What's Changed, for Me, In This vision
John and I are old friends, and as such we think in similar ways. When I first listened to his new video I was in complete agreement. Then I got to thinking.
Leadership is all of things he says it is. That said these are new and different times. One of my lessons in the past year has been an increased sensitivity to the pain almost half of our Nation feels that had been invisible before. Part of that pain has been fed by this wonderful vision that both of us share.
For some that vision has been received as an Earth quake. Something that has shaken the ground under them, something that makes them afraid. They see life as they knew it disappearing. they see things they believed being disparage by others. They have felt ashamed for being who they are.
It is for these reasons that I have come to believe that leadership is not just about vision, but about the ability to heal and nurture as well. Leadership is not just about the future, but also about the ability to look back, to slow down and to work to bring others along instead of just expecting everyone to follow along.
I see leadership as being able to translate that future vision into language that feeds the hear and now. Leadership, in these times, requires the skill of connecting the past and present to the future. Instead of 'breaking' with the past, the past needs to be intimately connected to the future. The language that expresses the new vision has to respect the past while clarifying its limitations in ways that do not disparage or denigrate, but explain the limiting implications without blame.
Blame is not the same as responsibility and taking responsibility is not accepting blame. Responsibility is responding with ability to shift and change in productive and healthy ways. If we can get past right and wrong and speak instead of healthy and thriving, whole new options become apparent. What is 'good' is what contributes to health. Thriving is different from growth, but it contains the learning that makes health possible. Making people feel bad does not contribute to health unless there is the support and respect that leads to healing.
Leadership has to evolve to address the needs of the times. We need a North Star, but we also need to care enough for each other that we don't make the journey alone.
Well - this past few months has surely provided a window into issues we didn't even know we had as a nation! Half the country favors an authoritarian style of leadership that isn't a great fit for democracy and more than half want change.
As a lover of change with some expertise in organizational change I can tell you that I've been fighting the false understanding of change (rearranging the chairs on the Titanic) for over 20 years. Doing different things differently - while more effective, is rarely the first choice.
We want change, but we want a change we are comfortable with. We want OTHERS to change - we are fine! We want things to change but we don't want to experience any discomfort. If you don't believe this - let's try a little experiment. You are going to have to DO this. Please cross your arms. I'm waiting....... Now cross them the other way. How does that feel? Did you find you had to think about what you were doing the second time? How long did you keep them crossed the second time? See?
I recently read an article written by a women who had spent many years in Appalachia working with the people there. She said some interesting things. One thing she said was that so many of the people there had had a hard time most of their life. They had never experienced any real success. They constantly tried to make things better, but with small success. The consequences of that consistent experiences were feelings of low self-worth (no one cared), and a disillusion that improvement was really possible.
If we apply that to the recent elections, could the same kind of situation and consequently world view apply? Many people who used to be 'middle class' have seen their jobs and career opportunities disappear. In many families both husband and wife work so time together, time with the kids is almost non-existent. In some families people work two or even three jobs and still they can't make ends meet. These are people who are trying, but still can't seem to create the kind of improvement they desire.
Maybe these people want change. Rearranging the deck chairs is just fine - after all success has eluded them, so why should this attempt be different? Wanting 'change' this much and not really believing in it at the same time might, just might, prompt people to take a risk - to place their bet on an unlikely source - just to see what might happen. Surprise.... Trump!
So now we are here. The real question, and the potential silver lining, is what do we do now? Things WILL be different, and even uncomfortable for some time. What will be our response to the anger, frustration and fear? Our response will determine our future. When things are destroyed there is an opportunity to rebuild. What will we reclaim? What will we create new?
This is a beautiful and scary video of what a year in the life of the planet looks like as the trees breath and inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. Each leaf on every tree has millions and millions of 'lungs' that make this cleansing possible. Trees need CO2, but they are getting more than even they can use.
As they loose their leaves in the fall the CO2 in the air remains and builds up. You can see this happening in the video. Is planting more trees the answer? Here in Spokane we lost 2,000 trees to the wind storm in November 2015. The city is planning to plant 10,000 trees each year. i'm sure there are other cities in North America that are doing the same or a similar thing. is it enough?
