Evoking Conscious Cultures: Dialogue to High Performance

One of the reasons why change fails is due to unconscious beliefs that define the culture. I’m going to show you how to uncover these limiting beliefs by sharing a communication methodology that provides the conditions necessary to design a conscious culture. Therefore, strengthening the fabric of the organization to become more flexible, proactive and adapt from a traditional culture to one of high performance!

First, we want to establish a clear understanding of what we mean by culture, conscious culture and unconscious cultures. Then, we will talk about how culture is driven and sustained and finally the methodology for enabling the establishment of a conscious culture through a practice called, Dialogue.

Culture

An organizational culture is reflected in the array of behaviors expected and accepted by members of the organization, including how stakeholders view their relationships based on interactions with the company. Culture includes shared beliefs, values and behavioral conduct.

Conscious culture fosters awareness, as well as, individual and collective reflection as a means of promoting ongoing learning, growth and development. Conscious cultures perpetuate relationship building, compassion, emotional intelligence and a greater alignment of purpose.

According to Jeff Klein, CEO of Working for Good, “Conscious Culture fosters recognition of the purpose of the company and the interdependent relationship between the company’s stakeholders”.

Unconscious culture is the result of an unplanned or accidental culture which, comes about from accepting and performing around unwritten or unspoken behaviors and norms passed from one employee to the next, and even one generation to the next.  Most likely an employee “knows” that certain behaviors are a part of the culture, yet it has never been documented. Accidental cultures can create both positive and negative outcomes according to Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen in their ATD article, The Journey to a Conscious Culture.

Jeff Klein explains, “Conscious Leaders catalyze Conscious Culture by applying and cultivating the practice of Conscious Awareness for themselves, their team members, and between the company and its stakeholders.”

Realize now, from no other place can massive cultural change occur and be sustained than through its leaders. Therefore, any change must start with understanding the current perspective of the leadership.

Leaders Drive Culture

Once leaders come to understand their role in visioning purpose and aligning resources to achieve the purpose, they must equally concern themselves with the “how”, of how the purpose will be achieved. The how determines the nature of the relationships amongst, across and beyond the organizational team, ultimately influencing the larger relationship to the community.

Great leaders know all too well, when purpose is not commonly held amongst the team thought dominates and conflict arises. One might say thought in itself is void of humanity, because it is a brain based activity; absent intention, it is simply brain activity. We also see however, that humanity (or our collective conscience) can, does and should influence thought, if we are to realize peace. Thought derived from compassion (understanding our action’s impact on the whole) will certainly include action that considers the whole. Leaders who wish to coalesce their teams and organizations must learn to tap into and reinforce this understanding regularly for their followers to remain aligned.

Dialogue to Conscious Culture:

Here is an approach to establishing authentic conversations to improve clarity, relationship building and performance.

Dialogue is a methodology that enables groups to rise above their beliefs, positional authority and egos, to operate and make decisions from values that respect others point of view and allows space for multiple and many times opposing viewpoints to be examined in a safe environment.

The very practice of dialogue creates interpersonal awareness and furthers emotional intelligence in the participants. By rising above positional authority, egos and current cultural conditions, we create a space and process for any organization across the globe despite its customs and culture to consciously align purpose, people and profit.

The premise…. Dialogue creates this change collectively by means of a large group speaking together in a circle. The theoretical basis for dialogue in the Center for Organizational Learning is David Bohm’s work on the nature of thought. Bohm was a physicist and his thinking was based on quantum theory, according to which, the observer and the observed are not in reality separate entities and that what we observe is a creation of our own perception.

“What you perceive, in other words, is not determined by independent external properties of ‘parts’ of reality, but is a function of the ways in which you try to perceive that reality.” (Isaacs, 1993)

Bohm’s 4 Principles of Dialogue: David Bohm, Physicist

  1. PARTICIPATION: The observer and the observed are not truly separate, even though we create an artificial separation so as to describe and manipulate the world. Bohm had a conception of the world of thought being like a kind of field in which we all participate – our mistake is in identifying with thoughts and claiming them as our own.
  2. COHERENCE: Look for incoherence between our intentions and our results, as this will point to where knowledge is defective.
  3. AWARENESS: Become aware of thought arising, rather than immediately identifying with it. This process would also allow us to be more aware of the results of our thoughts – in our feelings, perceptions and actions.
  4. ENFOLDMENT: As it relates to thought, this is the principle that indicates a thought does not disappear “once we have finished with it”, but that thoughts emerge into consciousness and back again.

