By Rachel Harris
Periodically, we publish articles and case studies on importance of organizational culture in strategy conversations. Read on for another installment.
Reflecting on your strategic initiative, can you recall a time you were at a cross-roads? You are not alone!
Whether the new strategic initiative is hampered by lack of clarity on company purpose or not, gaining insight into a company's culture has lasting benefits. This is true for any sort of change management initiative - and is often the difference between success and failure.
Time and time again we've experienced clients frequently mistaking strategy as the underlying problem, when in fact, matching a company's culture to any change initiative is the key to success. We're often called in when there is a pain point, such as when a new program launch is in trouble or a strategic initiative has lost steam.
When you cannot take the pain of the status quo anymore, give us a jingle at 612-920-3039. Until then, please read these testimonials from our clients for inspiration.
Authentic Leadership: Leading through Paradox, Ambiguity & Vulnerability
by Patricia Neal
At the August Transformational Leaders Collaboratory, Heartland focused on discussing important questions such as "What is the magic of authentic leadership?, Why are capacities of ambiguity, paradox and vulnerability core to the conversation?, What gets in the way or stops us from being our authentic selves at work?"
People want leaders who give back, care about others, and foster collaboration. They desire authentic leadership. Authentic leaders build trust and genuine connection and consider the complexities of ambiguity, paradox, and vulnerability as core to building relationships. Our Conversation Starters have stories of how they have shown up as authentic leaders to serve in the best way possible.
"Authenticity is about establishing and showing honesty and integrity between your personality, your words, and your actions."
Heartland hosted three amazing conversation starters...
Heartland hosted three conversation starters, Sherrie Kronforst - Senior Director of Employee Engagement, Comcast Corporation • Peter Bailey - President, The Prouty Project • Amy Ronneberg - Chief Financial Officer, Be the Match and National Marrow Donor Program. Each speaker spoke on their beliefs in leadership. Sherrie Kronforst spoke to the point of humans are the ones to make organizations successful, not vice versa: "The human spirit deserves to do worthy work aligned with each person's talents, gifts, points of view." Peter Bailey enlightened us with his passion for living practicing possibility-thinking. He always shows up authentically and creating opportunities for collaboration and innovation. Amy Ronneberg shared her favorite sayings, "Don't wait for the rain to pass, but learn to dance in the rain." Her qualities of compassion and resilience help her to lead within her position at Be The Match.
After a whole group discussion with our conversation starters, the Conversation Café small group breakouts took the conversation deeper. This group of leaders included: • Yvette Trotman, Metropolitan Community & Technical College • Nausheena Hussain, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood of Empowerment (RISE) • Mary Beth Lamb, ECCO International Associate; Adjunct Faculty, Carlson School of Management, St. Catherine University Masters of Arts in Organizational Leadership • Tom McSteen, Medtronic, Inc. Each thought leader ran an individual small group discussing their leadership approaches to leading through Paradox, Ambiguity & Vulnerability.
Authenticity is about establishing and showing honesty and integrity between your personality, your words, and your actions. Every organization benefits greatly from innovation, ideas, truths expressed in an environment of possibility, positivity, and creativity.
During the "Big Q" question time, some compelling questions came forward [partial list]:
- What is your true spirit that inspires you to love what you do every day? Why?? (are you so passionate?)
- How do you bring vulnerability and authenticity to yourself every day--even when you don’t want to?
- Considering Paradox, Ambiguity & Vulnerability: what are your (or one of your) most challenging moments? What guided and sustained you? And from your experiences, what do you offer others as a point of light?
