Skip to Content

Free Online Class by Parker Palmer on Bridging the Political Divide

Parker J. Palmer, teacher, author, activist, and an outspoken advocate on faith and democracy issues, will teach an online course that is open to all from September 5-19, 2016.

We are in the midst of what may be the most polarizing and contentious election cycle in recent U.S. history. Many observers note that the political rancor and rhetoric has reached all time highs, injecting unprecedented fear, division, and unease into our culture. Parker Palmer believes our current political climate provides a rare opportunity to think more deeply about who we are as people and a nation.

This course is intended to spur thought, conversation, and action around current political tensions. The class, a series of video lectures and discussions, can be taken anytime between September 5 – 19. Students can sign up today. No special software is required. It will take an average learner about 45 minutes to complete. Registration is free and open worldwide.

For more information and to register click here. Resources for Congregations, including downloadable posters, bulletin inserts and a Launch Guide can be found here or at churchnext.tv > The Big Class.”

Throughout the free course, participants are encouraged to ponder and discuss what it means to live faithfully in a society racked with political division. “We the people have made America great,“ says Palmer. “And re-discovering our potential, in light of the present political climate may be our greatest challenge and reward.”

This ChurchNext course is made possible by the generous support of Forward Movement, The Episcopal Church, Bexley Seabury Seminary, Living Compass, and the Center for Courage & Renewal. ChurchNext creates online Christian learning experiences that shape disciples. ChurchNext is devoted to helping people grow in their Christian faith, improve their lives, and better the world. Learn more at http://churchnext.tv.

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Healers in Need of Healing Cannot Heal

How do we catalyze conversations about the transformative change needed in health care, including changing training and the environments of practice?

We lead from who we are, and we gain meaning from why we do what we do. If the “who we are” is burned out, cynical, and lacking in self and other compassion—and yet we feel we have to save face and not admit to it, and the “why we do it” is focused on economic transactions—no amount of academic education on leadership theory will help us engage ourselves or others in the healing process.

We are not going to have a cadre of effective physician leaders until we have a cadre of well and integrated physicians. And we are not going to have authentic healthcare culture transformation until we have a transformation of individual clinicians.

120821080406-stressed-doctor-story-top

Nevertheless, we reject the notion that physicians are victims. Instead, they are often co-creators of this unfortunate reality. They are co-creators by:

  1. Continuing to accept the “status quo” and expecting that the leadership of our healthcare systems and our political structures will fix the problem;
  2. Buying into the professional drive that leaves important parts of themselves out of their professional and personal lives;
  3. Perpetuating a culture of “silent suffering” and denying their own humanity; and
  4. Ignoring self-care as imperative to calibrating themselves in order to sustain this most meaningful, but most stressful work.

We must invest in the formation of leaders with inner capacity that will allow a questioning of long-standing frames of reference that are no longer useful (i.e., reactivity, competition, individualistic goals, invulnerability) and create the conditions for a new frame of reference (ie, interdependence, interrelatedness, team work, vulnerability, inspiration, respect).

Note: This excerpt is from “Healers in Need of Healing Cannot Heal” by Herdley O. Paolini, PhD; Mark H. Greenawald, MD, originally posted on Medscape.com, May 20, 2016. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/863416

Herdley Paolini, PhDHerdley Paolini is a licensed psychologist, teacher, and author. She has over 30 years of experience in the counseling field. In 2014 she founded The Institute for Physician Integration, an organization dedicated to the well-being and Leadership Development of Physicians. Prior to her current position, she created and for 12 years she directed the Department of Physician Support Services at Florida Hospital where she also focused exclusively on the development, integration, and wellness of physicians. Her work takes a prevention perspective, influencing both individual as well as organizational change through CME curriculum, leadership development, and creative programming.  Find out more at www.physicianintegration.org.

 

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Hearing Your Genuine Voice

There is something in every one of you that waits and listens for the sound of the genuine in yourself. It is the only true guide you will ever have. And if you cannot hear it, you will all of your life spend your days on the ends of strings that somebody else pulls.”

Who is the real you behind your resume? Who is the genuine you who wakes you up in the middle of the night for a heart-to-heart chat? Not the inner critic, not one of the many voices that chatter in your head. But the calm, still inner voice you can trust.

“Words”
by Shinkichi Takahashi

I don’t take your words
merely as words.
Far from it.
I listen
to what makes you talk—
whatever that is—
and me listen.

The most basic tenet of Courage & Renewal is that everyone has an inner teacher. We believe that every person has access to an inner source of truth, named in various wisdom traditions as identity, true self, heart, spirit or soul. The inner teacher is a source of guidance and strength that helps us find our way through life’s complexities and challenges.

Today pay close attention to your own reactions and responses, to your most important teacher, your Self.

Where do you hear the whispers, or shouts, of the genuine voice inside you?

With gratitude and best wishes,
Terry
Terry Chadsey
Executive Director

P.S. Circles of Trust are an opportunity to listen your inner teacher and encourage others to hear their own inner wisdom, too. See upcoming Courage & Renewal programs on our calendar.

mail iconToday’s blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment e-newsletter. If you’re not a subscriber yet, sign up so you don’t miss anything!

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

How Our Holacracy-Teal Hybrid Helped Us Through Heart Surgery

holacracy-bookLast September felt like the beginning of a school year with a new curriculum when we decided to try out Holacracy for our small nonprofit staff. Due to some downsizing in the midst of ongoing strategic discernment and organizational growing pains, we saw the need for better defining “how we work” so that we could determine how best to engage our limited staff resources.

Nine months later as if it were finals week, we were tested when our Executive Director required unexpected open-heart surgery and our “next in line” was halfway around the world on a business trip. Holacracy played a part in saving the day. Business proceeded as usual, with our small staff taking on roles that had been clearly discussed and defined. We’re good at self-organizing and stepping up to get work done, but Holacracy helped clarify decision-making accountabilities. Work continued with hardly any balls dropped while he was away for surgery and six weeks of recovery. (He’s back now, hearty and hale.)

Click to go to HBR articleIn the July/August issue of Harvard Business Review, the article “Beyond the Holacracy Hype” examines the myths and the promise of self-managed teams. The Center for Courage & Renewal recently examined the value of Holacracy ourselves after testing it for nine-months. The resounding conclusion, despite some initial resistance, was that we don’t want to stop, we want to learn more, and we want it customized to our own culture and needs.

Although we haven’t adopted Holacracy’s constitution as our formal operating system, we have found aspects of the framework to be a secret ingredient in navigating our own VUCA world.

