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Bringing the Past Into the Future

You know what peripheral vision is. It is what you see out of the sides of your eyes. You see things that if you look straight at it, you wouldn't see it. You wouldn't because the details obscurce a larger vision. Grandfather Morrison -1916

The same idea can be applied to our hearing and our thinking.

Peripheral hearing is paying attention to what we hear, not listening for something specific.  It is listening with wisdom and openness. It means laying aside our filters to hear what we miss by only looking for what we expect.

Peripheral thinking is what we miss when our thought process follows the same path every time. For many people, they might call this innovative thinking. For me, I see it as broadening or opening ourselves to areas of thought that are outside of our normal field of interest. My post, The Picture of the Future in a Box, is an example of learning about something that is totally outside my normal experience, and seeing in it connections to my understanding of the world that make sense.

Peripheral vision, hearing and thought expands our perception of the world.  When we only focus on what we know, we lose that peripheral perspective. It is easy then to think that the past is a good indicator of the future.

In the post The End and the Beginning, I began with ...

What if our past experience instead of illuminating the future, obscures it? What if the way we have always approached a problem, or the conduct of a single day, or the organization of our work makes it more likely that we end up not accomplishing what we envision?

Let me over simplify what it means to bring the past into the future. I do so, not because it is simple, only to make a point.

Two Ways the Past Enters the Future

What I observe in people is that the past provides an experience of validation, or affirmation, or a sense of stability and continuity. It seems comfortable and secure because it has already been experienced.

This attitude and behavior is often viewed as traditionalism. Meaning, the traditions of the past are the basis of how we interpret what the future should be.

We can hear this in the criticism by some people I know of social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter which seem to trivialize human relationships. I am sure that many relationships formed through social media means are superficial. But, so are many that are in our normal day-to-day interactions. The technology isn't trivial or superficial. People are.

There is also a tendency in this type of traditionalism toward homogenity, where like joins with like, and a community is formed around common ideas and experiences to the exclusion of those which are different. This is how a community can become narrow, closed and parochial.

When the past is all we know, and we expect tomorrow to be like yesterday, then we begin to look only for those ideas and experiences which validate our perception of the past.  Those that don't are resisted, or worse attacked as a threat to what is true or right. This closed mindedness is part of the source of the divisiveness that we see in society today.

Traditionalism works within the limited parameters of a closed system or community. It may work until change threatens to disrupt its equilibrium.  This traditionalism is not limited by philosophic outlook. It is a product of human attitude and behavior.  It happens when a group or community become protective of their tradtions rather than adaptive with them.

This is the second way that the past can be brought into the future. We do so through might be called living traditions, which are experienced through open awareness and adaptation.

The past has value for the future, but only in context.

For example, many of the towns around where I live were developed around a manufacturing business. Over the years, more and more of these plants have closed as textile and furniture manufacturing moved overseas. These towns diminished in size and economic vitality as a result. The traditions of these towns made it hard for many to realize that there are opportunities that may exist if they were to open themselves to a new way of understanding the assets of their local community. To do so meant that they would have to change.

Two decades ago, while serving in a small college in Appalachia, a summer on-campus enrichment program was started that was designed for eighth grade children from the coal fields. It had a great response because parents of these children understood that the well-paying jobs in the mines would not be there for their children in the future. They understood, were aware, that their children needed a better education than what they received if they were going to make it in the world.

What their children learned at home was the value of family and hard work. And they brought that into their experience at the college.

This is also true for many of those who served in the Armed Forces in World War II, who returned home and took advantage of the G.I. Bill to earn a college degree in order to provide a more financially stable lifestyle for their families.

What they brought into the future from the past were values that gave them the ability to shift and change and adapt to changing circumstances. Values of openness, inquiry, situational awareness and a willingness to try new things. 

The future just doesn't happen. It is the product of decisions that are in reaction and in response to changes in society.

Traditionism holds to a form of the past that is embedded in institutions and social forms that are not allowed to change.  They are symbolic of the past, but often have lost the vitality that the values underlying those traditions once had.

This was true of the textile mill for whom I once did a project. The company had not changed how it was organized and functioned in 60 years. There was a form of tradition that was predictable and comfortable, and was not suited to the marketplace. Finally, a member of the family brought some awarness to the rest of the family, and change began to happen. Unfortunately, it was too little too late. The company closed and opportunity with it.

