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!

HEN arrives at the full moon - 
because light transforms darkness.   

Full Moon: November 25, 2015 - Year 13, Issue 12
Table of Contents:

1. HEALTH - Coming to Conflict from a Place of Wholeness

My colleague, therapist Judy Zehr, and I have been working on a book on how to keep yourself sane through tough conversations. We’ve combined our years of experience, hers in neuroscience, mindfulness and psychology, mine in conflict resolution and coaching – to create “Hold Onto Yourself Through Difficult Conversations.” Each month since my February 3 HEN this year, we’ve sent you one excerpt per chapter – moving sequentially through the book. This month’s excerpt is from the last chapter! Our book is now in the publication process and we hope to have some news for you in the New Year - I’m hoping for my birthday day as our official release date - which is February 3 – which would make it a lovely one year journey! Stay tuned for more news! Meantime, enjoy the last excerpt below!
Holding on to yourself means staying connected within — staying attuned to your own feelings and needs, to your intention and your sense of value and worthiness, as well as your ability to be open and caring. Holding on to yourself means being able to stay connected to your heart, to have empathy and understanding of others and to see and work toward positive outcomes.
It takes commitment and practice. We all fall into the stress response, and the more important the relationship and topic, the more vulnerable we are to going out of balance when conversations get heated.
The more you can strengthen your self-awareness and practice self-compassion the easier it will be to hold on to yourself. There’s a reason why so many spiritual traditions recommend meditative practices as they shift our focus on the busy mind to our breath and our body, where that feeling of safety and well-being reside. If we identify with our thoughts and feelings we will get stuck on the wheel of stress and conflict. When we realize that beneath our transitory thoughts and feelings there is a deeper awareness within we can connect with our true nature.
Our greatest growth and possibility comes from that which triggers us, that which is difficult. We dedicate this book to your growth, your potential, and the valuable addition you make to all of your relationships and connections.     
"Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth–or rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them."  
 … Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith

2. ENVIRONMENT - Growing Food Communities Organically

In the summer of 2008, I had an idea. The idea was to bring together two interesting women I would meet separately along my morning walking route. One of them was a master gardener and the other a pragmatic survivalist. What they had in common was a passion for food security. It seemed putting them together would bring about good things.

And did it ever. From the three of us meeting, a new idea emerged: let’s put an article in the local community association about food security and see if anyone else is out there who might have similar interests.
That summer, we held our first official meeting. About 7 people were there – us three, plus a couple from South Africa newly moved into the neighbourhood (one a retired teacher) and one or two others.
From that original group, the three of us and the couple created a “steering committee.” We got together a few more times and started cooking up ideas for how to bring more people together. I would write more articles for the local community newsletter, we would host monthly meetings in each others living rooms for whomever showed up, and we would see what would happen.
More and more people started showing up and pretty soon the average meeting was about 20 people. It was getting too big for living rooms. Someone looked into renting a room at our local Rec Centre.
So, our monthly meetings became more formal gatherings in a partnership with the local daycare housed in our Recreation Centre. We collected donations to rent the room and sometimes we had as many as 50 or 60 people attend.
Years went by. Today, 7 years after we started, we had a State of the Union meeting.  Many of the original people who came on board in the “early days” are still there. Four of the original five from the steering committee are still in leadership positions and many of those who came into the organization within the first year are also in leadership positions.
And, is the case with many voluntary organizations, the leadership was getting tired. The monthly meeting attendance had started to dwindle. There was a sense of going through the motions to some extent.
Today was, quite frankly, exhilarating! The retired teacher (a consummate facilitator) led a circle discussion about where we’ve been, what attracted us, and where to from here. Slowly but surely, the original reasons we wanted to come together, came bubbling back up to the surface. 
It’s about community, food security, sharing knowledge and wisdom. That’s at our heart.
That vision still inspires me – after 7 years!
By the end of the meeting, these are the lessons I carried away from listening and sharing community with the 12 gathered today:
  1. Every group needs to revisit its vision. What inspires you as a collective?Reminding each other about the difference you want to make – brings energy back.
  2. Watch for what emerges. When our group was in its earlier stages, we were full of energy for creating events and activities and structures. And many many people in our neighbourhood have done so over these 7 years - including a weekly local food market stand, someone who sells vegetable plant starts, a neighbourhood baker, annual neighbourhood seed exchanges, plant swaps, seed banks, workshops on canning, seed saving, food growing, those who sell local honey, eggs, lobbying local government to allow for more chickens, tours of local gardens, tours of eco-farms and fruit farms, a lending library and garden tool lending capacity, a google group (where anyone can email anyone else about any question about food security) to a membership list showing our food security members by street location. Someone even created a website that she maintains for GTUF at: And, I could go on. 
  3. Only commit to that which has energy. The energy of my community is breath-taking! Yet, here we were, 12 people, some tired. After a few rounds of discussions, a new energy emerged however. The group slowly divested itself “officially” of some of the tasks that had started to feel like chores. No more expectation for a monthly meeting every single month when the energy might not be there.
Free seed swapping in January. Stays. 
Plant swapping in Spring: Stays.
Garden tours in Summer (with a pot luck harvest in September): Stays.
Google group and adding new members: Stays.
All the rest? Self-organizing.
The lightness in the room was palpable. This is a manageable list. This is a list consistent with where the energy of the group is at the moment. This is an emergent process.
Near the end, we started to joke about renaming the coordinating committee (we’d evolved somewhere over the years from the steering committee to the planning committee to the coordinating committee). My vote was the “Party Committee” – and someone else (one of our original couples) - suggested “Partying Committee.” She also suggested "The Roots" - and someone else said: “The Germinators.”