The timing of our staff reflection and open-heart surgery coincided with new expansion. Receiving grant funds to hire two new staff coincided with needing to replace the MarComm assistant who is moving on. Holacracy roles are helping us define the hiring in a much more efficient, transparent way. We are sorting through our business model complexity, our budget realities, and our vision for hiring people who have the heart for what we do with an ability to bring their gifts in more agile ways than a rigid hierarchy might allow.

In what could be a very stressful, fearful situation where we might go to our default corners of control and command, Holacracy gives us a paradigm shift to reimagine our team, our work, and how we want our culture to support our small team to deliver on our big mission.

Disconnecting Soul and Role was Disquieting at First

Reconnecting soul and role is the heart of our mission at the Center for Courage & Renewal. We teach a set of principles and practices called the Circle of Trust® approach so that people “reconnect who they are with what they do”. We believe great things can happen when people commit to becoming more authentic, self-aware and adept at building trust within themselves and between and among people, uniting across lines of difference. People become more resilient and engaged for the long haul when they reconnect to their meaning and purpose—and to each other. And that kind of wholehearted leadership is good for individuals, teams, organizations, communities, and for the greater good of any worthy cause.

Imagine the seeming incongruence of Holacracy’s idea that it’s important to disconnect soul from role. Holacracy considers a role distinct from a person, with specific accountabilities and decision-making authority. When a new task needs to be done, you ask “the role” not “the person.” That means you don’t say “Will you do this for me because you like me,” or “because I’m your boss and I say so,” or “I’m desperate—do you have time?” It means you can say no or yes or let’s figure out who is best to do a new task done based on our roles. And if it’s a task that doesn’t fall under anyone’s domain, you can determine objectively how it fits into the strategic big picture. Is taking that on a good opportunity calling for nimble adapting, or is that a symptom of scope creep that often derails the best of intentions? Do we need a new role altogether?


Click to see book at Amazon

Click to view book at Amazon

Defining roles as separate from soul was at first a challenging concept for us where we invite each other to always show up in our “wholeness.” You could say our founder, Parker J. Palmer, wrote the book on wholeness—A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. Inspired by Palmer, Frederic Laloux names Wholeness as a teal concept in his book Reinventing Organizations, in which the Center for Courage & Renewal and Holacracy both appear as case studies. For us, wholeness is not limited to the “soul & role” of an individual or the diverse composition of a group. We strive to see the paradox of both/and as the whole. A Courage & Renewal practice around paradox is learning to “hold tensions in life-giving ways” (see our Touchstones).

Holacracy has given us an additional lens for processing tensions, and calls us to be even more clear about our Purpose so that we can self-organize well. If your hope is to see self-organized employees working together to achieve and express your organizational purpose, you have to cultivate self-aware individuals within a corporate culture that walks the talk about trust. Below is more about how Holacracy has complemented the strengths of our aspirational-teal organization.

Implementing Holacracy for a Small Staff, Big Mission

Seven of us (soon to be nine) work at the hub of a global nonprofit comprised further of almost 300 independent facilitators, a Board of Directors, three co-Founders, plus a Program Team who work as contractors. So far, only the Center staff have applied Holacracy.

We had the help of Dianne Dickerson, of Duet, a consultant working for us on a pro bono basis as a generous way she chose to learn more about implementing Holacracy before charging fees. We were not always happy guinea pigs in the early phase of monthly Governance meetings to define our roles. But it was the most important groundwork we laid. Among the seven of us, and considering the downsizing departure of our Associate Director last year, we divvied up and defined who does what and why. We came up with the roles playfully named which added some fun and ownership.

Table 1 shows how we matched new Holacracy roles to our existing traditional job titles. Because the role titles are long and some roles overlap into multiple areas, this is presented here in a chart. Normally, Holacracy would visualize staff relationships in circles and sub-circles.

Table 1: Current Holacracy Roles at the Center for Courage & Renewal

Executive Director MarComm Director Development Officer
Board Handler; Buck Stops Here; Lead Link; Major Gifts Magnet; Org-wide Strategy, Vision, Direction; Program Visioner Marketing & Communications Director; Bookmeister; Lead Storycatcher; Program Evaluation Lead; Policy Writer; Online Donation System Manager; Online Vendor Liaison; Holacracy Secretary Development Officer; Development Data; Invitational Retreat Coordinator; Mail Chump
Office Manager &
Program Registrar
MarComm Assistant Bookkeeper
Office Manager; Program Registrar; Board Wrangler; Mail Chump; Debt Hound; Back Office Coordinator; Holacracy Facilitator Copywriter/Editor; Graphic Designer; Jostle Knight; Online Donation Setup; Online Megaphone / Case-Maker; Program Data Coordinator Bookkeeper – Numbers Ninja; Debt Hound; Keeper of the Force
Facilitator Program Director Schools/Leading Together Director Schools/Healthcare Coordinator
Director of Facilitator Preparation Program; Director of Clergy Program Leading Together Leader Leading Together Coordinator; Health Care Program Coordinator

Some of us defined our roles into very specific “accountabilities” that sounded much like our To Do Lists, naming the nuances of who does what on sub-teams. Others chose to define our roles in broad terms, partly because those roles have recurring tasks that are clearly defined. The number of roles also reveals the overlapping and DIY nature of a small nonprofit staff, which is also why we haven’t defined sub-circles yet.

Highlights from Our Self-Assessment

As our staff reflected on what has worked well about adopting Holacracy, here’s what we agreed upon:

  • We appreciate the format of the weekly tactical meetings for an efficient way of informing each other with metrics, project updates and generally keeping us out of our silos, which can happen even in a small staff.
  • We will move to a quarterly Governance meeting unless the roles are becoming unclear and lack of clarity around decision-making or other power issues seems to be causing problems.
  • For now, we will not adopt the Constitution or the strictest form of Holacracy implementation, because the constraints are not worth our agility at this time.

Our staff made the following comments about how Holacracy has helped.

“Holacracy facilitates work when people are absent; things don’t stop when people are out.”

“We are more fleet of foot in addressing new situations. We are able to move forward more quickly rather than thinking out and addressing every possible challenge in advance.”

“Tactical meetings with the criteria for raising tensions help us focus on solution seeking not just naming problems.”

“Tactical meetings with the criteria for raising tensions help us focus on solution seeking not just naming problems. We name real, immediate tensions, not predictions of what might go wrong and it means someone owning it, then proposing action to resolve it.”

“The focus on processing tension helps us efficiently drill into what’s important rather than seeing whole mess of things. We go right to the stuck places that are most important. I’ve been surprised by that in a great way.”

