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Archive for February, 2015

Thus far we have briefly explored ‘Level One Issues’ and ‘Level Two Issues.’ This morning we continue our brief ‘Five Level’ explorations.

Level Three Issues focus on ‘Structures’ and ‘Systems’. How do the organizational structures and systems generate, stimulate, enhance, support, exacerbate, deny, reframe, define, and/or affect the issues? Structures and Systems also generate, stimulate, and/or enhance, etc. certain Policies and Procedures – ‘How’ and ‘Why’ certain policies and procedures are defined and employed is directly influenced by the structures and systems.

Here are two examples: All organized groups of three or more persons emerge ‘reporting’ structures – Who reports to Who? The reporting structures are supported by a number of policies and procedures. All organized groups of three or more persons also emerge a ‘communication’ system – How do we effectively communicate with one another? The communication system is also supported by a number of policies and procedures.

‘How’ and ‘Why’ these structures and systems emerge and are integrated is directly influenced by the ‘founders’. Initially there might well be a great deal of experimentation when it comes to discerning the structures and systems that will best serve the infant organization. Over time, what proves to be ‘successful’ is integrated and over time becomes ‘This is how we do things around here’ – an organizational culture is grown. Once mature, this culture is almost impossible to change (as anyone who has attempted to change an organization’s structure or system – the resistance to this type of change is deeply rooted in the culture and the sub-cultures).

At times, the structure and/or system ‘fails.’ When this occurs, anxiety rises. A goal becomes to reduce the anxiety (not to change the structure or the system). Generally, anxiety reduction is sought via developing a new procedure or a new policy (this is why some organizations have developed massive tomes containing innumerable policies and procedures). An organizational crisis might stimulate the necessity for a change in structure or system; generally, organizations that are maintaining (think ‘surviving’) will not change their structure or systems.

Consider that structures and systems (and policies and procedures) will only support certain Level One interventions (that is, certain physical and/or social maneuvers). They will also only support certain intra-personal and/or inter-personal interventions. For certain organizations, rigidity more than flexibility is the norm. For certain organizations, maintenance rather than experimentation is the norm. Think about this: Members of an organization that have not been ‘fully integrated’ into the culture are more likely to be flexible and are more likely to be open to experimenting than those who have been fully integrated into the culture. We are familiar with the mantras of the folks who have been fully integrated: ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it!’ ‘We tried that once and it didn’t work!’ ‘New people should be seen and not heard!’

Organized groups of three or more will develop certain structures and systems and these will be supported by certain policies and procedures. These are necessary for the well-being of the organization. The challenge is to embrace a paradox: ‘being flexible-being rigid’ or ‘maintaining-experimenting’ or ‘to sustain-to evolve’. Both poles are necessary.

Level Three Issues are supported by both Level Four and Level Five Issues. Next time, we will briefly explore ‘Level Four Issues.’

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In Part I we briefly explored ‘Level One Issues.’ Level One Issues are resolved, primarily, by employing physical and/or social maneuvers. When physical and/or social maneuvers do not result in resolution then it is likely that the issue is, at minimum, a ‘Level Two Issue’ and these will not be resolved by physical and/or social maneuvers only.

Level Two Issues are quite common and are considerably more complex than Level One Issues. Anyone who has been part of an organization, a community or a relationship has directly experienced a Level Two Issue (as far as I can determine this means ALL OF US).

So, ‘Fred’ (a fictional character) who had always come to work on time all of a sudden developed a pattern of coming to work 40 minutes late on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. You mentioned noticing this to Fred and he said he would ‘do better,’ but the pattern continued. As you reflected on Fred’s new pattern you noticed that the only thing that had changed was that a ‘begin-the-day’ meeting had been implemented on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and by coming to work 40 minutes late, Fred missed this meeting. Given this you concluded that this was not a Level One Issue (Fred had ‘tried to do better’ and nothing changed). Your intuition suggested that the Issue was a Level Two Issue and trusting your intuition you invited Fred into a searching conversation. In this case your intuition proved to be spot-on and you and Fred spent time clarifying the issue and then addressing it. Over time the issue was resolved (here, ‘over time’ meant months).

