The Key to Organisational Transformation

The days of hotshot superficial change makers will be getting over soon in organisation’s, that hold vision of sustainable growth. The VUCA world brings on new challenges for all leaders. It brings in a new level of integrity, humility and comfort with uncertainty that a leader must learn. This written piece discusses ‘that’ essential shift in leadership role.

Whenever leaders take over an organisation or department, they come with their own ideas and ideologies. They usually look at themselves as change agents and recruit change agents, and send across the message that- change is needed.

Change is needed- creates some amount of nervous energy in the organisation, it creates gossip corners and dis honouring of what has been working well in the organisation. Everyone focuses on what is not working and that change is needed. The sense it creates is we are ‘not good enough‘. However suddenly now the leader seems like a messiah, the one who will bring about this change. It is feel good factor for the leader and the organisation. This is like a good soak in warm water bath, makes you feel good but doesn’t transform you. The transformation that is being sought will be illusive. The whole process can be energising in the short term but long term highly energy draining for the organisation.

When looking at a business, department or an organisation, the first role a Leader should take is that of a student. The Leader should unlearn all that she knows, open her mind to the observance of value and culture, that is inherent to the organisation. Become aware of how the values and culture have positively impacted the organisation and what energises the organisation. When the leader focuses on what is already working in the organisation and the elements that have been positively energising it, towards growth, she starts to appreciate what is already present and give it the honouring that it needs. She starts to learn, and that is the seed to a learning organisation.

The secret of transformation of an organisation lies in this honouring of “What is positive and present” not in “What is wrong and What change is needed”. From this seed of “What is positive and present” arises a self-aware and confident organisation that knows its strengths and is motivated to move in the direction of a collective vision. In this organisation there is more collective responsibility and not one messiah.

Studentship is inculcated in an appreciative culture and everyone from the leader up top to the leader holding the frontline, all learn and grow.

As I write this the thought of “Am I being and idealist?” comes to me. I say, we never reach the idealism we seek, however, If we move in the ideal direction, it will make us grow more of what we want to grow into.

Mentoring-An important aspect of Leadership

Most of us have learnt and heard about both Coaching and Mentoring. They are two distinct skills and yet have a similar energy in their intention. The intention is to support the client find success in his pursuit. While Coaching helps in connecting with the inner resourcefulness and well being, Mentoring; on the other hand, also provides with specific feedback on skill sets from an experienced Mentor.

Mentoring is an important skill set needed for today’s leadership. It is just not about motivating, or appreciating, giving advice, sharing personal stories, Mentoring is a much more complex-organic human process. Many organisations do not pay attention to the training and human processing that a mentor may need in order to become a mentor- leader, capable to driving the necessary performance and potential.

Let us first understand Mentoring.

Mentoring is a process in which the mentor develops a connection with the client in a way that the client is  receptive to the mentor. At the same time the mentor is able to create the space of healthy dissent and dialogue. Although mentoring is a two way process, the responsibility and accountability of keeping the client excited about growth through feedback is entirely the mentor’s.

The behavioural skill sets that support the mentor to really create the ‘sacred’ space where this growth can happen for the client include;

  1. Being able to relax: Remember this is not about you, it is about the client. So keep yourself out of the way; You don’t have to prove you are the best mentor. Relax.
  2. Focus on the client: Listening to the client and learning about what the client yearns to achieve.
  3. Focus on Strengths: Become aware of your client’s strengths and celebrate them with the client.
  4. High self awareness: Being aware of your intention for your client and impact you want to create through this session and relationship.
  5. Ability to step back: Allowing questioning and discussion for the client’s vision and where the client wants to be. Dropping your own agenda.
  6. Being specific on feedback, and seeing how it lands. E.g. “In the presentation today, I would have liked to see the graph of time against units, as it helps in determining…..What are your thoughts?”
  7. Offering choices to the client, E.g. “There are two things you could practice, which one would you like to take on first?”
  8. Forward Plan: Always agree on what the client is taking away from the mentoring session and what are the developmental practices.

Hope this list helps leaders and mentors. Feel free to send questions or comments for more details.

 

Creating a Cultural Container for Diversity

Malcom Forbes of the Forbes magazine said that; “Diversity is the art of thinking independently together.”