“We’ve brought the language into the rest of our work, especially around problems. I like when we ask “that sounds like a tension to raise” or “how does that fit into a role?”

“In subtle ways we’ve made Holacracy our own, softened the edges of the protocols without losing the power of the protocols.”

Because those positives are worthwhile reasons to continue with Holacracy, we will find other ways to handle what didn’t work so well. Here are a few examples:

  • Tactical meetings are run by an elected facilitator whose job is to shut down things that fall outside the Holacracy rules, which can be stifling to any group of creative and curious people who rely on lively intellectual discussion to do their work. Freeform discussion tends to shut down and then not everyone gets included in later meetings, losing richness of diverse input and creativity. We agreed to call a Holacracy time-out to allow space for vital brainstorming to ensue, letting the facilitator watch for it derailing the meeting completely.

We agreed to call a Holacracy time-out to allow space for vital brainstorming to ensue…

  • The frequency of meeting once a week for tactical meetings feels burdensome when our workload is high. We agreed it’s okay to can cancel the weekly tactical when too many people are absent, and not have Governance monthly. We also agreed awhile back not to have tactical meetings on Mondays. We meet Wednesday mid-morning.
  • We will recommit to defining roles where work is falling through the cracks and priorities need reassessed in light of available resources.
  • We sometimes miss the chance for reflection that our Circle of Trust approach uses for check-ins, such as a piece of poetry to ground us in our time together. Rather than force it, we agreed that any of us can bring in reflection for check in our check outs, if we are moved, but it won’t be forced onto the strict agenda.

Perhaps the best learning we’ve seen is that the Holacracy process has helped each staff person find and exercise their voice in the operations and direction of the Center. It has helped us all grow developmentally and take responsibility for our needs, tensions, and speaking up about them. These benefits coincide nicely with our own Courage & Renewal practice collection known as the Habits of the Heart.

Our Own Hybrid Boils Down to Trust

The HBR article authors wrote, “…one of the greatest challenges of implementing the goals at scale is insufficient leadership. When leadership is a shared responsibility, everyone must understand and practice it.”

Further the authors summarized, “Companies must also work out how much hierarchy and process they need to ensure coherence and what other kinds of “glue,” such as shared purpose and a common ethical compass, they can use.”

For us, trust is the glue. If you want to create efficient, self-organized teams, you have to start with self-aware individuals who can trust themselves to take on the responsibility of their roles and trust each other to get the work done. Open, honest communication is vital and that requires relational trust.

You’ll need to walk your talk about trust…

If you want each person to help express the evolutionary purpose of the organization, you’ll need time for honest reflection on your individual and organizational purpose, hopes and values.

You’ll need to walk your talk about trust, and create the trustworthy conditions in which people truly are welcome to own their roles, to make decisions, even to fail while being accountable (holding themselves accountable out of integrity, not fear).

You must also be clear in the wholeness of your own leadership (honest about your strengths as well as your limits as just one paradox of the myriad you can manage). Teal leaders must be able to create a community of understanding and shared commitment to a bigger vision.

Beyond Self Management to Transformation

At the Center for Courage & Renewal, we’re setting our sights further than self-management. By starting with self-awareness and self-management, fortified by more capacity in relational trust, we believe we can create more courageous leaders. Those leaders will be better equipped and sustained to bring about the collective courage that will create collaborative solutions to seemingly intractable problems, transforming the world we live in.

Hybrid Holacracy Will Help

Holacracy will be one ingredient in our own evolution. We will continue to define our roles and accountabilities for new hires. We will consider defining roles for those who work closest with us in our stakeholder organization. We will explore the rubric of “Emphasize X even over Y” in our strategy to help us discern priorities and resources. We have already embraced Holacracy as an effective way to process the tensions of reliability and adaptability, and we will continue to live into the promise of effectiveness and faithfulness to our higher purpose. We’ll see where we are six months and a year from now, and adapt.

Holacracy isn’t only for emergencies, like when your boss is unexpectedly facing open-heart surgery. It’s also for when your staff is healthy and whole, as we are now, because it helps us take our collective work to the next level of effectiveness.

In times that are volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous for nearly every organization on the planet, we all need people who are willing to step into leadership with a wholeness of voice and agency. We need to develop habits of the heart. Holacracy holds promise if applied or adapted with authentic engagement, discernment and the courage to try something new.

Shelly FrancisShelly Francis wrote this in her roles as CCR’s Marketing & Communications Director, Lead Storycatcher, Bookmeister, and Holacracy Secretary. Her forthcoming book explores how people have applied Courage & Renewal to their life and leadership. She has worked for two of the organizations featured in Frederic Laloux’s book, Reinventing Organizations. Shelly enjoys her practice of viewing every hard day as a case study.

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

The Soul of Aging: A New Courage & Renewal Alumni Institute

autumn-path

“When physical eyesight declines, spiritual eyesight increases.”
— Plato

I was recently sitting around a table with a group of clergy, telling stories of our most meaningful spiritual experiences. Without exception, each person shared about being with a loved one who was dying. I was at first stunned, but ultimately not surprised. It reminded me that while loss and transition offer us intensely painful moments, they also contain some of the most meaningful experiences of our lives.

This is good news for those of us who are aging (which is of course, all of us), but especially for those in our elder years.

breitenbush-Labyrinth-1Aging seems to offer us an accelerated inner life curriculum on change, and a deep dive into the paradoxes of loss, transition and renewal. I think about how we refer to aging as “growing” older, implying that it involves progress and learning, as well as significant skill. It suggests something natural and organic. The many new books on aging have titles that include active descriptors like “conscious” aging, “authentic, graceful, courageous, wise, spiritual” aging or, as our new Courage & Renewal alumni institute claims, “soulful” aging. We seem to sense that aging demands special spiritual qualities, effort, and is perhaps even more rigorous than the other stages we have already passed through. (Well, maybe not more rigorous than parenting!)

After my mother’s death, Dad lived for a while in a retirement community in San Diego that looked like a cruise ship that didn’t move. Built in a tropical, palm treed setting, with delicious cuisine, parlor games and field trips, it failed to offer any programs on bereavement (when many there were recently widowed), nor focused conversations about what it means to age and how to make the most out of this stage of life.

These community conversations are also often missing in congregations, which are graced with many older people hungry for these exchanges.

The Soul of Aging: A Courage & Renewal Alumni Institute is a retreat and curriculum for clergy, congregational, and community leaders who yearn to explore these topics with others, and who long to understand, accept, surrender and be transformed by the aging process. It offers a time to grow our souls and expand our capacity to love, serve, forgive our selves and others, explore our relationship with God, find peace and embrace our own deaths. And it’s an opportunity for alumni of Courage & Renewal programs to learn how to facilitate a Circle of Trust® in their community around issues of aging and more. Registration is now open for our first Soul of Aging institute, which takes place February 7-10, 2017 in Santa Barbara, California.

