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Tag: belonging

Enjoy Open Space events by becoming a player

Lost at an Open Space event

Cindy Hoong comments that at Open Space events, we wander around feeling lost and pretending we aren’t so that we fit in with the geeks.

Mmm . . . . yes, I did remember that feeling as I cast around looking for landmarks to orient myself.  We do like a measure of order in our lives and plenty of control for ourselves.

The first stage of group formation, anyway, reminds leaders that we are totally dependent on them to answer the question in our minds, “Do I belong here?”

Landmarks help people move from dependence to independence.  Social landmarks help us feel included.

What can we do when we feel lost at an Open Space event?

One of the most important features of an open space event is that everyone takes part – even if it is only to demonstrate how to make a cup of coffee.

If the event is half-half – then I would fall back on the open source principles. Think of something you like to do and volunteer to do it.  Offer to staff the reception area.  Offer to make the coffee. Set yourself up as official photographer or blogger.  Do something inanane ~ match people in green sweaters to people in green sweaters.

But do something. Preferably something you like to do.  Preferably something you are good at.  Preferably something that achieves a goal important to you.

Then your mindset changes. You want to know where the signing up board is.  You want to grab a room. You want to get to know the other participants so you can tailor your presentation.

Get into the flow.  Join the river.  Become a player.

Hope that helps!

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Don’t let anyone get “too big for their boots” (and stand on our toes)!

Core theory shouldn’t mean that some people can become “too big for their boots”

The core and the essence of the organization

I learned about Art Kleiner’s core theory this week.  Organizations revolve around the ‘interests’ of a core group of people.  And so they should, because there is always a core who provide the organization with its very essence.

Recognize the core, protect the core, but don’t ‘spoil it’

Sadly though, organizations are often corrupt.  The organization isn’t protecting and nourishing the core that gives it is essence. It is simply allowing a handful of people to claim ‘protection’ money.

All organization theory is an exercise in limiting moral hazard

All organization theory is really an exercise in limiting ‘moral hazard’.  We don’t want people being so privileged that their personal privilege insulates them from the realities in the world.

So without diminishing the essence of the core, which is also the essence of the organization, we don’t allow our core to become “too big for their boots”.  It’s not good for them.  It’s not good for us.

Building an organization that nourishes the core and involves us too

Here are 5 “wicked” ideas and questions that we use to help people understand their organization in healthy terms.

1.  We make the company every day by what we do.

2.  Together we act out a story.

3.  There is more than one story we could tell.

4.  Why do I have to speak for you?  What can’t everyone speak for themselves?

5.  What does the story we have chosen say about our relationships with each other and are we willing to talk about why we have chosen this set of relationships?

Why have we chosen this set of relationships?

This is the wicked question and test whether the feet and boots fit, so to speak.

Are people able to explain why the relationships in the organization as they are? Are they able to say these things aloud and is what they say acceptable and motivating?

Why have we chosen this set of relationships?

You don’t even need an answer.  You just have to watch whether people are willing to ask the question and answer the question.

When this is an acceptable conversation, you are in healthy place.

When this conversation is taboo, it is time to look for better company (or take over and lead the organization yourself).

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If our words for happiness and sadness were different, we wouldn’t feel muddled

I want to follow up Gaye’s comment

“ I’ve not seen happiness or sadness as fixed points. My own experience told me long ago that both come and go. While I’m not that good at going with the flow, I remind myself of that old Quaker saying “this too shall pass”.

However, I find it hard to be so accepting of grief and hurt and sadness and pain, and I am surprised at the anger I feel in the cold-blooded way that many casually brush all those feelings aside with this quote from Gibran, as if one compensated for the other. Contrast yes, but compensate no.”

I don’t disagree with Gaye. I would like to extend the thinking.


Discussions about happiness become complicated when we are entangle questions about the nature of happiness and sadness with our ability to understand the happiness and sadness of others.

We vary a lot in our ability to empathize with others. We are also more empathetic in some situations and less in others. I suspect that we find it easier to be empathetic when we have been in a similar situation to the one we are observing.