Traditional values can seek ways to adapt to changing circumstances. Living values bring a vitality to any situation. They are ones that provide strength and direction for how to manage change. These values are what unite people together to make the hard decisions, and take committed action. It isn't just passion or commitment that matters. It isn't just tradition. It is the importance of values whose clarity is realized in an open awareness that enables leaders, their organizations and communities to adapt to the constant changing circumstances of their life and work situation.

The past that is brought into the future is not a relic of a by-gone era, but the motivation and heart that inspired others in the past to create the traditions that today still matter. If your organization is floundering, drifting, or has no clear sense of its future. Begin by reflecting on the values of the past, and ask how can we live this values out today in the work that we do.

 See the past as a set of living traditions, is to see with your peripheral vision of the mind that enables us to project the best of the past into the future.

The Picture of the Future in a Box - Update

Update: Ross Dawson writes about the importance of 3D printing in his post - How 3D printing will transform the retail industry: the opportunities.

This post is a continuation of the ideas presented in The End and The Beginning. In this one, I want to focus on three culture shifts that impact what leadership means in the 21st century.

A picture of the future in a box

Let me begin with this picture. 3dsystems-RapMan-Students-6

Here is a student using a three-dimensional printer. The blue object in the middle of the picture is being printed. This is a kit that individuals can buy for around $1,300.

All you need is a basic CAD program to begin to create prototypes of your ideas. 

I recently saw this model, RapMan 3.1, and the BFB-300 3D printer demonstrated at Hatchfest in Asheville. Rajeev Kulkarni, Vice President of Global Engineering for 3D Systems spoke on the uses of 3D printing.  His presentation described a extremely wide spectrum of application for this technology. The most impressive use of 3D printing is to create human organs from the cells of the recipient. See Antony Atala's TED2011 presentation to grasp the magnitude of this innovation in medicine.

This picture of innovative technology points to the social change that is occurring because of the advance of technology. Besides lowering the cost of prototyping and manufacturing new products, people can now take their ideas from conception to market in a shorter period of time.  Kulkarni spoke about what used to take months to produce that now can be done in a matter hours or days.

Three Shifts

As I listened to Rajeev Kulkarni's Hatch presentation, I realized that in these printers I saw three significant social shifts. When the cost of manufacturing and production time are reduced, and the technology becomes affordable for individual use, then we are moving through a transition period from one era to the next.   The shifts that I see taking place are:

1. From consumers to creators / producers

2. From mass market to mass customization

3. From a mass culture to a local culture

 Let me describe each.

1. From consumers to creators / producers

With the use of basic design software and the RapMan 3d printer, any individual can become a producer of products for sale. The materials that can be used in the printing process are extensive. So, no longer will people have to depend on the marketplace to provide the products that he or she needs. With some ingenuity and business sense, they can make a shift from being a consumer of products to being the creator and producer of them.

Of course, six billion people will not automatically shift from being consumers to creators / producers. And every producer needs consumers to buy her product. Yet, it does not take many people embracing this shift in culture to dramatically impact it. The picture above is of an school girl in England using the RapMan printer.

Imagine every school in your school district having a 3d printer to complete a learning process of idea creation to product completion. Imagine the change of mind that comes to the students in that school when they can create, and not just consume.  Imagine a generation of men and women who think of themselves as creators and producers, as leaders, rather than just consumers of other peoples' creative output. 

One of the first realizations I had about 21st century leadership was that it was about personal initiative, not about roles. Leadership begins with personal initiative. Tools like these 3D printers place into the hands of people the opportunity to initiate, to create, and to produce products and solutions that can make a difference. 

2. From mass market to mass customization

The nature of product development cycles used to be months, even years, necessary to bring a product to market. As a result, it required that product to have as wide an appeal and as long a shelf life as possible. With the advent of technologies, like 3D printers, this is changing. Now in a matter of a few hours, a specialize part can be designed and produced for a customer.

There are a couple implications for this shift.

First, it changes how a company relates to the marketplace. In a one-size fits all world, the marketplace is the lowest common denominator. In a mass customized world, the individual is the market. Marketing to individuals is different than to a mass culture. This is the insight that Chris Anderson wrote about in his book The Long Tail.