Explore the art of eldering
at the Soul of Aging

soulofaging-eldertrio

Next institute begins February 7-10, 2017 in Santa Barbara, CA

Click here for details

While my Dad’s retirement community may have been right for his generation, many of the elders today are a generation of seekers. We meditate, go on retreat, do yoga and seek the true meaning of spiritual awakening. We sense the immense potential of our aging to “wake us up” as nothing has before. As we age there is a natural movement toward interiority, reflection and making peace with our past. We yearn to grasp what life has been all about and to come as fully alive as we possibly can before we die, which includes claiming unlived parts of ourselves, thoughtful shadow work, and a deeper commitment to inner life work.

We intuit that we can just get old or we can become Elders who have meaningful contributions to make. There are some tough things to face in our aging but, if we are willing to face them, there are also enormous gifts.

As Joan Chittister reminds us, “This is the time to begin to think of higher matters than looking ten years younger than we are, wonderful as that can be. We must begin to attend to the inner self now. These years are for allowing the interior life—our continuing questions, our lifelong interests—to direct what we do and who we are.”

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

caryl-hurtig-casbon-15Caryl Ann Casbon, whose stories grace this post, is a NW Poet and Writer and author of The Everywhere Oracle: A Guided Journey Through Poetry for an Ensouled World. She also works as an interfaith minister, spiritual director, and facilitator through the Center for Courage & Renewal. Over the last 15 years Caryl has lead Circle of Trust® programs nationally and internationally for clergy and lay communities, medical and hospice groups, and leaders in education.

georgia-nobleGeorgia Noble, Ed.D, MFT, is a facilitator with the Center for Courage & Renewal and trained Spiritual Director. Her background includes 25 years in private practice as a Marriage and Family Therapist, working with individuals and groups and leading seminars. Georgia feels especially called to helping communities of faith realize their potential as agents of personal and social transformation.

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Courageous Dialogue on Racial Healing and Reconciliation

In Kalamazoo, Michigan, Courage & Renewal practices have helped guide conversations around healing racial trauma. By coming to deeper understandings of one another’s experiences, people are building their capacity for empathy, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

Seeds of Racial Healing Take Root in Kalamazoo

“I came here because I was losing hope. My hope has been restored with fire.”

RACE_are_we_so_differentIt all began six years ago when the Kalamazoo Valley Museum hosted RACE: Are We So Different?, a national eye-opening exhibit that examined issues of race from historical, cultural, and biological points of view.

Bev Coleman remembers how energized people were by the RACE exhibit. She recounts, “Folk were saying this is too valuable! Once the exhibit is gone we’ve got to keep it going! There was determination to keep racial awareness alive and well in Kalamazoo.”

In 2011, the Racial Healing Initiative was born, which included starting a local book club. Bev Coleman and Caren Dybek, both Courage & Renewal facilitators, joined the group, and it wasn’t long before they were opening each meeting with the Courage & Renewal Touchstones. Others appreciated the practice, and it generated interest in how the Touchstones’ trust-based approach to dialogue might support more antiracism work in their community.

The following year, Bev and Caren were invited to offer one-day retreats for racial healing in partnership with SHARE: Society for History and Racial Equity. Founded by Donna Odom in 2003 (originally the Southwest Michigan Black Heritage Society), SHARE is a clearinghouse and program hub that promotes awareness, action, and healing around historical and contemporary experiences of racism.

share-kazoo-banner

Donna Odom explains, “The book club and retreats grew out of expanding our mission to include the Racial Healing Initiative, which is based on the ‘Transforming Historical Harms’ program developed at Eastern Mennonite University. A major part of that program is built on the importance of people sharing their stories and truly listening to the stories of others in the journey towards healing the trauma of past and present injustices.”

In a 2015 interview with WMUK radio, Donna further noted, “Part of the problem is that people have not spent enough time with one another to really know who they are as individuals. That’s why the discussions, retreats, and book club are meaningful to people because we share our stories and become human to one another.

“All the activist things we do are extremely important, but we also have to do a lot of work at the individual level, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” said Donna. “You can’t very well transform an organization or institution unless the members undergo some kind of transformation themselves!”

Caren also acknowledged that there’s a need for more individual work to balance the larger societal work of activism, social justice and racial reconciliation. She said, “There’s other race work in Kalamazoo that’s more in-your-face, and helps organizations face hard questions about institutional racism. As wonderful and effective as that work is, a lot of people feel there’s something more they want or desire.”

“There’s a human need to connect, and I think that’s what Circles of Trust give people. A chance to connect and understand,” said Caren.

Telling Our Stories in Trustworthy Spaces

Catalyst-BevCaren-nc


Caren Dybek and Bev Coleman

At the Healing Together retreats, participants are invited to engage in both individual reflection and group sharing around poetry, music, and questions, creating opportunities for people to take a journey toward individual and community healing of racialized trauma.

The experience turned out to be tremendously powerful. Folks walked away from the retreats feeling heartened, enlightened, and reinvigorated.

“It was inspiring to hear about others’ experiences and journeys. In a time when there are so many awful things happening in the world, it’s empowering to be around others who care,” attested one participant.

“I am taking away a feeling of peace and healing from this retreat. I think it is so important to have these conversations as a way of caring for ourselves and others.”

“I never thought my own personal experiences were important enough to share but this experience of open sharing has been important to make me stronger.”

Bev and Caren were encouraged by the positive reactions they were receiving. “The only negative feedback we got is that there wasn’t enough time!” laughed Caren.

Interest kept growing, and soon they were offering not just introductory retreats but follow-up programs for alumni. The retreats became more diverse, drawing people from Kalamazoo’s Hispanic and Asian communities and younger participants as well. Other local organizations and activist movements started encouraging their people to attend the retreats. Clearly, they were doing something right.

SHARE’s Donna Odom told us, “The creation of the sense of ‘safe place’ and welcome has been very important in bringing people into the work and in helping to move beyond feelings of guilt and resentment.”

It all comes back to the approach, according to Bev and Caren. Like every Circle of Trust, the facilitators emphasized how each member of the circle must help create and hold the space together.

“The heart of the work we do is setting up the opportunity and the safety for people to share their stories,” said Bev, “and to do so in a way that’s gentle and progressive.”

Caren added, “Courage & Renewal practices create a container for trust. They are the bedrock. I can’t imagine having conversations with that kind of depth, honesty, trust, and safety without the Touchstones.”