I think that planting trees is a bit like dieting. When I work to lose weight I know that if I exercise I can eat more food and still stay within my caloric range. When we plant tress does that make us feel that we can keep on producing CO2 because the trees will mean it out of the air? Do planting trees ease our conscience and helps justify our resistance to change?
If you love the Earth - then commit to changing your life so that your life style produces less carbon. support organizations that work to change agriculture in ways that help increase the ability of the soil to absorb carbon. soil is one of THE best ways to cleanse the air of carbon. doing so also increases the health and fertility of the soil, so it's win-win. Take action, be conscious, be a leader!
We are in a situation where those who are paying attention are terrified and those who are not are resistant to change and even in denial about what the future holds. As humans it is very hard to see something that is not within your experience. That is why they say, “You can only teach what people already know.” That does not mean that what cannot be seen is not real, only that the framework for seeing and understanding the new and extraordinary has not yet been built.
When a young child is found wandering in the street, we yank it out of the street, we don’t engage on a program to teach it about cars and the effect of an impact. You can’t do this with adults, especially adults who think: they already know what they need to know; that they are right; that they are too embarrassed to admit that they don’t know. Add to that the timetable for change that the planet has versus the timetable it takes to educate learning phobic adults, and you have some understanding of the issues we face.
I’m part of the ‘yes we can’ crowd and I’ve spent years learning the subtleties of natural systems, so I have some grasp on the crisis we are facing, enough to be very daunted by the task at hand. I vacillate between committed enthusiasm and dejected despair. The task of rebalancing the planets natural systems so that we can return to the regular and comfortable environment we have lived in for the past 65,000 years, appears to be impossible now. It still appears that we may have the ability to slow down the shift and re-balance those systems at a slightly higher temperature range than we have experienced in the past. This is a hope and desire, I’m not sure exactly how real it is, but assuming that we can do that, the implications for the rest of the life on this planet is not at all clear.
Most life forms (us included) live within a fairly narrow temperature range. We are already seeing the migration of birds and animals and in a few cases plants toward the cooler regions of the globe. There are now robins in the arctic. The Eskimos do not have a name for the bird. We may be looking at a decimation of life at the equator as life pushes toward the polar-regions. The impacts on farming and our ability to produce enough food are at particular risk. What to do?
As Dylan Thomas said, I do not expect to ‘go gently into that good night’ but to rage, rage on. It is to that end that I write this book.
Systems thinking is the ability to see patterns, the dynamics formed by the interaction of wholes with each other. We are trained to see only parts and pieces of things. We see ourselves as separate and distinct objects with little or no connection to anything else. Yet we claim to be ‘all one’ and we claim to be a part of a species (humanity) that appear to have some similarities between all of the various objects we call human. We float in and out of wholes and parts when we think about people, or the environment, but for the most part it is pieces we pay attention to. This is very misleading. Because we do not see connections, dynamics or patterns, we are often surprised by our experiences. There is no place where that is truer than in the realm of ethics and values.
What I see most needed at this time in our existence is a love of Life. We are so caught up in fear, or in trying to ‘get it right’ or in ‘success’ that we have forgotten the why. Why are we here? Why do we even care about anything? It seems to me that everything is screaming for love. Everything is seeking love, but we are looking in all the wrong places.
When I look at how we have managed to understand ethics and morality, most of our approaches have been anchored in fear. Fear of others, fear of doing the wrong thing, fear of punishment, fear of appearing silly or unimportant or…. You cannot be in fear and still love Life. In fear you rationalize behavior under the pretext of becoming ‘safe.’ Love is letting go of fear. Christ very famously said, “You can’t serve two masters” and that is true. We cannot serve the ‘master’ of fear and still serve the ‘master’ of love. The only ethic that serves love of Life is the same ethic that nature uses to develop more and more complex life. It is an ethic that makes more important the relationships between life forms, than the life of the individual life forms themselves. The health of the whole is more important than any small part or piece. It is through the health of the whole that the pieces and parts find their health and well-being.
Seeing values as systems is an unusual approach to ethics. This piece is the introduction to my new book, the Evolution of Values. If exploring ethics and values form this fresh and provocative pain of view interests you, then join me. If you would like to help me write by offering feedback as I write, then join me. If you are interested in reading this book as it takes shape and form, being among the very first to engage with these ideas, then join me! Sign up here and let's get started!