Second, it makes the relationship between manufacturer and consumer more important. I've learned this as a consultant. I cannot approach any project as if there is a formula that applies to every other organization in their industry. I have to build a relationship of interest, inquiry and adaptive response to meet not only their expectations, but their needs. I enter into their organizational setting with a set of tools, not unlike a 3D printer, though I don't have one, and use my tools to address the needs that they have.

In a mass customized world, relationships matter, and that is a key to managing the shifts that I'm identifying here.

3. From mass culture to local culture

Prior to the 20th century, life for most people from the beginning of time was experienced in small towns. I remember my grandfather telling me near the end of his long life that the most significant invention in his life time was the radio. When asked why, he said, "Because it showed us what life was like in other places."

The 20th century was a century lived on a global scale, with World Wars and multi-national corporations, and, with institutions that were designed for a mass culture. It was a perspective where one size fits all, and that all people are to be treated a like. Individuality was rebellious and conventionality was the norm.

Those days are slipping away as innovations, like 3D Systems printers, make it possible to create a business that serves customers globally from an office in a small town with an internet connection.  It is the twin developments of innovation for individual productivity and the failure of large organizations to function in a one-size fits all world.

As a result, the meaning of global and local is changing. It is less about a mass market culture of sameness, and more about a culture of relationship where I can serve you, regardless of where you or I live. We can be connected. We can communicate, collaborate and coordinate our projects from wherever we sit today.

It isn't just that we live in a time of the long tail, or that technological innovation provides a basis for mass customization or a better foundation for individual initiative. Each is true. At a deeper level, it means that any individual with a minimum investment can pursue their own sense of calling as a person, and do it in a social context of others who share their vision and commitment. This is an emerging reality that will seriously impact the nature of leadership and organizational design in the future.

One way of understanding this development is to see this as the ascendency of the local. I've written about it here, here and here.

The key to making a local orientation work is openness. For many people, local is just another word for provincial, or closed. However, if local is less physical place, and more a relational space, then we can begin to see that my local can include colleagues in Japan, Pakistan, England, Canada, and my neighbors nearby in Asheville.

In a local community, you share a concern for people, for families, for education systems, the business community and for those less fortunate. It is a concern for the whole person, not just for the transaction.

For example, I can share a concern that my friends in California have for the economic and social conditions of their small coastal town, and feel that as their community grows, that I contribute to their growth.

A local community orientation can function in any social or organizational structure. It is the heart of team work. It brings personal initiative, shared responsibility, and common goals and values together.

Leading Through These Shifts

The implications of these shifts for organizational leaders is fairly simple. It means that instead of being organizational process managers, we must become culture creators. The culture that forms from our leadership provides an open environment for individual initiative, relationship building, and shared responsibility.

The local in this sense is like the ancient Greek polis as described by Victor Davis Hanson in his fascinating book, The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization. He writes in the introduction,

The early Greek polis has often been called a nexus for exchange, consumption, or acquisition, but it is better to define it as an "agro-service center." Surplus food was brought in from the countryside to be consumed or traded in a forum that concurrently advanced the material, political, social, and cultural agenda of its agrarian members. The buildings and circult walls of a city-state were a testament to the accumulated bounty of generations, its democratic membership a formal acknowledgment of the unique triad of small landowner, infantry soldier, and voting citizen. The "other" Greeks, therefore, were not the dispossessed but the possessors of power and influence. Nor is their story a popular account of slaves, the poor, foreigners, and the numerous other "outsiders" of the ancient Greek city-state. The real Greeks are the farmers and infantrymen, the men and women outside the city, who were the insiders of Greek life and culture.

The rise of independent farmers who owned and worked without encumbrance their small plots at the end of the Greek Dark Ages was an entirely new phenomenon in history. This rougly homogeneous agrarian class was previously unseen in Greece, or anywhere else in Europe and the surrounding Mediterranean area. Their efforts to create a great community of agrarian equals resulted, I believe, in the system of independent but interconnected Greek city-states (poleis) which characterized Western cutlure.

The shifts indentified in this post, to me, point to a similar opportunity that the early Greek farmers had. Through their collaborative relationship of shared responsibility, together they created the Greek polis that remains as the model for what cities and communities are in the West.

