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Archive for October, 2015

Charles Handy reminds us that learning is rooted in Experience plus Reflection. At times it helps to sit with another and reflect together. This ‘other’ person might be a peer or a partner or it might be someone that one reports to (say a supervisor or a manager or a director). We commonly label this type of reflection as ‘feedback.’ My experience is that generally when one hears the words ‘Let us meet for a feedback session’ that a negative image, not a positive image emerges into one’s consciousness. A ‘feedback session’ can, however become a learning experience for both participants (there are feedback experiences that involve more than two people and what I offer can be easily be adapted for more than two people). Following is a feedback process that promotes learning; this is a process that I have used and have ‘taught’ to others – if followed (or adapted to fit a relationship or situation) it helps promote Reflection and Learning.

THE PROCESS:
1. Seek to Understand: We seek to understand via inquiry. Ask questions that probe, that clarify, that help define and help both to understand the ‘issues’. It is crucial to avoid offering questions that are simply disguised evaluations, criticisms, or conclusions. For example, ‘Why haven’t you considered…?’
2. Build on Strengths: Together, identify the ‘strengths’ of the person or of the ‘product’ (e.g. the work done). Be specific about the ‘likes’ and the ‘strengths’ – generalities are useless. ‘You did a good job’ or ‘You work hard’ are not even heard by the recipient. Seek to be rooted in an ‘appreciative model’ or an ‘encouragement model’ rather than a ‘criticism-based model.’
3. Focus on Outcomes, etc.: Too often we focus on the ‘person’ when the learning will more likely occur when we focus on ‘outcomes,’ or ‘goals,’ or ‘concrete concerns’ or ‘products’ (a written report, for example). When we focus on the ‘person’ we are more likely to promote a defensive response in the recipient. Avoid evaluative statements like ‘What is wrong here is…’ even if it is true. A question like, ‘What might be improved about…’ tends to promote less defensiveness in the recipient.
4. Next Steps: Together emerge clear, concrete and specific ‘Next Steps’ – steps that will build on strengths, steps that will correct ‘errors’ (errors are the gaps between what we want to achieve and what we have achieved; our goal is to close the gaps), steps that will help ensure that we achieve the outcomes we both need ( you might need to spend time identifying, clarifying, and ‘naming’ what is ‘needed’ – not what is desired or wished for or wanted – by the by, strive to identify ‘high priority needs’ first; high priority needs are not negotiable all other needs are negotiable).
5. Emerge Agreements: Together emerge a few key agreements that both parties sign off on – sometimes it helps to put these in writing and to have each party literally ‘sign’ them. The more concrete, specific and clear the agreement the more likely it will be honored. Limit the number of agreements; my experience is that having two or three will be sufficient. It is also helpful to identify and name the potential ‘hindrances’ that will hinder, delay or ‘block’ one from holding the agreement. It is also helpful to identify and name the specific supports one will need in order to live into and out of the agreement.

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Good morning, gentle reader. Today I will continue to share with you two more of the dimensions that emerged into my consciousness as I was reflecting upon two quotations attributed to Gandhi. As a reminder, here are the two quotations/questions:

‘Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world,
as in being able to remake ourselves.’ – Gandhi

‘My life is my message.’ – Gandhi

As a leader, I am charged with seeking to understand and then question these dimensions of myself; I am also charged with affirming them or with replacing them. Consider that to refuse to examine them is immoral – for a leader and perhaps for each one of us. Anyone who has attempted to identify, name and change one or more of these dimensions knows how difficult it is to do. They are nearly impossible to ‘let go of’ or ‘change’ because we have integrated them into our ‘identity’ and few of us desire to change our identity. So, let us continue:

Core Prejudices & Stereotypes. A ‘Prejudice’ is any preconceived opinion or feeling, favorable or unfavorable, formed beforehand without thought, knowledge or reason. A ‘Stereotype’ is a simplified conception or image invested with special meaning; it is held by an individual and often supported, if not held by, a common group. The conception or image can be favorable or unfavorable. As imperfect beings all of we humans develop both. They are not inherent they are socially constructed. We integrate them over time and they operate at the pre-conscious or unconscious levels. In many ways they are easier to discern and name than are our deep tacit assumptions.

Once integrated they are just as difficult to let go of and replace – for two reasons. One reason is that they are now part of our identity and we do not like folks to mess with our identity. The other reason is that we need to be part of a group and we fear being rejected or shunned by the group we have identified ourselves with; the need to be part of a certain group can be the most powerful reason to hold onto them. I knew a leader whose company employed a significant number of ethnic minorities. After meeting him I congratulated him for employing so many. His response was, to paraphrase him: ‘They are cheap, ignorant, do as I say, labor. If they had a complete brain among the lot of them I would be amazed.’ To say that there are a number of assumptions, prejudices and stereotypes imbedded in his observation is more than an understatement.