- Is what you emphasize as a parent or a business leader changing right now as we are experiencing the pop of a couple of societal blisters of racism and political discord? (maybe throw in gender bias, too) More here
Thank you to all of our speakers, attendees and wonderful convening conversations we had at this TLC. Check out our photos from the August TLC here! If you may have missed our August TLC, check out our updated LinkedIn page full of helpful tips to master the Art of Convening. Are you wanting to collaborate with more productivity within your organization? Call us at 612.920.3029 to schedule your next consult.
by Rachel Harris
In a periodic series, Heartland Group shares illuminating case studies of change management successes. The current installment focuses on a client who had come to a cross-roads and knew the status quo was no longer an option. Our client is a Human Resources Vice President who sought to resolve an employee retention problem, but found roadblocks in navigating a much more complex situation in the company culture. She hired Heartland Group to apply Convening methodology and map a path forward.
Coming to the realization that her smartest, most talented staff were underperforming or leaving, a Vice President of Human Resources knew a change was needed. After assessing employee needs and emphasizing talent retention, she discovered that company culture was impacting performance.
She contacted Conversational Intelligence-trained coach Patricia Neal and initiated a plan of action. Together they focused on retaining top female talent in the male-dominated engineering company and re-energizing the workforce through a special interest group (SIG). What began as a staffing retention issue had morphed into a culture change initiative. This is where the project got exciting!
This SIG met to re-focus the mission and vision, design a kick-off meeting and receive Art of Convening training. The group relaunched successfully in March with over 70 people in attendance - double the expected turnout! Their success evolved from executive coaching and training on more effective meetings. Now that the SIG is up and running, they have requested a quarterly tune-up on designing effective meetings for inclusion. The quarterly trainings and monthly coaching have enabled middle managers to create a culture of inclusion, develop staff buy-in and transform their leadership. Excellent outcomes!
We love to work with leaders who are ready to move beyond the status quo.Center for Purposeful Leadership: Connect. Engage. Collaborate. Give us a jingle. #612-920-3039.
Under the orange
sticks of the sun
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again
and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands
of summer lilies.
If it is your nature
to be happy
you will swim away along the soft trails
for hours, your imagination
And if your spirit
carries within it
that is heavier than lead ---
if it's all you can do
to keep on trudging ---
there is still
somewhere deep within you
a beast shouting that the earth
is exactly what it wanted ---
each pond with its blazing lilies
is a prayer heard and answered
whether or not
you have ever dared to be happy,
whether or not
you have ever dared to pray.
~ Mary Oliver ~
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could, you know. That's why we wake
and look out -- no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
~ William Stafford ~
If you are not one of the the 63,977 people who've seen it on YouTube, or even if you are - I receommend a daily viewing of this video from Louie Schwartzenberg on Nature, Beauty, and Gratitude. You'll be charmed by Louie Schwartzberg's time-lapse photography and and inspired by the articulate, heartful narration of David Steindl-Rast. Steindl-Rast says that cultivating gratitude for each day is like "life-giving water if you will only open your heart and drink".
When We Listen
When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness.
Our listening creates a sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person.
That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and by others.
That which is hidden.
In this culture, the soul and the heart too often go homeless.
Listening creates a holy silence.
When you listen generously to people they can hear the truth in themselves, often for the first time.
And in the silence of listening, you can know yourself in everyone.
Eventually, you may be able to hear, in everyone and beyond everyone, the unseen singing softly to itself and to you.
Rachel Naomi Remen
Have you ever been judged? I know the answer to that, because we've all been judged. We're judged every time we walk among others. For the very same behavior or characteristic we can be judged positively (especially by our moms!) or negatively (as by our arch nemesis if we have one).
My own judgments are both involuntary and continuous - like breathing. Sometimes those judgments help me make sense of the world, but more often than I would like, if I have the opportunity to test the judgments I make, they can be amazingly wrong. That is, unless I have triggered the "self-fulfilling prophesy" kind of judgment.
We are all multifaceted human beings, and as such could display characteristics that show us to be shallow barbarians one minute and deep, thoughtful geniuses the next. People judge me (and others) using all kinds of criteria - by the expression on our faces, by the shoes we wear, by the condition or color of our hair, or perhaps by a blog entry. A momentary lapse of manners may be judged as refreshingly real by one person and as unnecessarily crude by another.
