Pastors to Professors in Shared Learning

Today is a shift day for me. I’m coming from six days convening pastors to learn participative leadership and building teams. I’m headed to a day with university professors and leadership, also learning participative leadership, teams, frameworks for connection and learning.

Different group, different dynamics. Yet I have learned that the hunger and desire is often similar. People want to do good work. People are hungry for good colleagueship. People desire good learning. People desire ways to be more honest, more whole, more kind, and more brilliant together.

Glad for my colleagues in all of this. Together we hold infrastructure, both tangible and intangible to helps groups to this, whether pastors, professors, or other groups of people that so hunger to create dreams and futures together.

Transformational Relational — A Narrative For Welcoming Wholeness

Transformational relational — this is a term that I had a colleague share recently from some work that we held together. It’s a mouthful, nine syllables in just two words. But it’s rather simple too, and gets to the core of so much of the facilitation, community, and team work that I do.

Transformational is about deep change. It’s not just the ordinary. It’s not just any average thought. Transformational has energy of moving from one state to another. It’s not just warmer. It’s when water becomes steam. It’s not just a different caterpillar. It’s a new creature, the butterfly.

Relational is some of the deep how of the transformational. This is the communal and social aspect of things. So much of my work is about methodologies for interaction and for creating connection. But even that statement, is a bit misleading — that’s some of the “just warmer” of relational. The deeper why and how is about creating access to a wholeness that comes from both us as individual people, and, from what we are as a group.

OK, that’s a lot. It’s etherial. It’s mystical. It’s inherently inviting too — people love the wholeness when they rediscover even just a bit of it. It also is complicated.

There is a narrative that I’ve been using that I think simplifies this, or perhaps, creates a more simple path in to the wow of transformation through relation. It’s really a couple of simple questions and premises that I build into most of this work.

  1. What is it like to be you? This is the most basic question I know to helping any of us reclaim more of what we are and who we find it. This is not a question in which you can ever say everything. It just points in the right direction to invite an inherent wholeness.
  2. What has your attention? There are no wrong answers here. This is just about becoming a good, or perhaps willing noticer. If it’s a news report, that’s what it is. If it’s the cup of coffee you had, that’s what it is. Of course there are likely hundreds of things that have our attention at any moment, 8-10 of which we can be consciously aware of. This question is more about permission to follow some of it.
  3. What’s that go to do with who you are or who you are becoming? This question rests on the premise that inner is connected to outer and that what is happening now is connected to the longer arc of the past, or the desire of the future. It rests of the reality that by being even moderately associative (the cup of coffee has my attention because it perks me up in the morning — I like the feeling of being perked up and feel it is needed for the work with do), we can find access to more of the bigger picture.

I’ve used variations of these questions hundreds of times with groups. Even if just held in momentary container, my observation is that they open up something in people. There is freedom. There is invitation. That points to being welcomed to show up more, or in more wholeness — which is, well, what so many of us are seeking both personally and organizationally.

For Celebration — John O’Donohue’s Blessing

Glad for this invocation of celebration from the poet and priest, John O’Donohue. His book,  “To Bless the Space Between Us” remains a favorite.

Yesterday, to begin a day with UCC Pastors, I read the poem below. To invoke so much of what O’Donohue writes — the free heart, joy, friendships, mystery, participation in life.


Now is the time to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends,
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encouraging you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.



People Everywhere

Three years ago I wrote a short piece to be used by The Berkana Institute to support an initiative that had people gathering as Circles of Friends. The full piece is here. The gist of it included these noticings:

  • People everywhere yearn for connection.
  • People everywhere yearn for friendship.
  • People everywhere yearn for presence.
  • People everywhere yearn for community.

I would add now a further noticing and pattern. People everywhere yearn for accomplishment. Some of us lead with accomplishment, and with such intensity that we lose our memory and awareness of how connection, friendship, presence, and community shape that accomplishment, just as we forget how wind and water shape a beautiful canyon.

I really enjoyed my last two weeks of work and the people that I was able to work with. First in Carefree, Arizona with ministers that are part of the Next Generation Leadership Initiative, a cohort program convened by The United Church of Christ, Pension Board. It was great to meet in such unique geography among Saguaro, Prickly Pear, Aloe, and many other forms of desert landscape. Those are life forms that have learned to adapt and thrive in a very intense environment. The cohort that I taught on Team-Building and The Art of Hosting included many aspects of connection, friendship, presence, community, and accomplishment.

I also really enjoyed more recently and immediately, following Arizona, shifting to the open flat plains of Texas, just north of Denton. The venue for hosting 40 University of North Texas Deans, Associate Deans, Chairs, Faculty, and Senior Administration was at a place called Buffalo Valley Event Center. Yes, there were buffalo in a neighboring field, a conservation herd. There is much to learn about buffalo also that could quite inform how we humans are together. With UNT, I was part of a team (Chris Corrigan and Caitlin Frost) to help bring more of the participative leadership paradigm to helping this university become what it can, and grow from what it already is.


I am reminded from both of these events with very different people involved, that despite our many different positions and our very different environments, given time, people everywhere reawaken to some very basic desires and appreciations together. Yes, accomplishment is often what starts us on a path that is sometimes prickly and sometimes vast and open to grazing. It is further true that people everywhere yearn for what is underneath all of that — connection, friendship, presence, and community. A participant from UNT claimed it so beautifully in a closing circle — “I so often forget that my brain is connected to my soul. These last three days have been so much about remembering that connection.”

People everywhere.