Quite often we look for empathy from people who are simply don’t understand. They are out of their depth.


If someone does not have experience to understand our distress, it does not really matter. What matters is that guiding them may be an extra task when we are already strained.

What really matters is when they are in power in some way. Their lack of empathy denies our reality and we experience rejection on top of grief. In theory, the two together could be sufficient to spin us out of the natural butterfly loop of life and out of the natural recovery from grief as time passes.


Almost in contradiction, but not completely so, close relationships such as marriage are more likely to flourish when one partner helps the other partner elaborate good times. Yes, listening in bad times is important. But of more importance is drawing out positive stories in positive times. Recounting good stories deepens our understanding of how good things work and our capacity to come back into the butterfly loop of flourishing when we have spun out of the orbit is widened.

In plain language, when we are struggling with the awfulness of life, we need the good times as a map to find our way back into the natural cycle of happiness and sadness. Becoming trapped in either is illness.

Semantics of happiness

The real issue is the ‘theory’ that we brought to the discussion. When we define happiness and sadness as separate and different, then we ask how much of one should we have and how much of the other should we have.

If we had a word in English to define happiness and sadness and the seasons of our life as one thing, stretching in a straight line or in that looping butterfly shape, we would ask different questions.

If someone is sad, then we act accordingly knowing that there will also be a time when they are happy and we will act accordingly them too.

I like Khalil Gibran’s words because he illustrated this notion of oneness. We find it hard to grasp the idea because of the words that we begin with.

If we had started with a different kind of word, we would have a totally different understanding. What that word should be, I don’t know, but flourishing and thriving are good starts. Languishing is the opposite of flourishing.

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Lao Tzu to Contemporary Management via Psychology

Suspicious of poetry

As a young psychologist, I bought into the notion that psychology must tell us something that is not common sense.  Many leading psychologists still think this way.  I don’t think it is right.  The profession is setting itself apart from the world, above the world, beyond the world.   It is now other worldly.

We should be more like management scientists.  You know those tough guys who schedule the plans and manage the electricity grid so an airport never has more planes and people than it can cope with and the national grid doesn’t fall over when we all make supper at the same time?

Hard core scientists don’t set themselves up against common sense.  They support common sense.  Maybe they also read poetry.

Bridging the divide between poetry and management

That being said, maybe we need some prose to help people take the first steps.  Writing coach, Joanna Young, tweeted this Lao Tzu quote today.

Kindness in words creates confidence.

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.

Kindness in giving creates love.


The core of contemporary management thinking

Sounds soppy, but these words from 1500 years ago are the core of modern management thinking.

Kindness in words creates belonging and the possibility of collective efficacy.

Kindness in thinking leads to creativity and strategic clarity and hence provides the bedrock of common action.

Kindness in giving creates the common ties that allow resilience and flexibility.

Some time on Google Scholar and you will drown in academic references.

Leadership, management, human resource management

Leadership:  who are we journeying with and why are they essential to our journey?

Management: which way are we going and what can each of us do to help?

Human Resource Management: who feels secure with us and will be with us tomorrow?

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Social Media needs to work harder to show people its potential

Dear 2010 – phishing, scams and poor service from corporates

My first task of the New Year was to block any possible damage from a phishing exercise.  I received an email from “Virgin Media” saying my direct debit had bounced and that I should login to their ebilling to sort it out. I did.  But didn’t reset my details.  I went first to my bank site to check what was happening then looked at the email more closely.  I followed up an odd looking html address marking the place of a blocked picture and discovered this was a scam.  The owner of the website address had posted the details on 30 December 2009.  I was disappointed that Virgin hadn’t warned its customers and set about changing my passwords.  What a mission. I’ve still to drive to the next town to change the passwords at my global bank, locally.   You know who I am talking about.  The local branch is good but their global IT sucks.  What would happen if I was 1000 miles away from the local branch as in my last billet?

