Its important to understand the difference between shift in belief and shift in perspective.
Beliefs shifts are identity, the “We’re the ones who.. (experience the world and our organization’s place in that world from a single present vantage point of power).”
That shared point of power is the one from which future opportunities, capabilities, culture, innovations, networks, relationships and processes are created. An example could be a shift from a push oriented to a pull oriented belief system from which a social business direction is created.
Team, partner, group, community and organizational members’ ability to shift will depend on both their individual desires and whether their individual complex systems of beliefs, assumptions and expectations align with or contradict the change intention.
But people will have vastly different perceptions about what, why and how. They’ll experience those through a personal lens involving their strengths, weaknesses, talent, skills, personality, risk tolerance, experience, maturity, shadow behaviors and many other factors.
A typical management response is to standardize and control in attempt to neutralize the impact of perception differences but the downside is to stifle innovation and productive friction. Trailer Park Boys provides an alternative.
If you’ve never seen or heard of it, Trailer Park Boys is a Canadian mockumentary about the residents of the Sunnyvale Trailer Park who share a Utopian vision of trailer park community including get rich quick schemes, getting high, circumventing the rules and regulations and staying out of jail. The stories center around three main characters who see the means to their desired fulfillment through different lenses.
Julian is tall, dark, handsome and a natural leader. He also has a glass of rum and coke permanently attached to his hand. A career criminal, Julian is the head of the extended Sunnyvale Trailer Park family and he always tries to take care of the people in the park, especially his best friends Ricky and Bubbles.
Ricky is Julian’s best friend and business partner, grows awesome dope, generally lives in his car, doesn’t always make the best decisions though and the boys often get in trouble as a result. However, Ricky’s heart is usually in the right place, especially when it comes to his family and friends.
Bubbles is the heart and soul of Sunnyvale, not to mention the smartest person in the park. If it were up to him Bubbles would lead a quiet life in the park. Unfortunately, he’s constantly getting caught up in Julian and Ricky’s schemes and is afraid they – or even he – will go to jail again.
Trailer Park Boys web site
There’s seven seasons of problem-solving, decision-making, change leadership, capability building, innovation and creative friction metaphor if you’re willing to think outside the trailer park.
I took part in an meditation/meetup last night with the Boston Integral Commons (Ken Wilber group) that included an interesting reading of a dialogue between Andrew Cohen & Ken Wilber: Creative Friction – Community and the Utopian Impulse in a Post-postmodern World.
A lively and challenging discussion followed about how we can use the theories and frameworks in practical ways to continually raise our group’s evolutionary consciousness. For me, the biggest challenge was how to not get caught in resistance to hierarchy, inherent to this evolutionary process theory. I wasn’t concerned, though, and left the meeting in high spirits to go along my entrepreneurial, hierarchy-free way.
That lasted exactly 20 minutes.
I checked my email and saw that I was in the midst of a messy conflict triggered by a communication from me to others in a community very important to me. I suddenly realized that most of my conflicts of the past 2 years were tied to my lack of hierarchy sense. Earlier, one of the Integral Group members piqued my interest when he talked to me about how some people excel in hierarchical spaces, and others (like me) don’t because they’ve not lived enough in that space to develop the requisite competencies. It all made perfect sense to me and I enthusiastically agreed with him totally unaware that I was simultaneously protecting my “hierarchy sucks” belief.
No way was this series of events last night a coincidence; it was a test.
So I want to share this learning. If you do something in integrity that results in conflict and you sense a repeating pattern, you may want to examine your beliefs about hierarchy as unnatural, judgmental or even threatening. If so, that’s the ego in you but also an opportunity to build your vigilance (“V”) discipline and to be more mindful of its practical application to inter-personal conflict and most importantly, to internal contradiction blocking the evolution of your own consciousness.
The instant you believe in the evolution of consciousness, you have to accept hierarchy at the level of the self, at the level of the soul, and that backs narcissism right into a corner. – Andrew Cohen
By mid-morning, my conflict resolved. There was no effort or push-back or sacrifice or guilt or doing much of anything at all. In fact, it was almost as it it never happened – but better.
