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Archive for August, 2015

Last time we began to explore four ‘Disciplines’ that are crucial for the Leader and/or potential Leader to consider embracing, developing (or developing more fully) and integrating. This morning we will continue our brief exploration; we will explore the other three disciplines.

Reflection. I recall a President of a large for-profit business telling his direct reports: ‘In a crisis don’t just do something, sit there!’ Before you ‘act’ stop, step-back, reflect and then re-enter and engage. The length of time one takes for reflection will vary. At times the time is brief – perhaps a minute or so and at other times the period of reflection might exceed many minutes. I have had the privilege of helping folks in seven different countries (these countries are homes to a variety of cultures); for almost all of these folks the Discipline of Reflection is more than a simple challenge. There is no ‘set time’ for Reflection: One can take the time to reflect prior to acting, one can reflect as one is acting and one can take the time to reflect after the action has been completed. What is crucial is that, as Charles Handy noted, ‘Reflection plus Experience is the Learning!’ Here are three ‘reflective’ questions that might help guide one: (1) What are you/were you attempting to achieve? (2) Did you succeed? (3) Was it worth doing (that is, what were the intended and unintended consequences; what was the affect upon you and upon others; would you do it again, the same way, if at all)?

Inquiry. Leaders, like teachers, like to ‘tell’ and ‘direct.’ If the Leader wants the other to bring his/her voice then Inquiry is the key Discipline. There are three types of questions that the Leader can offer. The first invites an immediate response; the second invites a response to be offered in the ‘near future’ and the third is a question that is ‘held.’ The great German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke provides us some guidance to this third type of question: Hold and ‘live’ the question and someday in some way you might live into the answer. Parker J. Palmer notes that the most powerful question for the Leader is the one that comes from a ‘place of not knowing.’ Questions are to be addressed and responded to – the crucial questions will have no simple answer. As one author noted: Complex questions have simple answers – and they are wrong!

Listening. As Robert K. Greenleaf advised Leaders many years ago: ‘Listen first.’ Listen, he advised, in order to understand. The prayer of St. Francis can also be a guide for Leaders: ‘Lord, grant that I may not seek so much to be understood as to understand.’ In order to listen, the Leader must be fully present in the ‘now.’ The Leader listens to what is emerging within self – the Leader’s Physical dimension will ‘speak’ to him/her; the Leader’s Intellectual dimension will ‘speak to him/her; the Leader’s Emotional dimension will ‘speak’ to him/her and the Leader’s Spirit(ual) dimension will speak to him/her. At the same time, the Leader listens to what is emerging from the other and the Leader will pay attention to the other’s verbal and non-verbal expressions. The goal, as noted above, is to listen in order to understand. Greenleaf asks: ‘Why is there so little listening?’ Greenleaf bookends this question with the following question: ‘In saying what I have in mind, will I really improve on the silence?’

There are other disciplines I consider: the Discipline of Humor, the Discipline of Story-Telling, the Discipline of Searching Conversations (that is, of folks thinking well together); and the Discipline of Uncovering (for example, it is important to ‘uncover’ and ‘reveal’ integrated Metaphors, Core Values, Core Guiding Principles, and deep Tacit Assumptions).

Gentle reader, at this time in your life, which of these disciplines do you need to develop or develop more fully? Why? How will you know if you have developed a discipline or developed it more fully?

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The ‘Inner Work’ that I am advocating is not a new idea. In 1955 (yes, gentle reader, 60 years ago) AT&T designed a ‘developmental process’ for mid-level managers who were believed to have the potential to become senior level managers and executives. AT& T sought to ‘develop’ not ‘train’ these folks. Here are the three ‘objectives’ that emerged and were embraced: (1) To broaden interests and extend the habit of inquiry and reflection; (2) To sharpen awareness; (3) To lay the groundwork for a substantial program of self-development. The process was ‘person-centered’ and ‘act-focused’ – it was not ‘act-centered.’ The ‘Being’ of the person was center-stage; the ‘Doing’ was influenced, if not determined by, the ‘Being.’

What the Bell Lab/AT&T participants engaged in were the ‘humanities.’ For example, they read, studied, reflected upon and explored via depth conversations some great books, plays and poems. In addition to the participants (most were white males) the wives/spouses were also encouraged to participate (how many Leadership Academies today invite and make space for ‘significant others’ to participate? In the early 2000s I designed and guided a three day intensive for the Bush Fellows and their spouses; although the experience was highly rated by the participants it was, as far as I am aware, never repeated).

For me, Inner Work involves exploring and experiencing and perhaps integrating four ‘Disciplines.’ These are not the only ‘Disciplines’ but they are, for me, the key tap roots that nurture the Leader’s development and they will suffice for our brief exploration. Here are the four ‘Disciplines’: Awareness, Reflection, Inquiry, & Listening.

Discipline. Discipline, as I am employing the concept, is an exercise, a specific practice, a regimen that helps one develop a specific skill, ability or develop more fully a specific capacity. When one engages in a ‘discipline’ it is important to remember that ‘practice does not make perfect’ – ‘practice makes permanent’ – thus it is crucial that one choose his/her ‘practices’ wisely.