The ascendency of the local will come as a result of these shifts. And with it a new conception of leadership as more personal, more collaborative, more focused on impact, will emerge to provide it descriptive power that inspires innovation.

The Relationship-focused Organization

I began my post, The End and the Beginning, with this thought. Broom - 10489310_2d9ab9f952_z

What if our past experience instead of illuminating the future, obscures it? What if the way we have always approached a problem, or the conduct of a single day, or the organization of our work makes it more likely that we end up not accomplishing what we envision?

I'd like to take this as a starting point for a question that has provoked me for some time.

What if the way we organize businesses, and the work done within them, obscures our ability to see ways to change them? What if the way we are organizationally structured means that we must wait until we reach a crisis point before we are willing to change?

Broom Structure

Think of the image of a broom. A long handle for control, and lots of long pieces of straw to do the work. Lose a few straws, no problem. Break the handle, leverage is gone, and the broom quickly becomes useless. 

The problem with this metaphor of organization is that it provides no alternative for seeing how the work of the straw end of the broom can be accomplished without the long lever of a handle.

This is the problem that we have with our images of organizational structure. We see hierarchy because that is all we have ever seen. We see a boss on top, a bunch of middle managers, and the straw end of the broom, the workers down below.

We can even see a broken broom handle, a la Enron, and think, not that the system was broken, but that a few bad apples spoiled the rest in the barrel. (Sorry for mixing my metaphors.) 

We are like fish who don't know what it means to be wet. The experience of water is so all encompassing, that it can not be objectified. Remove the fish from water, and they cannot survive. In a similar way, we think if the organizational structure we have now was to go away, even if inadequate, the business counld not survive. That is how close we are to our structures.

The Relationship Initiative

I was with a group of people the other day, and they were talking about how their latest improvement efforts were focused on improving relationships and communication. I celebrate their efforts. They are on the right track. However, there are questions that come to mind.

What if how we are organized dictates how we are in our relationships?

How does one reorganize a hierarchically structured business to put relationships at a more central, integral place?

Is openness required for organizational relationships to work?

Is openness a product of the character and personality of the CEO or how the organization is structured to operate?

What if a company was organized with a focus on relationships?  How could openness as a core value be operationalized throughout the company? 

How would the business look different a year from now?Circle of Impact - Life-Work image

A Circle of Impact Assessment

When I identified the Circle of Impact model a number of years ago, my bias, frankly, was toward the relationship side of the diagram, and still is. I still see the relational dimension where the action is.  Ideas don't do things. And structure is simply the context for the action that people in relationship take to achieve the impact of their mission or purpose as an organization.

As I applied this diagram in both personal and organizational contexts, it became apparent that organizational structrure was the inhibiting factor.  It not only inhibited better relationships, but also virtually every improvement initiative that was developed.

In talking with a wide spectrum of people over the years, I saw a host of problems.  Here are some.

1. Such a lack of clarity about mission, that their organization had virtually no purpose other than the continued functioning of the organizational system.

2. A lack of accountability by the board for the executive.

3. A tendency to keep doing what they've always done because it is the only thing they knew how to do.

4. Really poor communication blamed on others because they didn't read the boring, overly vague information distributed as communication.

5. A lack of openness that gave employees permission to resolve problems as they occurred.

6. Leaders who were ill-prepare to lead, took criticism personally, and lacked the capacity to see how to change.

7. Leaders who lacked credibility with their staff because they were seen as incompetent, unethical and closed to personal accountability.

8. A lack of alignment between program and mission, between values and relationships, and between results and value to the customer.

9. A culture of fear that ran off the best employees.

10. A lack of understanding for measuring success. Success was measured by activity level and energy expended, not by the beneficial change that came to clients and customers.

I could go on.

Creating a Structure for Healthy Relationships Five Actions of Gratitude - blogpix

Healthy relationships are the long term key to creating a successful 21st century organization. But addressing the structural needs of the company is essential if relationships have a chance to grow. 

As I have used the The Five Actions of Gratitude with clients, I am coming to understand that these five actions are not a way for creating healthy relationships, but also a strategic tool for addressing the strucutural needs of an organization. 

1. Say Thanks in gratitude is an action of collaboration because it recognizes the contributions of others in open, tangible ways.