Social Media: at least we acknowledge #So.ME

With this dismal start to 2010, I calmed down with a cup of coffee and read blog posts with a jaded eye.  Straw men.  Blither and blather. Eventually, I got my head in order and replied to a post on Made in Many.  I think my reply will be incomprehensible to them but it may make perfect sense to people from turbulent places.

  • Social Media is a revolution.
  • It perhaps was not a deliberate revolution but those who wanted social change are chortling.
  • The old guard and the old guard who have got left behind are fretting.
  • The old guard who are fretting are wishing away the changes to communication and pecking orders.

So far, so ordinary or so “dittohead” to use Social Media slang.  This is where experience of living in a place that changed rapidly and often helps.

Social Media and Wars of Liberation

There are plenty of times in life when change is discontinuous.  We may have seen the change coming. We may not.  But discontinuous change is by definition abrupt and more importantly changes who are the winners and losers in life.

We are quite happy with change when we are winning.  We are obviously distressed when we are losing.

What do we do with people who are distressed by change?

First, let me tell you what does happen.

  • They “get it” and join in
  • They resent it and try to use their residual status to negotiate the change away (they try to blackmail us).
  • They resent it and “go underground”
  • They exit or withdraw
  • They are ejected.

We notice the second group and we are eventually bitten by third.  The fourth and fifth might cost us through their loss.

Let’s deal with the second group, as they were the subject of the Made by Many post.

If this had been a War of Liberation, we would have deliberately set out to change the pecking order. We would have had little sympathy for the losers but might have pragmatically included them in a policy of reconciliation ~ not because we loved them, you understand but to mitigate the cost of groups 2 to 5.

The parallels between social media and Wars of Liberation

Social Media was not a deliberate War of Liberation but it has similar revolutionary effects.  The old guard is being displaced. They could join in but for the most part they refuse.  Should we just ignore them?  Should we chide them for their surliness?

I don’t think so.

What should we do about people with high status who are trying to “wish away” change?

I think there is no going back. Social media has introduced a more democratic world.  Not a perfectly democratic world but a more democratic world.

I won’t be blackmailed by the old guard who refuse to use social media and use their old positions to try to block change.

But I will lay out a clear road map and tell them

  • How to take part
  • How they will benefit
  • Make them feel welcome

The issue is inclusion

I won’t be blackmailed. But I will put myself out to welcome them ~ because that is the issue. They have to come to terms with the new pecking order.  That is unavoidable.  And they will do that faster when they feel welcomed and accepted.

But there will, sadly, be those who persist in undermining or feel they have to “leave”.  We can only regard each of those as our failure to show them possibilities.  We can only regard each as a failure to show them possibilities.

Social change is never pretty.  And those who lead it should budget for side-effects.  They don’t have to put up with blackmail. They do have to budget for showing people the way (or spending money on defense).

You see, this is a common story. It’s happening as we speak in other arena too.

Social media is a peaceful revolution. But it is a revolution.  We have choices.  Go with history. Or don’t.  Lead others. Or don’t.  When we confront history we get hurt.  When don’t help confused people understand, we get hurt.

Social Media needs to do the work of bringing people into the fold

We need to get organized.  We cannot leave people behind.  Yes, it is their choice how they use social media but have we truly shown them how and assured them of their welcome.  Not their old status but the freedom to interact on the same terms as everyone else.

It is too expensive to leave people behind. We have to try again. And again. And when we are tired. Let someone else try. Maybe that is all that is needed to let the light burn in their eyes.


The welcome illusion of Monday morning

Too Much Weekend

I’ll like my week better for a tidy room

A golden rose cheerfully in a crystal tube

But with a day spent alone

Working on streams distant from the streams of others

I yearn for the strains of the world outside

If I had a TV, I would switch it on

I’m glad I don’t

It would not give me what I want

The compulsive tug of collective movement

People going somewhere, maybe nowhere

Do I mind our destination when we move together?

