Leadership as the System – CHE NL Next Steps

When wondering whether to write this, I doubted because of the lack of clarity I had about exactly what I was going to write – but then remembered that that is the beauty of blogging – I can just tell the story and see how it unfolds…

If you have been following this story, you may remember an earlier blog in which I described a previous important step that we made in the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands and the decision-making around that. One of the key elements of that early phase was my decision to essentially gather around me the people who I most trusted, and with whom I felt vertical and horizontal solidarity – i.e. resonance at the level of consciousness and with appropriate skills. There was no formal structure or process around this – it was essentially a Purple system of leadership (colour code references to Spiral Dynamics Integral).

It has worked for a while, holding the centre and going deep into what it is we really want to be creating and what kind of organisational form could best support that. As a Purple system, it has by definition been pretty inward-focused, with justified complaints from outside the inner circle of a lack of transparency and little idea of what we were actually up to. In hindsight it would have been possible to hold that space and to have continued informing others of the process we were in, but somehow that energy does not support it. Anyway, we kept our focus and intention clear, through periods of insight and enthusiasm as well as phases of confusion and self-doubt.

In the last 6 months, we have been increasingly focused on how to put in place the kind of structure that would serve an integral evolutionary perspective  – to walk our talk as an organisation. Spiral’s Natural Design templates, Dee Hock’s Chaordic flow, and the Holacracy concepts have all played an important role.

In the last few weeks we have had the feeling that we were very close to manifesting it, but that it just wasn’t quite there yet. In that time it dawned on me that we were missing an important piece of the puzzle. Our focus had primarily been on the structural perspective (Wilber’s LR quadrant) and we had not been giving much attention to the LL Collective Field quadrant. This is where the link to Purple comes in. I realised that if we were going to move beyond where we were now, then we were going to have to release the energy of our Purple field. Structurally what we are trying to do is put in place a healthy Blue system (designed from Second Tier) that will lift the organisation beyond a co-dependancy upon me as its founder, into a space where it has clear structures and processes, so that anyone looking at our governance from outside would be able to see clearly how we are organised and why certain people are in certain positions. At the moment it is just because I have asked them to be there, and we need to move beyond that. To do this required a serious energetic intervention.

What I realised was that the only way to do this was for me as the Purple founder (“tribal chief”) to step in to make that happen. I decided that we needed to actually dissolve ourselves as a Board before we would really be able to let go of the past to let come the future. If we did that, the only function that would be left would be mine, as the “lead-link” from CHE Global, and that for this transition period I would have to hold the leadership on my own to enable the next phase to emerge. So we would create an energetic vacuum into which the future would be sucked, rather than trying to create it from the old structure and culture. Scharmer’s Theory U backs this up.

I got a reinforcement of this position during our recent retreat, when the core group (Board and others) were skilfully guided through a process of becoming conscious of any claims we had on the CHE as a system, i.e. what are we demanding that the CHE system gives us before we can be a whole person (e.g. a place to be recognised and loved, a place to be heard etc) – and then letting go of those claims. As we went round the circle and people stood up to release their claims, I became aware of a huge energy flowing through me, and realised that as the founder, people’s claims on the system were also energetically claims on me.

So during our Board meeting last Friday, I decide to take things into my hands again, pull the energy of the organisation to me once more, and see if I could facilitate a letting go. A core element in what helps a group to let go is that they feel they have been honoured for the work they have done in the past period – after all, we are only where we are now thanks to the path that has been walked. So in the days before I contacted the next circle of people around the Board and I asked them to send me a testimony/appreciation of the work that this group had done. Beautiful things arrived in my mail box, including poetry, and as I pulled them together the evening before our meeting I had a strong sense that we were on the right path.

During the meeting, after we had checked in and dealt with practical stuff, I explained what I felt I needed to do, and why I felt I needed to step into a different leadership role for the moment and hold the space as the founder. I had no idea how people were going to respond, and it was a great relief to hear the group’s appreciation of this step and indeed the relief that they felt at me taking that leadership position. We were well placed for release. Next I handed out the testimonies I had received from others and we read them in silence. You could feel the field deepen and expand. I then invited us all to go into a round of appreciation of our time and work together over the last period, which proved to be very powerful, for me as much as for anyone else.

As I sensed into that question (“what do I appreciate about this group?”) I could feel the emotions surging up, and what powered its way through was a deep sense of gratitude that a group of people would have the faith in me and the vision I held to step into a journey which had no clear destination. I can offer no result – only a clear commitment and intention – and yet these crazy crew were ready to devote their time and energy to manifesting whatever it was we had to do together. These Dutch have explorer genes in them  – their ancestors got into flimsy boats to cross the oceans without knowing what they would find – and bless them for that.

Once the circle was finished, one of our company who is particularly sensitive to the collective energy field said she could see that it had shifted – our letting go had happened. I don’t really know what the implications of this are going to be, it just feels like the space we have created is what we need to hold if we are really going to allow the next phase to emerge. We are working with Brian Robertson from Holacracy this coming week, and I have a sense that the last pieces might just fall into place.