2.Give Back in service shifts the relationship center from being about me to those who have contributed to my life and work. To create a culture of service changes the dynamics of how communication and collaboration are conducted. The result is a higher level of coordination between programs and departments as people recognize that "lending a hand" makes the system run smoother.

3. Make Welcome in open hospitality provides the essential foundation needed to develop the capacities and potential of employees as leaders. This is a very important point. Openness and hospitality create a culture of trust and invitation to give, and to give as leaders. The more I reflect on this one action, the more convinced I become that this is the key structural change that must happen. If the structure is broken, then start by openning up to people to seek ideas for improvement. There is no better source of insight and inspiration for this approach than Hostmanship by Swedish authors Jan Gunnarsson and Olle Blohm.

4. Honor Others in appreciation of people is the foundation of healthy, collaborative relationships in organizations. To honor is more than recognition, though important. It is a way to see the potential and talent in a person, and through a relationship of mutual support and encouragement create an culture of personal and professional growth. 

5. Create Goodness as a calling to make a difference that matters is the foundation of a high performance organization centered in relationships. When an individual can see how their work is creates goodness, then the other four actions of gratitude taken on greater importance.

It isn't enough to want better relationships. There must be tangible changes in organizational structure and process to create a relationship focused organization. More than anything, it starts with a commitment to openness as a guide to releasing the latent potential that exists in the people and their connections to one another within an organization. The Five Actions of Gratitude provide a simple, practical way to establish the relational rapport that is needed to redesign and adapt the organization's structure to the new, more complex demands and opportunities of the 21st century.

Photo: Attribution Some rights reserved by Schnittke

What is Good?

Moran-sunrise -KathrynMapesTurner Moran-Sunrise by Kathryn Mapes Turner

This is the question that was the basis for the only philosophy course I took in college. The course, Philosophy of Art, I had hoped would explore the artist impulse that people have to create. And to be able to define what distinguishes a good piece of art from one that isn't.

Unfortunately, the course was neither about art nor how to distinguish what is good. Instead, it was a course in semantics, of how one talks about art, and why art can't be defined.

It wasn't that the professor spent portion of every class denigrating people who had religious faith. It was rather that we talked around subjects, never about them, and therefore never reaching a point of understanding or resolution.

He would take a seemingly innocent or benign idea, like goodness, and through a process of analytical reductive reasoning show us how there is no true idea of goodness. This simple and effective tactic left most of us in the class scratching our heads about what the class was about rather than questioning what we believed about anything.

For probably ten years, I would occasionally dream about this professor. Dream about us debating in class, and me changing his mind. I don't think the professor was so clever to think that he'd make philsophers of us all by tearing down our belief systems. Rather, I think he was convinced that truth could be understood in the analysis of language. And yet, that truth was not true in a values or universal sense, but true to the use of the words in that context.

I think he was an intellectual nihilist, yet did not live that way. He believed in something, and for him it was his art and athletic endeavors. It was what he truly valued. And I'm convinced they gave him a social context of friendship through which universal values were evident in their interaction.

What I understand today is that my professor's approach to understanding could not produce a kind of understanding that is whole, but rather small and fragmented. 

As a kid, did you ever take a part a toy, and then try to put it back together, only to have some parts remaining? The toy is something whole. Something more than the sum of its parts. Language is something whole, more than grammar and patterns of word usage.  

Say the word tide, and it conjures up a range of images. But you don't know what I mean. If I add high or roll to it, two very different images come to mind. The words are parts. Sentences, paragraphs, essays, chapters, and books are wholes. Not necessarily complete wholes, but some whole none-the less.

Art Loeb - Pisgah trailsTo describe the whole of something, or to describe an object as good, is not to describe its parts, but something else. 

For example, this image is of a portion of a map of the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. For many of you, it is just lines, shading, markers and names. You can tell it is a map, but it doesn't go much further than that.

The map can serve as a guide, an introduction, to what a person can find here on a visit.  Come this summer, you can visit the Fish Hatchery or swim in the cold waters at Sliding Rock or hike up to John's Rock. Each place is represented on the map. Each a place that has meaning for people who visit here.

For those of us who have spent time here, the map is much more. It is a visual connection point to memories and images of places, people, situations and experiences that we've had in locations noted on the map.