I’m ready to join the surging throngs of people in the morning

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It’s hard, just to listen

Please Listen

When I ask you to listen to me

and you start giving me advice,

you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me

and you begin to tell me why

I shouldn’t feel that way,

you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me

and you feel you have to do something

to solve my problem,

you have failed me,

strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.

Don’t talk or do—just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get

you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham

in the same newspaper.

And I can do for myself; I am not helpless.

Maybe discouraged and faltering,

but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can

and need to do for myself,

you contribute to my fear and


But when you accept as a simple fact

that I feel what I feel,

no matter how irrational,

then I can stop trying to convince

you and get about this business

of understanding what’s behind

this irrational feeling.

And when that’s clear, the answers are

obvious and I don’t need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense when

we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes,

for some people—because God is mute,

and he doesn’t give advice or try

to fix things.

God just listens and lets you work

it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.

And if you want to talk, wait a minute

for your turn—and I will listen to you.

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The greatest leaders spark curiosity about the system

Our goal had gone walkabout

On my travels, I found myself teaching systems thinking in a university which broke a large course into 25 student groups. A few people determined the curriculum and an army of people taught students who wrote a common examination.

I was shocked by the examination papers. Students rambled on tossing in whatever thoughts came to mind.

We sensibly had an interim examiners meeting and I voiced my concerns. Well, it seems that I was the one to have misunderstood the curriculum.  The curriculum designers were trying to convey the idea that there are many perspectives on any issue. They didn’t see a common goal or direction as an essential part of any system.

I am cursed with an “open mind” so I hastened to the internet to double-check and the idea has hung around my mind ever since as unfinished business does.

3 misunderstandings about system goals

I’m afraid that systems do have common goals. That is entirely the point. But it seems that this is a point that is often misunderstood.

Some people think the system’s goal is their goal

No! There are still multiple perspectives. We can add the system as a virtual person and ask what is the system’s goal! We have the boss’ goal, we have the system, goal and we have each of our goals.

Some people think there is no common goal

It is true that the organization does not have a goal. An organization cannot think! When we say that the organization’s goal is X, we must ask who says that?

But we not only want to understand the multiplicity of goals but we also want to understand how the many goals come together and how the system goal morphs in response. We cannot ignore the system goal ~ or we do as a sailor might ignore the weather ~ at our peril.

Some people think goals are constant

They are ~ for a second. Goals morph as situations change. When we ignore the dynamic quality of goals, then we get mission creep. Conditions change and if we don’t stop to think about what we want, what we all want, we find ourselves doing too much of one thing and too little of another. A mess in other words. Goals are infinitely variable.

Articulating the morphing of goals in any group is what makes a leader

A leader understand the multiplicity of goals in a community and sees how are contradictions and conflicts, agreements and alliances come together to make us what we are – how the whole comes from the parts and affects them in turn.

A leader is a person who is able to articulate this dynamic mix so that we feel supported by the whole and essential to its well being. This is a tough call when a group is determined to quarrel or terrified by its destiny. The hall mark of a leader is that he or she looks for the common ground where we all belong and keeps looking.

Facilitating the agreement is the hallmark of the greatest leaders

Helping us find that common ground is the hallmark of the greatest leaders. We often doff our caps to leaders who were in the right place at the right time. They represent what is the best about ourselves and we throw them into the limelight to remind us of who we are and where we are going. In time, we choose a new leader because our direction has changed and we need new icon on our bows.

We remember these leaders because these were times that we felt great. The greatest leaders, though, help us identify the right questions. They know how to “bound” the group. They know how to focus our attention on the question that we must answer if we are to find the way forward and the place where we feel great.

That’s why it seems as if great leaders set goals. They set a boundary which focuses our attention on question-asking.

It is not the goal that is important, but our compulsion to find out how we should reach the goal.

Colin Powell once said “Leadership is about ‘Follow Me!. Even if it is only out of curiosity.”

Leadership is the art of engaging the imagination in the search for collective answers.

The system is important. With good leadership, we accept the system as a virtual person ~ a popular virtual person who we all want to look after and please.