It is interesting to note that how human beings impact each others thought processes and how easy it would be for us to start thinking on same lines and exclude anything new from our system. We look for what is similar in us and continue to look at only that. Excluding any differences that might be difficult for us to express or accept. The Human psyche develops its immunity to new things to remain in its comfort zone and to avoid the challenge of growth. This is contradictory to the growth the human’s seek through diversity of experiences and ideas. Very interesting and twisted…

Our mind is a tricky place and it plays tricks with us, which cannot be caught until we come to a space of authentic self-introspection. Human beings in stressful situations would only focus on what is important for their survival and ‘Diversity and inclusion‘ does not figure in survival situations. Many organisations have experienced a lot of frustration trying to build a diverse and inclusive culture without much success. However, I believe that if we hold the intention of growth in an organisation, diversity will happen and visa-versa, growth and diversity cannot be mutually exclusive. Diversity and growth go hand in hand. They mimic biodiversity and growth in nature. (Being a student of genetics comes handy in Organisational Development here. It is scientifically proven that in breeding causes deterioration of the gene, however if new gene pool is introduced it leads to better evolution and health). Having said that, I also understand that it is a common knowledge and intellectually we all, ‘Get this scientific theory’, However some how our psychological insecurities related to survival of the ‘Gene’ itself, do not allow us to evolve. The feeling of the insecurity is real and visceral, it can be seen in families, communities and across cultures. The same insecurities are working in our organisations. These survival instincts don’t allow us to step out of our comfort zones and be open to other ideas and cultures, without our judgemental armours. We feel it is our duty to protect what we are born into or what we believe. We forget that the evolutionary processes in nature are organic and without interference from our psyche, the evolutionary process will only enrich our beliefs. I wish our organisations were based on biomimicry. The fear of unknown and losing relevance of our ‘Gene’, our ‘Identity’ grips and paralyses us and keeps us away from our own growth.

Organisations world over need to understand the ‘Human Condition‘ before they can implement any cultural change. The process is very simple like sowing the right seed in the right season and right conditions. Most organisations miss out on teaching moments, leadership should be trained on the skills of ‘Moment of Truth‘. When they see something which is not inclusive to the agenda of diversity, it has to be, called out, named and discussed, it should not be swept under the carpet. The skill of facilitating such conversations is missing in most leaders. Most of these are unpleasant and difficult conversations which do not get their due, for lack of facilitation skills in leadership. Organisations get upset and reactive over their inability to institute a culture of diversity in situations which show nepotism, cultural or gender intolerance, etc. What the organisations need to learn and understand is that these very ‘upset‘ situations are the learning edges and ‘setup‘ for the organisation’s growth. Using these situations to facilitate transparency and inclusivity is a skill that needs to be brought into the organisations. The organisations need to create communities to open discussions on inclusivity and introspection into the system to build and support cultural growth.

The container is really held by the ‘Leader’ and if the leader is endowed with a position to build this diversity, she must understand ‘Self’ and her ‘Parts’. She must understand her own diversity inside her psyche and be Self-aware to ‘See’ it outside. The Leadership of an inclusive-diverse culture must have following qualities;

  • Understand history, food, folktales and myths that build the human psyche, and thus the micro and macrocosm of the organisation
  • Understand impact of Power, Privilege, Rank, Race and Culture and should have the ability to facilitate its understanding
  • Listener of stories and personal story teller
  • Vulnerable and authentic during a face-off
  • Sucker for feedback
  • Open to self-introspection work

Revolutionise expression- Ode to Holi

In the past four months since leaving my country India, I have realised, my deep rooted Indianness. I heard someone once say, you can take a person out of a country but never country out of a person. I understand that expression now, fully, emotionally and bodily.

The festival of Holi just passed two days ago, and I am sad that I couldn’t celebrate this colorful festival of expression and naughtiness fully. I remember on several occasions being picked up by my friends and thrown into a colored pool of cold water. The minute the water strikes you, you are gripped by this naughty child-like vengeance to do the same to your friends. People run and hide but still want to be in the game, all inhibitions gone. People are dancing to the music, and cajoling their shy partners, children, family and friends to join in the merriment. Each person is sought out and colored and splashed with water, laughter, giggles, shrieks, songs, dance, hugs, kisses behind the scene, fights, arguments, are all a part of holi, a festival of deep expression and healing. This festival brings a sort of catharsis for the inner child and lover, which on a normal day finds no space or expression. All of this is accentuated by a drink of Bhaang (marijuana), the color and the intoxication takes days to fade off.

 

For me, Holi is an authentic, uninhibited, raw celebration of life!!! All expressions are welcomed with open arms. A common line used is “Bura na mano holi hai”(Don’t take it personally, its holi”).  In India people of all religions celebrate holi, it is said that playing Holi is the best way to appease an angry friend or to forgive an enemy. This purging of emotions every year creates new space for more life, releases baggages and allows formation of fresh bonds.