A challenge I struggle with sometimes when I convene or participate in a group is setting aside my judgment. A key principle in the Art of Convening for the Aspect of Hearing All the Voices is to suspend our judgment. But my brain is constantly making conscious and unconscious evaluations of the people I am with - and others often seem to be doing the same thing. Like a frisky puppy, judgment chews on my hand and vies for my attention, becoming more stealthy and present as I struggle to banish it.
"Judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, I've learned. I want to have and continue to nurture good judgment in my life."
So, rather than fight with my judgment and try to get rid of it, I have decided to treat it like a puppy I've brought along, but is not participating. I take the time to train her to sit quietly at my feet or under my chair, until my meeting or conversation is over - then I take her away with me somewhat better behaved, more informed and matured in some way.
Judgment is not necessarily a bad thing, I've learned. I want to have and continue to nurture good judgment in my life. But I do myself a disservice when I allow my judgment to be a barrier to relationship with others in my gathering. I notice that the Art of Convening principle asks me to "suspend" my judgment, not to eliminate it. My objective is to be present in my gathering as a place of "charitable interpretation" and openness to being surprised.
What are your experiences with judgment and The Art of Convening? Is your judgment like a puppy too? Do you have some tips for the rest of us?
Cynthia Wold, Co-author of "The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations"
NOTE: In the original post, Judgement was spelled with an "e" after the g. Both spellings are correct, but I was persuaded to change to the more popular Judgment.
"Merriam-Webster prefers judgment and lists judgement as a variant."
This article was first posted on the AoC Book blog
Someone asked me today what I imagined would make the biggest difference in improving the quality of an upcoming conversation. I thought about it a bit and said that it would be telling the truth.
I don't think the people intentionally lie, but I think all of us like to manage our persona and make a good impression. We want to get along with others and may unconsciously utter clichés instead of offering thoughtful, relevant talk. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that, but I am sometimes in exchanges where that kind of thing is practiced to an extreme - and it wears me out! Also, it is impossible for me to develop a sense of trust in my conversations when I believe that truth is not forthcoming.
Most of us are not privy to knowing what THE TRUTH in capital letters is, but we do know what we are experiencing and thinking in the moment. It is more uncomfortable for me to openly share my genuine experiences and thoughts when others are not doing the same - much like the feeling of being watched from behind a one-way glass. That doesn't mean we have to bare our souls and tell all, or expound fully on our areas of expertise, but it does mean that we have to be real.
In The Art of Convening, authentic engagement is defined as simply the genuine expression of what is true for us, and an attentive listening to what is true for others. It's not entertaining, persuading or manipulating, but it is very energizing. Using the principles and practices of the Art of Convening make it much more likely that participants in a conversation or gathering will authentically engage - which means telling the truth.
What is your experience of truth-telling and the Art of Convening?
Cynthia Wold, Co-author of "The Art of Convening: Authentic Engagement in Meetings, Gatherings, and Conversations"
In the Japanese tradition of Zen, there is reference to what is called Beginner's Mind by Master Shunryu Suzuki. When we "suspend certainty" we automatically ignite the energetic of Beginner's Mind which in turn opens us up to new possibilities and very likely will produce results in our meetings that might seem impossible to achieve. When we unwind our solidified certainties and beliefs, and simply take a moment to identify how they came to be, we shift our potential to co-create.Read More
P R I N C I P L E:
Each voice is needed to reveal the authentic wisdom in our engagement.
We often refer to this principle as letting go and let come. We let go of our preconceptions of who the others are in the gathering and we let come the truth, quality, and essence of each. We suspend judgment (certainty) so that we are open to the possibilities of others. We must know, internally, that we, and all the others who are here, belong here. Each is needed and is here to contribute to the potential wisdom and creativity that we want in order to allow for the best possible outcome. There are no mistakes or outisiders in the universe, or in our gathering.
We must know, internally, that we, and all the others who are here, belong here. Each is needed and is here to contribute to the potential wisdom and creativity that we want in order to allow for the best possible outcome. There are no mistakes or outsiders in the universe, or in our gathering.
