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January 5, 2011

Executive Transitions

two_sailboats

Illustration by Erin Davis

The New York Times ushered in 2011 with a front page story (below the fold, at least) titled: Boomers Hit New Self Absorption Milestone: Age 65 in which the author notes that in the next 10 years 26% of the population will redefine what it means to be older. As a member of this graduating class of boomers born in 1946, I am always humbled to be swept up by the statistics and perceptions of the generation. My own experience reflects part of its story: heeding the call of JFK to service, I was one of the first VISTA volunteers, followed by years of activism and organizing and finding myself today transitioning from my role as a nonprofit executive director.

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December 16, 2010

Public Leadership Shifts

contentcontent and process

Ever since the mid-term elections, I’ve taken to choosing a politically-oriented question for the practice meetings I do with participants in our collaborative skills workshops.  Specifically, in helping people to more firmly grasp the difference between content (an egg) and process (how you prepare the egg), I’ve invited participants to consider “process-oriented” changes they would like to see in our public leadership.  It’s been interesting to see some of the common themes and requests emerge across the political spectrum.  Below are some of the ideas that have come up for federal, state, and municipal/town levels: Read More

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December 7, 2010

Theory U – The 4th Proposition

u-theory

Click here to see The 1st Proposition

Click here to see The 2nd Proposition

Click here to see The 3rd Proposition

The 4th Proposition of Theory U is:

The most important tool in that leadership technology is the emerging Self – the leader’s highest future possibility. Theory U is based on the assumption that each human being and each human community is not one but two: one is the current self, the person that exists as the result of a past journey; the other is the Self, the self that we could become as the result of our future journey.  Presencing is the process of the (current) self and the (emerging) Self listening to each other.

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November 25, 2010

What We Need Is Here

Thanks giving

|Photo by adrian valenzuela|http://www.flickr.com/photos/adrianv/5110801617|

Wishing you all a restful and nourishing Thanksgiving, along with reminders of the bounty that may be closer than we think.

The Wild Geese

Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.

From Selected Poems of Wendell Berry, by Wendell Berry.  Copyright 1998 by Wendell Berry.

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November 22, 2010

Strategy, Leadership and the Soul

I had the pleasure of meeting Jennifer Sertl on the twittersphere.  Together with Koby Huberman, they have written a book that seems to touch on many of the aspects of this paradigm shift that I spend some much time writing about.  It looks like in writing Strategy, Leadership and the Soul Sertl and Huberman are articulating a series of powerful responses to the changes our organizations are experiencing.   I see a lot of alignment between the principles outlined in this 3 minute video and the work we do here at IISC.  We are moving forward, see what you think.

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November 4, 2010

Surfacing Systems

systems

|Image from Pegasus Communications|http://www.pegasuscom.com/course_preview/gettingstarted/whyiceberg.htm|

Systems thinking is in the air.  This past weekend I was delighted to have the opportunity to teach an introductory course on the topic with John McGah of Give Us Your Poor.  Together we took 17 graduate students in the UMass-Boston MSPA program through an intensive and interactive look at the world through the systems lens.  Even before we got things rolling on Saturday morning, the pre-reading (Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems) had provoked two people to say that they were already seeing the world differently (and more clearly).  By the end of our 36 hour romp, which included guest presentations by David Peter Stroh and Paul Plotczyk, students were saying that all public sector employees, nay EVERYONE, should be required to take a systems thinking course.  All of this enthusiasm comes just a week in advance of Pegasus Communications’ annual systems thinking conference here in Boston, which has a focus on “Fueling New Cycles of Success.”  I am very excited to attend, and look forward to building upon the wisdom I’ve gleaned thus far about surfacing and living with systems (human and otherwsie), which includes these gems: Read More

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October 27, 2010

Geiger Counters for Quality

signs

|Photo by marcomagrini|http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcomagrini/698692268|

“We don’t talk about what we see,

we see only what we can talk about.”

– Fred Kofman

This week I’ve been rereading Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systems and really savoring it.  Each time I look at it, I pick up something new, not just about systems thinking but about life in general.  I’ve been focused primarily on Meadows’ chapter “Living in a World of Systems,” which considers how we can work with complex systems while acknowledging that even when we understand them better, we cannot predict or control them.  One of her suggestions is that we learn to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.  This is not a question of throwing out what we can quantify as being somehow overly reductionist. Rather, it is a matter of not giving up on what we cannot measure and making quantity more important than quality.  How important this is for our social change work!  Read More

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October 14, 2010

Power and Emergent Change

Power

|Photo by Aristocrats-hat|http://www.flickr.com/photos/36821100@N04/3896331106|

Peggy Holman is the co-author of a book that I consider to be one of the bibles for my work here at IISC – The Change Handbook.  This wonderful resource was also required reading for a graduate course I taught on organizational and community change models at Antioch New England.  Building on this essential tome, Peggy has recently authored another book that I look forward to diving into more deeply – Engaging Emergence: Turning Upheaval Into Opportunity.  Her exploration of how to engage chaos in social systems and bring about greater coherence is certainly timely and in line with much of the conversation you see on this blog.

In a recent post of her own, Peggy highlights an interesting comment that appeared in a review of her newest work.  Read More

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September 23, 2010

Vulner-Ability

vulnerability

|Photo by Coach Cassandra Rae|http://www.flickr.com/photos/cassandrarae/4494566573|

“The process of coming to terms with vulnerability is one that necessarily shifts a person’s values focus to one that emphasizes self-transformation and interdependence.”

-Greg Jemsek

The word “vulnerability” seems to be up in many parts of my life.  On the home front, there is a lot of discussion about vulnerability as being key to building stronger relationships with my wife and daughters.  What this generally means is being more in touch with feelings of not being in control, of concern for those most dear to me, and of desiring greater closeness.  At times I seem to be good at ignoring these either because I perceive them as painful or inconvenient, and subsequently create a buffer to my ultimate aim which is depth and richness of connection. Read More

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September 13, 2010

September 11 and 100 Things

Gandhi Possesions

I have a paradoxical relationship with September 11.  Like most of us, I am affected by our shared experience on that terrible day nine years ago.  Like many Latin Americans, I remember the US sponsored coup against the democratically elected Chilean government of Salvador Allende in1973.  But in what is the most significant twist, it also happens to be the anniversary of the most important day in my spiritual life – the day I met my teacher – September 11, 2004, an event that has changed my life forever. Read More

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September 9, 2010

Accentuate the Positivity, Take 3

positive 3

|Photo by mattwi1s0n|http://www.flickr.com/photos/piccadillywilson/132561245|

Another school year begins and with it we students of life are filled with excitement and perhaps some nervousness about what will be asked of us.  For me, I look forward to work that will keep me deeply aligned with purpose and, yes,  challenged.  No doubt there will be moments when my outlook will be buffeted.  I will admit to being someone who in the genetic cortical lottery was not bestowed the rose colored glasses.  It’s not that I didn’t get a winning ticket, I just have to work for my earnings.

And as I have blogged about in the past, I am aware and research shows that keeping a net positive outlook can be critical to heightening collaborative outcomes and staying engaged in the tough times.  So what are some steps for staying on point without veering towards disconnected or disconnecting pessimism? Read More

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