Today I am inspired from Holi and wish to bring my understanding of Human expression. Holi is a celebration of what is outside of ‘Normal’ and I have always been curious about, what is ‘normal’? What does it mean to be a ‘normal’ human being? Through these questions and life experiences I have come to realise that being normal is to learn skill sets which help you govern, manage and control your expressions and emotions, so that the systems don’t feel threatened by too many different behaviours. In order for any system or process to keep running itself successfully– whether it is part of a business, governing body, society, family etc.–a set of behaviours have been put forth as appropriate and normal. Any behaviour outside of this realm is considered abnormal or dysfunctional: something that needs to be changed.

Modernisation has brought in many boons, but one of the bane it has brought in is loss of full expression. There is just no time for it. True human evolution thus has become allusive. In such an circumstance all continue to survive with limited expression. People in the modern world know that, although everything seems all right, deep within something is missing, something is terribly wrong. Human beings crave for full expression.

Ancient cultures understood this human need for purging and expression. These cultures instituted spaces of expressions in form of various celebrations one of which is Holi. Ancient cultures realised that in absence of full expression we become human doing not human being. We are constantly outsmarting each other in number of things we know to do or are doing. The expressions of love, sadness and anger are exiled from such ‘normal’ systems and their is place only for joy. There is a lot of pressure on such ‘normal’ people to look confident and joyful all the time, many are able to master the skill and others just keep falling off the grid trying hard to learn to be appropriately joyful and confident. They start to feel there is something wrong with them and are in constant self doubt. The modern world, through research on human psyche has also brought new professions in the market to normalise people, make them feel ‘Joy’. Everyone I talk to either is in therapy themselves or knows someone who is in therapy.

Suppression of certain expressions in society cause many shadows and exiles to emerge in our psyche, which hide in our unconscious.When the collective of a culture is impacted by limited expression, a collective shadow of this culture emerges. The oppression of these angry and sad exiled parts leads the way for ‘abnormal’ phenomenon to occur in such cultures, societies. It may lead to:

  1. Choosing a Leader who represents a larger part of the unconscious –there are many examples of this, from Hitler in the past to Trump in the present–.
  2. Violence, which remains unexplained, has no trigger and seems to be in an unending loop
  3. Suicidal behaviors, which may not be only limited to an individual, or a society, but encompasses all humanity. e.g. Human’s engaging in everyday behaviors that will destroy the planet on which they depend.

Every human being is capable of experiencing all emotions, and thoughts. However when we start denying certain emotions in the self, we start projecting it on the others. This is where the separation occurs, which goes then to say ‘I am’, ‘She/he is’ and differences start emerging. Separation is the seed of all that we do not accept in self. We are in competition with the ‘other’, we believe we are superior to the ‘other’ etc.

Celebrations like Holi bring the acceptance of varied colors and emotions that are part of our normal psyche. Similar to the carnivals of the west, which allow the king to become pauper and pauper become the king. Such celebrations allow the inner child to play, the lover to be naughty, the enemy to be a friend, rich to be poor and poor to be rich. The merging of colors and creation of new hues that spread out through our body creates new ways of being.

During this week of Holi I would call for revolution! A revolution of expression, a revolution of celebrations! A revolution that allows people to be who they are, happy- sad- angry-hurt, allowing them their being, without judgement. I know it will be difficult as we are conditioned to relate to human beings only in response to their behaviors, through what they do, what they show. But deep down within we have the ancient wisdom of seeing the being and allowing all expression, and it all starts with allowing ‘the self’ to experience all the expressions. Let us get past our fear of our unknown: suppressed expressions and get to know ourselves more, get to know your spouse, your children, your family, friends, neighbors! Allow expression! Allow all colors within you and around you! Allow Holi!

Happy Holi

 

 

 

People or Experiences

People or experiences, my topic here is to create a small experiment with self and others in the confinement of our mental frames. My invitation through this article is to see ourself and others as just experiences, not as absolute people or personalities. I strongly believe, that when we start with this frame of reference to self and others, unimagined and unseen possibilities shall emerge as an individual, community, societal and planetary levels.

For a minute, just let go off who you are, or who you believe yourself to be and consider yourself as an “experience”. Sounds Vague? sure! In order to bring clarity for, what does it mean when I say, “Consider yourself as an experience”, you could have following questions or checkpoints

  1. What is my experience in the moment, of my surrounding?
  2. How is my surrounding experiencing me?
  3. What is the experience that I choose to create?