Level Two Issues are intra-personal and/or inter-personal in nature. That is, there is something going on within Fred and/or between Fred and another (or between Fred and several ‘others’). It might be that in that setting Fred felt inferior or incompetent or ignored or marginalized or inadequate. It might be that in that setting Fred had to interact with ‘Joe’ and Fred and Joe did not have a good working relationship – Fred did not trust Joe. It might be that the meeting involved the formation of a new team and Fred was anxious because he had never been on a team before – and he had internalized a self-image that was ‘poor’ at best. Fred successfully managed his high anxiety by missing the meeting (his goal was a short term ‘fix’ – he had not thought about the longer term ramifications; this is not unusual for folks who are highly anxious).

It takes great skill and capacity to help folks successfully engage Level Two Issues. As I have observed myself and others for fifty years I continue to believe that Level Two Issues are – along with Level Five Issues – the most challenging. Successfully engaging Level Two Issues is at best an art that challenges all of us – Level One interventions will not ‘fix’ a Level Two Issue (it might well exacerbate it). I also continue to observe that most organizations do not prepare folks to engage Level Two Issues (or they prepare them by training them to use Level One interventions – for example, Fred or Joe is removed from the Team). Relationships (intra-personal and inter-personal) are the tap roots that nurture the health of an organization and so Level Two Issues significantly determine the health or dis-ease of an organization.

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The Leader and the Led encounter a wide diversity of ‘Issues’ – sometimes on a daily basis. This morning I am inviting us to briefly explore not issues but ‘Levels.’ My current thinking is that there are ‘Five Leadership Levels’ that the Leader and the Led encounter.

Level One Issues are issues that can be resolved via physical and/or social maneuvers. These issues exist; they do not constitute the majority of the issues although too many Level Two to Level Five Issues are misinterpreted as Level One Issues and are therefore addressed as Level One Issues. A major hint that the Issue is not a Level One Issue is that no matter what the physical or social maneuver is employed the Issue is not resolved. Here is a simple example: Every day Fred comes to work 30 minutes late. You suggest to Fred that he sets his alarm clock 30 minutes earlier. Fred responds: ‘What is an alarm clock?’ You describe an alarm clock; Fred purchases one, sets it at a wake-up time that enables him to get to work on time. Fred uses his alarm clock and is never late for work again. A physical and social maneuver has been employed and the Issue has been resolved. As I noted earlier, Level One Issues exist and physical and/or social maneuvers do resolve them. However, these Issues do not constitute the majority of Issues that the Leader and the Led encounter – not even close.

How many billions of dollars have organizations – of all types and sizes – spent on Time Management, Conflict Resolution, Communication Skills, Team Building, Quality Improvement, Customer Service, and Stress Management (to name a few of the ‘training experiences’ purchased)? How many of these have not ‘resolved’ the corresponding Issues – too many, I think. Why? Because the Issue addressed was not a Level One Issue (almost all ‘training’ is a Level One response). More often than not the Issue is a combination of Level Two to Level Five Issues and until these are identified and addressed the Level One intervention will either not take or it will not be sustainable.

Twenty-five years ago I was invited to have a conversation with a Senior Vice-President of a large bank. He was frustrated. Ten months prior to our meeting the bank had spent nearly a million dollars on a Stress Management training initiative for his division and now, ten months later, the demonstrated stress level was just as high as it had been prior to the training. As we settled in he looked at me and asked: ‘Why?’ I shared with him my understanding of the Five Levels and why the Level One intervention did not ‘take’ or was not ‘sustainable.’ As we conversed it became clear to him that he had, indeed, approached the Issue as a Level One Issue and it was anything but – the Issue involved all Five Levels.

As we briefly explore the other Four Levels it might become clearer to you, gentle reader, why the bank’s Stress Management initiative did not take or was not sustainable. We will continue next time.

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This morning we will conclude our brief exploration of ‘Sin.’ Today, we will briefly explore the concept ‘Chet’ and end our search with a few closing observations/considerations.

