I was in my mid-twenties when I made the conscious choice to find the answers to some very important questions. An unexpected pregnancy had thrown me into an existential crisis and forced me to come to terms with my life choices. It became clear that I needed to begin to make decisions from my own moral compass and intuition rather than following others’ ideas and beliefs about what was right or wrong. Locating that inner compass took time. It also took practice to cultivate its sustainability. (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
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
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.
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
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.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
“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?Read more
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.Read more
“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.Read more