About 5 years ago I was helping lead an Art of Hosting training and after doing a teaching, one of the participants came up to me and said something along the lines of:
“You know learning this with you is like I am down the pub talking with a mate.”
Unwittingly this participant had named the next stage of my work. I am seeking the ways in which the methods, models and mindset of participation can fully integrate into mainstream thinking and practice … just become normal. If you want to read more about this journey check out my blog on "let go of the shore and enter the mainstream".
I am finding the mainstreaming of my work requires a normalization of everything that I do. It is like the whole field of my work has relaxed, become less dramatic and infinitely more approachable and applicable. This is to do with a re-working of language, a re-design of how I deliver the work, and most fundamentally, a shift in my inner relationship to what I do for a living. Some of the recurring questions that I am encountering in my change leadership are:
Coming up in the next three weeks is a blog on what is cooking on each of these fronts for me.
I would love to hear any of your thoughts and insight. Please comment, email me or come along to one of the AoH Beyond to the Basics events in Europe and Ontario where this type of conversation is kicking around all the time. Here we go then, the first blog on getting to normal ...
How can participation as a way to navigate change feel normal and common sense?
I want participation and the mindset it requires to be normal. Not a big fanfare, just a common sense response to the realities we live in. I find that the need to create moments of awakening or epiphany can actually be an obstacle to people giving it a go and learning along the way. It becomes too much of a big deal.
This is a shift for me. One of my signature poems I wrote over 10 years ago is called “Time to Awaken” for goodness sake!
The whole pattern of being habituated toward epiphany and transformative moments runs contrary to the integration of change leadership. It builds greater dependence on the charisma of the leader (change guru / master host etc) and undermines our ability to just go for it together and learn. I find that the more precious it becomes, the less useful it is for the transformation of our dominant systems of problem solving, organizing and governance.
I was just hosting a session with major powerbrokers and influencers from across the forestry industry. The set up through the invitation and in the room was in solid plain language, no need to name the process we are doing (who cares unless you are learning it) and then we got down to work. As a participant said at the end of the day, this was “the first time in living memory that this range of stakeholders had got together without it feeling like it might turn into a fist fight”. No fluff, no drama (we already have enough of that), just down to earth working on real issues that matter to people through a process that delivers results.
The contexts we are all operating in are too fast moving, information saturated, diverse and uncertain for one person to have a good crack at finding a solution. We need more perspectives to see a bigger picture none of us could see alone so we can make smarter strategic choices and learn rapidly as we act. Boom! Ok, so it is easy to write and a lot harder in practice … but still, making it a big deal just makes it feel less achievable.
This work isn’t radical. It is obvious. When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, humans have always turned to each other. That’s why we are still here, so here we go again, we know how to do this.
In the next blog I explore how the three day trainings that often kick off my work can play into building a barrier of epiphany and what else we can do to embed change across large systems without doing lots of in depth trainings ...
... and for those who haven't heard it, here's the poem Time to Awaken (written in 2004):
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