Chet. Rabbi Louis Jacobs tells us that ‘Chet’ is the word for sin that is most common for his faith tradition. ‘Chet’ means to miss the center of the target. For example, I have set an intention to do something in some way and I fall short of my intention. For example, last night my daughter called me and wanted me to listen; I intended to listen but found myself trying to ‘help her’ – I did catch myself and concentrated on listening receptively. After 15 minutes or so, so paused, thanked me for listening and told me she loved me; I told her of my love for her and we said our good byes. Too often I have intended to listen receptively to someone and I ended up ‘missing the mark’ as I shifted from listening receptively to fixing or helping. In doing so I manifested ‘Chet.’

These ‘Chet’ moments occur daily – and for some of us too frequently. Our intentions are good, if not admirable; our actions shift us away from the ‘mark.’ A simple apology or a simple asking for forgiveness generally suffices. At times, however, our missing the mark causes significant pain – the pain is even more intense because it is not what we intended. In this case, healing is required.

Our English language is hampered because we only have one word available to us: ‘Sin.’ Talk about a lack of nuance. Yet, I think, that like ‘God,’ and ‘Faith’ – words and concepts that have lost their punch for many folks – ‘Sin’ is an important word. ‘Sin’ and ‘Mercy’ and ‘Compassion’ seem to me to go hand-in-hand. Other words that have more meaning if ‘Sin’ is admitted include: forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and atonement.

A deeper internal inquiry might be helpful. ‘What is my motivation to Sin?’ (I refer to ‘me’ because I don’t believe it is helpful to ask: ‘What is YOUR motivation to Sin?’ in asking this, I might easily miss the ‘log in my own eye.’) ‘Why is Sin important to the life-story I am writing and living?’ I do know – from experience – that it is easier for me to accept the other(s) as imperfect to the extent I am able to accept myself as imperfect; to accept myself as one who is prone to ‘Pesha,’ ‘Avon,’ Chet’ and ‘Sin’ and to forgive myself (and to seek forgiveness from others).

As I conclude our brief exploration I offer us the following from Micah 7:18-19: 18 Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. 19 You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.

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We have been thinking about ‘sin.’ In my last entry we briefly explored the concept ‘Pesha.’ This morning we will briefly explore a second concept: ‘Avon.’ I invite you, gentle reader to read or re-read the first two entries so that the following might be more meaningful.

Avon. Avon is rooted in the concept of being twisted or of becoming crooked. As we travel our life path we hit bumps and pot holes (and craters) and these throw us off of our path – just a bit at first and over time they can send us off in a new direction. These bumps, pot holes and craters can be part of the external landscape or they can appear in response to an internal miss-alignment. Avon moves us off-center and this being a bit off-center moves us, again, away from our espoused path. Early on in our life we experience this as a mild shift in direction. Rather than walking the center line of our life’s path we begin to move toward the edges. A ‘straight-line becomes crooked’. Rabbi Louis Jacobs suggests that at times we discover that we have been traveling a crooked path by stopping, stepping back and looking back.

Sometimes we literally wake up one morning – or an event occurs that suddenly ‘wakes us up’ – and we realize that the path we are on is not the path we sought or the path we imagined ourselves to be on. This tends to be a bit disconcerting. There is hope. We are more likely to ‘stay the course’ if we develop, practice and integrate the disciplines that will help us ‘stay-awake’ and be more intentional and purpose-full as we travel along. What these disciplines will be will depend upon ‘Who I am’ and ‘Who I am choosing to become’ – they will be ‘self-specific.’

We are imperfect human beings and so we will not only be bumped off-center by some externals, we will bump ourselves off-center because of internal miss-alignments. Because we are, by nature, imperfect human beings it is crucial that we avoid the trap (pot-hole or crater) of ‘being perfect.’ Consistency, not perfection, is crucial. Re-alignment is crucial. We will not ‘walk-the-talk.’ We will, each of us, ‘stumble the mumble.’

It can also be helpful to invite others to walk along with us or we can walk along with another. The trap for each, however, is that my path becomes theirs or their path becomes mine. We will also meet others along the way who appear to be on a ‘better path’ than ours and this presents us with another trap. We might develop the illusion (or is it delusion) that their path is ‘better than ours.’ For thousands of years the great wisdom traditions have reminded us (and continue to remind us) that our path is ‘good’ for it is our path.

The great Japanese sage, Basho, reminds us that: Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. And the great German poet, Rilke, suggests that: The only journey is the one within.

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