Center for Human Emergence NL – Landing

We’ve been through an intense few weeks! Following on from the “releasing our claims” session and energetic dissolution of the Board mentioned in the last blog, we spent two days with Brian and Tom on holacracy, and an afternoon with Terry Patten from the Integral Institute.

One of the key things we learned from Holacracy was to look really clearly at what is actually there at the moment in terms of organisation – what is the organisation actually counting on people to do (accountabilities) – and to organise around that, rather than around the grand visions that we have of what we would like to be doing… That has provided great clarity and simplicity as we move into creating supportive organisational structure and processes that enable what is, whilst holding space for current tensions to manifest next steps.

There was a similar theme in our work with Terry, which was facing up to what is really present for people – surfacing the current tensions – “face everything, avoid nothing”, as one of Andrew Cohen’s tenet’s goes. It’s amazing how much we don’t say to each other, even though we consider ourselves to be “brothers/sisters-in-arms” on this evolutionary edge. Naming the judgements and tensions we are carrying releases huge energy to actually do the things that need to be done – engaging the issues that have been unspoken. It felt like a collective landing in the messiness of our relative reality – re-entering the marketplace as friends.

It feels to me as if dissolving the formal roles in the organisation has also helped people to be more themselves and get clearer on what their actual work is. And the funny thing is, the work that people are feeling called to still happens – without any formal structure! And that is what we are looking for – how can we create a minimal structure that simply aligns and supports the work that people are naturally being called to – whilst at the same time consciously identifying work that the organisation needs that currently isn’t being done – and finding the people that best fit that work.

It feels as if things are naturally falling into place, the dust of letting go attachments and fears is settling, and an eerie kind of calm is forming – fragile, delicate and real. As we enter the darkest period of the year, our roots are dropping deep, and we gather ourselves for the return of the light. The Spiral spins, the cycles turn and all is very well.

Leadership as the System – CHE NL Next Steps

When wondering whether to write this, I doubted because of the lack of clarity I had about exactly what I was going to write – but then remembered that that is the beauty of blogging – I can just tell the story and see how it unfolds…

If you have been following this story, you may remember an earlier blog in which I described a previous important step that we made in the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands and the decision-making around that. One of the key elements of that early phase was my decision to essentially gather around me the people who I most trusted, and with whom I felt vertical and horizontal solidarity – i.e. resonance at the level of consciousness and with appropriate skills. There was no formal structure or process around this – it was essentially a Purple system of leadership (colour code references to Spiral Dynamics Integral).

It has worked for a while, holding the centre and going deep into what it is we really want to be creating and what kind of organisational form could best support that. As a Purple system, it has by definition been pretty inward-focused, with justified complaints from outside the inner circle of a lack of transparency and little idea of what we were actually up to. In hindsight it would have been possible to hold that space and to have continued informing others of the process we were in, but somehow that energy does not support it. Anyway, we kept our focus and intention clear, through periods of insight and enthusiasm as well as phases of confusion and self-doubt.

In the last 6 months, we have been increasingly focused on how to put in place the kind of structure that would serve an integral evolutionary perspective  – to walk our talk as an organisation. Spiral’s Natural Design templates, Dee Hock’s Chaordic flow, and the Holacracy concepts have all played an important role.

In the last few weeks we have had the feeling that we were very close to manifesting it, but that it just wasn’t quite there yet. In that time it dawned on me that we were missing an important piece of the puzzle. Our focus had primarily been on the structural perspective (Wilber’s LR quadrant) and we had not been giving much attention to the LL Collective Field quadrant. This is where the link to Purple comes in. I realised that if we were going to move beyond where we were now, then we were going to have to release the energy of our Purple field. Structurally what we are trying to do is put in place a healthy Blue system (designed from Second Tier) that will lift the organisation beyond a co-dependancy upon me as its founder, into a space where it has clear structures and processes, so that anyone looking at our governance from outside would be able to see clearly how we are organised and why certain people are in certain positions. At the moment it is just because I have asked them to be there, and we need to move beyond that. To do this required a serious energetic intervention.

What I realised was that the only way to do this was for me as the Purple founder (“tribal chief”) to step in to make that happen. I decided that we needed to actually dissolve ourselves as a Board before we would really be able to let go of the past to let come the future. If we did that, the only function that would be left would be mine, as the “lead-link” from CHE Global, and that for this transition period I would have to hold the leadership on my own to enable the next phase to emerge. So we would create an energetic vacuum into which the future would be sucked, rather than trying to create it from the old structure and culture. Scharmer’s Theory U backs this up.

I got a reinforcement of this position during our recent retreat, when the core group (Board and others) were skilfully guided through a process of becoming conscious of any claims we had on the CHE as a system, i.e. what are we demanding that the CHE system gives us before we can be a whole person (e.g. a place to be recognised and loved, a place to be heard etc) – and then letting go of those claims. As we went round the circle and people stood up to release their claims, I became aware of a huge energy flowing through me, and realised that as the founder, people’s claims on the system were also energetically claims on me.