Highest Priority Needs. Robert K. Greenleaf, the ‘Father’ of ‘Servant-Leadership,’ stated clearly that the leader is charged with serving others ‘highest priority needs.’ There is a significant difference between ‘Needs,’ ‘Wants,’ ‘Desires,’ and ‘Wishes.’ How many times do we equate ‘Needs’ with each of the other concepts? My ‘Needs’ will always trump my ‘Wants,’ ‘Desires,’ and ‘Wishes.’ The leader’s obligation is to identify his or her own ‘high priority needs’ as contrasted with what he or she ‘wants,’ ‘desires,’ or ‘wishes.’

All of the dimensions we have briefly explored will powerfully influence the leader as he or she strives to discern one’s ‘Highest Priority Needs.’ The dimensions that we have briefly explored with also powerfully influence the leader’s capacity to help the led identity their highest priority needs; they will also powerfully influence the followers’ ability to discern their highest priority needs. We know that each of us will strive to meet our highest priority needs so it seems crucial that the leader and the led know what these are so they can find the best ways to serve them.

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Good morning, gentle reader. Today I will continue to share with you another of the dimensions that emerged into my consciousness as I was reflecting upon two quotations attributed to Gandhi. As a reminder, here are the two quotations/questions:

‘Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world,
as in being able to remake ourselves.’ – Gandhi

‘My life is my message.’ – Gandhi

As a leader, I am charged with seeking to understand and then question these dimensions of myself; I am also charged with affirming them or with replacing them. Anyone who has attempted to change one or more of these dimensions knows how difficult it is to do; they are nearly impossible to ‘let go of’ or ‘change’ because we have integrated them into our ‘identity’ and few of us desire to change our identity. So, let us continue:

Core Deep Tacit Assumptions. An ‘Assumption’ is something I take for granted and something I take to be true; I am absolutely sure that this something is true. ‘Tacit’ means that this ‘something’ is understood to such a degree that I do not have to verbalize it. ‘Deep,’ in this instance, means that my ‘Tacit Assumption’ is not easily available to my consciousness; often I am not aware that I hold a certain assumption. ‘Core’ means that a Tacit Assumption has been integrated so that it is part of my ‘nature’ and ‘identity.’ Because an assumption is part of ‘who I am’ (that is, my identity) and because it is core, deep and tacit it is nearly impossible to change or replace.

My Core Deep Tacit Assumptions are more powerful than my Core Beliefs for they define my reality – ‘This is the way the world is, period!’ Identifying them and raising them to a conscious level and ‘owning them’ seems to be one of the great challenges we humans find most daunting. I have spent years developing and integrating my identity and I will resist efforts that suggest that what I have integrated – in this case my Core Deep Tacit Assumptions – is more harmful or depleting than health-full or nurturing.

At times another person will be able to identify one or more of my Core Deep Tacit Assumptions via his or her experience of who I am. If the person then ‘names’ one for me, a signal that perhaps the ‘naming’ is correct is the degree and intensity ‘of my resistance in response to the ‘naming’ – ‘he protests too much’ is a good indicator that something is afoot.

Given this, the implications for the leader and the led can be – often are – significant. A ‘clash’ of these types of assumptions is not uncommon. What adds to the ‘clash’ is the reality that neither party ‘knows’ that the clash involves Core Deep Tacit Assumptions. Here are a few Assumptions that I have found to be Core-Deep-Tacit for specific leaders that I have known: The led will always take advantage of me! Minorities are inherently lazy. People only go the extra-mile if there is something in it for them. People are inherently self-serving. As leader, a gift I can give to myself and to others is to seek to discern, emerge, and name one or more of my Core Deep Tacit Assumptions and to then seek to understand how they impact me, as a person and as a leader, and how they impact the other(s). Given the impact I can then choose to affirm an assumption or I can begin the process of letting go of the assumption and replacing it.

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This morning I will continue to share with you, gentle reader, some of what emerged into my consciousness as I was reflecting upon two quotations attributed to Gandhi; as a reminder, here are the two quotations.

‘Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world,
as in being able to remake ourselves.’ – Gandhi

‘My life is my message.’ – Gandhi

As a leader, I am charged with seeking to understand and then question these dimensions of myself; I am also charged with affirming them or with replacing them. Anyone who has attempted to change one or more of these dimensions knows how difficult it is to do so; they are nearly impossible to ‘let go of’ or ‘change’ because we have integrated them into our ‘identity’ and few of us desire to change our identity. So, let us continue:

Core Beliefs. A ‘Belief’ is confidence in the truth of something that is not susceptible to rigorous proof. A ‘Core Belief’ is a belief that I cling to no matter what information or facts are presented to me. A ‘Core Belief’ supports and confirms my identity. It seems that my Core Beliefs are set early in life. Where there is a Core Belief there is ‘surety’ and so doubt and questioning are not allowed to linger; they are not invited in even for a short visit. Like our ‘Deep Tacit Assumptions’ my Core Beliefs are ‘hidden’ deep within my being and are difficult to access (this protects me from having to consider that they might not be ‘true’). Often another person will be able to identify and name a Core Belief I hold (although I still find it difficult to accept what the other ‘names’ is true for me).

