What, How, Who

One of the most common reference points I hear in working with groups is the desire to give full and immediate attention to the “what.” This is the “doing” part. It’s the church that wants to create in two hours it’s next five year strategy. It’s the university that wants to grow its prominence. It’s the non-profit that wants to host a community awareness event. “What” is the implementation part. It’s so often perceived as the accomplishment part. It’s noble. It’s needed.

One of the most common interjections that I offer to the “what” conversation is the equally important focus of the “how.” It’s not just “what” we do, but “how” we do it that matters a bunch. People get the need to be smart. They even get, kind of, being smart together. But it’s less common to get the orientation that is “how” groups work together. This is process stuff, not just content. It’s leaning in to questions together. It’s seeking shared wisdom through listening and telling stories. It’s slowing down. It’s going deeper. It’s deliberate use of participative methodologies to create encounters of learning and connection. The “how” is for many, a revolutionary step.

With a few colleagues, lately we’ve been talking a bunch about not just the what and the how, but also the “who.” This is focus on the individuals in relation to the group. It’s a focus on the inner world, not just the outer. It’s maturing thought and emotions. This is the kind of language that tips into what some perceive as therapy and counseling. Fair enough. However, the “who” is mostly being honest enough to go another layer deeper into the sense-making that goes on within, that then shapes the what and the “how of how is going.” This has some neuroscience to it. It’s got a pile of self-awareness in it.

What. How. Who.

I recently enjoyed reading Larry Dressler’s book, Standing In The Fire. I think I met Larry once, briefly. He’s connected somewhat into the Art of Hosting body of work. His writing is thoughtful, invoking in this book, the metaphor of tending fires, as much on the inside as on the outside. It’s the clarity, calm, and courage part from his subtitle. Larry tells the story of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire in Montana, a raging blaze that was overtaking fire-fighters. Vast forests were consumed in that fire. People died in that fire. However, some people didn’t by taking an unusual chance. Burning a patch to lay down in, so that the forest fire, moving as fast as 30 miles per hour, would “jump” over the firefighters. It worked.

Larry invites a narrative that many of us are invoking — being smarter together. And being transformed by fires of contemporary life and leadership. I liked what he shared about “what” so often being associated with knowledge. Yes, knowledge matters, but it isn’t enough on it’s own. The “how” is associated with skills. I’d suggest that the practices and methods of participative leadership and engagement are really important skills. It matters to know circle. It matters to be able to host an open space format. The third area of “who” connects to self-awareness, which of course, is on-going. Without self awareness, the “how” and the “what” are too devoid of context. It makes a difference. It’s the ability to know one’s own relationship with grief in order to host others in their processing of grief. It’s being able to encourage a group to dwell in its fear, to find the medicine, because you are in your own process of relating to fear.

I love the awareness that comes with attention to “who.” It’s so much in the work that Kinde Nebeker and I convene around The Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership. It’s so much in the Humaning retreat space that Quanita Roberson and I offer, QT, to get to more of the foundation layers. It’s so much in the work of circle and other participative forms that helps us dance the space between the interior and the exterior.

What. How. Who.
Knowledge. Skills. Self-Awareness.

It’s so much the conversation, expanded, that groups are needing, and I believe, looking for.



Three Hungers

It was a friend that shared appreciation for the description of an upcoming gathering that I’m co-hosting with Kinde Nebeker. The gathering is May 11, 2018. It’s at Snowbird, Utah. It’s the fourth offering that Kinde and I have created — each under the header of “Evolutionary Leadership.” Kinde and I continue to learn and explore what evolutionary leadership means. We continue to find it helpful — and thus follow our intuitions with it. We continue to learn and explore what it is as a focus for being with others who are hungry.

May 11th will be a small, intimate group. We will be up in Utah’s mountains. We will be in a spacious home, turning to one another from comfortable couches and cups of tea. Maybe a fire burning in the corner.

My friend’s appreciation included the word below. I think of each of these statements as a hunger. I know the hungers in me. I know them in others. I utterly value convenings that expand me, and expand us, around such things. With hopes of doing good with those around us. And often, with a “less is more” kind of feel.

• for those willing to embody matured courage and presence to support real change

• for those hungry to wade further upstream to release us from the torrent of habits, individual and collective, that offer at best convenience and illusion of accomplishment

• for those who realize that the primary practice is consciousness, in which is embedded leadership in organizational system, not the other way around.

Join us?

Inner + Outer

My friend Quanita Roberson reminds me, “there has to be an ‘I’ in team.” She’s pointing to the importance of a healthy and whole self, differentiated and present.

Another friend has recently pointed me to www.innerengineering.com, which offers practices from the yogic sciences on inner well-being.

Another colleague reminds me in our group facilitation and strategy work that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Plans may be brilliant. And necessary. Without a culture of support, or imagination, or connection — even brilliant plans wilt like water and sun deprived plants.

Beneath each of these reminders is an important teaching. The inner world has massive impact on the outer world. It’s way to easy, and seductive, and common to given 99% of our attention to things “out there”. And 99% of the time, it feels that attention to the “in here” is deemed wasteful, soft, or indulging.

It is my learning that people everywhere are ultimately hungry for the healthy internal (whether as a person or as a team or as a community) to be at the foundation of what is applied out there in our varied contexts of work and community.

My friend Kinde Nebeker and I continue to explore these teachings. Our medium together is The Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership. Our next gathering is May 11, 2018 in Snowbird, Utah. I love the language we’ve created to find others that want to be in both the inner and the outer.

Please, peek your head up with us.

It’s the Story Under the Story That Changes Everything

Many of us, as formal and informal leaders, are learning that many of our most needed solutions do not exist in current systems of thought and practice. We work tenaciously in isolation, yet it is connection that brings creativity. We obsessively attribute causality to external circumstance, when it is internal awareness that holds greater promise for evolutionary contribution. Many of us know that we live in a time when we need further metamorphosis of our story of mechanical fidgeting with things and parts. We need awareness and alchemy to replace anxiety and authority that is ungrounded.

IOEL IV is for a different kind of leader and a different kind of story.

• for those irrepressibly compelled to burst into new understandings of reality and to share with their respective teams and organizations

• for those wishing to partner with life’s inherent organizing capacity in more organic, simple and life- enhancing ways

• for those willing to embody matured courage and presence to support real change

• for those hungry to wade further upstream to release us from the torrent of habits, individual and collective, that offer at best convenience and illusion of accomplishment

• for those who realize that the primary practice is consciousness, in which is embedded leadership in organizational system, not the other way around.

IOEL is not a therapy group. It is not a fix. It is a gentle, yet fierce commitment to get real (serious and playful) about exploring paradigmatic edges together and to call bullshit on antiquated yet still rewarded general practice. It is for those of daring to peek our heads above the fray to see who peeks with us. We are not alone.


Trusting Your Nature

Tomorrow starts this, a three-session series that I’m offering with my good friend Kinde Nebeker.

It is our third from the body of work that is “Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership (IOEL).” I love having a deliberate attention to both the inner and the outer.

I also love the distinctions that we have created for each session, and woven together as a whole.

It is our nature (we humans) to engage and convene. Not just a desire. We are coded to do so.

It is our nature to listen deeply — I’m sooo looking forward to a day in Utah’s mountains. There are many layers to listen to and from.

It is our nature to evolve. Things change. Systems change.

Below are two resources that shape IOEL for those of you interested further, written by Kinde and me. May they stir in all of us.

A Commitment to Emergence: The Inner And Outer of Evolutionary Leadership

The Magical Wilderness Between People Together