21st Century Skill Paradox – Part 6

The 21st Century highway of management is jammed with those speeding to solve as they exercise limiting judgment, fixes, and attempts to otherwise set another straight.

We manage process and we lead the individual. As a leader you are a facilitator. To Facilitate means “to make easy.” This doesn’t mean you ignore conflict or difficulty. Quite the opposite is true as you facilitate the necessary holding together of good process and desired outcomes.

“For peace and agitation are stitched together and, tugged on, they unravel a thread of Oneness.” −Mark Nepo, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen

I was very fortunate in my corporate career to have opportunity to take advantage of good learning experiences. Such learning was in the balance of classroom and application; practicing knowledge into a skill. The skill I treasure is that of Listening. This skill has served me well in my coaching, and molded me into a facilitator who can create and navigate dialogue.

Listening is the foundation of 21st Century Skill 6: Collective Facilitation.

In my corporate experience I was given much opportunity to practice as a facilitator. Early on I knew enough to be moderately effective and dangerous at the same time. Let me illustrate.

My customer service manager and his team approached me and asked that I facilitate a session to assist them in working through an important issue with their service work. We scheduled everything, gathered together, and got to work. So there I was standing in front of them facilitating. The team came together around the information needed and I dismissed them to go and collectively implement what they thought best.

A week passed and I had not heard any follow-up or follow-thru on their decision. I called Bill, the manager, to my office and asked what they had decided to do. His response, “We did what you told us to do.”

I was stunned. I asked Bill to tell me what he had heard from me. He did. And I was stunned even further−not by him or the team. I was slapped with the reality of the lack of neutral focus in my brand of facilitation. As I supposedly facilitated, I had unconsciously also participated: participation at a level that was easily perceived as an order or a request from their division leader.

I had unintentionally held their loyalty in a manner that diminished their full creative abilities and individual and collective contribution.

Skill 6If left apart, good process and desired outcomes pull against one another.

If focused upon one at a time, as is usually the case, they are left in conflict causing us to ignore one or the other.

To expertly be with the skill of Collective Facilitation, you must hold the two circles together where they merge in support of the depth of listening required.

You then facilitate in the power of a neutral focus.


Read about the shadow strength related to Focus; Shadow Strengths – Chapter Six (Focus)

BCL Blog 4



Skillfully Generous – Focus (Coming Together)

Dave and John are two leaders who are skillfully generous in their own specialized ways. Each approach, while different, exhibits powerful similarity: Focus−an attraction to a common, collaborative center.

Dave is a natural storyteller. He leads with story−a commitment to the priority of coming together. Dave keeps those he leads in the story. As all are busy with implementation and execution, he continually helps each individual “see” the value of any desired direction, and possible consequent action, in terms of People Value.

Too many in leadership positions know intellectually the right things to do but are held back from generous action debilitated by busyness. Not John. Dedicated to the same priority as Dave to the coming together, John draws individuals toward a collaborative center by simply showing up. As the one in-charge he is anything but elusive. John is committed to his connection methodology of simply stopping by to talk with individuals throughout the organization. He shows up at events where he listens to thought leaders and customers.

Personal presence, confident and open, is the source for focus; a drawing of individual energy to a collaborative center. And the leader’s generous delight keeps us energized for the work of the moment and for the next challenge.

Dave and John seek out information important to collective, focused direction.

Dave’s leadership in and with the story is balanced by his stand that What is for the mind and Why is for the heart. Both he and John know you must have both for people to be engaged.

Whether it is pulling us together in and by the story or modeling for us how to collaborate in the story, it is the generosity of leaders like Dave and John that draws us in and then out.

BCL Blog 4

Our Outer Accountability – Living Focus

Commitment as an individual begins the flow that unfolds into a productive, collective accountability.

The act of becoming a facilitator was accomplished in the art of practice. Without the risk of trial and error−and as I learned and played with new knowledge−I would have never found myself standing in the middle of varying collectives ready to listen and flow with what I heard.

In my hunger for knowledge I become ever more accountable for what I do with the knowing; and what I do must translate into a living focus. Focus lives externally, in outer accountability, only as it finds life internally; rooted deeply in your passion. Your outwardly focused passion, supported by values, strengths, and skill, is precisely what we need from you when you are standing before us.

Our moment-to-moment experience is improvisational, even though it exists within a structure or plan. … True improvisation is always an act of responsibility: it implies a conscious morality.
−Patricia Ryan Madson, Improv Wisdom

Living focus means you keep going in spite of failure; and yes, in spite of success. Remember, that in leadership, maturity is about practice. The art of practice opens you to the flow and connection of knowledge and application−a perpetual learning-to-application impact. This is the progressive power of accountability.

In view of a larger story, your focus is a choice−a decision confidence to which we are drawn as you trust your own passion and purpose.

See companion truth –  Our Inner Territory – A Source for Focus

Know Thyself – Focus in the 21st Century

What is the congruous impact of your focus?

In the presence of a manager who cannot facilitate a unifying focus, we lose hope for the collective possibilities.