When we acknowledge that each voice is needed, we recognize that we are gathering the parts of something, just as a gardener gathers tools, seeds, and soil in the creation of a garden. As in a garden, where these necessary elements come togather, it is so in our gatherings: every person contributes by coming together to create something new. We orchestrate the opportunity for each individual to participate, producing a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. When all of the voices are heard, everyone sees and is seen by one another. Authentic engagement has begun, and an organic whole begins to emerge. (93)
This principle lays the foundation for maximizing the capacity for possible outcomes that may surprise even the most savvy and creative facilitator (convener) or manager (way-shower, guide). What has been missing in most meetings is simply this very recognition. Coming at our Team meetings and interactions on a regular basis with colleagues, how can we ignite that spark that dissolves the "I" and bridges to the "We"? Once we let our self-interests and expectations down, it is amazing what happens in the Boardrooms and meeting spaces. A new capacity forms. Granted, there will be moments of noodling through the currents of control, ego, and multiple opinions and views. This is all well and good and can be deftly navigated when the convener and the convening circle is coming from this space of understanding--the understanding that All Voices are Key.
Enjoy a copy of The Art of Convening for 30% off list price! (Offer ends April 7th 2011)
Here's to Hearing All the Voices!
Craig and Patricia
A Blessing for the New Year
On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.
And when your eyes
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.
When the fiber frays
in the canvas boat of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.
May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.
~ John O'Donohue ~
We're thrilled to introduce The Art of Convening book. It will be released by our publisher Berrett-Koehler Publishers early 2011. Throughout the rest of the year, we'll post excerpts on this blog for your early viewing.
Craig & Patricia
The ART OF CONVENING
9 Ways to Transform Your Meetings, Gatherings and Conversations
The role of the Convener is to gather and hold the people
"I would love to see leadership be the art of convening and hosting, and
that leadership training would teach how to bring people together and initiate
conversations that have power rather than predictability."
-Peter Block, author of "Community: The Structure of Belonging" in 2007 Wall Street Journal interview
Convening has become synonymous with facilitating gatherings and meetings. Heartland has been differentiating convening from facilitation and meeting leadership since our founding in 1995. By definition, facilitation is, “the process of making something easy or easier,”* whereas convening is the art of gathering and “holding” people. We consciously invite people into an engagement and are thereby accountable for the energetic and physical field in which we meet.
This book, The Art of Convening, is about the art and practice of convening people for the sake of creating wholeness in our engagements. It addresses the essential principles and practices for those “called” to convene and lead meetings and gatherings that produce transformational outcomes for the people in them and their organizations, communities and the world. Nothing less. It is for those of us seriously engaged and committed to making a life-changing difference in our own lives, and the lives of those we gather.
The Genesis of the Art of Convening
In 1998 we (Craig & Patricia Neal) began hosting and convening a series of member-based conversations, the Thought Leader Gatherings (TLGs), for a diverse group of leaders in our hometown of Minneapolis and then the California Bay Area. We had been holding these gatherings for seven years when Patricia noticed we needed to offer people the “recipe” for what we were doing at these meetings, rather than merely deliver the experience for them over and over.
We crafted a convening format description and published it on our website for our members and attendees to use in their practices and meetings. It was our hope that people would experience a transformational conversation with us at the TLG, then with that experience in hand and supporting printed materials, would replicate the experience in their lives, organizations and communities.
The reports back to us were always the same: “I wasn’t able to replicate what you do here and what I experience here, back home”.
What became abundantly clear was that people needed context and content to go along with the experiential learning and simple format. We discovered that our complimentary styles, Craig a high intuitive and Patricia a high analytical, had enabled us to create a breakthrough format for convening that would bring intimacy, depth and idealism to any gathering. However, we were not giving people the right recipe for how to do it themselves in their own lives.