Extend and presume welcome. Set aside judgment and try compassionate inquiry instead. Avoid fixing, saving, or advising others. Speak your truth and honor others’ truths. Leave room for silence…

In a space bounded by these Touchstones, participants were afforded a unique chance to deeply examine their own diverse experiences of race, consider how racism is impacting their lives, set personal goals for change, and connect with others to develop a vision for ongoing community transformation.

“The space was so welcoming and the facilitators did a wonderful job creating a ‘container’. They made me feel comfortable. It felt safe to be honest and open up,” reflected one participant.

“Taking time to truly listen to others was powerful,” reported one participant. “We, as a society, are so focused on productivity and efficiency that this wonderful and moving human connections are lost. We have so much to learn from one another!”

A Different, Gentler Way

These days there’s no shortage of tension when it comes to issues of race, racism, and racial justice. When people carry suffering within them, discussions can quickly devolve into hotbeds of vitriol and judgment. Although those conversations are important, people also need gentler alternatives.

“I think the real takeaway for people is that it’s possible to have these kinds of conversations without hostility, anger or judgment — things people usually experience when they start to talk about race, especially across the boundaries of black and white. They’re amazed there’s a way to be hospitable, tell their own stories, but not feel put on the spot or that they’re being attacked,” said Bev.

One participant said that while he was doubtful at first, the retreat helped him see that reflective process and sharing with strangers can be effective, when well-designed and effectively led.

photo-of-a-black-manAnother wrote, “This retreat has reminded me of the importance of storytelling in the process of naming race. I am also reminded of how vulnerable such a thing can be. The secure atmosphere set by the leaders, and the incredible openness and honesty of the participants’ sharing… that was heart-learning.”

Bev and Caren are energized by the possibility that this racial healing work can make a long-lasting and positive difference in the Kalamazoo community and beyond. But they also know that any good thing worth doing usually takes a long time.

“When I think of this work, I think of sowing seeds. It’s very slow work,” described Bev. “I don’t have the expectation that something amazing will happen and that it will point back directly to someone having been in this retreat. But I feel that when folks go back… I have to believe that changes occur in how they are with each other, and how they converse with each other.”


Incredible stories of transformation like the one you’ve just read are only possible through the support of generous individuals like you.

Your gift today can bring Courage & Renewal to other communities where it will make a lasting difference.

Will you help make a better world?

Will you give Courage to those who need it?

donate_here_button

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Turning to Wonder: Hidden Truths Below the Surface

Dear Readers,

This week Terry is taking a well-deserved break to spend time with his family. In his place, I volunteered to write a reflection for the Words of Encouragement. This is also my last week with Center for Courage & Renewal after two and a half amazing years on staff, so I offer this piece as both a celebration of this incredible work and a grateful farewell. Enjoy!

With gratitude,

karen-rauppius-sqkrauppius-signature
Karen Rauppius,
Marketing & Communications Assistant

orange-flower-bloom

Wonder (noun): rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience.

It’s amazing how different the world looks when you pay close attention. Like peering through a microscope, things you thought you understood are suddenly a source of wonder and awe.

In Circles of Trust®, the phrase “turn to wonder” describes the act of practicing open curiosity and attentiveness. Turning to wonder means slowing down to examine the world around and within us, permitting deeper revelations to emerge.

Turning to wonder means questioning the source of our own feelings and actions, such as: “What does it mean that I associate these two things?” or “What events in my past have conditioned me to respond this way?” In listening to others, turning to wonder also means resisting the urge to react or jump to conclusions. “What does he really mean when he uses that word?” or “I wonder how she came to believe that?”

Over years, we’ve found that when you hold open that space of gentle inquiry, it allows hidden truths to surface and helps us better appreciate ourselves and each other.

Turning to wonder isn’t an easy act. It takes humility to ask a question, and courage to inhabit that uncertainty. It requires a kind of love; love for self and others that opens our hearts to a desire for genuine understanding.

Recently I watched a most profound film, and I’ve carried a sense of wonder about it ever since. HUMAN, a documentary from 2015, captures the stories of over 2,000 women and men in 60 countries across the globe, asking each person the same open questions, like: “What is the toughest trial you have faced? What did you learn from it?” and “What is love to you?” Their answers are astounding.

A roller-coaster from heart-warming to heart-breaking, the film is a deeply soulful exposé on just how different (and yet similar) we humans are. Watching it is certainly an exercise in “turning to wonder,” in opening your heart to the mystery and richness of the human experience.

I invite you to watch my favorite clip from HUMAN and practice turning to wonder. In it, a man talks about how he was raised to believe that love is measured by pain — and that it took an incredible act of forgiveness for him to learn the truth of love.

  • As you watch, what reactions do you notice in yourself?
  • What open, honest questions would you like to ask him?
  • What might he ask you?

As a twenty-five year old, Asian-American middle class cis-woman, choosing to share this video for this reflection raised a lot of wonders around privilege for me. Would sharing this video perpetuate stereotypes of black men, or dispel those myths? Does it challenge prejudice or contribute to it? Am I complicit in normalizing the mass incarceration of black males, or does this help re-humanize people who have been convicted of crimes? Does my own mix of privilege and pain intersect, diminish, or augment this man’s experience?

For me there are no clean answers to these questions, and in true Courage & Renewal fashion it feels like a paradox of “both/and” instead of “either/or.” But my hope is that you will explore your own reactions, as I did, and walk away with a sense of openhearted, awe-filled compassion.

As Socrates said, “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

canyon-light aurora-borealis-3

P.S. “Turning to wonder” is a foundational practice in a Circle of Trust. Give yourself the gift of exploring this Touchstone and others by attending a Courage & Renewal program.

P.S. For those curious about the story behind the man in this video, there is a book called Wildflowers in the Median which captures the story of Agnes and Leonard and their journey of reconciliation.

birds-gulls-flocking dandelion-seeds-closeup-(calyx and pappus)

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Becoming an Authentic, Wholehearted Leader

CCR-mobius-strip-crop

By choosing integrity, I become more whole,
but wholeness does not mean perfection. It means
becoming more real by acknowledging the whole of who I am.
—Parker J. Palmer, The Courage to Teach

The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep
that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead
we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on
and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather.
—Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Leadership can be exhausting, lonely, frustrating, disappointing, ineffective, and downright discouraging. To sustain yourself, you need resilience that comes from inner strength and a supportive community.

At its best, leadership is a daily, ongoing practice, a journey toward becoming your whole self and inviting others to do the same. And at the heart of this daily practice is courage.