In our rush to ‘rethink’ our world we must not forget to think!Robert Reich is making several insightful statements about where we are going and where we may end up if we don’t think ahead. Entrepreneurs and young folks, in general, don’t think about being sick, old, or at the effect of a shifting economy – mostly because it is outside of their experience. The trouble is that all of these will be in their experience, at some time in the future, but if accommodations are not made now they won’t be available then.
The ‘sharing economy’ was construed to create work, which it does. But the deeper ramifications have not been thought through. The rise of both Uber and Airnib have made it clear that there is a dark side to some of these new business models. Designed for young singles or retired folks they are huge traps for anyone trying to create a life! By removing all the support frameworks, as Reich points out, they undermine the very life’s they are purporting to support. We are growing without building the infrastructure that will support that growth over the long-term. This leads to collapse and is unsustainable!
We need to rethink growth, in any case. The issue is NOT about getting bigger, but about getting better, and a large part of better is the creation and maintenance of a sustainable foundation and infrastructure. Innovation is GREAT, but let’s not let greed interfere or undermine our ability to create the world we to live in!
Why are we spiritual? What’s the point? Could it be that the need to connect with something greater than our self and the need to be authentic – to ourselves and each other, is a key driver for humanity? It used to be that one followed a spiritual path to ‘get away from the world.’ In fact, really working on your spiritual development takes time – lots of time, so trying to work, raise a family and also do spiritual practices is really a bit much. Perhaps that is why we moved to religion; practicing a religion keeps the spiritual door open, so to speak, without overloading the system.
Over time the general trend to practice religion as a set of rules worked to separate the emotional/experiencial aspect of spirituality from the emotional/ritual aspect of religion. This means that we have learned to act – if it feels good – without the balance gained from paying attention to the impacts of our actions. So it has become easy to kill others who don’t believe as we do and dismiss the horrible experience of war as just the price we pay. Ruining the environment so ‘people’ have a job seems to make some sort of logical sense, but not much moral sense.
When there were few people and when humanity didn’t have the power it does today that separation didn’t have the consequences it has at this time in our history. With great power comes great responsibility, but we have come to see responsibility as obedience to something outside of ourselves, instead of honoring our own internal experience. I think so much of what we see as PTSD is just that. The consequences of trying to manage the dissonance between what a soldier is being required to do to be a ‘good’ soldier and therefore a ‘good’ person, and what that soldier’s soul is crying out for. Killing women and children is bad – except when they are…(Syrians, Muslims, Kurds, black, Jewish, etc.) the mind understands, but the soul does not.
We have begun to institutionalize this separation, here in the West through our ‘it’s just business’ business practices. Our mind understands profit and loss, but our soul keeps different kinds of accounts. We know that sacrificing others for personal or corporate gain is NOT correct, but our mind and our culture encourage and even reward us for doing just that. We know that water is more important than oil or uranium, our minds know that, but our minds find it easy to rationalize the immediate desire for money, prestige, and social acceptance, over the long-term benefits of health – but our souls know the difference. We are starting to see the consequences of this separation as every system we have put into place is beginning to unravel. The massive upheaval we are experiencing may be giving us pause as we look around and see the world collapsing around us. Maybe.
Our first reaction is usually a band-aid. The education system, for instance is busy using testing to force teachers to teach and students to learn. It’s a bit like yelling at the baby to get it to stop crying. We really, really want things to change, but yelling and forcing, while immediately gratifying, only make matters worse. Rearranging the chairs on the Titanic is not the way to save the ship. Yet what are we to do? We try and force folks to follow the rules, we write new rules and we increase the punishments for not following the rules, but the problems remain. Albert Einstein said it first, “ We cannot solve today’s problems at the same level of consciousness that created them.” In short, we need to think differently about our situation in order to find new and different solutions.
Thinking differently – nice to say and hard to do. I’ve spent my whole life trying to understand how to do that. Spiritual practices are one way, systems thinking is another. I have come to see that value systems are a third. There are ways of learning to see the world with new eyes – eyes so new that our understanding shifts and what seemed difficult becomes easy, what seemed confusing becomes clear. Learning to think differently is not a quick fix. Dr. Deming of Total Quality fame, created user groups so that people could discuss their experiences and learn together how to mange the challenges that came with thinking differently when everyone else was practicing the same old, same old.