For example, just off the map image there is a place call Mt. Hardy.  Seen at the center of this picture.  Mt Hardy from Devils Courthouse 1 On the map, it is just a name of one of hundreds of peaks to climb. Yet, on a June night in 2003, it was a place of fascination and horror, as we watched lightning flash and strikes all around as a group of us camped.

The place on the map represents more than a name. It is something whole and complete, because we experienced it as more than a name on a map. It is a place that will forever stay with those of us who camped there that night.

When we say something is good, we are not trying to analyze its component parts to identify what makes it good. We are saying something about the whole of the object.

I'm convinced that human thought is rationalized emotion. We feel something, and our words provide us a way to connect with those deeper parts of our lives that we know exist, but have a hard to time expressing. We use things like maps and art to provide a connection between those parts of us that are only understandable as something whole and complete.

When we talk about what is good, we are talking about values that capture for us something whole and often times something that is greater than us. These connections, to me, represent the emergent reality that I wrote about here. We are not just our thoughts or just our emotions. We are not just a bank of talent or a fulfiller of tasks along an assembly line. We are whole beings who cannot be understood in any complete way by analytical reduction. Our wholeness rather is understood as unrealized potential within a particular setting. Wyoming When we look at a work of art, like this painting of Wyomng, that I found online many years ago, we can get really close and look at the technique of the artist, the picture fades and the brush strokes emerge. Then step back, and the picture takes on its wholeness again.

What is good about this painting can be described on many levels. There is the technique. The thematic material. The use of color and perspective. But all those are only parts of the picture. When they are all combined together, do they create a painting that we can say is good? Possibly, but it has a lot to do with the values that we bring to the experience.  And our values are products of our interaction with people in society.

I believe that our lives can be like this painting. Excellent in the execution of the brush strokes and use of color, but even more significant because of the picture itself. When we find wholeness in our life and work, we are more than the sum of activities that we do each day.  We become a work of art whose life and work is good. Create Goodness picture

When the Five Actions of Gratitude appeared in my mind one morning driving through northern Mississippi, this is the sort of thing I saw in the fifth action, Create Goodness.  A couple quotes from my Weekly Leader column.

The ancient Greek Philosopher Aristotle taught his students that “every action and pursuit is considered to aim at some good….what is the highest of all practical goods? … It is happiness, say both ordinary and cultured people; and they identify happiness with living well or doing well.” By this he means that the actions born from our individual initiative, through our relationships, in our work and the daily course of our lives aim at goodness, defined as happiness or living or doing well in life and work. ...

Contemporary philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in describing Aristotle’s thought on this point wrote,  “ What then does the good for… (humanity) … turn out to be? … It is the state of being well and doing well in being well … . “ The word that Aristotle uses is eudaimonia (eu-day-mo-knee-a), traditionally translated as goodness. Its meaning is much more complex that simply as an adjective for describing a piece of pie or last Sunday’s football game. It touches on ideas related to fulfillment, human flourishing, happiness and completeness. The good person is one whose whole life is an integrated combination of thought, feeling, initiative, interaction, and action, resulting a good life or good work, or a better product, community or world.

What is Good?

It is a life that is complete and whole, fulfilled, meaningful and makes a difference that matters. The good life is a complete and happy life.  It is a life connected to others just as their lives are connected to ours. And when we find that completeness, our lives are like a painting that evokes values that create goodness and elevate the lives of others. We also become like a map which is a reference point, an example, of what is possible, and for those who know that we have become a reminder of what the experience of a complete life is like.

Something Larger than Oneself

Life-Work Goals
Embedded in what I hear from people that they want their lives and work to be Personally Meaningful, Socially Fulfilling and Make a Difference that Matters is the idea that they want to be a part of something larger than themselves.

Here in this TED video composer and conductor Eric Whitacre provides a deeply moving picture of what this is like. Over 2000 people, scattered across the globe, join their voices together to create a virtual choir. This is a picture of the emergent realtiy that recapturing the best of who we are through shared endeavors in community. Watch and enjoy and look forward to the full release of the virtual choir's video later this week.


Circle of Impact Leadership Guides

Several years ago, I began to create diagrams of the conversations that I was having with people about their life and work in organizations. The result were these conversation guides. They are the product of hundreds of conversations.