Focus is not just doing one thing at a time. This narrow definition does not begin to narrate the story of focus required of us in this 21st Century. True leadership emanates from the flow of inner to outer; from the internal to the external. In other words, your impact in this world is driven forth (pushed and pulled) from who you are.

In the flow of such leadership you can be with us from the core of your experience unhindered by border distractions. In his book, The Courage to Teach, Parker J. Palmer builds his case around one powerful assertion: “We teach who we are.”

As I am studying Palmer’s work, I am substituting “coach” for “teach.” And yes, it is true: I coach who I am! Continually I am thankful for the validation of my impact flowing through my Desire & Intent−my Living Methodology.

In the journey of years, this methodology of focus has helped me discover a simple and complex dedication to a cycle of energy diligently rooted in my true self. Knowing yourself in the balance of internal/external supports how you facilitate peace/unity from the middle−a place to stand in the leverage of your personal focus.

Like a loving teacher (or coach as it were) a leader is known as great as he/she opens broad potential through a narrow and powerful portal of focus−grounded in the energy of who they are.

A Soul Dance with Focus

Thanks to a select few who know and love me largely, I’ve been brought into the deep presence of impact. As these individuals shared their thoughtful and carefully chosen words I sensed the consistent message of import.

Their words were steps in a dance exercise with focus that my coach choreographed. I have never been much of a dancer, but I do love an engaging tempo−a cadence appropriate to the moment and the dialogue needed to dance with the significance found there.

Instead of asking myself what more I need to do, and killing myself and my creative powers in the process of attempting to carry it out, I ask myself: What is the courageous conversation I am not having? −David Whyte, The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship

The message in the loving feedback spoke to the congruous impact of my focus. As I allowed the spirit in their words to soak into my soul I began to feel the tension of validation and commitment.

The validation was to the impact of my methodology of focus; a simple and complex dedication to a cycle of energy that has been diligently built on my core throughout many years of journey.

The commitment? That is the assignment from my coach. To answer this I plan on being with it all for a bit free of judgment and labeling. This freeing approach is important as I am drawn to David Whyte’s question, What is the courageous conversation I am not having?

As I do for others, I will hear and hold the gift of their conversational participation and learn some flowing new choreography.

Skill 6: A Generational Alliance

You may have noticed a theme building in Jason’s definitions with each of these 7 21st Century Leadership Skills. He is clearly expressing a desire for inclusion; to be in on the why and to be a partner in bringing about a vision (a story).

Mentor as Teacher/Learner of Experience
(Skill 6: Collective Facilitation)

Think of a leader in your experience who truly prepared you for the journey. This would be someone who did not guide you from the periphery of their own context. Instead, they guided from the core of their own experience undeterred by border distractions.

As my wade has taken me to the middle of my stream of experience, I feel the definite current of accountability.

Interest creates energy.

Mentee as Learner/Teacher in Experience
(Skill 6: Guidance and Steering)

Creating interest in a common vision is of incredible importance. Help us to first understand the direction we are heading and what “success” might look like. Then give us the freedom to fill in the blanks by using the particular skills and assets that we bring in a manner that is familiar, comfortable, and productive. Create meaningful boundaries that focus efforts. Then genuinely allow us the freedom to devise new strategies and develop new processes to reach the desired end. Challenge fundamental beliefs about the mechanics of “work” – where, when, and how it must take place. Realize that we want desperately to succeed and that we will demonstrate desired outcomes, even if we use nontraditional processes to achieve those results. −Jason Guinn

More than ever, free the core of who you are, launch into the skill of Collective Facilitation, and share focused guidance with an attentive generation.

Individual and collective impact is a complex outcome from the simplicity of focus−illuminated by your confident stance in the flow of accountability for those led, influenced, and served.

Release Focus into Skill 6

We too often ignore a truth in our society; all things flow from the internal to the external. When ignored this is an out-of-balance situation. Individually or collectively, we cannot be our best if not in balance.

Balance cannot be achieved, much less maintained, when a leader makes a stand to the left or to the right. The balanced leader facilitates unity from the tense wisdom of the middle.

Listening to another person (or even a collective of persons) is not just about gathering information. Listening from your core into the core of others is the key to the chest of treasure. The greatest of the jewels to be found among the treasure is that of respect. −Wading the Stream of Awareness (Focus Chapter)

To facilitate a collective is to move toward and build upon understanding; the birth of alignment. Remember that consensus is about agreement, and is only one way to make a decision; and that alignment is about unity−and unity is an outcome of the balance created only in respectful dialgoue in the creative tension of the middle.

You are leveraging the heart of focus when allowing the clarity of your intended impact to guide your choices and decisions. (Focus Chapter)

In the hope of balance I have begun to think on, and talk much about, leading from the tension of the middle. Decision needs the clarity of choice as decision is external and choice is internal.

It is a beautiful paradox, that the narrowness of focus opens to one’s broad impact−a complex outcome of simple focus. From your core into the core of others: This is the magical balance when you are facilitating what is of most value to a collective.

See sister post, Letting Go into Focus