[NOTE: It will take more than one posting to even briefly explore these four disciplines]

Awareness. My experience is that most of us are not as aware as we believe we are. We each have our favorite ways that help us not-be-aware (or, as I like to say: We each have our favorite ways to be asleep). For some awareness is blocked by ruminating about the past; for others it is blocked by internal noise; for others it is blocked by external distraction; and for others it is blocked by being anxious about the future. So an initial step in engaging the disciplines is to emerge and ‘own’ one’s favorite ways of being ‘asleep’ – of not being awake and aware. By the by, as Robert K. Greenleaf noted many years ago, being awake and aware does not bring comfort or solace – awareness is a disturber.

Leaders who are awake and aware are reasonably disturbed by what they see, hear, and experience. What am I to be aware of? If I am aware of my P.I.E.S. that is a great beginning. I am aware of what is happening to me Physically – am I feeling tension in my body, for example? I am aware of what is happening to me Intellectually – is my mind cluttered with noise? I am aware of what is happening to me Emotionally – what are the feelings I am having in response to what I am aware of? What is happening to me Spirit(ually) – am I energized or am I depleted by what I am now aware of? As sign that I am awake and aware is that I will be reasonably disturbed by what I become aware of as I inventory my P.I.E.S. Consider that when I engage in my P.I.E.S. inventory and as a result I am not reasonably disturbed by what emerges then I may not be awake and aware. I might well be taking a journey on the great river of de-Nile.

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When I think about the ‘Inner Work’ that the Academy participants will be invited into 9 ‘Cs’ emerge for me. The 9th is ‘Conduct’ – the ‘Doing’. The first 8 directly involve the ‘Being’ of the Leader/Participant. Here are the first 8: Consciousness, Character, Conscience, Courage, Contemplation, Consideration, Choice and Commitment.

Consciousness involves being awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full. When Leader is conscious he/she is fully present ‘now’ – he/she is not ruminating about the past or focusing on the future (by the by the ‘now’ I define as this moment plus six months past plus six months forward).

Character involves discerning and ‘owning’ one’s virtues and vices (remember, at our healthiest we are living paradoxes) and discerning one’s deep tacit assumptions (and then deciding which ones to keep and which ones to let go of) – there are other ‘Character’ ingredients but these two examples will suffice for now).

Conscience involves an exploration of one’s guidelines for ethical and moral behavior and for the guidelines one uses to behave unethically and/or immorally; to what extent is the person rooted in ‘integrity’ and to what extent does the person compromise his/her integrity.

Courage is rooted in the Old French ‘cuer’ – ‘heart.’ Does the participant have the ‘heart’ for Inner Work? Does the participant have the ‘Courage’ for deep self-exploration and assessment? What nurtures one’s ‘Courage’ and what depletes one’s ‘Courage’?

Contemplation involves developing the ability and capacity for reflection (more on reflection when we explore the ‘Disciplines’). Charles Handy reminds us that ‘Reflection plus Experience is the Learning.’

Consideration involves taking the time to explore a number of alternatives so one can become unconditionally response-able and so that one can prepare oneself to develop his/her capacity to be appropriately responsive and/or appropriately reactive. When the Leader ‘considers’ he/she does not immediately ‘accept’ or reactively ‘reject’ – he/she takes the time to ‘contemplate’ and ‘consider.’

Choice involves integrating a belief that one always has ‘Choice’ – in ‘Choosing’ one will employ the ‘skill’ of foresight in order to discern a variety of intended and unintended consequences that will emerge as a result of one’s ‘Conduct.’

Finally, there is ‘Commitment.’ As a professional golfer once noted that when he was standing over a putt: ‘I don’t have to be sure, I have to be committed!’ Given all of the previous ‘Cs’ the Leader is called to ‘Commit’ to his/her ‘Conduct.’ The ‘Commitment’ shouts for all to hear: ‘This is where I choose to stand!’ ‘I am response-able, responsible and accountable!’

Conduct. In ‘Doing,’ the Leader responds or reacts. It seems to me that it is more beneficial to the Leader and the Led if the Leader prepares so that he/she will be able to appropriately respond or appropriately react. Inner work – such as I have described above – will help prepare the Leader to respond or to react appropriately.

I leave us this morning with a thought from Gandhi: ‘My life is my message!’

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As I have noted previously, I have a bias: Leader Development is ‘person-centered’ and ‘act-focused.’ It is not ‘act-centered.’ If the Academy is ‘Person-Centered’ then a significant amount of initial time will be spent inviting the participants to engage in ‘Inner Work.’ Why? Because who I am and who I am choosing to become will powerfully influence, direct and impact how I will choose to lead (the ‘Doing’). So what is some of this ‘Inner Work’ that the participants will be invited to engage (I purposefully use the word ‘invite’ because each participant has ‘choice’ as to how much inner work to engage; I also use ‘invite’ because I seek to avoid as much as possible the use of ‘coercion’ or ‘manipulation’ or even ‘persuasion’).

