The Call into the Middle with Poetry & Encounter

Trueness calls us to evolve openly throughout our journey. We evolve truly not by doing things differently, but by doing different things; contemplating and acting from our experience and encounter.

The way of being true is in the middle. When I speak of the middle I naturally include leadership in the meaning. The middle is not a place, or even an attitude. Rather, it is freedom implanted in Trueness. From the middle we grow in the ability to release the wish for a different reality than what is. Our experience in forgive everything is opening us to the belonging that is critical to our learning to flow in the reality of the true self. This is the freedom implanted in Trueness.

I am in the middle of work with leaders because true leadership flows through an individual who is:

  • Contemplative−embracing the Trueness guiding one’s Wade
  • Poetic−trusting the Trueness strengthening one’s Walk
  • Loving−seeing through Trueness the blessed Wonder

Standing to one side, denigrating the other, it becomes impossible to pay attention with love. You may love those who agree with you, and kowtow to your narcissistic stance, but you have gained nothing. And, you’ve given nothing.

Your true self is your poetic presence, the resonance of your reality. Within this reality is your freedom to contemplate and act on what is good and right for you to do. Trueness leads you to the middle of self, a blessed jewel present from the beginning. Now you can bring Trueness vividly to the middle of each encounter. Creating such steadiness in your walk is attention magnified by grace, and reality clearing a path for participation.

Participation begins within, and we must grow and transform individually if there is to be any real participation together.

Your rhythm of Trueness is your art. You must trust your rhythm for the sake of the impact you are meant to have in this needy world. In the middle, the inspiring reality of your Trueness, you lead us to allow our differences to blend and belong, bringing us together into reality and participation.

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Creative Tension – Part 1A of 7

Driven by the Impact I desire to have and drawn to the Impact I intend to have, I have for many years been a person who studies.

On the day I began my part of this composition, Judy (my coach, colleague, and friend) and I were talking about a shift in our motivation for reading and studying. We have each come to a place where we no longer study for study-sake. It is now more important to be in study driven by what it is we know we must now learn. And what we now study is in direct support of what we desire and intend to impact.

Modern education is training for autonomy, and in that context, it is almost impossible to admit that knowledge itself is a gift.

–Parker J. Palmer, The Promise of Paradox

In the quest for learning, Judy and I are being challenged to go beyond acquiring for mere practicality and now see our learning for application that is pure.

Please understand, study has served up value and purpose in my life and work. This place where I now stand in life & living requires the shift from a need to study to a need to learn. It is time to bring fullness into the rhythm.

Study is to gather information on the one hand. On the other hand is the need to grow something with what has been gathered. In the sense of application and practice, as I use the term in my coaching, is a true knowing–learning that occurs when the hand of Gather joins the hand of Grow and we then know how to truly Give.

And there lies, with Give, the stand in Creative Tension. Difficult it is to be creative without the tension between what we desire to be real and the possibility we intend.

Impossible it is for me to learn and give of that learning if I do not first receive it as a gift. When received as a gift I find myself soaked in gratitude, and I know then my responsibility is to dry out in the air of giving.

And hence, we have the gift of leadership. A leader holds such tension; holds it long enough to understand what it looks like to give in the present, allowing us to come together and make real the larger story we desire to tell.

A Leadership Poem: You Are Someone

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21st Century Skill Paradox – Part 1

We need your confident leadership in this turbulent and distracting 21st Century. It is a struggle of unnecessary proportion when you attempt to lead void of the time for self that confidence demands. For this reason, your Impact, I consider the first of 7 skills as foundational: Personal/Professional Growth Management.

Hold & Release is a paradox.

What I offer in this writing is for you to open to the truth and blessing found in holding each paradox on the path of growth and development as a leader.

Hold & Release; an active visual that has my attention. It helps me understand the pull I know these days to hold together the requirements I feel from both internal and external forces. This may be in part attributable to the time of life where I find myself. But I also find I am fascinated with the holding of opposites−a reality, that when honored, opens the seeing to beautiful vistas both inside and outside. In actuality I’m being taught the oneness in all I see; that I’m privileged to see.