The “experience’ mindset, takes us away from our past, our luggage of who we believe we are. Our belief of, who we are constantly works on every thought, every action of ours, recreating past experiences in new illusionary package. Every time we recreate our past, we do it differently and call it “progress” however the experience of progress remains elusive. What we do get through these processes is a “gratifying feeling” that, I am progressing and have fulfilled my purpose. We start believing that, who we are is creating an impact, instead of realising that ‘I’ as an experience impact and get impacted by other experiences to create the current reality.

If ‘I’ were just an experience, in a collective of what the society and planet is experiencing, then what “experience” do i wish to create for myself and those surrounding me. What is my ripple effect?

The minute one starts thinking of self as just another experience, the level of freedom to choose in the moment of impact increases. This also takes one to greater level of understanding that when we are in the experience of self, all is connected.

“I thought I was a drop, so I did what a drop does, just drop, Somewhere I heard of a Tsunami, for I am unaware of how all this connects”

I believe that when we start operating from the ‘experience mindset’, we shall see the connection, our language will change, and so will our experiences, we will be more authentic, more honest, more kind, more expressive, more courageous. We will then not stay in our survival modes trying to save our perceived existence, all the time. We will then live our experience fully and impact experiences, from a deeper understanding of true empathy, true connection. This life would be detached from the ‘Ego’ that gives us false sense of identity, connection, progress and keeps us separated.

Who see all beings in themselves, and themselves in all beings, relinquish separation, How can seeming diversity of life, delude the one who has seen its unity?

~ Isopnishad (1st millenium BCE,  Hindu scripture)

Good Mourning!

Yes, thats right! Good Mourning! No, its not a spelling mistake. It is Mourning, that I wish to write about.

Mourning, has been often related to something that happens after physical death. We may forget that, it also happens when a relationship, identity, philosophy, belief, feeling or an idea dies.

In todays fast paced world with the news of unrest, business layoffs and constant movements becoming a parts of our lives, the yearning of the soul, seeking time and space to mourn is increasing, but not being paid attention to. We have been conditioned to move on, keep going, as if nothing happened. We move from city to city, country to country, job to job, with ease and confidence showing on our faces as hurricanes wait to erupt inside us. To sit and mourn over what has died within us, is unacceptable to us, to our families and friends. It is a tender, vulnerable and very intimate space, where no one has the time or skill to tread? or is it courage to look at the deceased? Intimacy scares us, it makes us vulnerable.

But then, how do we become, who we want to become without looking at, who we were? without mourning for the death of parts of ourselves? and without sharing our vulnerabilities?

Mourning is an important, life giving ritual, a burning of old crop before tilling the soil again, to sow new seeds and to allow new life. We allow more space for aware creation, when we bring mourning into our consciousness. It energises us and helps us feel whole again.

What have you mourned for? What still aches inside of you that you wish to share and mourn for?

Find time to mourn, to create with awareness and celebrate intimacy with self.

Sacred Communication

Sometimes we wonder, “Why something we communicated, didn’t reach the way I intended it to reach?”… Sounds familiar?

Communication is an important aspect of human existence and wellbeing, in that sense it is a sacred exchange between and amongst individuals. Communication has three important elements.

  1. Truth
  2. Intention
  3. Space

Truth:

Truth is based on Factual data and resource sharing. If ‘Truth’ is shared as truth without the data and resource, we do not provide the other party a glimpse of how this truth could have been different if they had a view of it. This process of not sharing data or resource can cause much confusion, mistrust and power distance.

Intention:

Being clear on Why are you communicating, What you are communicating and what you may achieve by communicating that? is crucial. Also the ‘How?’ of communication is extremely important. In today’s super fast world where everyone just is trying to survive another day, communicating and getting done with it quickly, can become a way of being. Communications in such a scenario can become haphazard and extremely noisy.

Space:

Communication needs space, it needs time for all parties involved. However in the modern world of quick fixes, there is very little time to create that space, hence it is even more important that we design our communication very crisply with intention at its core. Communication, which doesn’t have space or clarity of intention can lead to manipulation or feeling of being manipulated.

 

Three Traits to develop to become good in communication:

Honest Empathy: Ability to be in others shoe from their position not from yours.

Vulnerability: Ability to be vulnerable and sharing the vulnerability of not knowing.

Closing and forward action: Ability to close the conversation and discuss any forward actions that you would like to put mutually and follow through.

 

Let us try to ground the above elements and traits through some introspective questions to self:

Close your eyes and remember the last communication that you did, which you believe went well and achieved its goals.

