“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.”
Excerpts from “A Great Wagon,” Rumi (1207-1273)
We live in the space where two worlds touch – the world of awakening and sleeping. I’m not referring to the physical expression of either but rather the spiritual expression of conscious awakening and the physical manifestation of thoughts and language. For anyone who leads, this idea is worthy of consideration. What we think about most often and where we focus our attention is what we create in our individual and collective narrative.
I voted early in this year’s midterm election in the U.S., and on my way into the polls, a young man in shorts handed me a blue form with the information about whom I should vote for, and I readily accepted the form. Walking past a woman 20 feet from him who was waving a red form at me with the invitation to “balance my understanding before I voted,” I said aloud and slowly for all to hear, “Nope!”
The entertainment instinct I developed as a coping mechanism while a young female leader landed, and those within earshot laughed very loudly. For a moment, I preened, and then, as I crossed over into the polling area, I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. I marked my ballot, left the building with my “I Voted Early” sticker and found the woman who was stacking information for both parties to redistribute to the candidates.
I apologized and explained that I did not want to add to the aggression of our times and thanked her for attending this important process. She smiled and said, “Well, we are all Americans,” to which I replied with my own inquiry: “Do we even know what that means?” Answering that question is not what this blog is about, but I have recently realized that every family, every company is a microcosm of the greater narrative of divided ideals and listening for anything other than “why someone should know better or believe what we do.” This tension is showing up, often stuffed down into our hearts and guts, as unexpressed emotions as we are left longing for a new experience of conscious leadership at every level. It is causing us to fear each other and second-guess ourselves.
In the midst of the most emotionally charged time most of us have experienced as adults, the process of coaching provides an answer for meeting between the “us versus them,” either/or, “right-doing and wrongdoing,” right or left, liberal or conservative labels. While most don’t speak about politics in their organizations, everyone is feeling the pressure, and every family, every team and every organization is a microcosm of the whole of this national and international discourse.
Politics may not be on the mind of employees who are discovering drugs, manufacturing new designs, developing websites, finding new artificial intelligence applications. But through watching TV, getting into a taxi with a video screen, being exposed to news when we travel or on the corporations TV monitors, or however we are engaged in the discourse, we cannot escape the idea that passion is playing out in age-old ways of “us versus them.”
Somewhere beyond the vitriol of the unconscious and collective habits of mankind fearing each other, we need to pose the question, “What is in the mystery beyond our current patterns of behavior and knowing?” Meg Wheatley, a renowned anthropologist and author, poses this invitation in her latest work:
We need leaders in all sectors of society who put service over self-interest, aspire to be steadfast and trustworthy through crises and failures, and commit to staying present for the people and causes they care about. We need leaders who recognize what harm is being done to people and planet through practices that dominate, ignore, abuse, and suppress the human spirit.
Perhaps, like me, you have found yourself in a conundrum: What can I do now to help advance the conversation for a higher purpose and to heal the divides in my family, on my team, in my organization and in my community? Asking that single question may lead to an inflection point for understanding and the creation of a new dialogue. Many of my clients over the course of the past 25 years have asked me to share what I practice during times like this.
Here are three things I am currently doing:
- Starting my day with a gratitude list that encompasses the whole of my environment and focusing my attention on what’s working in every area
- Surrendering knowledge based on experiences and bias by asking, “What’s new in this conversation that I am curious to learn more about?”
- Trusting an instinctive knowing and then going beyond – testing assumptions until I am clear about the next right words, choice or action
Let’s elevate the human spirit one leader, one conversation, one team, one organization, one community at a time. Let’s change the world we live in, and that may be enough for the global change we need.