“Nothing is abstract unless we abstract it.” −Mark Nepo

As Robert A. Johnson says in his book, Owning Your Own Shadow, a contradiction is a quarrel. True paradox is a binding together, a teacher in each opportunity, if we can hold such long enough to see something in the overlap of seeming opposites.

Paradox is a constant reality for you, the 21st Century leader. You benefit from each one only as you hold the two opposing truths together long enough to see what you must release into the intersection that is the more fully formed truth.

When it comes to our growth and development, the distracting contradiction is the mental quarrel that we allow between selfish and selfless as we listen to the narrow, opinionated voice that says we are selfish if we take time for self.

Hold-ReleaseIn order to move beyond the quarrel, you must see a dedication to your growth and development as selfless−making you better for those you lead, influence, and serve. This brings you to the paradox of Skill 1. The two truths you must hold together are Internal Accountability and External Responsibility. It is not one or the other, it is both, and.

In this intersection of truths is your creative tension as a leader. Your leadership boldly enters the 21st Century as you hold this tension, and, from what you see, release into the flow.

In the intersection, in the artful act of Hold & Release, you grow in Authentic Confidence. This is precisely what the world now needs from you, and it is found in this often painful and tense intersection.

Should you not meet the challenge and learning in this paradox, we are cheated as your most authentic strengths remain in the shadows: see the post Shadow Strengths – Chapter One (Impact).

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Skill 1: A Generational Alliance

With this post I begin a series of seven that will work to bridge the desire of experienced leaders with the desire of those in earlier stages of experience. Each post will bridge one of the 7 Skills for 21st Century Leadership between the two.

For the experienced viewpoint, I will offer a summary representative of what I’ve learned coaching leaders in the 21st Century. For the earlier stages, I will offer the precise words of Jason, a young leader of impact.

Mentor as Teacher/Learner of Experience
(Skill 1: Personal/Professional Growth Management)

For the individual to be most powerful, they must be whole. The whole individual is the worker for the 21st Century. Whether within the hierarchy of a multi-national, Fortune 100 company or as a freelance consultant, the ultimate accountability for the development of the individual resides with the individual themselves. … only the individual can choose to explore and discover the wider world for those development opportunities that will help them achieve their life goals. −Ricardo Gonzalez

Mentee as Learner/Teacher in Experience
(Skill 1: Continual Learning and Committed Mentor Relationships)

We have spent over a decade in academic environments and only recently have the opportunity to gain true workplace insight. Be patient in assisting with the transition from the academic environment to the professional environment. Continually provide feedback−honest feedback−and let us know how to better serve before the annual performance review. We need the most guidance in determining where our focus should be; where do we focus our efforts?
−Jason Guinn

Further your reach. Stand firm, arms extended to the left and to the right, and reach across the generations with what you have learned while learning and unlearning with the excitement of a child.

Staying Focused on Purpose

As I was about to begin the outline for chapter five of my book, the stream became cloudy while I was standing in its flow. I lost my presence.

Allowing some fear to enter my consciousness, I focused on the uncertainty of my future. My fifty-fifth birthday had passed by just five days earlier. This must have been a trigger in this unproductive glance ahead. It seems I have always struggled with the in-between birthdays; thirty-five, forty-five and now the double nickel.

This momentary lapse into the uncertainty of the future totally halted my progress and experience as a wader. This is dangerous. To remove myself from the cloudy flow, I had to refocus in the present. We get out of these frightening predicaments one step at a time. If we attempt to wade out with fearful attention on the distant bank, we may be found downstream by some other unfortunate wader after the cloudiness has faded.

If we remain fixed on the fear, it will drain us of hope. The cloudiness not only hindered my purpose, it attacked my confidence. To shield my hope I must know when to step out and when to simply not step in. The stream clears because it stays focused on its purpose. And so it is with me.

Purpose is a commitment to self. This is not a one-time act. It is a perpetual process. Commitment also dictates my continual care to wade responsibly. Being caught in the fear of a cloudy flow distracts me from my purpose. If distracted from my purpose I block the flow and restrict the selfless manifestation of my leadership, influence and service.