Becoming a wholehearted leader requires becoming self-aware about the ways in which we may be living a divided life, such as when: [1]

  • We refuse to invest ourselves in our work, diminishing its quality and distancing ourselves from those it is meant to serve.
  • We make our living at jobs that violate our basic values, even when survival does not absolutely demand it.
  • We remain in settings or relationships that steadily kill off our spirits.
  • We harbor secrets to achieve personal gain at the expense of other people.
  • We hide our beliefs from those who disagree with us to avoid conflict, challenge, and change.
  • We conceal our true identities for fear of being criticized, shunned, or attacked.

If you see yourself on this list, take heart. “Welcome to the human race,” as Parker Palmer likes to say. At some point, most of us have felt that who we are on the inside wasn’t welcome or brave enough or safe enough to fully show up. At various points in our life, we can look back and wish we had made better choices from a place of self-awareness and trust, rather than fear.

Yet pain can be a catalyst for choosing to act on behalf of your soul—the deepest sort of self-care and survival. The question is whether your actions will inflict more pain or violence or if your actions can arise from a trustworthy core inside yourself and result in life-giving choices and outcomes. At some point your true self demands that you stop putting up walls, start speaking up and taking wholehearted risks.

As Parker Palmer writes, “I want my inner truth to be the plumb line for the choices I make about my life—about the work that I do and how I do it, about the relationships I enter into and how I conduct them.”

Find true self, trust & community at the
Academy for Leaders

Courage-004

Next cohort begins November 10-13, 2016 at Pendle Hill near Philadelphia

Click here for details

True Self, Trust & Community

Courage & Renewal gives you a set of practices to connect to your inner plumb line through trust, true self, and community.

Trust is based first and foremost about trusting true self. We define true self as that deepest part of yourself where your actions align with your values, and your inner wisdom is not only acknowledged but accessed. When you begin to listen to and trust the truest part of yourself, your choices and relationships flow from that trust, begetting more trust.

If you are acting in alignment with true self, you show up with authentic presence, conscious of your inner strengths, aware of your limits. When you’re aware of your limits and strengths, you know where to put your energy. You give your best energy rather than divert it to hiding who you are. When you’re honest with yourself, you can be more honest with others. Your integrity shows and you become more trustworthy.

Discovering the whole of who you are as a leader can’t be done all alone. Becoming more self-aware and trustworthy requires community. It takes courage to explore your own truth as a leader and as a human being. A supportive community can provide encouragement to take authentic action on the truths you discover.

Parker writes, “We all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us discern the inner teacher’s voice for at least three reasons:

  • The journey toward inner truth is too taxing to be made solo: lacking support, the solitary traveler soon becomes weary or fearful and is likely to quit the road.
  • The path is too deeply hidden to be traveled without company: finding our way involves clues that are subtle and sometimes misleading, requiring the kind of discernment that can happen only in dialogue.
  • The destination is too daunting to be achieved alone: we need community to find the courage to venture into the alien lands to which the inner teacher may call us.”

With courage, a wholehearted leader can learn to reach inward to discover and trust in their true self and then reach outward to bring their unique self into the world.

[1] Adapted from A Hidden Wholeness, by Parker J. Palmer, Jossey-Bass, 2004.

Download this blog as a printable handout  Arrow-Download-3-icon

Shelly FrancisShelly Francis is the Marketing & Communications Director at the Center for Courage & Renewal. Her forthcoming book explores how people have applied Courage & Renewal to their life and leadership. shelly@couragerenewal.org

 

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

What Happens When You Really Listen: Practicing Empathy for Leaders

snail-shell

“Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing.  It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes in the people around us.  When we listen we offer sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.  That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others.  That which is hidden.  When you listen generously to people, they can hear the truth in themselves often for the first time.”
— Rachel Naomi Remen

Research on listening indicates that the we spend about 80% of our waking hours communicating: writing 9%, reading 16%, speaking 30% and 45 to 50 percent of our day engaged in listening—to people, music, TV, radio, etc. About 75% of that time we are forgetful, pre-occupied, or not paying attention. One of the factors influencing this statistic is that the average attention span for an adult in the United States is 22 seconds. It’s no surprise to note the length of television commercials is usually anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds.  This constant change of focus makes it more difficult to listen for any significant length of time. Immediately after we hear someone speak, we remember about half of what was said. A few hours later we remember only about 10 to 20 percent. Yet, less than 5% of us have ever concentrated on developing our listening skills. When people hear these numbers, they often say: “This is so interesting. I know that I spend hours preparing to speak. I don’t think I’ve ever consciously prepared to listen.”

Listening, deeply listening, is a greatly underrated life and leadership skill. Perhaps one reason for this is that our western culture often privileges the fast-talking, think-on-your-feet mode of being. Listening for genuine connection and understanding, listening that engenders trust and authenticity, asks so much of us. I was reminded of this popular wisdom about listening: When two people are in dialogue, there are actually three conversations going on. The first conversation is the external conversation between the two people. The other two conversations are each person’s internal dialogue.

Real listening is hard. It is increasingly difficult to focus because of constant distraction and because attention is fractured. Linda Stone, the former Microsoft executive, coined the term ’continuous partial attention’. In other words, attention is seldom fully focused. In his New York Times article, ‘The Science and Art of Listening,’ Seth S. Horowitz notes the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing, according to Horowitz, is a highly underrated sense. Hearing is quantitatively faster than visual recognition, at least 10 times faster because hearing has evolved as an alarm system, a way to escape danger and pass on our genes.

IMG_2213

“Listening is a skill that we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.”

— Seth S. Horowitz, ‘The Science and Art of Listening,’ New York Times, Nov. 9, 2012

Henri Nouwen, the late Dutch theologian, in Listening as Spiritual Hospitality, points to the challenge of listening on a deeper level: to connect not only with words but for meaning, to connect not only for vocal tone and pitch but with the resonance of the speaker and with ourselves. Nouwen says that true listening demands much of leaders. It requires “interior stability”, the capacity of inner resilience, inner equilibrium that allows leaders to be both attuned to self and attuned to others. To listen deeply in this way is to recognize our shared humanness, and to discover for ourselves our own propensities, the building blocks of relational trust. We move from positioning ourselves to allow another person to speak to extending welcome and hospitality even where we disagree, feel triggered, or challenged. Parker J. Palmer has asked a vitally important question: “What does it take to build relational trust? It takes people who are explorers of their own inner lives…”

Like you, I’ve attended many ‘active listening’ workshops and professional development trainings. The basic instructions are something like this: Pay attention, lean forward with interest, make eye contact, affirm the speaker quietly with a head nod or ‘hum’, occasionally restate the speaker’s words or key phrases, and repeat. Sometimes that can be great advice and other times this approach can feel wooden and mechanical, diminishing understanding and trust. This article is an introduction to empathetic and active listening as an essential skill to bolster greater connection, rapport and trust for leaders.

