Tag Archives: Leadership

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How to Leverage Creative Tension for GoodMarch 4, 2016

If there were a word for our chapter in history, it might be “interconnected.” Organizations, teams, movements, individuals, economies, ecosystems. Is there any part of our lives untouched by accelerating connectivity? Our curiosity and imagination—aka, advance into novelty—is weaving us together. And as we get closer, we can’t avoid experiencing the uncomfortable and exciting paradox of our differences and our similarities.

When we bump up against each other, we get more opportunities to delight in the new and different. And we also get more bewilderment, non-understanding, not-knowing or downright conflict. Whether you desire it or not, interconnectedness brings more contact, more friction, and therefore more creative tension.

So, what?

Well, if we add to this observation the findings of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, we get some very compelling implications. Especially for the worlds of work and leadership.

Here’s the Harvard study In a nutshell: “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.” (That’s a direct quote from Robert Waldinger, fourth director of the now 75-year long study of adult development.)

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Understanding Evolving World ViewsFebruary 15, 2016

Many of us live very interconnected lives, working and traveling across cultural and geographic boundaries. With this greater ability to bridge distances, comes increased challenges of difference and diversity. Our differences are exciting, but can be incredibly stressful—and for good reason. In our evolutionary history, humans were far more likely to be killed by another human, usually from a different tribe, than by any other predator. Hanging together ensured our survival—and we are still sensitive to difference as a possible sign of danger.

A significant difference that occurs between us in our work lives, loves lives, and social lives—one that Ken Wilber has repeatedly pointed out as being of great significance—is differences in world views. How we see the world, and the interpretations we make about it can result in enormous divisions. Something like Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl can be seen as creatively courageous or as a step backward historically. Agreement about what’s good and how we ought to live can look more and more impossible.

It is important for anyone in leadership positions today to understand how our world views evolve, and to explore how these differences can be worked with. We use a simple map for exploring world views: The Ego-centric stage with its emphasis on protecting the self, and the danger of narcissism; the Ethno-centric stage with a strong sense of community, safety, and stability which may stagnate in its conformist values; the World-centric stage which brings an immense expansion of identity, but global scale problems, and the Kosmic-centric view which frees us from the boundaries of space and time, but also insists that we re-engage the other levels.

Understanding worldviews affirms the notion that with greater maturity, comes greater perspectives and an increased capacity for care. Our identity can become more fluid, which leads us to empathize and join with others more freely—even when on the surface our differences appear significant. As we develop, our view of the world can outgrow the limitation of black and white thinking, and prejudice and fear decrease. Because our identity isn’t so rigidly fixed on ideas about “us” and “them,” we can meet others with curiosity whether or not they understand us—or agree with us. This brings along an invaluable ability to empathize, connect, relate, and bring people together for coordinated action.

Being willing and able to join with others across differences makes us a more stable, trustable influence, which is ultimately what skillful leadership rests on. For those leaders and change-makers who are wrestling with our most complex challenges, bringing people together is an essential skill that requires empathy, compassion, and the ability to integrate differences without rubbing out the creative tension of diversity.

Diane Musho Hamilton
Co-Founder and Lead Teacher, Integral Facilitator®
Author, Everything is Workable, a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution.


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Getting Real About PowerSeptember 30, 2015

The heroic leadership model has been on the decline for years. Increasingly it is being replaced by an interest in collaborative and facilitative leadership practices. What does this shift mean for our understanding of the distribution of power, and for how well we work with power dynamics?

Our archetypes of heroic leadership are shaped by concepts of power. Heroic leaders wield the power of command and control. This model of leadership is most outstanding in its efficiency, and often in effectiveness. Sharing power is slower, unwieldy, requiring more communication and process, and is therefore at odds with hierarchical structure.

In contrast, collaborative leaders are expected to distribute power. Their perceived strength is derived from their ability to “empower others,” to influence the quality of groups and teams such that each person can make a unique contribution, feel valued, and share in the ownership of the mission.

This is why collaborative leadership is also facilitative. Facilitating collaborative engagement requires generosity, people skills, shared values, and an understanding of systems. It also demands true openness to the unknown, and a mindset that values the creativity and the mess that sometimes entails.

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Facilitating Drama: When to impersonate a chickenJuly 31, 2015

I’ve always thought of myself as a no-drama type of guy, but when it comes to group facilitation, I think it’s actually the drama that lures me in.

A while ago I saw a TED talk by Andrew Stanton (screenwriter best known for “Finding Nemo” and other Pixar hits), where he quoted playwright Richard Archer who said “Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.”

In terms of facilitation, that’s an equation I find myself in the middle of: The difference between my anticipation of what’s possible + the uncertainty that it will come to pass = The Drama.

My anticipation of what is possible when things “go well” comes from the best experiences I’ve had in groups—authentic, productive, touching, depthful, transformative connections and creativity between people. Group experiences at their peak. Yet my awareness of all the things that could possibly derail the experience—including my own cynicism, judgment, fear, ego, technical problems, unmanageable conflict, poor ground rules, etc.—also coming from my worst experiences with groups, produces an uncertainty that’s just as strong.