I developed them to provide a way to see complex ideas and whole situations in organizations in as simple a way as possible. They serve to provide a way to reflect on the big picture of what is happening at a particular point in time. The following are brief descriptions of each of the guides that I primarily use in my consulting / coaching work.

1. Creating Impact In Life & Work During Times of Transition Creating Impact In Times of Transition - Life-Work Coaching

The purpose of this guide is to shift people’s perception from change to transition in their experience. A transition perspective provides a way to see how the past, present and future are logically connected in a process of change. As a result, being able to recognize transition points makes it possible to gain an awarenes  s of what one must do to move to the next level in either their personal or organization’s life.

From this perspective, we pass through transition points where we make decisions that, in part, determine how we manage change. We know we enter a transition point when our performance begins to plateau or declines, or the work that we have been doing becomes harder. The awareness that we need to gain is an understanding of those strategies, actions, behaviors, or philosophies that have brought us to this transition point, and whether they are the ones to take us to the next level. In effect, we have to decide what we need to stop doing, and what we need to start doing.

2. How Leaders Manage Change To Create Impact ChangeTolerance

Leaders must manage the change or transition experience in their organizations. To do so, they must understand how people experience or view change. This guide provides a simple way of seeing a range of feeling and action. Above the dotted line, people either adapt or initiative change as a part of the on-going experience of life and work. Below the line, a person’s attitude toward change becomes more problematic. To resist too much is to fail to recognize that change is a normal and necessary part of life and work. To embrace change too passionately creates an unstable and unsustainable life or work situation.

The ideal situation is a mixture of adaptation and initiative. For the leader, this requires situational awareness of the conditions that are impacting the organization. For example, economic changes, technological developments or competitive pressures are environmental conditions that require constant adaptation and agility. To initiative change comes from clarity about the strategic direction of the organization, and the steps required to accomplish those goals.

3. What We Want From Our Life & Work  Three Goals of Life -Work

These core motivators of our life and work are ways we practically measure our involvement in the social and organizations that we are a part of every day. To be Personally Meaningful means that our beliefs and values are a central part of our experience. To be Socially Fulfilling means that our relationships are whole, healthy, and the social environment is respectful, supportive, caring, as well as open and hospitable. For our lives and work to be described as Making a Difference that Matters means that we see the impact of who we are and what we do. In effect, we are identifying the change we create by who we are, how we think, and what we do. The difference that matters is a product of our acting upon the values and beliefs that are personally meaningful, socially and relationally healthy ways, to accomplish a purpose or mission that defines who we are.

4. Circle of ImpactCircle of Impact - Life-Work Coaching

This is a picture of my understanding of the nature and function of leadership. It is a complex picture because leadership is not one thing, but many things operating at the same time. I’ve reached the conclusion that leadership begins with personal initiative, and that it is not primarily an organizational role, but a way of functioning as persons. As a result I see organizations as communities of leaders, each following their own personal call to make a difference that matters in collaborative, coordinated way.

In this perspective, there are three dimensions to leading – Ideas, Relationships and Structure (of both a social and an organizational type), that correspond to the organizational functions of Communication, Collaboration and Coordination. Once a person focuses on becoming a person of impact, the value of this perspective grows. Take any issue, and one of the three dimensions can be identified as the key problem area, if not each one. The solution comes from working with all three dimensions together. For example, if communication is a problem, then it isn’t just being clear about what to communicate (ideas), but also understanding what people are looking to hear from you (relationships), and how that message is to be communicated in a manner that is most likely to make a difference (structure).

This alignment of the three dimensions is achieved through the Connecting Ideas of Purpose or Mission, Values, Vision and Impact. A Purpose or Mission is an identity perspective that says who we are and what we do. Our Values are those ideas that unite us as a congregation, and provide us the emotional commitment and resilience to do the hard work of change. A Vision is a picture of what it looks like for the people of this community working within their social and organizational structures to create the impact that is the difference that matters. It is a visionary perspective of the future fulfillment of one’s mission. As a result, it is important that a church or organization can identify what the impact of their life and work is, so that they can build upon it. Impact, therefore, is a picture of change or the difference that matters.

This is a complex picture of leadership as it functions in any setting. This guide is a tool for reflection and conversation that once learned can quickly become a way we see things happen in real time.

