Welcome to HEN - Transforming Conflict for our Health, Environment, Negotiation
HEN is published each month by Julia Menard:
Helping the Workplace Engage - One Tough Conversation at a Time! juliamenard.com
HEN arrives at the full moon -
because light transforms darkness.
Full Moon: March 16, 2014 - Year 12, Issue 3
Table of Contents:
1. HEALTH - Healing Community
Years ago, Dr. Dean Ornish wrote a book called Love and Survival.
The main premise of his book is that having close relationships is good for your health – and not having them, is detrimental. He was one of the first medical researchers to make that claim, though many others have ran similar studies showing the same results since.
Recently, I attended a course on “Restorative Leadership” – put on by the International Institute of Restorative Practices - dedicated to restoring community, managing conflict and building social capital.
At one point, the topic of shame came up. I’d come to understand shame as a “bad” thing. Guilt good – shame bad. But a First Nations woman spoke up and gave a perspective on shame that really highlighted one of the things to learn about from First Nation communities.
She talked about how shame was seen in her community. If someone had done a wrong – a feast was held as one way to make amends. The feast was for the victim and his or her family and was put on by the offender and his or her family.
I reflected on my own culture. The daughter of an immigrant, my reflection didn’t last long. My father’s side spans back to around 1700 however. But still – no community feasting.
In my society, we have created an institution that takes people away their community and isolates them in a prison - with no real sense of how or when they can or will return to our community.
This First Nations person said “shame” was seen as an important part of the healing. Shame, in the context of community support, was a teacher. These gatherings were called “Shame Feasts”.
We have no equivalent for such coming together in my community. When I think about healing in our communities, I feel sad. We see offenders as people to be pushed out of our community – no matter how much shame or punishment they may have paid. They become isolated with no clear way of reintegration.
If I understood my new First Nations friend correctly, there was even another step in the shame feasting. Once that feast was done, and any other reparation was carried out – then the victim’s family would hold a feast for the offender and his or her family. It was a reintegration feast – welcoming the offender back into the community.
Reintegration. Participation. Power With.
These are Restorative Values.
These are healing values for any community.
As legendary feminist activist Grace Lee Boggs says:
"All over the world, local groups ... are inspired by a philosophy that replaces the scientific and reductive rationalism of seventeenth-century Western male philosophers (such as Descartes and Bacon) with the ways of knowing of Indigenous Peoples (which includes the perceptions of trees, and animals) and of women, based on intimate connections with Nature and ideas of healing and caring that were part of European village culture prior to the sixteenth - and seventeenth - century..."
Building community with Indigenous people with women, with nature. This is healing community.
What is one small thing you can do in the next few days to build community?
“We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.”
… Grace Lee Boggs
2. ENVIRONMENT - Will We Be Alive in 20 Years?
"One thing that being a scientist has taught me is that you can never be certain about anything. You never know the truth. You can only approach it and hope to get a bit nearer to it each time. You iterate towards the truth. You don’t know it."
… James Lovelock
I was surprised recently by something I read by James Lovelock.
Lovelock is a name you might recognize – he invented the “Gaia” theory. Gaia theory is the idea that the earth is one big self-regulating system. Humans have a big influence on the planet, but that doesn’t mean we can control the change in climate our activities set in motion. The earth system responds so as to restore some kind of balance, regardless of human plans.
Although this idea is not accepted by all scientists, Lovelock is well-respected – and long in the tooth and the wisdom (he’s 94 years old).
Now, after pondering environmental issues for more decades than I’ve been alive, Lovelock has concluded that we – as a species – are hooped.
As in, the earth has its own intelligence and we are past the point of no return regarding climatic forces that will render much of our world inhabitable.
He predicts that in 20 years, as much as 80% of our population will be wiped out (and he’s pretty good at predicting).
That’s a heavy possibility to sit with. It requires one to sit with death – on a massive scale.
That’s hard for anyone to do – let alone anyone from our euro-centric culture with its phobia of death.
It’s easy to dismiss what he is saying. It’s easy to ignore what he is saying. It's easy to deny what he is saying.
But what if he is right? Even just partially right? What if we, as a species, have a terminal illness – and the prognosis is rapid decline and demise? Shortly?
There is no doubt we are all headed for the same place sooner or later. And none of us know when we are going to go anyway!
So what does it mean if we accept the prognosis?
Not much changes, in one way. It’s still important to work for community. To work for food agency. To work for fairness, justice, compassion.
Perhaps it simply puts more sweetness in every single day we wake up and see we still have today. And that’s all any of us have.