When the rules of religion support our ability to listen to that ‘little bird’ inside then they help us create a healthy and sustainable world. When those rules justify actions that make our souls cry out in pain, then they speed us toward social and environmental collapse. The alignment of our values with our actions, noticing the congruence between intent and impact are skills that foster health and create vibrant life-seeking experiences. This is a path that allows us to be authentic and spiritual in today’s world; that is being effective – by any standard.
I’m working on an online course – “We Are Not in Kansas Any More” as an introduction to four strategies that help us think differently. I want to awaken our latent spiritual sensibilities and offer suggestions for methods that might, just might, make a difference in how we see and understand some of the issues we are facing. If this sounds like something you might be interested in, please shoot me an email and I’ll let you know when the course is ready.
The map really isn’t the territory, so when we insist on following the map – even when presented with a mountain that ‘isn’t on the map’, then we are in deep, deep doo doo!
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I went to see Spy with a friend the other day. This is not a movie I’d have chosen and truthfully, I knew very little about it, but I loved it! It was funny and clever and it was a very nice model of pushing women forward. The language, however, was full of F bombs. Now that sort of fit the content, but both my friend and I felt the need to comment on the rather excessive use of that word. I, for one, have always wondered why an act that gives such pleasure would be used to show such disrespect.
Sharon Ellison, in her book Taking the War Out Of Our Words: The art of powerful non-defensive communication gives example after example of how we seek to hide and ‘protect’ ourselves through our choice of words. She demonstrates how our choices of words (tone and body language too) can cause lasting harm, prevent us from achieving what we say we want, and put us on a path of no return as we engage in power struggles instead of co-creation. Words matter!
So many young people use ‘bad’ words to make a statement about their ‘freedom’ and ‘adulthood’. They use the constant stream of epithets to declare that they are big, bad and powerful, at a time when all of those things are up for grabs. I remember doing just that at a certain time in my life. I stopped because I didn’t want people to think of me the same way as I thought about people who used foul language. I also sensed the weakness inherent in using language to demonstrate power when real confidence was lacking. After all, if I was really big, bad and powerful why would I need to use slang and cursing to prove it?
Relationships and Words
Martin Buber in his book, I and Thou, held a rich discussion on the damage of using ‘it’. He described how distancing that word is in relationships. The word ‘it’ objectifies the world and makes everything an ‘other,’ an other that is less than, one that can be/should be ‘managed.’ Robin Wall Kimmerer of the Anishinaabe tribe makes that same point in a more lyrical and heartfelt way in her article, Alternative Grammar: A new language of kinship in the 2015 spring issue of Yes! Her solution, however, is one I find thrilling and very clever. There is no word for the ‘other’ that is relationship-based, in the English language. We need another word to replace ‘it,’ she writes. Her choice is ‘ki’ to refer to living things. Her example, “Oh, that beautiful tree, ki is giving us sap again this spring.” Makes me feel warm and close to the tree. For me the difference is profound – and that’s the point!
Words Impact Climate Change
We ask ourselves what we can do to end global warming and climate change, but language is not the first place we look. Yet we will not make this shift without changing our relationship to the natural world and a good first place to start would be language. I challenge you to take this up in your own life. Replace ‘it’ with ‘ki’ – the plural is ‘kin,’ her example, “Look kin are flying south for the winter, come back soon.” (nice or what?) in your own speech. By doing this you will do a number of things. You will become a warrior for the Earth as you risk the taunting of your friends; you will engage yourself in your own reframing and in a rebuilding of your own awareness of your relationship with life; you will become a bright light – showing the way into the future; and, you will become a model for the kind of deep and lasting change we need to make – as a people – to ensure that we can live on this dear Earth for generations to come.
If you find this small task too daunting, then ask yourself how likely is it others will make the changes you see they need to make? Look into your own commitment and see what it lacks to make the difference that needs to be made. Listen to your own rationalizations about how this is ‘not important,’ too small to make and ‘real’ difference, or what other ‘reason’ you give yourself to not take this very small step.