Before we explore some of the ‘what of Inner work’ we must attend to the ‘environment.’ The environment must become a ‘safe’ place for the participants to explore, to reveal, and to ‘own’ who one is and to ‘own’ who one is choosing to become. Without ‘safety’ inner work will be hindered, if not directly blocked – that is, if the participant is not ‘safe’ he/she will have a difficult time engaging ‘inner work.’ My experience is that ‘safety’ is co-created by all and the major tap root that nurtures safety is ‘committed agreements.’

The instructors/educators and participants together emerge a manageable list of agreements: ‘If we all commit to following these agreements then this is more likely to become a safe environment for inner work.’ Once the agreements are iterated and written down and once all confirm that, at this time, these are the necessary agreements for me/us to be ‘safe’ then each person verbally commits to keep the agreements. One agreement that is necessary is that ‘We agree that a person can add an agreement to the list at any time.’ The other agreements are specific to those in the room – there is no ‘list of agreements’ that are common to all groups.

In the more than thirty years that I have helped groups emerge ‘safe agreements’ I can recall only three times when one person stated in response to a specific agreement ‘I cannot commit to this agreement!’ In each case the participants found ways of addressing the person’s concerns. I have also experienced these many years that all groups that have committed to following the safe-guideline agreements have indeed followed them; safety was created and maintained.

There have been a few times when ‘safety’ was betrayed and in each case, as I recall, the participants were able to heal from the betrayal. Forgiveness, reconciliation and healing are crucial to the well-being of the group. I remind each group that we are, at our best, imperfect human beings. We will not be perfect and ‘walk the talk’ we will, however, be human and stumble the mumble. Consistency is our goal, not perfection.

Paradoxically, or is it ironically, an indicator that inner work is afoot is that someone(s) will stumble the mumble. If there is no stumbling and if all always follow the invitation extended then I have learned that ‘safety’ is not afoot. I celebrate (mostly internally) the first time a person or some persons do not accept my ‘invitation’ and choose to engage something else. This means to me that people are truly ‘choosing’ (to meet their own needs, for example) and that the environment is safe enough for them to choose something different.

I am reminded of Max Depree’s insight that ‘Leadership is a serious meddling in other people’s lives!’ Given this, it is crucial that our meddling be rooted in safety-first.

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Consider, gentle reader that Leadership Academies are entrusted with the co-development of each participant. The leader’s development is a process. This process lasts at least as long as the participant is a designated leader. The developmental process involves what I call ‘Being’ and ‘Doing.’ The Academy’s instructors/educators and each participant are response-able and responsible for the ‘Being’ and ‘Doing’ developmental process.

I have a bias: ‘Who I am’ and ‘Who I am choosing to become’ determines ‘How I will lead.’ Thus, for me, the Leadership Academy has a duty and an obligation to be ‘person-centered’ (‘Being’) and ‘act-focused’ (‘Doing’). How many Leadership Academies are ‘act-centered’ rather than being ‘person-centered’? How many emphasize skill-building, tool-utilization, and taking action while minimizing, if not ignoring, the ‘Who’?

Consider that the great wisdom traditions and the great wisdom figures are ‘person-centered’ first; they are not ‘act-centered’ but are ‘act-focused’. Consider the following words of a few of the folks that many consider to be ‘wise.’ The great Chinese sage, Lao Tse noted that ‘The way to do is to be.’ The Oracle at Delphi summed this up for us a few thousand years ago with these words: ‘Know thyself.’ Socrates, sometime later noted that ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Gandhi, noted that ‘My life is my message. Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world as in being able to remake ourselves.’ Robert K. Greenleaf, the ‘father’ of Servant-Leadership wrote that ‘To refuse to examine the assumptions we live by is immoral.’ Mother Theresa added her voice when she said ‘I am not called to be effective; I am called to be faithful.’ The poet Walt Whitman added ‘We convince by our presence.’ Albert Einstein brought his voice when he wrote that ‘Most people say that it is the act that makes one great; they are wrong – it is Character.’

Thus, the first and most important developmental process that a Leadership Academy can offer involves the development of the person. Unlike the developmental process of the designated leader, this process is a life-long process. Unlike skill building ‘person-development’ is more difficult to observe and is certainly more difficult to ‘measure.’ As Robert K. Greenleaf insightfully noted: ‘It begins in here, not out there!’ Leadership Development begins in the person, not in what the person does – Being precedes Doing. At the same time, Being enhances, affirms, supports Doing and is, in turn enhanced, affirmed and supported by the Leader’s Doing.

There are questions – I call them Essential Life Questions – that can guide the Leader, the Person, as he/she immerses him/herself in the ‘inner work’ of a Developmental Process. The following four are embedded in a story that comes to us from Russia. I won’t relay the story here. I will offer us the four questions – these are questions that we are, I think, already familiar with: ‘Who are You? Why are You here? Where are You going? Why are You choosing to go there?’ These are not the only Essential Life Questions they are, however, crucial questions to help us get started.

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