Dissolve your recession blues with 3 questions (and a Posterous blog & camera)

The mark of a good businessman is that he can succeed in bad times

Anyone can do well in a rising market.  When an economy is doing well, people trade with each other.  I make bread and I swap it for your milk.  While I am making bread, you plough my field.

In a sophisticated economy, we make the exchange process easier by swapping goods & services for money.  It’s easier all round.  And the sovereign ~ the king, queen, president or government ~ demands their share.  That’s called taxes.

In good times, we simply slot into the system.  Its easy.  Somebody wants something done. We do it. We get some money.  Our options improve.

In bad times, everyone tries to do everything for themselves.  It is harder to specialize because no one wants to trade their speciality for yours?

Is it?  Why is it so hard?

Why not just walk up to the person who has what you want and make an offer. I can do this for you if you do that for me?

Why haven’t you just done that?

Some where along the line we’ve lost our ability to think for ourselves

If we intend to be successful, in bad times and good, we have to be a little clearer about what we offer.

Here are 3 questions to ask and answer.

#1   What do I really enjoy doing?

Think about when you experience ‘flow’, that wonderful feeling when you are so engrossed that you loose track of time (and are late for the next think.)  Young people often experience flow in sport.  Where else have you experienced flow?

Now commit yourself to doing more of that.  Commit yourself to remembering when you experience flow.  Commit yourself to experiencing more flow, more often, and very frequently (every hour?).

Good.  Now we are enjoying ourselves we help others enjoy their lives!

#2   When do I bring the light to other people’s eyes?

When you are in flow, it’s unlikely that you are looking in the mirror.  If you were, it is likely you would see a magnificently radiant and happy person.  You eyes will be alive and dancing.

Everyone wants to feel like this.  When do people around you feel flow?  When do their eyes light up?

What is that you do that brings the light to other people’s eyes?  Which things do you love to do and which of these make other people so happy that their eyes sparkle with pleasure?

Where does your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet?

It’s a humbling experience to think of these sweet spots, isn’t it?  We don’t feel bold and brazen. We feel shy.  We feel hesitant.  We feel gentle.  We feel calm.  We know that this is our mission.  This is what we have been called to do in the ‘family of things’.

#3 Why do their eyes light up?

But we aren’t sure how to begin.  How do we grow this sweet spot where we are bringing a light to other people’s eyes?  We ask “why?”  When their eyes light up, what story are we helping them live?  What “flow” are they experiencing at that moment?  Who are they at that moment?  What is their purpose?

What essential information did we provide in that moment that helped their story come true?

We need to tell their story.  We need to take a photo and write a blog post.  Day-to-day, let’s document the place where we made someone’s story true.

That’s the point where we have something to trade

And to return from the poetic to commerce, it is at this point that we have something to trade.  We understand what we love to do.  We know when our pleasures are pleasures for others.   We understand their stories and we able to make them come true.  We can walk into someone’s shop or business and say to them, “I can do this for you.  Would you be able to do this for me in exchange?”

Capture those micro-moments when someone in your life lit up!

Now get on with it!  Opening a Posterous blog will take you a few minutes. Getting out your camera will take even less.  And send me your link!  I want to see you capture those micro-moments when someone in your life lit up!

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Is belonging the cornerstone of thriving & flourishing?

Trials more difficult than ours

I don’t know this soldier. I don’t know the details of his story.  I also don’t want to ‘use’ his story in ways that he doesn’t approve.  He used a phrase, though, that struck a cord with me. He said that even though he was injured, he was still part of a team.

Belonging is so important to our well being

For a long while, I’ve believed that belonging is one of the most important factors in well being, in productivity, in thriving and indeed any form of flourishing.

When we belong, we at least are saved from worrying about not belonging.

This soldier shows that belonging is more. When we belong, we are concerned for the wellbeing of others and we trust them to take care of ours.

Am I over-interpreting his story? Is he a fool to want to belong? Is it too hard to create belonging?

Or is the promotion of belonging our first task. To help us belong ~ so that we can thrive and flourish?

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