The Willingness to ‘Not Know’ Together

How willing are you, in your team, department, organization, family, and community…to not know together? Please imagine with me how much more open the conversations would be if we paused to say

‘At this moment, together we are in a state of ‘we don’t know’.

In my experience, pausing and acknowledging ‘together, we don’t know’ or ‘we don’t know…together’ has significant benefits.

  1. The space for imagining, curiosity, wonder, innovation and simply thinking outside of the box gets bigger.
  2. People, rather than feeling frightened that even leaders don’t know, experience a sense of everyone being in something together and this feeling of ‘together’ draws people closer giving a deeper sense of ‘team’.
  3. Leadership pops up within the group, different people taking a lead at different times based on what they feel is important.
  4. Solutions are found.
  5. There is greater ownership of the solutions when they are discovered together.

Helpful at times of ‘We don’t know…together’ are processes that assist people to have the space to engage with each other in the conversations that will lead to solutions. Methods that I use with exceptional results towards solution focus include Whole Person Process Facilitation, Open Space Technology, and World Cafe. During the meeting, people experience a real sense of team, an added bonus.

Now, can you imagine saying to your team ‘We don’t know…together’ and this becoming an anticipated and accepted state? Can you imagine having the in-house capacity to facilitate meetings that create the space for the important conversations to get from ‘We don’t know…together’ to ‘Now We Know…together’? How important do you believe the acknowledgement of not knowing is to getting to the best solutions?

The Work of Grief

Finding yourself in grief is inevitable. You may have had a loss in your private life. You, your colleagues and friends may have had an event in your work or community life that triggers a grief response. Change is constant and loss accompanies change. None of us is immune, none of us can avoid loss either individually or collectively. Most of us, when we are in genuine contact with ourselves, have an awareness that we are in different stages of grief simultaneously, here and now, about a variety of losses.

It would be extremely valuable if grief were a topic that was raised to be discussed…in yourself, your partnerships, your families, your community, your workplace, your congregation. We could support one another better, be in better genuine contact with each other if we dared to understand more about grief, talk about it more openly, and recognize that the work of grief is critical to the ability to heal…individually and collectively. The grief cycle, by another name, is the healing cycle.

During the grief cycle, we are likely to experience shock, anger, denial, mixed in with despair and deep sorrow. The emotions can feel overwhelming. At such times, people often say the ‘wrong’ things. They may not be able to put emotions into words. The grief is then magnified even more when the responses of other people become judgmental. If we were better equipped to talk about grief and to be in genuine contact with people who are grieving in our private and professional lives, people would feel more supported and be able to move on in their grief work experiencing memories, acceptance that what once was is no more, and letting go of attachment….the steps necessary for getting ready to  move on.

The work of grief is also part of the cycle of transformation. Individually and collectively, when we allow the work of grief to flow, we shift, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. We are no longer exactly the same as we were before the loss and the work of grief. This is an enormous challenge for the person or group of people going through grief work. Others expect them to be the same ‘once they have finished grieving’. They themselves may have expected to be the same. They are not. Something has shifted, transformation may be underway. Awareness, understanding and support is needed for the newly emerging state…of the individual and of the collective.

Are you aware of the work of grief? Do you discuss grief work with family, friends and colleagues…and the children in your life? How are you feeling right now as you contemplate that the work of grief results in a shift, a transformation…and that the individual or collective, having experienced the work of grief, is not the same as they were before ‘the loss’?

In our Genuine Contact way of living and working, we pay attention to grief work, and the place of grief work in transformation.

What is Your Level of Trust in Your Organization?

I meet with a CEO. She says “I have figured out that people here don’t trust me. I can even see how this lack of trust is affecting our business. I have been watching people talk out in the parking lot. I am aware that they are talking about me, about our leadership team, and about how they don’t trust me or the team. I realize I need some help from an objective outside professional. I called you because you are willing to get to the root of the situation and not just gloss this over with some kind of trust building exercise. I understand that this is very serious to our ability to function as we should.”

I respond first with a question “Are you really sure you want to undertake what is required to get to the root of what is going on?”. I am well aware that it takes a lot of internal strength, will, determination, and courage for a CEO to do so.

She nods her head and says, “This is going to be tough to turn around. I understand that in life, when trust is broken, it is difficult to establish it again. I will do what it takes. There is a lot riding on us improving our performance”.

As a leadership and organizational development consultant, I am only too aware that the likelihood of establishing trust again is going to depend on this woman in front of me having the courage to keep going once we get started. I feel that she has the inner strength to do so, and so I begin. We talk a bit about how futile it is when a CEO or other leader says ‘you can trust me’ or ‘we are one big family’.  I then give her three beginning point questions to reflect about before we discuss her insights.

  1. What is your level of trust in your organization?
  2. What is your level of trust in yourself as a CEO?
  3. What is your level of trust in yourself as a person?

I cover topics such as this one in The Genuine Contact Way: Nourishing a Culture of Leadership. If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, and are willing to do the inner work of improving your leadership, going through this book is a great way to catalyze your own insights.