What do you believe worked for you?

What helped you achieve the clarity?

Now close your eyes and remember the last communication that you did, which you believe didn’t go well and did not achieve its goals.

What went wrong?

What was missing?

Once you have completed this exercise on looking at your communication, you will probably notice a pattern that works for you and that doesn’t work for you.

Well! congratulations!!! now you know, what you don’t know, and thus can start on a journey of building the muscle that needs more practice.

Let us look at 7 skills of communication:

  1. Weaving the communication : Facts and intention
  2. Maturing the communication: Patience and holding
  3. Timing the communication: Right time, not soon and not late
  4. Rendering the communication: Scripting it
  5. Sensing impact: Presence
  6. Opening space for dialogue: Check and question
  7. Closing with forward actions: What needs to be done next?

I know this seems like a long list but once you have practiced this, it becomes a way of your being and communicating. It will all happen in a split second just like when you learn to drive it takes time to get to the gears but once you know driving it is body memory. All human skills are built that way. You choose what you want to learn and then you learn and practice till it becomes a part of you.

 

 

Without Control

What is it like to know I am just a instrument?
What is it like to know I really don’t exist?
What is it like to know, there is no control?
What is it like to just be and see the passing?
It is Strange, believe me it is Strange…
for all the doing that I do…and for all the
tricks that I play…to make myself relevant
To make me feel I have had a great day…
As I fall into the lap of my observance,
I see myself as a mere child of this Universe,
Trying to figure out the messages of growth
Every time I see a message from the Master,
it comes coded with my own judgements,
it comes coded with my own struggles,
It is like a puzzle, which I can’t see through,
until I get past my judgements and struggles.
In a moment of wakening it looks like one world,
In another I experience it as a different space
this is the space that slows down my pace.
I feel lethargy and gloom, my body feels heavy,
and I sleep a sleep I don’t want to disturb…
then I slowly awaken to a poem, a poem
which feels light and it absorbs me completely
Now i am light and ready to be a instrument…
to be used completely, to laugh at my controls…

I saw a Still New world

As I jogged in the park today,

I saw beautiful flowers and trees sway,
Breeze carried the morning mist in its arms,
The sun came behind a building far away.
I looked at the blue sky and then the green earth,
I had a primitive urge to dig the dirt and get into it.
At first it seemed absurd but then I let myself go,
I started digging the earth with my bear hands.
I kept digging with my strong claws,
 my hands and fingers were nimble
and my nails were sharp and very long
Soon I was tired and covered in mud,
At one point in time the mud  gaged me
as the mud entered my mouth and nostrils,
But I was adamant, I kept going digging deeper,
Deeper, deeper and deeper, the earth was moist,
I went deeper and deeper, I felt like I hit water source.
And lo behold that is when the base below me gave way,
and I fell deep into the space inside the earth,
I kept falling and was in water, but couldn’t swim,
there was a force which kept pulling me deeper,
Water ended, I found myself in a space with no ground,
I was suspended, just suspended in air, effortlessly,
I felt like a feather, I felt like a wisp of dandelion,
I looked around to see beautiful golden yellow pyramids,
Pyramids on very tall pillars, giant pillars which had winds.
Winds whirling around them, like a tornado in control of itself.
It was amazing to see so many pillar pyramids around me…
As I watched amazed, I  became aware of drops of water,
Drops of water falling from the sky, and looked upwards,
and lo! behold!, I was standing under a serene ocean.
It looked like a mirror and and showed me the reflection
Reflection of the world I was seeing now, my God!
It created a beautiful space within space, depth within depth…
There were two suns and several moons showing themselves
I loved the suspension in the space, just being there was so great,
It quietened my senses and made me one with the stillness.

Where Are you?

Your eyes show the glimpses of your true dazzle,
but you tell me its not there…
what do you hide? why do you hide?
You say it is madness,
it is insane to even explore that side,
you say its not real…what is real? this mediocrity?
You speak verses so powerful,
that they heal one and all,
but you say you are not sure…
sure of what? the acceptance of your glory by self or others?
You slouch in a corner and hide in the shadows…
Remember, all light you can hide from but yours…
Your light will burn inside you all the while…
Are you trying to douse it? ha! try in vain…
It will burn more with every breath you take…
It will create a longing and show in your eyes…
when you lie cold in your Bed…
Feel the fire of your light warm your heart…
Tune into the beat and sway to the breeze…
Pulsate with the Sun’s rays and allow play
While you live now…in this space…