When my granddaughters Sam and Em were little they loved to play “Mrs Meanie” with me. I’d pretend to be the mean school teacher who would not allow freedom, fun, laughter or any frivolity. Of course this would send the girls into paroxysms of giggle fits at which point I’d pretend to go into conniptions and chase them all over the place with threats of dire punishments as they’d yell “ha ha Mrs Meanie!”. It was pure silliness that when on literally for years. The minute I’d walk into the house they’d beg “Nano, do Mrs Meanie pleeeeeeze!”
I think of that character often lately with respect to professional service providers and their client relationships. This accelerated change environment that includes rapid technology and business model innovation, increasingly compressed project time frames and downward pressure on fee structures, beautifully lends itself to the emergence of the consultant version of Mrs. Meanie. The challenge is making it as desirable for clients as it was for the kids.
Clients sometimes need it for the following reason: they don’t know what they don’t know. If that’s the case there’s no straight and clear path from their problem to your solution. Its more like a jungle of unconscious and hidden assumptions and expectations.
Some solo psf’s deal with the jungle by ignoring and denying it. Why? Because they want the work. Others deal with it by trying to manage it with lengthy contracts and processes. There’s even a large body of content addressing “firing the client”. These methods are about setting boundaries and not surprisingly, have a high likelihood of failure because every boundary is a battle line to cross. In the old ways of work boundary protection was built into fees. Forget about that in the new ways of work.
So how can you decrease the likelihood of project breakdown and failure? Through the discipline of rigor (the “R” in DRIVE).
Simply stated, through every step of the project, in real time, you honestly express and inquire about the contradictions and internal conflicts you’re hearing, observing and sensing. These aren’t judgments or things you fix, unless of course you ask permission and the client is willing. They are, however, as much of the truth and rationale for the project as are the desire and need for the project.
Clearly, facilitative skills and your own self-awareness will support your rigor discipline. Clients can react very negatively to your shining a light on what they don’t know they don’t know. Remember that argument, hubris and defensiveness from you will only strengthen the boundary lines of protection. Conversely, your consistency, non-judgment and acceptance create a space for both your clients’ and your own growth and development as well as create the cornerstone of your solo professional “Meanie Manifesto”.
When I work with people to help them better respond to change, I find there’s zero tolerance or willingness to examine old, embodied resentments and the problems they cause. I’ve learned to distinguish these from the usual, garden-variety resentments, the lingering, angry thoughts and feelings about people or unwanted experiences that provoke, harm or result in suffering. Resentful thought forms that impede personal, professional and organizational growth and development, can be resolved when people are willing to separate and examine facts, thinking and feelings.
Embodied resentments are older, even ancient and always subconscious. They seem to come out of nowhere. You can just be driving along in the sunshine and listening to your favorite music and suddenly you realize that you’ve been fixated for an hour on some old grudge that you were sure you were finished with long ago. You find yourself in a moody funk darkened by obsessive negative thinking, anxiety and a sense of hopelessness. We all know what it feels like to be in the “grip” of the black heart and what it feels like to be around others in its grasp. Its not hard to envision the impact on organizational culture when embodied, contagious resentments surface and get fueled by the rumor and gossip mill.
The desire, of course, is to stop or at least alleviate the accompanying suffering. The challenge is knowing how to work with our own and others’ resentments that are deeply hidden from awareness. When the memories and beliefs are blocked from your mind yet embodied in your cells, how can you examine what you don’t know you know? We’re taught about the pitfalls of the default responses like resistance, denial, distraction, avoidance, numbing and pretense. Those pitfalls include prolonging and intensifying the suffering and contaminating others by projecting it onto, and acting it out against, people you live or work with.
A better response is a friendly curiosity about embodied resentment: where does it come from, when does it show up and what does it want of us? It may be showing up on an anniversary or holiday, or at a place we’ve been before, or in a challenging circumstance similar to a past one we’ve already experienced. Like a disturbing dream, disturbing resentment can be a pointer to something we need to learn to keep moving forward and evolving; or it can be a lead to help us solve a seemingly intractable problem or help us make a seemingly impossible personal or business decision.
It may seem like a stretch that the grip of the black heart and its attendant misery and suffering is a good thing. If so, it may be valuable to at least be willing to accept that its a helluva effective way to stop us and get our attention. What we do with it is our choice.
Rigor: The “R” in DRIVE
One of the 5 elements of the RedShift DRIVE Self-Awareness and Change Leadership Model, and key to shifting identity in the logical/philosophical dimension, is Rigor.