In fact, Lovelock doesn’t think we should all roll over. To the contrary:
“We need bold action. We have a tremendous amount to do … We have two choices: We can return to a more primitive lifestyle and live in equilibrium with the planet as hunter-gatherers, or we can sequester ourselves in a very sophisticated, high-tech civilization. There's no question which path I'd prefer…”
Whether we end up with a drastically culled population or not – Lovelock sees a need for “Sustainable Retreat” as our strategy. He explains:
“It's time to start talking about changing where we live and how we get our food; about making plans for the migration of millions of people from low-lying regions like Bangladesh into Europe. Most of all … it's about everybody absolutely doing their utmost to sustain civilization, so that it doesn't degenerate into Dark Ages, with warlords running things, which is a real danger. We could lose everything that way.”
This prognosis doesn’t mean we stop – it means we start.
No matter the outcome, we benefit from learning to live more simply again – to be in community, to rethink how we do food. To sustain civilization.
Who can teach us?
Can you think of someone who knows about a simpler lifestyle? Ask them for guidance on how to simplify your life!
3. NEGOTIATION - What If I'm On A Team That I'm Not the Boss Of?
Recently, I’ve come to a new realization about the nature of stuckness. In my work, I come across a lot of people who are stuck in teams they don’t lead - stuck in a job where they are part of a team, but not the boss of the team.
Firstly, let me confess. I am an executive coach to many fabulous leaders who make a positive difference in the workplace.
One recent example is an Executive Director of a Non-Profit organization. We’ve worked together for the last year and I’ve watched this person change the team from okay to stellar. There used to be many cases of silo thinking and people complaining to the Executive Director, instead of working it out directly.
Now, one year later, the team has rallied around a unifying theme, is shifting to whole organization thinking – and is dealing with many of their conflicts directly and honestly.
This Executive Director took many team development concepts we talked about and ran with them.
FYI - a lot of the ideas came from Lencioni’s book, The Advantage. I recommend this book to anyone interested in being part of a healthier team.
So, what if you are not the team lead though? What if you’re “just” one of the lowly team members – without a lot of power to change things?
One option is – well – to leave! I coached a manager working in a large organization who did just this. She was keen to try out some new ideas – like the ones mentioned in Lencioni’s book – but found it nearly impossible to propose such ideas when she wasn’t the team lead.
She left. Best decision she ever made. Sometimes, especially when there’s an opportunity that is better than the one you are in, it makes sense to leap!
But what if you don’t have that option? Or at least you don’t think you do?
There’s the rub.
Leadership guru, John Maxwell wrote a book all about this called The 360 Degree Leader: Developing Your Influence from Anywhere in the Organization.
Essentially, Maxwell has a very simple message. Simple, but not easy.
Maxwell tells us a lack of power can actually be an illusion that holds us back. Like Dorothy, in the Wizard of Oz – we had the power all along (the red shoes!).
If we can’t see we have the power, though, we won’t be able to use it.
So that’s the magic: You can take up the reins and have more power than you think you have. When I help those in conflict shift from a situation that is truly intolerable, the very first mountain we have to climb is Mount Hope. It looks hopeless when you’ve been in a team for a long time that, quite frankly, sucks.
It does not have to be that way. I know it’s easy for me to say (I’m not the one having to keep going in your team!). But I can’t count the number of times I’ve worked with someone who was NOT the head of the team, and something changed for the better.
And it always, always, always, came from the individual.
Because, as you know, the only person you can change is yourself.
Let me tell you one more story. One with a powerful message of hope.
I used to coach a manager at the government level. He hired me to meet with him once a month. Each month, for that 1.5 hours he had set aside, he’d review how he was influencing, or could influence, in 3 directions:
- His boss
- His peers
- His direct reports
These are the same 3 levels that Maxwell suggests thinking about in his book.
I provided a forum for my client to assess the level of health and to think up strategies he could do to build up the social capital in those key relationships.
Needless to say, over the 18 months we worked together, he rose a level in the organization, gaining stronger and stronger influence as time went on.
It has to start with challenging the belief that you can’t.
Do you think you have little or no influence on your team? Let's see about that!
Look in the mirror and ask yourself these 4 questions from Byron Katie:
- Is that true?
- Can you absolutely know it's true?
- How do you react—what happens—when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
I’ll leave you with a quote from Maxwell. If it inspires you – great!
If you don’t believe it, then I have one more question for you:
How does it serve you to think you have no power?
And, that’s my new realization. Until I can uncover how it serves me to stay stuck, there I will stay.
“You can lead from anywhere in your organization.”
… John Maxwell
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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training