I am aware of one of my Core Beliefs: ‘People are not trustworthy!’ When I first meet someone I can feel the judgment: ‘I cannot trust you’ waiting to be called to center-stage. It is a ‘feeling’ I have. I have taught myself to accept the feeling and then to over-ride it with an intellectual statement that, for almost all situations, will help me to ‘lead with trust’. I have been told by many that I am a trusting person and early in our relationship people find it safe to trust me with their story. Although I still have this ‘Core Belief’ I have learned that I do not have to act on it. I have choice and mostly, I choose to lead with trust (a conscious, intellectual, and behavioral set of choices).

A leader can become open to discerning and naming one or more of his/her Core Beliefs when the way the person leads does not get the person what he/she needs and/or wants (as a person or as a leader). There are two questions that I offer leaders to hold, reflect upon and over-time respond to that at times open pathways to exploring their Core Beliefs. Here are the two questions: ‘Does the way you lead get you what you need and want?’ ‘What do you need and want?’ Depending upon the leader’s response a pathway to discerning one or more of the leader’s Core Beliefs opens up (as the Quakers say: ‘Way Opens!’). The leader has choice – to go searching and seeking or to withdraw and wait for the ‘way to close.’

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‘Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world,
as in being able to remake ourselves.’ – Gandhi

‘My life is my message.’ – Gandhi

During the day yesterday I was holding a question: ‘As a leader and as a fully human being what am I charged to discern, understand, embrace, integrate, develop (or develop more fully) and live into and out of?’ This question emerged into my consciousness as I was reflecting upon Gandhi’s words. The following are listed in the order they emerged into my consciousness.

• Core Guiding Principles. Early on in my life I will develop and integrate ‘principles’ that will help guide me as I write and live my life’s story. These principles become my ‘life-philosophy.’ Once integrated they are no longer immediately or easily available to my consciousness. They are almost impossible to change for they help define who I am; they are part of my identity. I have a hidden fear – if I change them I will lose my identity. My ‘core guiding principles’ then inform, form and powerfully influence (if not direct) not only my life but the leadership principles that I will embrace and integrate. This combination of ‘life and leadership principles’ determines my ‘leadership philosophy.’ Here is an example: We all develop a Core Guiding Principle regarding ‘trust.’ For one it will be: ‘Trust all you meet along the way.’ For another it will be: ‘Don’t immediately trust anyone you meet along the way.’ For another it will be: ‘Don’t trust anybody you meet along the way.’ If we take the time and observe folks we will be able to come close to discerning their Core Guiding Principle regarding ‘trust.’ The guiding principle we have integrated regarding ‘trust’ will then form and inform how we lead and how we will relate with those who follow us.
• Core Values. Again, early on in my life I will embrace and integrate a number of values. A few of these will become ‘Core Values.’ That is, to the best of my ability I will never compromise them. We all embrace and espouse a number of values and most of these we are willing to compromise (for any number of reasons). When we integrate a value so that it becomes part of our very being (our ‘core’ if you will) then we will, like our core guiding principles, not be willing to ‘give them up’ – again, our unconscious belief is that if we give one up our very identity is threatened. Core Values are not necessarily ‘virtues’ they can be ‘vices’ – the important point is that they have become ‘core’ to who we are as human beings. For example, for some ‘integrity’ is a Core Value. For some ‘greed’ is a Core Value. For some ‘control’ is a Core Value. Our Core Values will also remain core to us when we become leaders. As leaders, like our Core Guiding Principles, our Core Values will form and frame our relationships with the led.

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Good day gentle reader. For the context of this entry please see my entry of 18 October, 2015. Today I will offer you a few more ‘Observations, Insights & Considerations.’ Perhaps one or more of them will resonate with you, or your thinking will be stimulated, stretched or challenged.

• Belief = You trust your knowledge and you go there. Faith = You don’t know and yet you trust and you go there (your trust is in something greater than yourself).

• Consider: the more basic and therefore the more potent an assumption the less likely it is to be examined.

• One Question I hold: When do I explain away rather than explain?

• Concerning ‘Good Thinking’: People reason differently when they think about a problem or polarity or paradox or dilemma in order to understand it then they do when they intend to take action.