With a reading and general understanding of the above principles, we are ready to move into the practices of Dialogue.

4 Practices of Dialogue

  1. Listening
  2. Respecting
  3. Suspending
  4. Voicing

Allison Jones is to be acknowledged for outlining the principles and practices succinctly in her shared PDF on spaceforlearning.com. Jones provides full detail with wonderful descriptions of the Practices and Practices within the Practices that inform each aspect of Dialogue. For brevity, I will pull out the main points below.

  1. LISTENING

“By listening deeply we put ourselves in touch with a larger whole – people’s words carry not just an immediate meaning but a whole context and connection. In preparing to listen at this deep level, five practices are recommended.

  • Be aware of thought: Notice how much our thinking arises out of memory, out of a host of ready-made responses and opinions. Things are already categorized in our minds, which makes fresh, intelligent thinking difficult. Listening to your own thinking and its limitations is the first step.
  • Stick to the facts: Listen without jumping to conclusions or judgments.
  • Follow the disturbance: Look for what happens when what we hear disturbs us emotionally. Ask, in what ways am I doing the very thing I claim others should not do?”
  • Listen without resistance: Notice the reaction and then continue to listen.
  • Stand still: Cultivate inner silence, using all of the practices above to get beyond the usual noisy turmoil that prevents us from hearing.

In dialogue these practices are taken into a collective setting. The shift in perspective, becoming “an advocate for the whole” – comes from not just listening from my own or another’s perspective. When we listen for the whole, we “speak to the center of the circle”, not just to individuals.

  1. RESPECTING

See a person with the intention of taking in more of them, understanding what has created their particular experience. It is suggested a practice to aid in this element is to listen as if it were all in me, based on the idea that if we can perceive something in another, it’s also a part of our own mental world.

 

  1. SUSPENDING

By suspending thought – neither identifying with nor suppressing it, we can watch the thought and not be bound to a mental direction taken by identifying with that thought. Removes positional thinking.

4.  VOICING

To begin this process (being aware of our thoughts in the present), we can ask ourselves, “What needs to be expressed now?” This practice is about focusing inwards, rather than rehearsing thoughts before speaking.

First finding and then having the courage to speak with your own voice is the challenge, then we want to overcome self-censorship by considering the risk of not speaking up.

Having explained now, the principles and practices one can begin to see how they contribute to shifting the culture and uncovering a more authentic and conscious way to be with one another, in the effort to align purpose.

Creating the New Culture

In dialogue, what develops during the process and practice is then used to create a common pool of meaning together. A conscious culture then evolves from written and spoken goals, values and behaviors, and practices that are taught, measured and reinforced in the organization.

Note: The active and engaging process of dialogue can be used with large groups for everything from articulation of mission and purpose to describing the culture that supports it.

Reasons to Start Now!

  1. There are distinct (performance) benefits to a conscious culture: according to Priscilla Nelson and Ed Cohen in their article, The Journey to a Conscious Culture
  2. New team members and leaders more rapidly assimilate to the culture.
  3. Employees more quickly understanding the range of acceptable behaviors.
  4. Top Talents are drawn to an empowering environment.
  5. Misalignment is easily diagnosed and realigned when there is a lack of fit.
  6. Likelihood of successful integration in the case of a merger or acquisition.
  7. Systemic change is easier because there is no battle between the conscious and accidental cultures.

Take action today and schedule a free demonstration or consultation to learn the secrets of dialogue and conscious business transformation practices that consistently lead to High Performance Organizations.

 

By: Ryan McShane

Ryan McShane has been guiding organizations to align their greatest resources to organizational purpose for the last 20 years.

The Result: High Performance Organizations!

Ryan McShane, Vice President, Marc3 Leadership Solutions [email protected], marc3solutions.com, 410-688-5054

For a Free Assessment of your Leadership Team’s impact on Employee Performance, contact me here to schedule. [email protected], www.marc3solutions.com, 410-688-5054

Marc3 Leadership Solutions provides small to medium sized businesses Fortune 500 Level Resources, creating “High Performance Organizations” expanded capabilities leading to Greater Profit, Top Talent, and Outstanding Culture.

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