An important first step in developing empathetic listening begins with developing empathy, kindness and acceptance of ourselves as leaders. Before we are able to build bonds within organizations and teams in stable times or times of transition and change, we must build bonds of support for ourselves. Before we can thoughtfully consider others’ feeling, we must thoughtfully recognize and understand our own feelings.

Practice empathetic listening at the next
Academy for Leaders

Courage-004

Next cohort begins November 10-13, 2016 at Pendle Hill near Philadelphia

Click here for details

Empathy, according to psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman, in his Harvard Business Review article, ‘What Makes a Leader?’, is an essential leadership skill. It does not mean becoming a doormat, passively agreeing to others with whom you disagree, or trying to please everyone all the time. Instead, empathy is about thoughtfully and intelligently taking others’ perspective, recognizing their emotions, staying out of judgment, and communicating understanding of others. With empathy, leaders are in a better position to consider not only others’ emotions, but their needs and values, again, strengthening true connection even across cultural, racial, gender, and ethnic differences.

Excellence in leadership also requires clarity and authentic listening. Too often leaders listen to ‘fix or solve’ a perceived problem that calls for empathetic listening. Sadly, other times leaders listen long enough for the speaker to stop talking. We may be listening and evaluating, or worse, judging others through a harsh lens. At times, we are listening for what we want to hear, expect to hear, or hope to hear, again, diminishing true connection.

To listen to another begins with noticing, and mindful self-awareness. Mindful listening is about noticing when you’re fully present and when you’re not. It encourages leaders to notice and to understand that each conversation is the relationship.

Here is a powerful empathetic listening practice to enhance your readiness to listen fully and to broaden and build trustworthy relationships and connections.

listening-collage

Empathetic Listening Practice

Expressing genuine interest in another person fosters empathy and connection. This practice is especially well-suited for difficult conversations and for expressing support. Research suggests that using this practice can help others feel understood and can improve relationship satisfaction, supporting outstanding leadership.

How to Practice Empathetic Listening

Find a quiet place where you can talk without interruption or distraction. Invite a conversation, following these steps. You don’t need to cover every step, but the more you do cover, the more effective this practice is likely to be.

Step One: Paraphrase. Once the other person has finished expressing a thought, pause and paraphrase or mirror back what he or she said to make sure you understand and to show that you are paying attention. Helpful ways to paraphrase include “What I hear you saying is…” “It sounds like…” and “If I understand you right….” Be careful to avoid parroting, which can sound phony.

Step Two: Ask open questions. An open question is a question that you could not possibly know the answer to. Examples of open questions include: “What did you learn from that experience? How did that shape your opinion?” Open questions move the speaker into a new way of thinking. When appropriate, ask questions to encourage the other person to elaborate on his or her thoughts and feelings.

Step Three: Express empathy. If the other person voices negative feelings, strive to validate these feelings rather than questioning or defending against them. For example, if the speaker expresses frustration, try to consider why he or she feels that way, regardless of whether you think that feeling is justified or whether you would feel that way yourself were you in his or her position. You might respond, “I can understand how that situation could cause frustration.”

Step Four: Use engaged body language. Show that you are engaged and interested by making eye contact, nodding, facing the other person, and maintaining an open and relaxed body posture. Avoid attending to distractions in your environment, such as checking your phone. Be mindful of your facial expressions: Avoid expressions that might communicate disapproval or disgust.

Step Five: Avoid judgment. Your goal is to understand the other person’s perspective and accept it for what it is, even if you disagree with it. Try not to interrupt with counter-arguments or mentally prepare a rebuttal while the other person is speaking.

Step Six: Avoid giving advice. Problem-solving is likely to be more effective after both conversation partners understand one another’s perspective and feel heard. Offering unsolicited advice is often counterproductive and diminishes connectedness.

Step Seven: Take turns. After the other person has spoken and you have engaged in these active listening steps, pause, and ask if it’s okay for you to share your perspective. When sharing your perspective, express yourself as clearly as possible using “I” statements. It may be helpful, when relevant, to express empathy for the other person’s perspective.

Step Eight: Mindfully Observe What Happens

  • Notice when you choose to listen and when you become distracted.
  • Notice what it’s like to give a person your undivided attention without advising, correcting, or fixing.
  • Notice what happens in the communication when you interrupt and what happens when you don’t.
  • Notice what happens when there is a lull in the conversation, and you ask, “Is there more?”
  • Notice what happens when you let go of your agenda, and instead focus on being present.

Valerie BrownValerie Brown is a Courage & Renewal facilitator who is an educational consultant and ICF-accredited leadership coach of Lead Smart Coaching, LLC., specializing in leadership and mindfulness training for educational leaders (www.leadsmartcoaching.com). In her latest book, The Mindful School Leader: Practices to Transform Your Leadership and School (Corwin Press, 2015), she explores the role of mindfulness in strengthening thriving leaders and building greater understanding and peace within schools. Valerie will be co-facilitating the next Courage & Renewal Academy for Leaders at Pendle Hill, beginning November 10-13, 2016.

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone

Building Relational Trust – Reboot Podcast with Parker J. Palmer

outreach-hand-sun

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
— Fred Rogers

Show Me That You Care

(Editor’s note: This blog is reposted from reboot.io with their permission.)

In a not so distant past life, I worked in a series of workplaces that felt awful – stressful, tense, and anxiety inducing – for a whole slew of reasons. The organization was disorganized. The leadership was at odds with each other. Roles and expectations and communications were unclear. My coworkers could also see the clusterf*ck at every juncture. At my lowest points, I felt I had to check the best parts of me at door when I walked into the office. Nothing felt more soul-sucking, yet I kept showing up to it…until I didn’t.

When things at one company started to go awry, I brought up issues to my boss directly, who was also the owner-founder of the company. Of course, I’d also fielded plenty of conversations within the team about many of the issues that we all saw and for some reason put up with for a little too long. I compiled all of my notes and my chutzpah in an email to my boss, asking if we could meet. He agreed willingly, and we met at a restaurant close to the office and talked for roughly two hours about the issues I – and the team – were running into, where the stress points were, where things felt out of integrity, etc. While I wanted to change things for the better – for the company – these issues were also coming up against decisions upon which my boss had based the company for a while. He listened to everything I had to say, asked great questions, and before we walked away with action items, he said to me: “I really admire your bravery for talking to me about these things.” He was genuine. I felt relief.