Good consultants, coaches and facilitators know that the likelihood of lasting change increases when people find their own answers, decisions and solutions with our help. But what’s less evident is that a rigorous inquiry process, necessary to bringing a hidden belief into the light of awareness, can provoke strong, negative reactions. That’s because every belief that contradicts growth and development has hidden trade-offs and payoffs.
For example, a client may be willing to examine the belief that, despite evidence of an increasing shift to social business, as the seller, he or she has the power over the buyer. The client may grudgingly admit to the cost of the trade-offs of delaying or rejecting social business. Examples of these trade-offs are: late adoption, behind the learning curve, limited customer intelligence, risk of losing market share, lack of social community experience, etc. Consultants generally make recommendations that address the trade-offs. But the results of those recommendations, if implemented, get to the low-hanging fruit and result in incremental change at best or no lasting change at all.
Rigorous inquiry uncovers the payoff. In the example, the payoff to believing in business as usual, “we have the power”, could be individual or organizational self-preservation that mandates total control, invulnerability, and holding all the cards close. In other words, its the contradiction of social business.
There’s a logic to the payoff and its underlying beliefs. Acknowledging that logic is a more effective approach to helping people with change than pointing out its wrongness. Its not the easy path because individual or cultural emotional response to uncovering the payoff can be extreme resistance. Consultants who are fearless and patient enough to hold that space for clients to work through their resistance will recommend the transformational change befitting clients who can finally let go of the payoff that once served them well, but that did so in a world that no longer exists.
The Professor Gates – Cambridge Police incident spotlights our collective unconsciousness about the extent to which the ego governs our responses and reactions to things and events that we don’t want or don’t like.
If we’re aware of our ego, and its attachment to opinions, roles, race, class, authority, ownership etc., it loses its power. That doesn’t mean we won’t bump up against things and situations that upset, frustrate, anger and disappoint. But it does mean that we’ll recognize an ego trigger and refuse to blindly and fully give ourselves over to it.
Its not that we shouldn’t stand up, and even fight for, what we believe in. But when aware of the ego’s involvement, we do so with discernment and with some sense of responsibility for creating the very experience that we don’t like.
The ego hates awareness, intelligence, discernment and co-creative responsibility. It needs to be stupid in order to exist and survive. Like radar, it seeks out the stupid ego in other people which is really the one stupid ego that lives through and in every one of us.
When President Obama remarked about the stupidity of the escalation of the incident, I translate that to the stupidity of the egos feeding off each other and subsequently the collective ego feeding off the resulting rage and polarization that spread like wildfire.
Whether you agree or disagree with their respective positions, if you put yourself in the shoes of the egos of the parties in the incident, their reactions make perfect sense and you can understand how they felt threatened in that situation to the point of annihilation.
Unfortunately, our egos will often trick us into thinking that in doing this kind of exchanging ourselves for the other, that we’re making excuses for what is wrong or bad and what should be eliminated. So we choose instead to harden our opinions and build stronger walls around them, unable to see that we’re creating a hard life experience, i.e. suffering.
When you look at it this way, you may realize that the stupid ego is extorting a very high price and its a price you’re no longer willing to pay.
If you feel defeated because you can’t get or be what you want, refuse to have or be anything less.
If you’re stressed out and angry over loss or change, refuse to make others and the space around you stressed out and angry.
If you’re in a crisis and fearful, refuse to merge with it.
If you can’t handle it anymore, refuse to carry the burden and release it to someone, or something else.
If you’re burning with resentment, refuse to judge anyone or anything.
If you’re feeling snarky and cruel about someone, refuse to repeat what you’re thinking.
If you’re in the grip of addiction or compulsion, refuse to be unkind to yourself.
If you’re feeling isolated and unwanted, smile and greet everyone warmly.
The more you practice the art of refusal, the more you accept the responsibility for creating both the good and bad in your life in exactly the same way. At that point, what you’ll feel most is grateful.
My biggest issue with most of the media-psychology, coaching and pop new-agey methods, is that they’re reductionist. They aim for mass appeal with focus on the quick fix: point out what’s wrong, what its costing in some lack of fulfillment, offer advice to fix the problems and to attain the desired fulfillment.
But shallow methods and quick fixes aren’t transformational and the results don’t last. That’s because the quick-fix methods focus on the apparent trade-off for the client (or reader) and not on the hidden payoff.