About that time our friend Peter Barnes opened a writer’s retreat center in California and invited Craig to come for a two-week retreat in April of 2004. What emerged was the initial outline for this book and an almost intact curriculum for a 6-month Art of Convening (AoC) TeleTraining.
What Craig came to know at the writer’s retreat was that he needed to introduce the principles, practices and processes - developed for the TLGs and their own consulting practice - with others who were already convening practitioners. He also knew that this introduction needed to be done using a format that was accessible for people all over the world. TeleTraining was the perfect medium.
Within the first year we realized, additionally, that TeleTrainings also provided an intensely focused experience. Without the physical cues present with in-person meetings, we relied on energetic cues. In order to better notice these energetic cues, participants would learn the art of deep listening.
With the birth of The Art of Convening TeleTrainings in 2004 and the ensuing six years of trainings, came the evolution of the Convening Wheel as the foundation of thought and practice for this book. As the conceptual framework came to us, the practice within the AoC groups tested the theories and concepts with real life application.
We have observed a great yearning in ourselves, and among those we teach and train, to discover the answer to the foundational question, “who am I and why am I here?” It is a seeking for wholeness that we can then share with others. When we do so, the power of being whole or complete acts as a multiplier in our relationships and the meetings we conduct.
The people who have shown up for our trainings over the years have been those who see themselves as catalysts for transforming the nature of their relationships in their lives and practice for the sake of their own transformation and that of their families, communities and organizations. By now, hundreds of AoC graduates have worked with and applied the principles, practices and processes of the Convening Wheel – from corporate settings to faith-based applications.
A FieldGuide to help navigate your journey
There is a “technology of relationships” that is foundational to The Art of Convening. If you consider that each interaction with another human being is an opportunity for engagement or relationship, a necessary shift occurs in that interaction. The Art of Convening book is a guide to help us integrate our personal values into positive relationships that then make possible the best outcomes for our communities, organizations, and even the world.
Each of the 9 Chapters represents an “Aspect*” of the Convening Wheel and offers new principles, practices, processes and case studies. Much of the Convening Wheel explores the convergence of the inner and outer worlds of Conveners - those that engage others in meaningful meetings, discourse and conversations. The integration of the personal practices of the Convener with how they bring themselves to the practical concerns of convening meetings and gatherings is the unique realm of this book.
Much of what we learned and observed over 40 years of running businesses, community organizing, and countless group experiences about convening has been distilled into the 9 inner & outer considerations a Convener must make in designing any gathering or conversation. These Aspects hold true for one-on-one as well as large scale meetings.
What amazed us during the journey of writing this book, and developing the Convening Wheel, is that the outer, physical, design-oriented delivery considerations in convening seem to always follow the same path as the inner life of the Convener. As within, so without.
That is why the inner considerations are so prominent in our convening model. We believe that the Convener is the new evolutionary leader whose power and effectiveness is rooted in personal transformation.
Convening Contexts for the Convener
There are myriad contexts for convening, and that these contexts present different challenges that require variations in our approach to each situation. In other words one shoe does not fit all in our intent, design and execution as Conveners. The 4 classic cases below may be familiar, although variances and nuances abound. The important factor here is our approach from the perspective of the Convening Wheel and where we find ourselves along the path.
Context 1- Collegial Everyone being convened is present for what are essentially compatible purposes, and the participants seek a feeling of one-ness and connectedness as part of the their experience in the convened group. There are no “win-lose” or “zero sum” elements. The key convening challenge is to get people out of their day to day business and distractions, and into a deeper and more soulful state of awareness.
Context 2- Shared Conflict The people being convened are all stakeholders in some larger, shared context, and the status quo is for some reason undesirable or unsustainable. The participants have at least a partially shared interest in solving the problem at hand. Usually there is a strong “zero sum game” aspect of these situations, where people consider the possibility of holding out and resisting the change, in an attempt to get another person or department to make a greater concession.
Context 3- Dysfunctional Elephant Here, the people being convened are part of a somewhat dysfunctional organization as in Context 2, but instead of there being a clear external challenge which serves as a rallying point to move people past parochial and ritualistic behavior, there is an unacknowledged major dysfunction that has been rendered “undiscussable”.
