Hello Day 3 — Check-In at AOPL UNT

I’m looking forward to this check-in on Day 3 working with University of North Texas leadership. This check-in  uses a set of visuals.

There is something very powerful in inviting people into a connection with an image. Though words will be used, the images interrupt the pattern of over-reliance on words. This work of hosting fields for learning and connection is about brain, but also heart, and belly.

More simply, using these images invites another layer of wholeness in our participants. And, it just looks really cool too.

The exercise will be simple, shaped by this question — “Pick an image (or let it pick you) that represents some essential learning about your leadership that is awakening in you.”

Welcome Day 3.



Books are tools, right?

For me they are. Some, of course, contain descriptions of tools. For me, however, most of my books provide ideas that help me to create tools.

Sometimes the tool is a story. Sometimes, an important phrase that I can link to personal experience and story. Sometimes, the tool is a framing, a simple set of premises that change how I / we look at our experience and make sense of it.

We humans are indeed sense-making creatures. We can’t help it any more than we can help breathing. And just like our breath is sometimes shallow barely reaching our lungs, so to can our sense-making be shallow. Or restricted. Or calcified.

We humans need to relearn and expand our sense-making. We need to reclaim our breath.

We do this together. It’s just different, and more, that what we do when we are alone. And, some of us humans need to do some of this alone. It’s what helps us be in the group with good contribution.

I continue to learn this.

The stack of books above is what I carried with me in recent travel and work. I know, it was a bit crazy. However, there were passages and phrases that I wanted to have with me. I wanted the energy of them with me. Some of them I even used.

From left to right, here’s a headline from the books above, some of the tools helping me and others to see and to be awake.

Participatory Leadership Journal (Kathleen Masters, Tenneson Woolf) — I love sharing this expression of Art of Hosting with faith community leaders.

Teaching With Fire (Sam Integrator, Megan Scribner, Parker Palmer and a bunch more) — Great poems and stories of the people that selected the poems that point back to an inner and outer fire.

The Invitation (Oriah Mountain Dreamer) — Expands on an invitation, often used, to get real. “It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for…”

Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change (Pema Chodron) — Invites us to lean in to the fundamental reality of a changing world within us and in the external.

The Seven Whispers (Christina Baldwin) — Christina has such a gift to distill complex life down to simple, yet profound practices.

The Exquisite Risk (Mark Nepo) — Ah, I love the depth that are in these essays that invite and challenge radical authenticity and honesty.

Walk Out Walk On (Margaret Wheatley, Deborah Frieze) — This book includes rich stories of real communities daring to step out of the paradigms and craft the future together from a different set of beliefs and practices.

The Circle Way (Christina Baldwin, Ann Linnea) — Circle is the most fundamental practice and skill to be able to go together. It takes us beyond tricks and manipulation to honest and humble listening together for wise action.

To Bless The Space Between Us (John O’Donohue) — Pick a poem, any poem. Pick a blessing, any blessing. He had a gift to invoke the real and the inspiring in all of us.

Improv Wisdom (Patricia Ryan Madson) — Improv may invite a lot of play. However, it also invites a deep quality of presence together and some alternative practices to get there.

A Hidden Wholeness (Parker Palmer) — I love how this book calls out more of the relationship between our inner worlds, and our outer worlds.

7 Paths to God (Jane Borysenko) — Points to the invisible and an inherent holism.

A Simpler Way (Margaret Wheatley, Myron Rogers) — This delicious book offers a new story to carry us into a more compelling and satisfying future together.



Tacoma Art of Participatory Leadership Starts Today

There will be 40ish of us gathered today. The first of three days at Pacific Lutheran University. People from many walks of life and leadership. Project managers, community organizers, government officials, educators, health care administrators. With varied interests and needs — to convene, to change the way meetings happen, to look at broader vision, to build support, to address conflict and challenge. The story I tell myself is that we are all hungry for better, more simple, and more imaginative ways of being together for the benefit of ourselves, our teams, our families, our communities, our jurisdictions. People care. It’s just that sometimes that caring gets lost in habituated systems and psyches that no longer serve as they used to.