Years later, at a different organization, I found myself in a weekly finance meeting with my CEO. We were looking at the numbers, which was anxiety inducing at the time, and while considering the current state of the P&L and the two-month forecast as compared with our aspirational goals, I voiced my feelings about what we were looking at: “These numbers scare me a bit” My CEO turned to me and said curtly, “I don’t need you to get emotional about this.” I clammed up. Right, I mean, who has time for emotionality? This meeting was no place for being human in the face of spreadsheets. Some part of me felt even more afraid to say what I needed to say with people that I worked with every day. At that company, I always felt like if I cried – much less simply voiced a feeling – that my job would be on the line. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that felt that way.

(See also: the recent articles by my savvy colleague Sarah Jane – especially her latest which I highly recommend, “Crying is not unprofessional. It’s human.”, where she shares her thoughts on sensitivity in the workplace.)

It’s hard working for someone else, and it’s hard working in a toxic organization when you don’t feel like you have any voice or can do anything to make a positive change. I felt pinched, cut off, divided. Somewhere in the anxiety stressing through my veins and the cloud of fear I lived in at the office, the fear that silenced my voice and dulled my chutzpah, I was divided between my inner convictions and what I witnessed or what I felt I couldn’t speak about. I felt powerless.

What can you do as an employee in a non-positional leadership role in a work environment that’s dysfunctional? How can you find meaningful work that supports your well being in an organization that feels toxic or denies your humanity? Our best work happens when we’re at ease, not stressed out and drowning in anxiety and fear about the status of our belonging in our work environs. The latest podcast conversation with Parker Palmer touches on an important aspect of this, which serves not only an organization’s people, but also greater creativity and innovation. What Parker brings to our attention is the importance of relational trust, or the interpersonal social exchanges that take place in a group setting. Afterall, the fundamental unit of work is a conversation.

He says: “Relational trust is built on movements of the human heart such as empathy, commitment, compassion, patience, and the capacity to forgive.”

trust-principles

In my examples, the former company had more relational trust than the latter. In the first company, I felt safe enough to talk to my boss about what was happening for me, versus the other company in which I felt as if anything I said even in confidence would be turned against me. In one, I felt like someone had my back. In the other, I felt like I had to watch my back.

We talk a lot about the notion of shadow in leadership (See also: Podcast Episode #14 on Shadow and Leadership with Parker Palmer), and we spend ample time on this topic at our bootcamps. When a leader is operating from their shadow, I always say that it’s like their disowned unconscious stuff is coming out sideways and the people in their lives become collateral damage. When a leader who uses the organization to project their issues, recreate family of origin stories and dynamics, do their unfinished inner work (unconsciously, narcissistically) – and fail to recognize what they are creating – the organizations toxicity tends to increase. Therefore, as a leader, there’s a moral and ethical responsibility to be aware of one’s shadow – and to prioritize relational trust as part of the team.

People that are heavily shadowed tend to also be heavily-defended, which makes approaching them with feedback challenging, especially if said feedback comes from a non-positional role. In order to make that kind of open, honest communication work amongst colleagues, it requires a culture that creates safe space for that kind of feedback organization wide. This is a culture that builds, maintains and tends to trustworthy relations. A culture that can listen to and hear clear, honest feedback.

In John O’Donohue’s poem, Blessing for A Leader, he writes, “May you have good friends/To mirror your blind spots.” Building relational trust in your organization means prioritizing the creation of relationships that are trusting so that you do just what O’Donohue speaks of – have ears and heart open to hear and see what’s in the mirror. Companies that have this kind of rapport in place know how essential this is to mission success by what this means for interpersonal communication, productivity, and culture.

How can you create a safe space for the conversations that foster relational trust? While relational trust doesn’t demand friendship as a precursor, it certainly requires being authentically human with other humans. When an employee hits an emotional note, listen and ask open, honest questions. Find out what’s important. The purpose of relational trust is to open the door – and the heart – for empathic presence with whomever in the organization has something to say. For the leader, this requires a stance that is other than dictatorial: it demands a willingness to hear what’s being said, and a curiosity to double-click into conversation to really understand what’s going on. It may be hard to hear. It may come as a surprise. You may want to shut it down. But, instead, get curious about your reactions; what part of your shadow may you be glimpsing?

business-handshake-trust

For those in non-positional leadership within toxic and dysfunctional organizations where their point of view is not valued, heard, or seen, you may perceive yourselves as powerless. Talk about tanking cultural morale. Think back to the last time you were shut down by someone in a perceived position of power. Whether it’s your parents, your boss or your investor, some part of us cringes if we feel as if someone is diminishing our existence, as if we or our or points of view don’t matter. If we believe that we are indeed powerless, we remain stuck to the flytape of suffering in organizational misery.

To shift that state of powerlessness, ask yourself: how have I been complicit in creating the circumstances I say I want to change? Most often, we create the conditions we say we don’t want. Even in the most toxic work environment we have the opportunity to look closely at how we may be contributing to the situation we find ourself in. From there, you may be able to find a solid foothold in a new direction.

Writes Parker Palmer: “No external punishment could possibly be greater than the punishment we impose on ourselves by conspiring in our own diminishment.”

When will you give yourself permission to step outside the limitations of powerlessness you find yourself in and stand up and know your worth? When you can say to yourself, as Parker notes, “I’m not going to build a wall between my inner truth and outer representation in the world. I am a worthy human being,” you will live divided no more and act accordingly.

Ali Schultz is a coach, artist and COO of Reboot.io. Her superpower is getting her clients (and her coach friends) to tap into their innermost being, their source of creativity and innovation, in order to bear the rigors of work/life existential challenges. Ali co-founded Reboot.io and The CEO Bootcamp to empower people to reconnect to their truest selves, transforming workplaces from the inside out.  https://www.facebook.com/reboothq

reboot-banner

The Reboot Podcast

Ep 42: Building Relational Trust – with Parker Palmer / 53:49 / June 13, 2016

Click to read the New York Times interview with Parker Palmer.Jerry invited Parker Palmer back to explore some important questions such as:

  • What is role of community in responding to a toxic environment?
  • How do I respond when my leader hasn’t done their work and is leading from that place of shadow?
  • What does it mean when a leader is using organization to resolve unconscious issues?

As is always the case when Parker and Jerry get together, this is a conversation packed full of deep lessons on leadership, the shadow, the importance of relational trust, and the incredible power present in community. This episode will leave you with new, profound questions and answers about yourself, your role in your organization, and the power you hold, but may not yet accept.

Share this on: Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Email this to someone