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Entries in business focalizing (12)


Holding Space as An Essential Leadership Capacity

Otto Scharmer, senior lecturer at MIT and founding chair of the Presencing Institute, has said that “holding space is the single most important leadership capacity going forward. Hearing this, I realized it was in fact the essential leadership trait of the 21st century. Let's explore what it means to hold space and why it is so important for leaders today.

The world is now moving too fast to maintain detailed plans and has gotten far too complex with the consequences of our individual actions too great to continue acting in the isolation of our own organizations. Instead, leaders need the ability to see and act from the whole and the capacity to integrate all that is evolving around them while responding quickly to shift strategy and execution. It is a leadership capacity to sit comfortably in ambiguity and welcome the unknown while grounded in a bigger vision; mindful of how each evolving moment fits into that vision. In this way the leader sets a destination, chooses a route and then course corrects in each moment. Holding space allows leaders to engage the unfolding future to guide the organization rather than impose the past or even a limited vision for the future on the present. This is done in collaboration and without excess planning.

Space in this context is physical, mental, emotional and even energetic. It is expansive; linked to the moment of the experience itself, giving space for a much more interesting creation based on what is happening in the moment. The leader does this by thinking, engaging and acting differently.

  • Thinking holistically while cultivating curiosity 
  • Engaging (rather than resisting) whatever comes up in the moment; relating authentically and consciously 
  • And then acting from this deeper awareness by sensing what is present in each moment and responding from an inner knowing beyond what the data, analysis or plan might otherwise suggest

In this way, the leader creates a container for an intentional experience, aligning an organizational intention and creating conditions for the future to emerge by setting aside specific expectations and curiously observing while listening deeply for what reveals itself. It is a journey from the attempted certainty of predict-and-control into the unknown of sense-and-respond. While this may appear passive to the observer, it is actually a very active and deliberate leadership practice.

John Renesch, in The Great Growing Up, describes it as having “dominion of our reality without trying to dominate it, without clever maneuvering or seduction … elegant mastery without resorting to manipulative control or imposition.”

Focalizing Dynamic Links is one of many methods a leader can utilize to hold space. It is a way of connecting with and relating to people in order to access both inner and outer resources. Two particular elements of Focalizing are especially relevant to holding space – suspension and sensing. Suspension – setting aside the judging, critical voices of doubt, fear and cynicism – opens and allows us to fully sense the wisdom of our inner experience, often through felt sensations in the body and our visual imagination. We do this through a relaxed and meditative state where we are grounded, centered, clear and focused.

Such a meditative state has three characteristics essential to the practice of holding space:

  • Timelessness – fully present in the moment and allowing something greater than ourselves to move through us, creating the future 
  • Formlessness – beyond the confines and constraints of our physical body to experience “ourselves” in everything around us 
  • Non-attachment – completely content in the perfection of the current moment with total acceptance and even appreciation that the next moment may be entirely different and we will be absolutely present in the perfection and completeness of that moment, whatever it may be

Specifically, the leader holding space by focalizing a Dynamic Link demonstrates and utilizes these traits:

  • Allows his or her own self to be open to and participate in the creative energy of the group, creating the context and holding space for the group intentions to emerge 
  • Holds no point of view nor expectation of a specific outcome other than that of the aligned intentions 
  • Connects with the group organically to express the innate intelligence and wisdom of the collective 
  • Helps participants to shift perceptions, offers additional perspectives and opens group to new possibilities 
  • Respectfully engages opposite energies expressed within the group for their resolution and integration and the emergence of a greater idea or vision 
  • Brings resource energy in the form of caring and a real sense of community

This last trait suggests that space is really just love – love for one’s self, the organization, each individual and what the group seeks to create or do. In fact, when one is in the present state necessary to hold space it is impossible to feel any other emotion than love – even though that love may present and express itself in any number of ways.

Holding space as a leadership capacity has several tangible benefits that address the complex and interconnected world in which our organizations now operate:

  • Having resilience and feeling more presence in the moment 
  • Ability to connect dots by removing blind spots and gaining insight to previously unseen possibilities, shifting one’s point of view 
  • Feeling inclusivity, unification and compassion with an ability to view situations from the perspective of the whole

Leaders who choose to engage a practice of holding space step bravely into the world of the unknown where the comforts (and constraints) of current management practice are replaced with a full-bodied experience of leading from their hearts.


A New Balance Sheet for Business

It seems to me that the traditional balance sheet is outdated with its singular focus on the financial capital of a business. This one-dimensional view ignores the multiple forms of capital that a business utilizes in its operations every day. In doing so, businesses bring decision-making down to a simple financial evaluation when in fact the considerations are much more complex. This creates a blind spot that often results in less than optimum decisions in the business.