Context 4- Advocacy Here, a group is convened for the purposes of advocacy and activism. A major goal in convening an advocacy group is for the group to conclude that they care enough about the issue at hand to act, and for the group to begin to develop a workable plan.
Each convening context requires a specific kind (or kinds) of affective work, the goal of which is to engender a certain sensibility or emotional state in the participants being convened. However, the specifics of the affective transformation vary hugely with the convening context. Notice the subtle and overt differences and overlaps you may encounter in your engagements. As we travel this journey together be aware of the predetermined context and social makeup of the group or individuals with which you will be convening. Whether you are called to be an active convener in the meeting or a participant, be aware of what the social and political dynamics may be in advance. Who knows how things may change as you travel the Wheel together?
This book is intended as a “Field Guide” serving personal and professional growth, leading to the discovery that the way to achieve the highest potential of any engagement is to unleash the creative potential inherent in the collective wisdom of those gathered.
As we travel the path around the 9 Aspects of the Convening Wheel from At the Heart of the Matter to Commitment to Action we’ll examine Core Elements, “practice stories” from the field, journaling questions and a corresponding chec klist of items to consider along the way for highly effective engagements.
The structure of the Convening Wheel is designed to illustrate the various Aspects of convening as a whole. As we gracefully progress through the Aspects around the wheel, we cycle through the steps and considerations systematically. Using this circular method to articulate the way of “being” and “doing” we build upon each Aspect’s core elements in a logical sequence.
In this book you’ll read about people restoring wholeness to themselves, their families, communities, and organizations by igniting the brilliance and genius inherent whenever two or more are gathered.
"Challenge: The fundamental barrier that must be seen in order to continue to the next Aspect"
It is our belief that each person is born perfect and whole; and that now is our time to experience this perfection and wholeness in one another. Through the principles and practices of The Art of Convening anyone can learn that meaningful connection and engagement is not only possible, it is an imperative for the world to work for everyone.
Each chapter or Aspect of the Conveners Wheel is associated with six Core Elements. These elements, followed in a progressive order, address powerful questions that illuminate each Aspect of the Wheel.
Principle (The foundational value of an Aspect of the Wheel.)
Essential Question (A question one asks in an Aspect of the Wheel
that illuminates the Core Principle.)
Challenge (The fundamental barrier that must be seen in order to continue to the next Aspect)
Design Element (A primary consideration that goes into the pattern in which engagements are planned and created.)
Practice (Personal practice, repeating action or exercise that will enhance our thinking about an Aspect of the Wheel.)
Process / Methods (Collective series of actions for a particular outcome.)
Things to Remember (Reminders and important concepts to check in order to be successful within an Aspect of the Wheel.)
Stories and anecdotes for each Aspect of the Wheel illustrate real life successes or failures where a particular Aspect played an important role.
At the end of each chapter is a Reflection Worksheet that offers journaling questions to prompt our own reflections and creativity as we navigate each Aspect of the Convening Wheel.
This book is dedicated to the inspired catalyst for change and transformation within all of us. We believe by waking to our own brilliance and sharing that with others we can, relationship after relationship, create a world that works for everyone.
Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to you for your willingness to step forward with us on the Convener’s journey.
Craig & Patricia Neal
*Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation
John O'Donahue bring beauty and grace to a core convener practice of presence with this poem.
Awaken to the mystery of being here
and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence.
Have joy and peace in the temple of your senses.
Receive encouragement when new frontiers beckon.
Respond to the call of your gift and the courage to
follow its path.
Let the flame of anger free you of all falsity.
May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.
May anxiety never linger about you.
May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of
Take time to celebrate the quiet miracles that seek
Be consoled in the secret symmetry of your soul.
May you experience each day as a sacred gift woven
around the heart of wonder.
~ John O'Donohue ~
(To Bless the Space Between Us)