Here’s a typical, if overly simplistic example:
The client hates his job but after years, or even decades of misery can’t break free. The trade-offs he makes are apparent to himself and to his adviser, or author:
- trade off the creativity for the steady paycheck
- trade off the adventurous for the familiar
- trade off the independence for the benefits
The analysis of the client’s problem and the advice he gets address the trade-offs he makes. With the global crisis, advice like this has reached a fevered pitch, and somehow feels the same for every problem or lack.
Just start, do it. This is your life. Set a goal. Take action. Be accountable.
So why is it that we’re drawn to and consume this obviousness? Because these methods don’t touch what we unconsciously hide and protect at all costs and that we can’t bear to examine: the beliefs that drive the choices that we make to get the payoffs to which we’re addicted.
An unconscious belief system operates like a psychic one-arm bandit leaving us penniless, but we can’t stop pulling the lever. In the grip of the bandit, we’re willing to accept the cost, an unfulfilled life, rather than examine our choice to identify with a lesser self.
Most of us are driven to some extent by old, unwanted beliefs that we chose at a crucial time in our development in response to a physically or emotionally traumatic event(s), real or perceived – it doesn’t matter. The longer they live in us the more exhausting it gets to keep pulling that lever to get the security and safety payoff that we think we still need. But we don’t need it anymore; that time is long past.
Self-awareness sheds a light on the beliefs and resistance that want more than anything to hide in the dark. Moving forward, and growing, doesn’t require re-living, remembering or analyzing the past. It does require uncovering, accepting, releasing and replacing the old belief machine that provides the old payola.
The requirement is the willingness to imagine: who would you be without the damn thing? The zorba kicks in. In my experience, its never a quick fix but the new, and often surprising and unexpected payoff makes it well worth the effort.
When I was putting together the accompanying slides, a Seth Godin post kept popping into mind. This blog post was about email marketing, with and without permission. What stuck with me was his analogy that without permission, a marketer interrupts him at his email, which is where he lives, all day.
A powerful image.
What must it feel like, I thought, for an employee who will need to change to a system like Sharepoint, that bypasses not just email, but also the personalized explorer and file storage system relied upon for years, or longer. It could feel much worse than being interrupted at home, and more like a home invasion.
That could a good place to start if you’re failing in your efforts to get more people using Sharepoint. Resistant peoples’ responses to change will be different, including: protectiveness, skepticism and abject fear. But those who are resistant will need time, space and your leadership skills and natural influence to get from where they are (home!) to where you want and need them to be. And that is the place of willingness.
During times of extreme uncertainty and massive shifts, its human nature to have thoughts of panic and self-doubt. These become self-fulfilling only if you believe in them and identify with them.
Solo professionals are often alone and vulnerable to getting lost in thoughts triggered by events that are exploding in frequency. A deal falls through, there’s not enough money, inquiries slow down to a trickle or less, investors pull back, unexpected family needs show up, losses accumulate. And if that’s not enough, millions of other professionals are telling (and selling) other solo’s what they’re doing wrong and what they should be doing.
When you don’t separate who you are from the onslaught of triggered thoughts, you’re at higher risk of getting derailed. A precursor is a sense of urgency to do or chase something different, and its accompanied by a lot of anxiety, tension and doubt – paradoxically, the exact things you’re trying to get away from.
Its not possible to stop all negative thinking, unless you live perhaps in a monastery. But you can refuse to identify with the thoughts and the debilitating emotions that accompany them. You do that by observing them and feeling them for what are: thoughts, not you. And then you refuse to respond to them by unconsciously going off in an unwanted direction and getting derailed.
Resolve to replace urgency and scrambling with intensity. Urgency scatters energy and attention and inhibits poise and readiness to receive. Intensity is focused on intuitively choosing to do one thing at a time with the highest quality.
Nobody can tell you what that “thing to do” is. It could be, for example, producing a creative work, taking a walk, washing the car, helping a client, eating an apple, working on finances, being with other people, looking for a job, playing with kids, doing errands, taking a nap.
What’s important is that you merge with what you do and not with your thoughts about it which make you doubt your choice. Florence Scovel Shin tells us “Let God juggle your affairs”. You don’t need a religious orientation to accept truth in that statement and to feel a sense of relief.
We’re part of something that needs to happen. Although its huge, and beyond our knowledge, control and understanding, with awareness and intensity, we are the conductor and on the right track.
Photo credit:Pewari Naan Photostream