I love it! I could feel the energy coming back – for what might emerge. 

As a beloved professor of mine used to say in our “Group Process” course last summer:  Trust the process.
She is so right. It is vitally important to pay attention to what is emerging from a group. That is how to grow food communities organically!

“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, legendary Detroit Activist

3. NEGOTIATION - Making Time for Teams

The Harvard Business Review recently released its list of the 100 best-performing CEOs in the world. Lars Sorensen, CEO of Danish healthcare company Novo Nordisk, topped the list. 

In his interview, he said that even having a best CEO in the world list is misleading. It puts the spotlight on one factor which has other aspects to it. He points out that you can have the best CEO in the world, but he or she can inherit a poor performing company.
As Sorensen put it in his HBR interview: “I don’t like this notion of the ‘best-performing CEO in the world’. That’s an American perspective — you lionize individuals. I would say I’m leading a team that is collectively creating one of the world’s best-performing companies...” 

This might seem like splitting hairs, but it’s really not. Having spent a year living in Japan early in my work life, I saw first-hand the contrast between a culture that thinks about the individual (and sometimes only) in contrast with a culture that thinks about the collective first (and sometimes only). 
Sorensen described his leadership style as “Scandinavian” and “consensus-oriented” but adds that the six years he spent working in the US made him “slightly more aggressive than the typical Scandinavian business leader”. 
We need both orientations in organizations – not “either/or”. We need both to support and encourage the best in individuals and we need to create a team mentality. 
We have a bias towards the individual in our society. It’s easy to see that we aim to be our best individually. However, it’s not as easy for us to see that we do not tend to think of the collective. 

One way this shows up in the workplace is the lack of time, resources and attention given to “teams” in the workplace. In fact, may workplaces either don’t have team meetings at all, or they receive such low priority, meetings don’t often happen. Or if they do happen, they can be full of “What do we need to do” kind of discussions, instead of the kind of discussions that build cohesion and trust. 
When I get called in to deal with conflict in the workplace, I often find that there is no ongoing community (team) space to talk honestly and authentically about the difficult issues. Difficult issues require more than one perspective, or even two - they require an engagement of stark differences and conflict. Not from an enemy orientation (your point of view has no merit and only mine has) – but from a consensus-seeking perspective.    
It is only by creating community-team spaces to talk that we can bring in the diverse individual perspectives that result in wiser decisions.
Does your team have a regular (weekly or bi-weekly) time to meet? When you meet, do you allow time for human connection? A “feelings” check-in can be a quick way to do that. A feelings check in allows for each person to say a feeling, and why they are feeling that way. It could be frustration from being caught in traffic. It could be anxiety about whether a father-in-law will be okay after surgery. It could be stress that there isn’t enough time in the day to get to the priorities.
This simple tool can allow for the continual replenishment of trust and vulnerability that is required for high functioning teams.
If some sort of connecting experience becomes the ongoing practice in a team (regular pot-lucks, birthday celebrations etc also help create this connective foundation), it becomes easier to add-on regular time to also discuss the thornier issues that might impact many members on the team. These include: How should we deal with incidences of “disrespect” on the team?  Do you have permission to hold each other accountable? What about gossip? What is it and where are your own blind spots? How about hopes and dreams and opportunities you collectively see for the future? Or worries, nightmares and threats?
Basing your more strategic team discussions on a bedrock of regular trust-building activities allow the strategic conversations to go more quickly, more deeply and ultimately yield better results. 
However, it is difficult to institute such practices when we are focused on the individual alone. Let’s shift our focus from a hero leader to the best teams, the best service, the best products for our customers.
And together with this shift, let’s create regular time to talk as a community – as a team.
Let me know what you think and your success stories!
"Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishment toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results."
… Andrew Carnegie


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Julia Menard, B.A., Cert. Con. Res., P.C.C.
Leadership & Conflict Coaching, Mediating, & Training



Are you avoiding any conversations you know you should have?

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Making Tough Conversations Great comes in 10 easy to read modules where you learn the Tough Conversations systems with actionable, practical steps. Click here to find out more.

Or check out "Stay Cool Through Hot Conversations", another e-course co-created by Judy Zehr and myself.


Marla Sloan and Clare Sprowell have crafted a beautiful looking and elegantly working process to help people engage conflict kinaesthetically! This “Mediator in a Box" is a tool people can use to practice having those difficult conversations. It was originally designed to help two people resolve their own conflicts together and has been tested to do just that.

If you are curious about what they are offering, you can check out Mediator in a Box

I’d love to hear if you buy it and what you think!

“We change the world when we create the time and space for heartfelt, unique conversations that discuss values and affirm doubts, feelings, and intuition.”   
… Peter Block

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