What we need instead is a more holistic consideration of the business – a balance sheet that allocates all resources: financial as well as natural, human, social and built capital. This greater organizational self-awareness allows for a more full and conscious budgeting of all forms of capital with an eye to the liability of blind spots and recognition of all the equity it creates. As such, it provides the true cost of doing business along with an understanding of the organization’s impact on its environment.

What I propose is a balance sheet that contains a view of assets, liabilities and equity beyond the more quantifiable financial ones for a more comprehensive understanding and awareness of the organization as a whole.

  • An expanded view of the organization’s assets would include strengths and opportunities within the business such as skills and knowledge of the human capital, networks and relationships of social capital, the infrastructure of the built capital and the intelligence of entrepreneurial capital with the unique capacity to assemble all these aspects into a formula for success through innovation.
  • Liabilities beyond the financial would include challenges and risks the business faces such as resource gaps in the organization and marketplace dynamics. Additionally, the self-aware organization would seek to gain visibility into the unseen and unknown – blind spots in the organizational shadow.
  • Equity would also have an expanded depth that takes a more holistic view of the value the organization is creating. This would involve even deeper organizational self-awareness with insights into the context within which the organization operates and how that fits into the dynamics of an evolving world. 

Along with this expanded depth that includes the various forms of capital, the new balance sheet would also have a perspective across multiple dimensions.

  • Financial – dollars and cents, the familiar assets, liabilities and equity of the balance sheet. 
  • Non-Financial – includes skills and knowledge, infrastructure as well as the networks and relationships across the organization through its human, intellectual, experiential, built and social capital. 
  • Emotional – the prevailing emotional tone of the organization. This is the culture of the organization, including the known and acknowledged as well as the unconscious and unseen. 
  • Energetic – beyond words and emotions, there is an actual energetic vibration of the organization that when engaged has the capacity to inform and guide the present through an awareness of an emerging future.

The business organization that endeavors to operate with greater self-awareness – with greater depth and across multiple dimensions – will set itself up more prepared to successfully achieve its objectives and realize its mission. This organizational self-awareness enables the business to:

  • Operate more fluidly in the moment, allowing the business to quickly respond to an ever-changing business climate.
  • Deploy the talent of human capital according to individual skills and capabilities rather than be confined by the boundaries of job descriptions.
  • Truly understand the well being of the entire organization, creating a sustainable operation with the capacity to evolve as the environment in which the business operates shifts.

This approach to a more holistic balance sheet would create a more holistic chart of accounts to capture the greater depth and multi-dimensions of the approach and in turn, expand the approach to analysis, business modeling and even budgeting for a more comprehensive decision-making process that holistically considers the entire business and the environment in which it operates.


Social Enterprise and The Evolution of Business Consciousness

There are many perspectives on what is a Social Enterprise. At its purest definition, Social Enterprises are those organizations that are impact first with a focus on meaning making that generates a sustaining cash flow. In this way, moneymaking is secondary to the impact of the organization’s mission. The purpose of its moneymaking endeavors is to sustain the organization’s operations and ensure the ongoing delivery of its mission to achieve its desired impact. Yet, Social Enterprises are more complex than this and I would suggest exist along a continuum that mirrors the path of human conscious evolution.

In addition to the definition above, there are two other places of note along the continuum of Social Enterprise. The first is the entry point where a business organization adopts an outward facing mission and institutes core values that are demonstrated in action. The outward facing mission has its focus on the customer experience through delivery of the organization’s product or service rather than on profit goals or growth objectives. Further, it is not enough for these businesses to have a set of core values; those entering the continuum of Social Enterprise have demonstrated them in the actions of their leaders and across the organization.

The second point of note on the continuum is where the business organization gains awareness of the greater eco-system in which it operates. This triple bottom-line perspective considers people and planet as well as profits for a broad consideration of its social, economic and environmental impact. In this way, the business organization is mindful of and demonstrates responsibility to all its stakeholders. From here, the final point on the continuum is the purest definition shared earlier.

Interestingly, this mirrors the path we take as humans toward greater awareness and higher consciousness from connection with our values and a sense of purpose to greater awareness of our environment and those we share this experience with to a sincere desire to be of service, giving back in some way and making a positive impact that leaves this earth and its inhabitants a bit better than we found them.

Just as it is with our individual transformation, taking that first step into alignment with its values and identification with a greater sense of purpose begins a process for the business organization that I believe quite naturally and organically continues to evolve along this continuum of Social Enterprise as a better future is created through business.


Re-Visioning Our Future

It’s that time of year again when we look back to what we accomplished over the past year and forward to what we wish to do in the next twelve months. For many years this has been an important time of reflection and goal setting for me but this year I’m approaching it a bit differently – by first looking at the really big picture to envision the changes I would like to see in the world and then working back from that vision to imagine how I might participate in this evolving view. It’s a multi-dimensional perspective of an integrated and holistic world experience with a re-visioning of five major institutions of modern life, the resulting impact on each individual and how we might participate along the way.