So during our Board meeting last Friday, I decide to take things into my hands again, pull the energy of the organisation to me once more, and see if I could facilitate a letting go. A core element in what helps a group to let go is that they feel they have been honoured for the work they have done in the past period – after all, we are only where we are now thanks to the path that has been walked. So in the days before I contacted the next circle of people around the Board and I asked them to send me a testimony/appreciation of the work that this group had done. Beautiful things arrived in my mail box, including poetry, and as I pulled them together the evening before our meeting I had a strong sense that we were on the right path.

During the meeting, after we had checked in and dealt with practical stuff, I explained what I felt I needed to do, and why I felt I needed to step into a different leadership role for the moment and hold the space as the founder. I had no idea how people were going to respond, and it was a great relief to hear the group’s appreciation of this step and indeed the relief that they felt at me taking that leadership position. We were well placed for release. Next I handed out the testimonies I had received from others and we read them in silence. You could feel the field deepen and expand. I then invited us all to go into a round of appreciation of our time and work together over the last period, which proved to be very powerful, for me as much as for anyone else.

As I sensed into that question (“what do I appreciate about this group?”) I could feel the emotions surging up, and what powered its way through was a deep sense of gratitude that a group of people would have the faith in me and the vision I held to step into a journey which had no clear destination. I can offer no result – only a clear commitment and intention – and yet these crazy crew were ready to devote their time and energy to manifesting whatever it was we had to do together. These Dutch have explorer genes in them  – their ancestors got into flimsy boats to cross the oceans without knowing what they would find – and bless them for that.

Once the circle was finished, one of our company who is particularly sensitive to the collective energy field said she could see that it had shifted – our letting go had happened. I don’t really know what the implications of this are going to be, it just feels like the space we have created is what we need to hold if we are really going to allow the next phase to emerge. We are working with Brian Robertson from Holacracy this coming week, and I have a sense that the last pieces might just fall into place.

We will see, and I will keep you posted!

Leadership from the Field

These thoughts emerged in an email I wrote as we explored “leadership” in the context of the Center for Human Emergence Netherlands (www.humanemergence.nl):

It feels to me like we need to think of leadership as leadership in the Field – regardless of specific formal positions in the structures etc. And that we continually need to implicate ourselves. So a shift from “you” to “us”. A world where the One and the Many are transcended but included. Leadership as holding the energetic space that one is called to hold, and that fits with the energetic resonance that one emits from the Spiral, as well as personality archetypes, and other lines of development. This will be in many different functions and levels in organisations and societies, woven together in an ecological holarchy where there is no judgement about the “level”, simply natural functional fit.

Leadership

I wrote a mail today to the group who are developing the CHE’s organisational structure.
I was trying to express clearly what the nature of Integral leadership might look like. I
have no idea what kind of response it might trigger, and all kinds of doubts kicked in
after I sent it, yet deep down I know that we cannot compromise on this if we are going to
make a real impact. History will tell if I got this moment right…

“The issue is that of leadership, and particularly the order part of the chaordic design. I
found in general too much emphasis going on the chaos and self-organising side –
particularly statements such as “Amongst the stars [people] there is no leadership.” We
are going to need very strong leadership in this organisation. By leadership I mean
holding the boundaries that will create the right kind of space to make this truly a
second-tier organisation. A leadership team from this perspective will contain people
who are a step ahead on the Spiral of the main body of CHE members – that is a core
principle of Spiral and Evolutionary Leadership. That means that we will not be electing
leadership in a representative democracy process, which tends to return the average
rather than leading thinking. Representative Democracy is a manifestation of the Green
system and will not deliver the kind of leadership that we need.

“The pull for this organisation to slip down into a flatland Green form will be great. We
will need leadership with the clarity and courage to hold the tension into second tier if we
are going to be successful in our endeavours. I intend to lead this organisation for the
immediate future, and to do my best to make sure that the people we have carrying out
different functions are there because they are the best people to do that – and that
judgment has a vertical element (centre on the Spiral) and a horizontal element to it
(capacities, skills etc). I will take responsibility for safe-guarding the verticality and
stratified democracy in the organisation. This will of course encounter resistance (and
you may even feel it in yourself as you read this), but if it didn’t then we would already
have done our job and there would be no need for the CHE. I for one am going to ensure
that that evolutionary tension remains in place, and am ready to explain it to anybody
who is ready to listen.

“Expect flak, expect projected pain and hurt from the sensitive self, expect people leaving
the organisation because they can’t handle it. The numbers that remain will give us a true
picture of how established second-tier really is in this country. Maybe there are people
amongst this very group who don’t resonate with the leadership I describe above and
decide to leave. I hope not, as I feel deep down the huge potential that we have, and the
learning edge that we need to be on ourselves if we are to authentically trigger this edge
in the society. However it is ultimately up to each individual to feel where they can
contribute most at this critical time.”