Climate change requires behavior change, but we won’t change our behavior if WE don’t change our behavior. We gripe about changing light bulbs, about using alternative – anything, and we have ‘real’ and easy excuses about why our actions won’t make an impact, so we can justify our own reluctance to change. At the same time we desperately hope that someone else will make those changes, that someone else will do what must be done, that someone else will save us.
Change your language and change your relationship with all the other beings on the planet. If we can change that, then changing our actions will be a piece of cake. We will find it offensive to do harm to what we love. We will find it outrageous to kill a tree to make a parking lot. We will reduce our own water use so that fish and wildlife may live, as see that action as an obvious one. The first value of the sustainable Values Set is: All actions create the conditions that support Life. Our language should reflect that!
Are you happy with your company culture? Many companies that have a ‘green’ product pay no attention to their culture. Even those that follow the three P’s (Planet, People, Profit) see the ‘people’ part as donating to charity and not as having a focus on their culture.
Culture is built on agreements. These agreements can be tacit (underneath our consciousness) or conscious. Rarely are cultures designed or created consciously. You can’t prevent a culture from forming, but if you are not aware of how leadership actions create culture, then you can create a culture that is so bad and so intractable that you’ll want to sell your company (Tony Hsieh).
Do you get angry and tell people off? It feels good, I know, it is a sure recipe for making sure no one gets in your way. Even better is allowing others to do that. Is there a manager that has a reputation for sounding off, an employee that everyone avoids? You want to hire more people with volatile tempers. If people are afraid they will get yelled at then they are much more likely to stay silent. If you get good at this you don’t have to yell, just your disapproval will be enough.
Another good way to undermine a culture is to avoid difficult discussions and anything with emotions. By making sure that people are afraid to say anything and are trained to ignore their emotions, it is much easier to stretch limits with tacit agreement. Make all arguments rational and dismiss and belittle anything that even smacks of emotion or caring – this is a business, after all.
We are group animals. We need each other and we need to belong. Group Think can not only undermine decisions, it can do much more. Have people vote on difficult or contentious situations, with the leadership in the room. Make sure that the vote is public and not secret, so dissenters risk being recognized. Make sure that everyone who dissents feels like an outsider and make it hard for them to be heard unless they get angry, then you can have them removed.
Have people talk to you one on one and make sure they know that no matter how they feel, you are not going to change your mind. You can even be nice about it. What is important is that they know there is no recourse. Always be polite in public, so they look bad if they get upset.
Believe These Myths
Have ‘stretch’ goals and turn a blind eye to how they are achieved. Belittle anyone who dares to question how things are done. This is best done in public. Results are MORE important then how those results are achieved. Create a small group around you and make sure they know they are special. Encourage them to tell stories about other employees so you know the scoop.
Don’t allow anyone to suggest that you might be wrong, fallible, or uncaring. Refuse to accept any kind of suggestion or criticism. Take offense that anyone could even think of you in this way. You can even misunderstand comments and act offended to set the stage for this. Remember, you are only doing what’s best for the organization! If your producing a sustainable product, then you can even use that as an excuse because the product is green, what else can they expect?
These are good ways to begin to stretch the ethical fabric of the culture. When people see that ethical considerations are being stretched and ignored, then they recognize that fudging is OK. The more you are consistent with this the farther the ‘ethical’ boundaries can be pushed until no one is really sure were they are. You can even confuse them with a purported sustainability focus, so that your management and leadership seems less of an issue. You want to convince people that they are powerless, that their opinions don’t matter and that no one cares what they think. This takes much less time than you might imagine!
This is a great way to get an insight into your culture, evaluate it and understand what needs to change!
Boundaries are the structure that makes things work. Some people grow up without having any as their parents were unavailable (violent, drugged, or even just stressed by life), and others have had theirs broken (victims of violence, sexual abuse, and soldiers). When a person is trained to go into homes at night, in fear of finding someone wishing to do them harm (self-filling prophesy?), scaring women and children and then comes "home" where that behavior is culturally reprehensible and illegal, is it any wonder some folks have difficulty with that transition?
