Human to Human

It was almost two years ago that I renamed this blog. It went from “Blog” to “Human to Human.” The content that I’ve always shared is connected to participative leadership. That’s the field that I work in. Facilitation and meeting design, strategic imagining from a participative leadership framework. The short version of that is about being smarter together. Or more centered together. Or more clear together. Or more imaginative together. The “together” part is consistent. It comes from my years learning with and from Margaret Wheatley — “Who we are together is different and more that who we are alone.”

I began publishing pretty much daily, Monday through Thursday (compared to the sporadic weekly I’d been doing). My friend Charles LaFond inspired my writing a lot then. He’s a priest with the Episcopal Church. He’s outstanding at telling a story. And from the story, really nailing the main point. He is as thoughtful a human being as there is. Best guess is that I’ve posted about 350 pieces since then. Some on projects. Some on ideas I’ve developed with colleagues. Some on family, because I learn a ton in that context. Some with poetry to inspire, or just because. Some on just human wondering. “Human” is a significantly bigger category to me that “Leadership.” And it is just where my interest lays. The subtle and nuanced qualities of being human are deeply relevant to me in the arena that is our “jobs.”

I chose the name Human to Human (H2H) because I’ve wanted to emphasize that leadership is very personal. It’s definitely about knowing stuff. It’s definitely about being able to see a bigger picture. There’s sometimes a blurry line between those that manage and those that lead. The part that has always been more compelling to me has been the deeply human stuff. Being able to reflect on what it’s like to be you, or on the process of projecting inner perception to an external world. Being able to explore more fully the unknowns and uncertainties of what it means to do things together and what that has to do with a society evolving.

Just being better humans. It is the most honest summary statement I can name. Or at least to provide some overarching direction to working together. It’s far from “just being nice” together. It has everything to do with deep listening to self, each other, and to what arises between us. The process of writing, 350 ish times, has been a deeply satisfying practice to clarify voice, thought, and the connection of leadership to good old human being. Thanks for coming along. I’m grateful.

Margaret Wheatley

One of the people I have been fortunate to meet in my life is Margaret Wheatley. Our first meeting was 20+ years ago. I was a graduate student. She was a professor and had just published Leadership and the New Science. She was just beginning to transition from being professor to consultant, speaker, and author. I worked with Meg and others through The Berkana Institute for the better part of ten years. Many of the friends that I met through Berkana during that time have continued through to today, another ten plus years. They are often the people I work with in my consulting practice. I know Meg well enough to know that she would claim being fortunate to meet me, too, which makes me smile.

One of the things that I appreciate most about Meg is that way back in to the early 1990s, she was speaking a new narrative about organizations. “Organizations are living systems (not mechanical). Living systems have a way of organizing themselves. If we knew more about how living systems organize themselves, how would that change the way we organize human endeavor?” Meg was rogue. She was not alone. But she was far from majority. She was daring to tell a different story, which was accompanied by a different set of questions, and a different way of seeing. It wasn’t metaphorical ingratiation that Meg was up to. She was genuine. She wasn’t advocating a thought exercise. This was real, and she committed her writing, her consulting, her facilitating, and her speaking to this reality.

I was schooled in that context. It happened in tiny bits in my official graduate schooling. It happened massively in the 20+ years since then. That’s fortunate.

I found myself thinking about this history this morning. A friend asked if I knew much about John Kotter’s work and change model. I’d read some along the way, but hadn’t followed details. So I got a bit snoopy to see how his work had evolved. What I noticed, now nearly 25 years since rogue Meg published Leadership and the New Science, is that many big names in the field of organizational change have evolved into more of a living systems perspective. With Kotter, it is embedded in his call for not just hierarchical efficiencies, but also nimble experimenters. Rogue experimenters, that are as essential to any organization as the best of program managers. Lois Kelly, another colleague that I’ve met along the way calls these rogue experimenters  “Badass, Good-Hearted Change Agents” in her invocation to get real about leading change.

I smile to think of how many people have adopted more of a living systems approach over the years. It’s far less rogue now. It is far more common. And fortunately, many of these people are advocating good participative process to get real about change. I smile to be among the people with this orientation — for me, more than the outcome of reading a book, but from the 20+ years of practice and habit and instinct. Yup, thank you Meg for encouraging the rogue in me and the many essential bridge-builders that further translate the cultural organizational narrative that changes everything.