One morning in 9th grade I showed up to school and none of my five closest girlfriends would speak to me — they wouldn’t for the rest of the year. The following year, one of them finally broke the stand off. The first thing I asked her was, “Why? Why did you drop me so coldly?” Hers were simple teenager’s words: “You always took the best boys and left us the worst.” (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
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
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.
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
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
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.Read more
One of the perennial challenges facing leaders is competing cultures, because competing cultures inevitably fuel conflicting value systems.
Competing value systems are critical for leaders to pay attention to because these are “hot spots” where conflicts often swiftly obscure creative and collaborative opportunities. Where people could collaborate, they now fight. Where there might have been agreement, we find resentment. Coherence is traded in for conflict. When this happens we demonstrate our shortcomings. Larger possibilities are forfeited for all-too-common expressions of our weaknesses as a species. We feel threatened by cultures not familiar to us. Differences bring out hostility. We become destructive instead of constructive.
The issue for many leaders today is that when faced with these consequences, it often appears like the best approach is to retreat from difference, diversity and tension.Read more
One of the most basic constructions of identity is to locate your sense of self in opposition to one side of a polarity. An example in its most basic form: you like being warm and you hate being cold. You are attracted to this, and you are opposed to that.
This may seem to be a trivial stance, however it is anything but trivial.
A polarized way of organizing or structuring yourself is a persistent challenge that stunts leadership effectiveness, limits behavioral flexibility, and chops the amount of freedom you have in half. (And unfortunately for us, none of these limitations are the biggest problem.)
The biggest problem is that these polar constructions of identity (as I call them) happen without you even knowing about it.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
The biggest problems facing leaders today will also be some of the most perplexing challenges our future generations will confront. Why? It’s simple: we have built-in challenges. Just as human beings are hardwired to handle certain problems with ease, there are shortcomings in our design. While in many ways we are walking and talking miracles of complexity, we have also been built with gaps. These gaps are where we struggle in our own personal and professional lives, as well as from one generation to the next.
So, while you have been built to learn and change in important ways, there are also limits to your adaptability. Now if you’re like many people you may be assuming that adults all share the same limitations. In some ways this is correct. For example, our eyes can’t see infrared light without the help of technology. Yet, adults also have different measures of adaptive capability. Some of us are more adaptive, responsive and capable than others. The fields of leadership development, cognitive development, identity development and many others study these changes in adaptability.Read more
Facilitative leadership is one of the emerging leadership paradigms making its way into more and more organizations, governments and institutions. It is a co-creative leadership model asserting that leaders should effectively facilitate deep collaboration. Deep collaboration means the parties involved—all of them, including the leader—undergo transformations through the work they are engaging. In short, groups undergo what Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government lecturer and founder of the Center for Public Leadership, Ronald Heifez, calls “adaptive changes.” This means development is a central part of leadership.
To be clear here, Facilitative Leadership does not get rid of hierarchical forms of leadership and management. Contrary to popular opinion, it does the opposite. Hierarchy thrives within facilitative leadership. It thrives because pre-existing hierarchies are no longer rigidly in command. As leadership capacity develops beyond traditional hierarchies resting upon position, a new form of hierarchy emerges. A more effective form. Organic and responsive hierarchies come forth—they emerge—and are subservient to the most proficient and creative outcomes. Role and position no longer exclusively distribute power. Now, capability does. And as any seasoned leader will tell you, innovation and productivity have powerful agendas that challenge us to transform ourselves into more adaptive and responsive human beings. Rest assured, if you’re working with leadership models that have abandoned top-down hierarchical models of management, you are going in the wrong direction.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 nine-month Certificate Program:
More information, resources and training is available at www.tendirections.com/programs/