Coming to Consciousness: Personal and Organizational Growth

Each time I thought I suffered most, I came out of the experience knowing more of my self.  More accurately, each incident shook me, pushing me beyond ego. It was the earthquake that shook-off another layer of who I thought I was.

Each incident so hard, so painful at the time, now has become a memory that still fills my eyes with tears. I’m not sure if the tears are for the love of the moment that squeezed my conditioned beliefs until it yielded a diamond of greater consciousness or if I’m experiencing echoes of healing continuing to taking place. Either way, the tears have turned from pain to joy.

I’ve come to shake off the notion of who “I thought” I was through each incident. Organizations and teams; like individuals will go through a similar coming to consciousness or greater understanding of group relationship dynamics, if they are to become a high functioning, high achieving team. 

What began to occur more and more is that, I could “see” the separateness of my conditioning and who I really was. In other words it became increasingly clear that my life existence is just that, an experience that makes an impression on me. However, what I choose to carry with me from my experiences is that which I believe, “I am”.  Specifically, if I continue to carry the burdens and beliefs of the past, I am operating from those burdens and beliefs. Yet, if I let go of the past, I am able to see the present moment through no filter of beliefs but, as it actually is. By removing the filter or lens of past conditioning I am free to make decisions and take actions on what exists not, what I believe to exist which is biased from my experiences. It comes down to better relationships and decision-making; two of the most critical factors in business success today!

When we recognize our lens of past beliefs and conditioned thought we then have an opportunity to evaluate why we believe as we do. Do our beliefs serve us and our connections to others? Or does it separate us and create a divide from others?

All things being the same, had I been born into another family, those experiences would no doubt be different, yet, they too would not be me, but my experiences. Again, it is only when we hold onto these experiences and operate from them that we are relegated to exist at the level of our experiences alone.

I am not a thought as you are not a thought.   Yet, if we are to live beyond thought (conditioned beliefs), how does one reconcile this with modern life?

Meditation first and foremost by the very practice of it, enables one to rise above thought and truly see the interconnectedness of people.

Businesses, non-profits and even sports teams are taking advantage of the benefits of meditation for creative thinking, wellbeing, visioning and execution of highly focused tasks. What these groups have found through meditation is a higher level of cognitive functioning enabling better decision making due to a reduction of emotional influences which limit higher cognitive functioning. In other words, we are able to make decisions based on the collective highest good and not from fear and self-protectionism.

Experience and genetics are what separate us physically.  We have been taught to limit our focus to the material and consequently we miss what’s in front of us. Our common humanity! Our common humanity must be the solid foundation from which organizations build their labor force, in order for the full capability of employees to be realized and experienced daily.

All too often, I see businesses that maintain an external focus, neglecting the people who do the work and support the business. Because many Executives are externally focused on sales and service to customers, they may not realize those they depend on to serve may not be well equipped or properly aligned to provide the best service possible. Therefore, companies begin to lose customers and market share due to poor service or incapable staff.

Let’s look at it this way, as it is consciousness expanding for individuals willing to reflect on beliefs and alignment of actions to achieve goals so, too is it true that teams and organizations benefit through self-reflection and examination.

Providing a safe space for employees and leaders to practice critical thought, challenge the status quo and engage in self reflection is a great start.  Lunch and Learns or facilitated “tough conversations” can begin to provide the environment of practice and dialogue that lead to employees feeling safe to act from their personal authenticity.

The following saying is not just true for sales, but, in organizational engagement and leadership as well, “People don’t care what you have to say, until they know you care”.

Whether you’re interested in maximizing your own individual capabilities or you’re more focused on group achievement; providing permission, support and modeling are critical to make the shift to high performance leaders and teams.

By Ryan McShane

Ryan McShane, has been serving the Human Resources Profession for over 20 years and currently operates a consulting firm specializing in Human Resources Consulting, Leadership Development and Career Transition Services.

Prior, to that Ryan worked in the public, private, start-up and not-for-profit sectors, learning the various cultural norms, principles and practices of each sector and applying that learning to create High Performance Leaders and Organizations. Ryan is also the immediate past president for the largest Local SHRM Chapter in the state of Maryland, Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA).

Ryan’s professional affiliations include serving on the Board of Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA), Board member and Membership Director of Hunt Valley Business Forum, a founding member of Conscious Capitalism- Central Maryland, a Member of York, PA’s local SHRM chapter, a Member of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) Advisory Board, and a former Member of the Boomer Council, an advisory council focusing on civic engagement and mature workforce strategies.

Ryan is passionate about creating and leveraging practices and systems to enable both, individuals and organizations to achieve their highest potential. By promoting greater self-awareness and a conscious approach to workforce management, Ryan seeks to enable a stakeholder orientation, giving rise to equal consideration of People, Planet and Profit.

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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