We will see, and I will keep you posted!

MeshWorks

I just wrote this as part of the preparation for our Global SDi/Human Emergence EuroConfab, and thought it might be good to share. This is a core capacity that we are being recognised for in the Netherlands today.

MeshWorks are one of the core products of SDi and Human Emergence practitioners. A MeshWork is a form of next generation network, where different parties are consciously woven together to serve a higher collective Purpose. What a MeshWork can achieve is way beyond anything that any of the individual parties could achieve on their own.

In a MeshWork, special attention is given to what the specific qualities of the different parties are, how their uniqueness can be enhanced and vitalised through their connection to other unique parties. We release a part by limiting it to its specific place in the whole. The combination of alignment behind one higher Purpose, buy-in to a collective set of Principles, and the uplifting of the identity and capacity of each of the parts, creates a powerful dynamic MeshWork that has a clear identity of its own, is diverse in its make-up, and is rapidly responsive and adaptive to the world around it.

Good MeshWorking requires giving attention to an integral combination of Leadership, Culture and Structure, reinforcing each other and strengthening the fabric of effective collaboration. It is the next emerging form as we explore how to organise ourselves to deal with the complex and urgent challenges we face in the world today.

Core Practice

Another element of my conversation with Tim included this precious insight.

I have been sitting for a while with a dissatisfaction around a description of Product and Process as separate things – or content/what and process/how as different.

In the conversation it became clear that this came from our experience that actually the new ways in which people and organisations begin to do things also become the new products that they offer the world. That in fact their own internal Practice becomes their Practice in the world.

A few examples:

  • The (re)evolution youth group lived through a transformation process, started doing and being differently and that is what they are now taking into their local community
  • An IBM business unit transformed its cultural and leadership resilience and they are now integrating that into a product for clients
  • An intentional community is making the shift from a more inwardly-focused spiritual community to becoming an example for how intentional communities can contribute to solving some of the core problems we are facing in the world. The process they are going through and the new practice they are moving into will become part of their core offering to the world

They have all developed a Core Practice which is at the same time process and content/product. This makes it fully authentic and powerfully attractive to others. And as a Practice it never stops nor is finalised. It is a continual evolutionary journey for ourselves and for those around us.

R.I.S.I.N.G.

In conversation with my brother Tim over Christmas, we identified a pattern in the kind of work that we are doing, that helped us to become more conscious of its essence. It emerged as:

Rapid / Resilient
Indigenous
Scalable
Innovation, of the
Next
Generation

Tim was drawing specifically on his experience of transforming some of the most challenging kids from Yarmouth (Nova Scotia, Canada) into leaders in a (r)evolution in youth work (see particularly the video stories of the individuals).  I was drawing on the last two years of work helping to transform a fear-ridden business unit in IBM BeNeLux into one of their biggest growth and innovation centres. Sensing into that, we found this deeper pattern that connected to the rest of our work.

Rapid : The U-Process combined with Chaordic Design that form a core part of the transformation technology we work with is proving itself to rapidly, powerfully and sustainably shift groups of people from old ways to new ways. Once through that first iteration, it proves itself to beResilient.

Indigenous : We work from the principle that the next step for a group already exists within the system, and that it is our job to facilitate its emergence. The client is the content expert, and what we do is release their highest creative potential to create what they really care about. Insight from models such as Spiral Dynamics Integral enable us to make the approach fit. There are usually also content insights which we feed in, which become part of the unfolding scenario that emerges in its essence from the client.

Scalable : In enabling the emergence from the local system itself, we always notice a deeper Source Code or DNA that is relevant for the broader sector as a whole or even wider.  There is a core approach that can be transported to other contexts. The Code is scalable. The Content is indigenous.

Innovation : Truly new ways of being and doing always emerge.

Next Generation : There are two levels to this. It is always of the next generation within the system itself – so the product of those creative agents who are leaning into the future. And it is always of service to the planet as a whole and the next generation of human beings living here. The reason for the latter is that the space that we open and hold connects people to their individual and collective essence, which is as we know ultimately that of the Universe unfolding with the general directionality of increasing compassion and embrace.

Integral Resilience

The essence of Integral Resilience is to maintain a dynamic balance between an individual’s, culture’s and structure’s wholeness and identity on the one hand (“agency” for Wilberians), and partness and belonging on the other (“communion”).

For the individual, resilience involves being clear on my Purpose and identity at this time whilst being open to sense and rapidly adapt to changes around me.

For a culture, resilience involves clarity of collective Purpose and Principles of behaviour, whilst being open to pick up the feedback of the world around and respond adequately.

For a structure (organisational, governmental, technological etc), resiilence involves the capacity for the structure to continue to deliver whatever it is that it is meant to be delivering, whilst learning from and adapting to continual feedback and more intense shocks from the world around.

When agency and communion are in a healthy dynamic balance, innovation, evolution and emergence occur in the dance of creative tension. We align ourselves as the evolutionary impulse of Spirit unfolding.