Right in the middle of the anticipation and uncertainty, there’s me. Conducting while listening, guiding while trying to constantly tune in to information about what to do or not do to best serve both my intention and the group’s collective intention.

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Cultural mastery is the new frontier for project managementJune 12, 2015

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?
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One thing you can do to improve your facilitationMay 22, 2015

One of the most important things a facilitator needs to practice is facing the fear of criticism that comes from standing in front of a group.

Every time you step in front of a group, whether you are a beautiful and seriously talented pop star like Beyonce or a quick, clever media personality like Jon Stewart, a politician or an athlete or a car salesman, there is a certain amount of criticism coming back at you, even when people are your fans.

Usually it is not spoken, sometimes it is, but the criticism is alway present in the field on a subtle level, which means we feel it and often unconsciously defend against it. The people in the room are sorting through their experience: do they trust you, do they approve of what you are doing, do they want to go where you are taking them?

A good performance will transmute the criticism in the moment into a beautiful and coherent energetic field, but the next day in the papers and in retrospect, the criticism might come  back.

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Grow Your People, Grow Your OrganizationFebruary 5, 2015

In 2007 Accenture surveyed over 900 top executives in some of the world’s largest companies across North America and throughout Europe, China, and Japan about the need for more advanced management capabilities. Of those surveyed, nearly 50% of leaders said that their organization was not well suited to producing executives with the capability to manage and lead in the face of rapid change.

It’s clear that today’s professional environments demand greater sophistication of knowledge work; broader global perspectives, infrastructures, and multi-national systems; as well as leaders who are able to self-initiate, self-direct and self-manage. Yet at the same time, high performing leaders continue to be in short supply.

Whether we peer into big business, government, mature non-profits, mid-size companies or startups, the findings are similar: strong leadership is needed and the demand for it vastly outpaces our ability to ready the next generation of leaders to thrive in today’s business climates.

One of the few strategies that can help us to develop greater leadership aptitudes is the use of developmentally crafted curriculum, exercises and assessments. However (and unfortunately) most leaders in organizations are unaware of this body of research, and they aren’t using it to drive leader development in their organizations.

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Agile Leaders—More Maturity, More OptionsDecember 4, 2014

There’s a substantial body of research that supports the idea that managers and leaders at higher stages of development are more effective than those at lower stages of development. This holds true for most meaningful measures of business and organizational effectiveness. Post-conventional or what we sometimes call “post-heroic” forms of leadership and management out-perform and out-maneuver less developed individuals.

Research into nearly 500 managers across a wide range of industries reveals the 80/80 principle. 80% of managers scoring near the bottom of the Leadership Development Profile were found in junior management positions. In contrast 80% of the individuals testing near the top of this developmental assessment were found in senior levels of management. (For those of you not familiar with the Leadership Development Profile, it was created by two of the most trustable names in adult development, Bill Torbert and Susann Cook-Greuter, and has over 40 years of research behind it.)

What this means is that when your capacities develop or mature, you get more options. More choices become available. More diverse behaviors become viable responses. Vertical development yields greater response-ability. Vertical development yields greater command, and more influence.

So, following from that, it also means that if you’re interested in climbing the organizational ladder, one of the most essential tools you need to invest in is your development. And, there’s a good chance that in order for you to even thrive at your current position—let alone add complexity to your job description and responsibilities—you may need to develop.

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The Art of Disappointing OthersNovember 7, 2014

Most people won’t recommend disappointing the people you report to as a strategy for furthering your career. It’s simple: your boss or the board you report to are to be pleased by your work, not disappointed. Right? Not necessarily.

I want to share with you why disappointing the people you report to can be more efficient in garnering greater respect and demonstrating larger capacities. I call this The Art of Disappointment.

The first thing to understand is that supplying the people you report to with what they want is not a wise strategy. It communicates complacency. Yes, this strategy yields a particular kind of trust—but one that is rooted in dependability.

Merely executing on the expectations of others who hold organizational power over you demonstrates a lack of vision on your part. It means you can’t lead yourself.

Fulfilling the vision, agendas and desires fashioned by others demonstrates you’re a solid employee but not a worthy leader. Be too consistent in merely following your marching orders, and you’ll be communicating a message you might want to carefully reconsider before sharing it with the people who determine who gains new responsibility in your organization.

Now for those reading this who don’t have the ability to consistently execute on the demands handed to them, this isn’t for you. Don’t get ahead of yourself. This message is for those who’ve already spent many years delivering solid, predictable and valuable work day in and day out. While many people want to skip some steps along their professional development in the hopes of getting ahead faster, premature deployments of complex strategies can have undesirable outcomes. Consider this your warning.

But for those of you who know the heart of discipline, sacrifice and commitment and are ripe to take your professional development to the next level, this is for you:

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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.