No structure always creates bullying, even with the best of intentions. Absent relationships, intentions are unclear, personal styles are confusing, and ego raises its ugly head. Clarity of boundaries, as anon illustrates makes a big difference. Self boundaries ( I can't do this) and interpersonal boundaries (Get the f*** out of my life) are useful. What we need is more clarity, practice, and skill in expressing them. This is a transition issue.
Structure as Boundaries
Key is not making up new rules as artificial boundaries that block the authenticity necessary to make them work. When the words, always, never, must, don't etc. creep in then you know that a new rule is being made. Rules are a shorthand for behavior so we don't have to pay attention, but can go on automatic pilot in new situations. Doing so, however diminishes the participants and the meaning in the situation as habit enables us to ignore the authentic needs present in the situation. When we ignore the person(s) in front of us how can it be surprising when they respond in a negative manner?
We all need to be seen for who we are. In fact most of us would rather act out and be seen as "bad" than be ignored. We train others (children, strangers, and needy folks in general) in this behavior when we ignore good behavior and only react to negativity. Understanding the hurt behind even the worst behavior can go a long way in preventing further anguish, and may even start a path to healing.
Transition is difficult because it requires SO MUCH healing, even before healthy behavior has been established. Working with people who are injured (physically, mentally, or spiritually) creates pain in its own right, as folks in the healing professions know. This is messy business and inherently slow. So much better to not hurt in the first place. This is easier said than done as there are always very good reasons to create pain ( I'm tired, greed, fear etc,) and justify nasty behavior.
I am a catalyst, I have tools and skills in developing understanding, but few in finding "answers." Answers, in my opinion, need to be authentic responses to both the situation and the participants. I can provide a context for searching for health inducing responses, but I cannot offer them. Transition requires new skills and perspectives,mines that leave the final solution open to immediate interpretation by those present who have developed the skills and self awareness to be present enough to allow the answer to emerge spontaneously.
Paradigm shifting growth happens when people have the courage and commitment to act on their beliefs - aligning actions & vision to achieve an impact that can be awesome.
Work with me to achieve a legacy worthy of your efforts!
CSR and Sustainability
Corporate Responsibility - Personal Responsibility
With corporate social responsibility (CSR) in mind, corporations are going all over the world to help people in developing nations in all sorts of ways. It is heartwarming to see the good that companies can do if they try. I went going through the website for the Corporate Citizenship Conference and the various video clips submitted by organizations on their corporate citizenship projects.
From a sustainability perspective there are several ethical issues with corporate social responsibility that bother me. I have a personal problem with do goodership. We, in the Western world, think that our life style is the best and often our approach to 'helping' is to change the life style of developing nations to match our own. Now we all know where that is going...we can't sustain our own life style and moving others into the same wasteful and unsustainable habits is not exactly a recipe for success - in the long-term.
I know we feel guilty in not letting others in on the 'best' way to live, but maybe that is actually our arrogance talking. Maybe that attitude is the rationale for 1) not really paying attention to how others live, 2) a cover up for making us feel comfortable about why we don’t make any changes, 3) embarrassment in having to learn for others 'less fortunate' than ourselves.
I mean most of these countries have managed to live the same ways for thousands of years, while we've only been at it for about 200. Who is the wiser? Yes they have to deal with drought, famine, disease, war, but they are often actually 'happier' than we are when measured on the Gross Happiness Index. We all 'know' that stuff doesn't make us happy, but that doesn't seem to change our behavior any
The ethical issues I see are several: we tell and don't listen - we try to 'save' instead of facilitate; we introduce methods that are not sustainable, thus pushing developing countries into the same unsustainable ways of thinking and living that currently threaten our planet; we don't see ourselves a equals and therefore make the interactions mutual, i.e. we do not learn and change our own behavior, thus setting up an artificial hierarchy with us on top. Being a 'good' corporate citizen can placate our conscious mind, but it can also be used as an excuse for not changing our own behavior.
Reciprocity is a key value in natural systems. Everything is interconnected and therefore everything contributes, even as it receives. This means that receiving is as important as giving. In Western societies, however, giving is seen as 'better' and so becomes a way to manipulate and control instead of being a way in which relationships are enriched. This is our poverty!
Kathryn Alexander, MA: futurist, speaker, author coach, her systems thinking approach to values and ethics enables deep change by impactful leaders.