The world I imagine is connected in co-operation; operating consciously and sustainably. Seeing ourselves as more similar than different, we realize we are all in this together and that our collective survival is contingent on our individual thriving. And rather than attempting to dominate the environment, we see ourselves as stewards of the planet we inhabit. To illustrate how this might look, I have re-visioned five of the major institutions of modern life within this worldview.

  • An Economy that sustains itself and our existence without the addictive practice of consumerism – producing services and substance that enrich our experience rather than so many goods that are thrown away too quickly. It refocuses our attention on living prosperously rather than accumulating abundance – and distributes equitably rather than rewarding the lucky few. 
  • The Financial Markets fund and support a vibrant economy without being an economy of their own – connecting those with money to lend or invest with those having ideas and goods worthy of investment – rather than continually moving the same money around and around without any concern for what the business actually does or even a desire to influence or affect how it operates. In short, the financial sectors support and serve the economy without dominating, controlling or manipulating it. 
  • A forward-thinking Government that turns its back on being manipulated by special interests and instead uses its power of taxation and regulation to encourage behaviors that support a sustainable future and positive, equitable existence for all. 
  • The Education System prepares students for the 21st century by abandoning a system of memorizing data for one that teaches us to better know our own selves, understand the dynamics of the world in which we live and to continually learn; while teaching how to access and use data when we need it rather than attempting to know it forever. 
  • Our Healthcare System actually addresses and heals that which really ails us through a holistic approach to treatment with attention to both symptomatic conditions and the greater disconnection from our higher selves.

Now, imagine similar transformations across other structures and institutions of modern life. The result is a thriving populace living sustainably across all measures of being – connected, contributing and conscious – with little recall of an earlier time of feeling un-empowered, defeated, insignificant or disregarded.

It’s certainly a bold vision and perhaps one I may not see realized in my own lifetime. Zora Neale Hurston wrote that her mother exhorted her to “jump at the sun. You might not land there but at least you will get your feet off the ground.” Visioning isn’t so much about attaining exactly what we envision as it is about changing the dream we dream by questioning our current circumstances and imagining how things could be different.

As we move into the New Year, I encourage you to envision the world differently in some way. Then consider what actions – however small – you might take to move in the direction of that vision. And in so doing, may we all get our feet off the ground.


Sustainable Prosperity – The Consciousness of Wealth 

I often look about the world and see a vast discrepancy in the distribution of resources – those who have more than they could ever possibly consume and other places where just a portion of those resources would make a tremendous difference in people’s lives and well being.  It seems we have confused abundance with prosperity.  Let’s look at that a bit deeper and from a more conscious perspective.  

Sustainable prosperity and unlimited abundance is having all you need when you need it, not hoarding everything you want for whenever you might want it again.  Wanting is actually a perpetual state of being as one desire simply follows another so that wanting actually reinforces the state of lacking – since there is something you want and don’t yet have.  Now, where’s the abundance in that?

There seems to be an inherent fear that we won’t have what we need when we need it.  This fear results in the dysfunctional behavior of hoarding, which misappropriates wealth to a limited few – reinforcing the idea of collective lacking.  It’s the mistaken belief in limited resources so that each of us feel compelled to get our portion before someone else does and everything is all gone – a concept that only serves to further separate us from one another and the realization of our innate connectedness.  

Before I go further, I want to acknowledge the current reality of apparently limited resources.  Our hoarding and over-consumption is in fact depleting resources more quickly than they can be regenerated and more importantly we are rely too heavily on non-renewable resources.  Further though, we aren’t looking rigorously enough for sustainable and abundant alternatives since our economy is dependent on the current construct (think energy production, fuel economy and the fossil fuel industry).

Sustainable prosperity, on the other hand, is a higher consciousness of wealth where we realize our connectedness – in abundance with one another and the greater world around us – as our natural state of being.   From this connectedness, we see that prosperity and abundance aren’t something we can achieve or accumulate; instead it is something we become when we realize we already are that.  The sustainable prosperity of having what you need when you need it comes from a consciousness of true abundance where you trust and realize that your needs will somehow always be met (when you are responsible and take the right actions).  It’s a sustainable and natural existence without any sense of wanting.   

So then, how might we shift into this higher consciousness of wealth?  It seems gratitude and appreciation for what we already have is the most effective way to both connect us more genuinely with our experience in the present moment and also recognize the abundance we are currently receiving.  In this way, gratitude and appreciation becomes the fuel of abundance.  Gay Hendricks suggests a shift in perspective from a consumer of things into a manufacturer and distributor of appreciation – putting the focus on gratitude as an input instead of on the output of what we desire (see article).  In so doing, it moves us into the sustainable prosperity at the head of the supply chain rather than constantly waiting for a delivery at the hapless end.