultant—needs to develop the awareness and skills of a facilitator in order to influence the successful outcomes of our endeavors.
As our understanding of the complexity of organizational life and human relationships evolves, many of us realize that we can no longer depend on hierarchical structures to lead the way, nor do we have the time to spend in lagging consensus or feel-good processes.
In order to help teams and groups achieve their objectives, we need to be able to rapidly assess and understand context, develop agile and effective plans, and have the skills to help a group respond dynamically throughout the process.
We need effective tools—yes—but even more, we need the presence and skill to recognize and respond to the emotion, conflict and obstacles that naturally arise in our engagements.
In order to work optimally within complex, fast paced environments, today’s innovative professionals need to be as adept on the inside as they are on the outside.
And in developing ourselves as facilitative leaders, the challenge is not to add more tips and tricks to our repertoire. Rather, it is to deepen our presence and ability to respond wisely and effectively to what is arising in the moment.
An Integral approach is a profoundly useful framework for illuminating the patterns within the complexity we are dealing with.
By addressing the deeper dimensions of group dynamics and the myriad subtleties of human interaction, an Integral approach supports us (no matter what our role) to become more effective, light on our feet, and creative in our responses to group challenges.
With practice, Integral Facilitators cultivate the capacity for presence in spite of what is going on—whether it’s anxiety, boredom in the room, or a leadership struggle.
They can flex and flow fluidly, are more creative and open, more comfortable with difference, and have less anxiety and fear.
As a result, our teams, projects and collaborations unfold with flexibility, precision and ease. Agreements get made, people follow through on their commitments, and emotion, humor and conflict can be navigated with ease.
Please join us for our upcoming Next Stage Facilitation, and the prerequisite for the six-month Certificate Program:
More information, resources and training is available at www.tendirections.com/programs/