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
While I’m not aware of my fears all the time, when facilitating groups, my “big fear” becomes very alive.
Will I be able to serve this group well? Will I be able to intervene when necessary? Or, will I fall into my habitual pattern and avoid getting messy? And so it goes, on and on, the inner voice of anxiety. (more…)Read more
Twenty years ago, I made my debut as an organizational psychologist. Perhaps influenced by academics and my former life as an accountant, my envisioned ideal was a neutral, even stoic, helping professional. But I failed spectacularly; I have always had preferences and get very passionate around values, ethics and methods in organizations and leadership. I’m also sensitive to dynamics and emotions in the room, find myself contracting when conflict and stress arise, and become deeply touched by the lives of my clients. (more…)Read more
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
“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
A question came to me recently from a student in the Integral Facilitator® program who is facilitating a conversation among members of a classical music orchestra who are looking for ways to evolve their work together. He says that as a facilitator, he wants to create an open space for all perspectives to be presenced in an atmosphere of genuine inquiry.
But often, he says, people are not as elegant in their conversations as they are when playing music together. He says that they express themselves emotionally and dogmatically, pounding out their opinions in one repetitive note: the “I am right” tone. In their assertiveness, they turn a deaf ear to the silence, to the space, to the new, unknown possibilities that come from a depth of listening.
It is ironic because musicians are probably some of the best trained listeners in the world. And yet, this quality of conversation is often common among all kinds of people, regardless of their ability to hear, when change is afoot, when values are being discussed, when conflict arises, or when new risks must be taken together. In fact, paradoxically, any time anxiety levels rise in a conversation, so do the black and white tone of certainty and unpleasant sensations of dogma. (more…)Read more