The Circle Way — University of North Texas

Enjoyed teaching and hosting The Circle Way today with Caitlin Frost, Chris Corrigan. It’s part of three days of participative leadership.

The colored papers are statements of things that these senior leaders (Deans, Assistant Deans, Provost, Department Chairs, Faculty) are proud of at the university. It was a harvest from a check-in process to start our first day together.

Lots of good stuff spoken.

Lots of good energy shared.

Soft Skills are Permanent Skills

Pal Chris Corrigan shared an article during a client call yesterday. Together with Caitlin Frost, we are working with the client, a university system that is daring to rethink education. Not just creating more degrees, but rather, learning to change the way that learning happens. From individually accessed to communally accessed. Learning to think together for change and for a change.

I love the reference to soft skills and hard skills. The latter is things that can be trained. Even automated. The former is things that can be approximated my complicated algorithms and artificial intelligence, but really is the deep practices of collaborative connection. It needs humans. It needs us to dare to be more fully human, not less.

Here’s a snippit. The full article from Harold Jarche, a Canadian man is here.

Are soft skills the new hard skills? I asked this question six years ago. I would now suggest that hard skills are really temporary skills. They come and go according to the economy and the state of technology. Today, we need very few people who know how to shoe a horse. Soft skills are permanent ones. In a recent New York Times article the company LinkedIn had identified a number of currently in-demand skills.


Cloud Computing Expertise
Data Mining and Statistical Analysis
Smartphone App Development
Data Storage Engineering and Management
User Interface Design
Network Security Expertise


Time Management


Companies are realizing that they can train for hard (temporary) skills so they are focusing on hiring for soft (permanent, meta skills).

On Vision — Nuances from Spirit and Complexity

A good friend, Caitlin Frost, asks yesterday through email for ideas about teaching vision and working with vision. She’s smart on her own. She’s also smart to ask.

I respond quickly, delightfully distracted by her question, and putting aside my current todo list. Nuances of spirit, of the unseen often take me like this.

“One of the things I’m leaning into these days is the ‘arrival’ of vision, not just the ‘creating’ of it. As you say, connected to emergence. I encourage the group to ‘look away’ from some intense thinking and see what ‘sticks.’ Or give them multiple modalities. I love the way that drawing, for instance, changes the impression (true for ‘non-artists’ also). I want them to welcome it to arrive — not just work at it.”
I love, and need, approaches rooted in discernment and a self-organizing premise. It’s related to, but different from tenacity. Gut feel is related to, but different than powering up for thirty more pushups. Discernment and self-organizing trusts a natural process (water runs down hill). It’s an alternative to more engineering (you can make water run uphill; it just might not be the most simple way).
Chris Corrigan also responded. Chris knows as much as anyone I know about working from a complexity framework.

You can have a vision of a full bath tub of steaming hot water. You can have a vision of making your home run on rain water alone. You can have a vision of safe drinking water for all humans.

The first is simple, short term and you have all the tools and abilities to make it happen.

The second is more complicated and you require a few experts to make it happen, but with the right people and resources, you can achieve it.

The third is not up to you. It is a complex and adaptive system. You may be motivated by a desire to see safe drinking water for all humans but you are unlikely to achieve it because it is a complex problem. Intention can make a difference here and instead of working TOWARDS a tangible vision you can work FROM an intention and guide your actions against that.

Read the rest of Chris’ post here.

Nuances can make all of the difference. Often with things that are presumed that “we all know,” including words that are so common like vision.

Thanks friends. It’s good to walk the path together.

On Shadow — To Try


Last week at the first session of our series, The Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership: Engaging Shadow, Kinde Nebeker offered a “To Try.” It was homework. It was practice. It was a call to attentiveness.

  1. Feel it.
  2. Be willing to explore if there is a kernel of truth in it.
  3. Follow clues, and feel it again, now for difference.

This is solid advice and practice that I’ve taken to heart myself in the last four days. And even though it is practice that feels familiar, there is something additionally powerful in being reminded. What’s happening for me is what Kinde and I invoked in the group — “you will get what you are willing to look for.”

It’s feeling like a lot. Mine is a kind of terror, mentally and emotionally, about a suppressed thought that I generally have preferred, unconsciously, to keep suppressed. That thought has even more power when connected to a few life experiences that were painful. It’s easy to see how the movie playing inside of me can become so rigid, fearful, and punishing.

As Kinde and I shared with others in the session, when working with shadow, there are some closely related landscapes. Trauma is one. Conflict is another (or at least a gateway in to shadow). Even sabotage. And, there are many important and related ways of working with these. Therapy and counseling come to mind. The Work of Byron Katie is another, that is so good an interrupting the movie.

Feel it — this is very much about being willing to stay, unprocessed as Kinde reminds me, in the feeling. The ickiness. The painfulness. The fearfulness. The immediate impulse to deny. My partner Teresa Posakony teaches that these are all responses of contraction, neurally entrained liked carved canyons in our minds and psyches, that activate our reptilian brains — the ones that know mostly flight or fight. She says, “the part of our brain that we need for such experiences is mostly offline because we default to contraction.” Stay in the feeling. The stickiness. The ache in the back of the neck. The ever so slight turning of the head away, as if we can look away, and avoid, making it disappear. We all do this — let’s not kid ourselves. This is a call for awareness and interruption, not perfection and denial.

Explore the kernel of truth — of the “it.” That nasty thought or feeling that we are trying to stay clear of. I love what my friend Caitlin Frost does with these kernels in her Work of Byron Katie. “It may be true, which can be freeing to realize. Just because it is true some of the time doesn’t make it true all of the time.” I find that the sharing of these embarrassing kernels can become such a humanizing process together. We get to recognize a widely shared experience, shifting it from a mythology of extremely isolated.

Follow clues — I love the way Kinde speaks of this as clues to liberation. It’s not court room testimony clues that we are looking for. It’s not proof and absolutism. Nor is it a mind game to convince us that everything is OK. It’s clues that unlock the hold that a blind spot, or a shadow-infused stress, or a trauma-impacted rigidity can have on us. The surprising (and yet not) thing is how many clues there typically are. It turns out the world is not colluding against us.

I’m grateful for this simple “To Try.” I’m excited to move our attention in the next session from this awareness of shadow in self to exploring how shadow becomes part of groups. And I continue to hope for an evolution of who we are as humans, and how we are together, in the needs of communities, large and small, that we claim as dear.