“On taking your mask off, roller coasters and love in business”

The learning lab is in full swing – we already finished more than 50% of our journey! During Module 1 in November in Vienna, we examined our very individual purpose. At Module 2 in January in Malaga, we discovered the link between practitioner and practise. Therefore, tuning into Module 3 in Amsterdam last week, after so much newness and exploration, it was almost a relief to practise the systemic loop once more – with new cases, but using the same process. We asked systemic questions (for example: “Who benefits if nothing changes at all?”), built hypothesis, and shared some advice with the case owners. By that iteration, we deepened our learning, our understanding and ability. It was a helpful reminder that without practice and repetition, new behaviours and habits won’t form and cement.

Standing in the center

Standing in the center

We also revisited the breakthrough questions of each team – my team is holding the question: “How do we deal with our personal now:land struggles (scarcity paradigm, top-down leadership, etc.) whilst trying to navigate to next:land?” In other words, how do we make the move to next:land, when we are so attached to the behaviours and egos that are part of where we are? Unless we change, we are still the same ego-driven people, keeping now:land alive… and we experienced throughout this Module that that’s an ongoing struggle for all of us.

Accordingly, we had two big questions during Module 3 that framed the learning, and they also frame my two big takeaways:

Big question 1: What needs to be learned?

We have to learn to be overwhelmed. We complain that we are, and we beat ourselves up and feel guilty (at best) and ashamed (at worst). But in fact, we need to lean into the feeling of being overwhelmed, to create a different energy.

Big question 2: Where does that learning take place?

This depends on how we choreograph our own transformation path. We need to decide where and how we want to learn, and in what dose, in order to be really actively committed to it.

Take Away 1: Learning to be overwhelmed and vulnerable

There was a lot of rawness and emotion, as more and more people took their masks off and were real about their feelings. There were more tears, more people confiding in each other, lots of tensions, many of which were brought about by taking down the barriers and being humble and vulnerable. Also, however in that rawness, we were sometimes becoming defensive and maybe going on the attack. I myself created some tensions in both my teams in this way, which is challenging to realise. It led to some really direct and intense “clearing the air” conversations, but the level of commitment that everyone has to the journey meant that we were able to come out of that still being ok with each other, and ready to keep working together. We are creating the next:land culture as we go along, we are ‘becoming the people that we have been waiting for all these years’.

Blindfolded through Amsterdam

Blindfolded through Amsterdam

It was noticeable that many conversations continued after the closing of the programme on Thursday, growing out of people not wanting to leave Amsterdam with emotions hanging in the air. One of the things we’ve learned is to use those emotions to make progress; to name what’s happening, and to say: “Ok, you just upset each other, let’s push the pause button, discuss it, and then we can push the play button and move on”. Given how difficult unresolved strong emotions and conflict make it to think effectively, learning to do this is crucial to an effective workplace. Let me try to encode three key pieces of learning from this:

1. Everything is data

Everything that is said to you, every experience, every bit of feedback is data. It’s not right or wrong, good or bad, but it presents a learning opportunity; a chance to digest and challenge it, and integrate it into your being and doing. You can decide whether to take it personally, to reflect on whether it’s in fact about the other person’s journey, or indeed both.

2. Don’t make assumptions

Everyone is fighting an inner battle you know nothing about! You don’t know everyone’s intent, unless you have inquired, and you don’t always have time to inquire. If it’s impossible not to make an assumption, then at the very least do assume a positive intent. Almost everyone wakes up in the morning with a positive intent, even if they can’t find ways to sufficiently live that intent.

3. Your relationships are perfect

The relationships you have may not be how you would most enjoy them, but there is no such thing as a broken relationship. All of them are opportunities for reflection and discovery – and the most painful ones harbour the biggest breakthrough opportunity.

Take away 2: Learning to choreograph your own transformation path

Big, complex change is scary, overwhelming and frankly a bit unmanageable, and that prompts me to make a note to myself: The same principles that I advise my clients on at a strategic level, of course apply to our little lives on a personal level:

1. Break it down into small steps

We are all on some sort of learning journey, we all have a goal: Maybe it’s being the best change consultant we can be, maybe it’s being the best leader we can be. With that vision in mind, there will be small steps you can take to move towards it; maybe it’s to not come across so arrogant or judgemental, maybe it’s trying to create real equality between male and female. Break your journey down into these smaller, more manageable steps

2. Define small successes

Do these things, with the big goal in mind, and watch for how it’s going; did it create an outcome? Did it do what you expected? If not, that’s ok, iterate and learn from it, but be clear about what you’re hoping for, so you know when you’ve succeeded. What get’s measured, get’s done – AND – success is in the eye of the beholder. In other words, forget benchmarks or comparisons, only YOU know when you have been truly successful, in an authentic way, getting closer to your real purpose.

3. Combine the What and the How

A key to grow a business or change an organisation is to catalyse change at both strategic and personal levels – and – to ideally combine the two in purposeful opportunities, for example: I am currently transitioning from a “Me-to-We” business model and consulting platform. At a strategic level, I want to attract peers and experts onto my emerging proposition. At a personal level, I want to shift my sometimes ‘I know best’ attitude towards a ‘what can I learn from you’ attitude. Why not combine both…? It’s pretty obvious that doing both will more likely produce the outcome I want, huh!

What I’ve realised is that there are three time horizons in this process. Horizon #1 is NOW, the current now:land reality of your corporate/consulting job. Horizon #3 will be next:land, your destination, and Horizon #2 is the transition. You have to think about this separately, because change creates new volatility, ambiguity and complexity. It became really clear to me that we’re all carrying lots of now:land pressures, and by choosing to go down this roller coaster, we’re adding even more pressure.

What I love about next:pedition is that there’s “real-world pressure” built in and that the social container that the guides are continuously holding for us fosters wholeness.

the-insight-hurricaneIn Amsterdam, we all took our masks down, and created a vulnerable space for learning. When we come together, we really create something unique in this learning lab. My visit team reflected on an evening out we had in Amsterdam, where – among other little out-of-comfort-zone experiments – we blindfolded and guided each other through the city. When we harvested these experiences the next day on post-it notes, we each just stood in this circle of post-its with our eyes closed for one minute sensing the energy of our ‘insight hurricane’. When time was up we distilled our intuitive knowing in one or a few words: flow, Thai Chi, Kraft (Force), ‘everything is data’, prism, and Liebe (love). Love, according to Brené Brown, is the opposite of fear. It’s time to bring more love to our workplaces: We are the people we have been waiting for!

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