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Facilitative Challenges for LeadersJune 19, 2014

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.

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What is Facilitative Leadership?June 12, 2014

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.

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Integral Life Practice Prison ProjectJune 2, 2014

Since our last IF newsletter, Dr. Cindy Lou Golin’s Integral Life Practice Prison Project was awarded a grant from the MetaIntegral Foundation! The funds she receives will be use to continue her ILP project with the incarcerated. Her approach includes facilitating ILPs via snail mail, developing an ILP workbook for the incarcerated, and conducting train-the-trainer programs with selected inmates.

Last week we chatted with Dr. Golin to learn more about her innovative project—here’s what she shared with us:

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Skip the preparation?May 30, 2014

Last week, our Integral Facilitator faculty member Rob McNamara shared a provocative perspective on preparation and planning on his blog.

“The most dangerous tool you currently have is the plan you are already holding in your hands. Why? Because the plan makes assumptions that you likely do not question every day. Every day you should be getting out of your plans such that you can adaptively respond to life in creative and innovative ways. Gain more altitude. Get more perspective.”

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Ten DirectionsMay 20, 2014

Ten Directions programs are designed to serve the unique personal and professional development needs of exceptional individuals who seek to bring more consciousness to their work in the world.

Our deliberately developmental learning programs orient to each individual as an embodied instrument of change. This means that throughout our programs, we emphasize personal transformative practice to support the development of embodied presence, skillful perspective taking, masterful communication, compassionate engagement and fluid responsiveness to complexity.

We focus primarily on creating programs that address the domains of leadership performance, facilitation mastery, facilitative leadership, and personal development.

We attract participants who:

  • Are interested in growing and transforming themselves, their groups, organizations and surrounding systems.
  • Identify as life-long learners who are committed to actively participating in their own learning.
  • Are explicitly interested in supporting others in their growth and development, whether through formal or informal contexts.
  • Appreciate the interdependence of individual and collective development.
  • Value mindfulness practice as an essential foundation for cultivating presence and awakeness.
  • Are curious and comfortable with engaging difference as a stimulus for creative potential.

Ten Directions learners are mature and purpose-driven individuals who are committed to engaging complex issues, diverse worldviews and value systems in service of creating emergent, creative and elegant organizations.

By collaborating with uncommonly insightful and gifted teachers, Ten Directions is cultivating an ecosystem of consciously developmental offerings that will contribute to closing the gap between our human condition and our human potential.

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Leadership Performance is About InfluenceMay 16, 2014

by Rob McNamara

In Integral Facilitator® programs, one of the core competencies we cultivate is the competency to use the self-as-instrument as a vehicle for greater influence.

Here’s what that looks like:

It’s Sunday morning on the last day of our 5-day certificate program intensive.

Participants have been invited to take center stage in front of their peers, instructors and coaches to take a stand and/or commit to taking a risk in their professional development.

The pressure is on.

On the surface, this exercise is a strong encounter with themselves and the group. But underneath, what we are actually engaged in together in our training is much more complex.

Across the board, participants in this program have taken great stands for their “noble intentions,”—each participant’s intention for their own development. But what unfolds in the moment when someone physically “stands” in front of peers and coaches is something no rehearsal can prepare us for.

In fact, rehearsal invariably leads to “presentations” of self—not the pure force of your body, mind and heart unified in the moment discovering itself as a vehicle for facilitation.

The invitation to take a “stand,” be recognized, and held accountable is a rare opportunity most people simply cannot find anywhere else in their lives. Rare are the deliberately developmental contexts that see beneath our “presentations” of self and call us to show up fully.

One participant takes her stance in front of the room, and begins to speak. Quickly, her coach interjects, pointing out the gap between her embodied presence and the words she’s speaking. She tries again. More coaching is offered, and then again.

When her expressed intention is lived through her presence, the message lands in the room. The entire room feels the dramatic difference. Some of us have tears in our eyes.

Another participant stands up, presents, then attempts to take their seat. I find myself saying, “Not so fast, you’re not done!”

It’s clear to me, a subtle betrayal is occurring. The self is not yet joined to the immediacy of the instrument of facilitation. Again, there’s a gap. I find myself working with her body, inviting more bold and powerful energetics to conduct from a vulnerable heart that is focused and on a mission.

As each person takes their seat, I can see a visceral change in who is sitting down. In just a short 60 or 90 seconds, participants are transforming. They are being reshaped into more worthy and powerful instruments for facilitative leadership.

While we each want to escape the hot seat when we find it’s our turn, I can also see this is what we have come here for—this is what we have been starving for. Real, genuine, developmentally-fueled feedback.

Why do we do this?

It’s simple: influence. Our participants are driven. They are looking for a new level of engagement from themselves. They are wanting to give themselves more fully to their vocations and the many people they can serve. They follow the threads leading them to greater embodied presence, greater discernment and more powerful leadership that is born only from the unique mixture of their unique gifts and the Integral Facilitator® certificate program.

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