5. The Five Questions that Every Person Must Ask The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide

This is a practical tool for applying the Circle of Impact. Each question is intended to create clarity of perspective and understanding of what is happening. The first question is best asked as change happening within a specific time frame, like 18 months or five years. The second question asks “What is the impact of our ideas, relationships, and structures.” Once we have a basic understanding of our impact, then reflection upon the future will be much easier. We’ll be able to see progress or decline much more easily. The third question identifies those people and groups who are impacted by our life and work. This perspective enables us to know with whom we need to strengthen relationships or a group that may have been hidden from our view, with whom we need to give our attention. The fourth question provides us direction on where our future efforts should be. Our opportunities are based on the impact that we have, and are typically ones that we should be acting on right away. The fifth question looks at the barriers, constraints or problems that keep us from making a difference that matters. We want to resolve those issues so that we can get on with fulfilling our opportunities.

6. The Leadership of Shared Responsibility  Shared Responsibility - Leadership

The Circle of Impact is an emergent picture of leadership. By that, I mean, it is not a picture of just the different activities and tasks that leaders do. It is a whole, complete picture of leadership which is greater than the sum of its parts. This page is an emergent or whole picture of the community that is the organization, and its shared responsibility for leadership. As a result, the senior leader of the organization, from this perspective, cannot lead from a control orientation, but rather from engagement with people to facilitate their own leadership within their role in the organization.

This vision of engagement is of each person taking initiative out of their own sense of personal responsibility as a member of a community that shares responsibility for communicating, collaborating and coordinating the organization’s work. To share responsibility doesn’t mean that everyone does the same thing, but, rather, that everyone shares responsibility for their part.

7. Leadership in Organizational Structures Organizational Structures

This is a simple guide to help people see how an emergent, collaborative approach can be incorporated into a traditional, hierarchical organizational structure.  The purpose is to show that collaboration is not just a tactic or a behavior that groups can employ, but a structural component of an organization, just like hierarchy is. The key to blending these two structures is openness to the leadership initiative of individuals working within groups. For example, if the structure requires issues to rise to higher levels of management, then those responsibility for implementing solutions not only have less say in how to resolve those issues, but also less motivation to resolve them at the source. A more collaborative approach allows for those who are closest to the implementation of a decision to have greater influence over how to implement a choice of direction. A hierarchical structure that has high functioning collaboration throughout its system provide senior management a greater opportunity to focus on strategic decision-making rather than tactical problem solving. This is not a new or particularly innovative idea. It is however, an idea that should be seen as a strategic asset rather than simple a way to apply “soft skills” in the workplace.

8. Say Thanks Every Day: The Power of Gratitude in Life & Work Five Actions Gratitude

The previous pages are all about leadership. This page is about relationships and community as the core life of the organization. This perspective has developed out of recognition that one of the inhibitors to a higher level of relationship interaction in organization is a lack of an understanding of what constitutes a whole, healthy relationship. The core idea is that in society at large and in organizations specifically, that we are at a transition point. This transition point concerns how people live and work together. I’ve defined this shift as moving towards an approach to life and work from a place of gratitude, rather than from a position of entitlement.

Much has been written in popular psychology about the beneficial effects of being grateful. Gratitude, in my perspective, is not just a way for us to find happiness, but how to live in relationship to others in any social or organizational setting.

The five actions here can be reduced to five simple concepts. We say thanks. We give back in service. We make welcome people as guests in our lives through the practice of openness and hospitality. We honor others as the fundamental basis of all interpersonal relationships. We treat people with honor and respect, for without it community is difficult to achieve. Finally, we create goodness through our personal commitment to take initiative to make a difference that matters.

How To Use These Conversation Guides

The purpose of these guides is for reflection in conversation to achieve awareness leading to action. Print off the pages, and carry them with you. Begin use the Circle of Impact guide to identify the ideas, relationships and structures that are involved in the situation that is the current issue. Seek to understand how the Connecting Ideas are linking or aligning how you think, relate or organize the work that is needed. The key to using these guides is to ask questions, and let the conversation take you to a point of clarity.

If you need assistance, just ask. These guides are the basis of my consulting and coaching work. I welcome the opportunity to help you and your organization grow to make a difference that truly matters.