• INTEGRITY: No betrayal is more damaging, wounding or harmful than that which comes from the denial or compromising of one’s integrity  Conversely, there is reward, nurturance and sustainability when one lives in a way that affirms and hence honors one’s own lived-integrity  The cynic states: ‘Integrity does not put bread on the table!’  One response to the cynic: ‘People do not live on bread alone!’  Ultimately we live with/rooted in integrity or we choose that which trumps our integrity.

• Consider: Arrogance goes hand-in-glove with great gifts.

• One way to change the other is to see him/her differently.

• Too often I regard ‘intention’ as a substitute for ‘action’  AND too often I substitute ‘effort’ for ‘intelligence.’

• Pay Attention: All of the wisdom-holders speak in whispers.

• Consider: ‘Dialogue’ = depth conversation; seeking the wisdom of the collective – People are heard!  ‘Blabalogue’ = shallow blahversation; there is a striving to wear down the other(s)  People are herd!

• Consider: Four Types of Violence – (1) Violence of Thoughts = violates the mind with suspicion, inner gossip, illusions, revenge-full fantasies, and obsessing/ruminating about the past (2) Violence of Words = verbal abuse, sarcasm, & ‘categorizing’ the other(s) (3) Violence of Emotions = rage, apathy, despair, envy, self-pity (4) Violence of Conduct = addictions, physical harm (by neglect and by action), disconnection (from self and from the other), ignoring/shunning the other

• Reflection on ‘Being Awake and Aware
1) Admit that you are ‘asleep’
2) Admit that you don’t want to ‘wake up’
3) Commit to Waking Up. Two Ways to Wake Up = (a) to be bumped sufficiently by life, (b) to listen with an attitude of openness, of being willing to discover something new, being opened to being influenced, to hold an attitude of searching while becoming an active seeker, to be open to deep change, if not transformation
4) To listen with undefended receptivity  to listen with a goal of seeking to understand; to listen rooted in a willingness to ‘unlearn’; to listen with a willingness to discover and bring to a conscious level your deep tacit assumptions, deep beliefs, rigidities, stereotypes, prejudices (views of the world and of the ‘other’); to discern the many ways you bring light and darkness, or virtue and vice or good and evil to the/your world
5) Do not listen to confirm your ‘surety’; listen rooted in curiosity and listen in order to open pathways to doubt
6) Listen in order to honor the other(s) and to honor your self
7) Don’t Respond to the Anxiety – Remember that listening while being awake and aware and intentional and purpose-full will frequently open pathways to ‘being disturbed’ (being disturbed is rooted in anxiety, ambiguity, doubt, questioning, confusion and internal chaos, etc.)

• Two Questions that help me discern whether I am open to and/or in need of a shift, a change, or a transformation: (1) Does the way I live my life get me what I need-want? (2) What do I need-want?

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I carry a little black book with me. I write quotations in my book that stimulate, stretch and challenge my thinking. I also write down ‘Observations, Insights & Considerations’ that emerge into my consciousness as I am reading, reflecting or meditating. Recently I began to transfer some of my observations, insights and considerations from my little black books into one of my journals. A friend of mine suggested that I post some of these; the ones that have emerged into my consciousness. After some reflection I have decided to do so. The following are in no particular order of importance although some, as you will notice, are connected to one another. Perhaps, gentle reader, you will find one or two that stimulate your own thinking.

• To live a conscious life, one needs to constantly refine one’s listening.
• Those who are ‘Sure’ hate, above all else, curiosity.

Here are Three Guidelines I use when I facilitate a learning session:
• This is a safe place
• This is a caring place
• This is a place of learning – learning is rooted in curiosity and doubt not in certainty and surety

Consider ‘Discipline’ – Discipline = a pattern of behavior that teaches one and enables one to correct one’s ethical and moral behavior and habits.

Consider that too often we confuse two things:
• Solving a problem
• Stating a problem clearly, concisely and correctly – It is this second one that a leader is charged and challenged to emerge (this clarity, conciseness and correctness also applies to emerging polarities, paradoxes and dilemmas)

My challenge as a depth-educator
• To frame questions that help emerge and name problems, polarities, paradoxes and dilemmas
• To help co-create safe environments for searching conversations
• To hold an attitude and belief that the many are wiser than the one

Consider that the ‘Secret’ is just two words: ‘Not always true!’

Three Questions: When you say ‘yes’ –
• What expectations, hopes, desires or wishes come with your ‘yes’?
• Why this ‘yes’ at this time in your life?
• What ‘Nos’ reside hidden within your ‘Yes’?

A Question: ‘How do I know I exist?’
A Reply: ‘Who’s asking?’

Consider the ‘Fundamental Questions of Existence’. . .
• Who am I? The question of identity
• Where did I come from? The question of origin
• Where am I going? The question of destiny
• Why am I here? The question of purpose
• What ultimately matters? The question of meaning
• How am I to live? The question of morality
• What happens when I die? The question of finality & continuity

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