Here’s the description from our event website — the context that acknowledges most of us are working in times of rapid change and high complexity.

Ready, go!

We all want to work better together. Yes, in rapid change. Yes, in high complexity.
This year’s Art of Participatory Leadership builds on a tradition of trainings in the region from the last several years. It is an intensive 3-day experience at which you will practice a set of simple yet powerful approaches for designing and hosting powerful conversations and meetings that change how you change. It is an effective way of harnessing the collective wisdom and self-organizing capacity of groups — most of us know that people give their energy and lend their resources to what matters most to them, in both work and life.

How Does The Art of Participatory Leadership Help You?
Better decision-making, more efficient and effective capacity building, and greater ability to quickly respond to opportunity, challenge and change. People get empowered and learn how to guide meetings to more desirable and supported outcomes.

Who’s In From the Region?
Regionally, in the US Pacific Northwest and Cascadia Bioregion, we are bringing together leaders from community, government, and business, social entrepreneurs, next generation leaders from many dedicated networks and efforts – building capacity in our communities and organizations to address the challenges of these times. See Partners for a list of organizations committed to brining this training to their networks and region.

What Will I Learn?
Lots. We work with collaborative methods, including The Circle Way, World Café, Open Space Technology, ProAction Café, storytelling and more. You will learn about mental models that underlay methods to more deeply enhance not only what you know, but what you will create as you grow your leadership.

6 Questions I Go To Often

Many of us who facilitate and host people in learning are asking questions, right? We give a fair amount of attention to the simplicity, the focus, the tone that will help a group. I think of the question as one of the key tools to help the group be in its own learning. And then it’s evolution. And then it’s experiments and the stuff it does.

Here’s six that I often use. I apply them to individuals, teams, and organizations. When asked to a group, I’m most often pointing to the possibility of shared, emergent understanding. But I start with individual perception.

  1. What has your attention? (In this team, in this project, in this organization, in this community, in this strategy.) The thought behind this is that if it has your attention, we might as well be deliberate in how we give it attention. And, we are meant to be noticers, all of us. I’d write it into every job description I can think of.
  2. What is it like to be you? (Again, in this team, project, etc. — chose your scale to match the setting. And feel some freedom to vary your scale. They all connect anyway.) I love it when people answer from this layer of subjective. “It’s like being a star in a band.” “It’s like being the forgotten stage hand.” Plenty has been written about the importance of teams and team work. Use this question as a way to witness the reality of each other — which is some really good team building.
  3. What is the most simple, clear, and honest statement you can say about what we are doing? This points to purpose. It points to clarity that needs some time to be messy. It points to a marker to show us where we are in often very complex environments. I love asking this one, particularly when it seems everything should be clear, but I know that it isn’t. It’s a call to people’s simplicity. Less big words that sound good. More honest from the gut, unpolished clarity.
  4. What is the bigger story that this work belongs to? More purpose. But this one encourages a glimpse from a more epic perspective. “This team is clarifying and simplifying the billing process — the bigger story is that we are supporting people everywhere to have access to skilled health professionals.” I’m not talking about making stuff up or exaggerating. It’s just that in today’s full-on, fast-paced, complex environments, it’s utterly useful to look up periodically and remember that there is more than just today’s focus. There is a sky.
  5. How is this situation evolving? (This team, this project, this community, this initiative, this understanding, this difficulty, etc.) I love seeding in the awareness, the memory that acts and perceptions of evolution are essential. It’s less “did you fully get it or not.” It’s more, “how can you see this changing and improving?” Our jobs are to participate in evolving the work, even the assembly line parts of the work.
  6. What one or two simple steps help now? Not thirty, though I get it that sometimes that is what we need. Very often, it’s just one or two that help move an individual or group from a paralysis of mass involvement to a small, but powerful momentum in support of well-purposed project or initiative.

Questions are tools. They come from curious dispositions, as much as from a gift with words. They come from people and groups that know that they haven’t got it all figured out. That we are figuring it out as we go.