Whether or not I can see the bottom, there is joy in the stream. Finding that joy, I am brought yet again back to my purpose; and back into the present.

Purpose

Your ability to reach out into the world is in direct proportion to how effectively you reach within.

Purpose – leveraging who you are – becomes the structure for the sustainability of your full reach. The clarity of purpose can help us see busyness for what it really is; a distraction.

I first met her when attending a regional conference as a breakout presenter. Brenda was the keynote speaker during the lunch gathering. She was engaging, humorous and energetic in giving the best presentation I had ever heard on diversity – and she never even said the word.

Brenda had started her inspirational speaking career after leading an organization for twenty years. She was now out of the day-to-day routine of a ‘job’ and free to do her own thing. In our work together she consistently beat herself up about a need to be more organized; to end the suffering caused by her self-diagnosed procrastination. In my work I’ve learned when someone so readily prescribes these labels to oneself, there is a deeper issue. A lack of organization and the presence of perceived procrastination are only symptoms.

One particular day brought the conversation that would either move Brenda forward in purpose or send her back into the false-confidence of busyness. As if afraid of my reaction, she looked somewhat past me and said, “I think I might need to go back to a regular job with a regular schedule.” I let that statement hang out there a bit and then said, “Let me ask you a question. In your previous role, how many meetings did you attend?” She said, “I was in meetings all the time.” I continued, “And how many times were those meetings effective and valuable for what you wanted to accomplish?” She held up a big goose egg gesture and said, “Almost none.” I couldn’t contain myself as I asked with some added volume, “And that gave you purpose?” Hanging her head like a child caught in the act of a no-no, she said, “No!”

There is not space here to describe the impact the world enjoys as Brenda lives her purpose while acting on her values and allowing her voice to flow. Her ability to reach authentically into the world is in direct proportion to her willingness to reach within and embrace what she finds. Brenda quickly learned that the topics of procrastination and being more organized were not the barriers she originally thought they were once seen in the clarifying light of purpose.

Purpose becomes a motivation as you embrace and leverage who you are and make choices in light of your authenticity.

Purpose is a commitment to self – an internal commitment leading to a selfless manifestation of your leadership and influence. The core of your purpose is to flow – to be you in a way that amplifies your values and voice in this world.

Intent

Attention that is firmly directed in the present is a result of conscious intent. Intent is conviction and precedes commitment. Intent is also a predecessor to purpose in that it can tell one much about who they are at the core.

Intent begins as a need.

I will never forget my experience with writing my personal mission statement at the age of forty-one. I was carefully studying Stephen R. Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I took three months to work my way through Covey’s book and firmly directed my attention on the section about creating a personal mission statement.

This mission statement exercise was a difficult one requiring me to mentally traverse back through the years. I was astounded by how much of my attention was placed on the person I was at age seventeen. As I remembered that seventeen year old, I saw a young man for whom a lot had come together. There was a level of confidence that had not been exhibited to that point. There was a sense of self that was present with this young man. He was happy with who he was. As part of the mission statement exercise I set a goal to be more like that seventeen year old.

Three things stood out about this seventeen year old work-in-progress. One was that I seemed to be present with what was occurring in my life. Next, I was positive about the future, and finally, I had begun to honor intrinsic need. This young man began to become conscious of how much he needed love and understanding. At the same time he desperately desired to find his place of service in this life.

I sat there at my desk with the completed mission statement typed and framed. I held in my hands the tangible product of some exhausting, introspective work.  As I sat there and read my completed mission manuscript, the pride slowly turned to a bit of panic as I seemed to realize for the first time how many times I used the word ‘Listen.’

Being alone in my office didn’t stop me from blurting out, “I suck at listening.” At that moment intent was formed because of need. An obligation was created by my need to make the act of listening a cornerstone of my conscious mission.

Right then I dedicated all my study for growth and development in the direction of becoming a great listener. In this specific instance I didn’t just want to be a listener, I had the desire to be a great listener. The desire was formed as I authentically spoke my personal mission.

Intent is conviction and precedes commitment. How far we are able to reach out into the world is in direct proportion to how deeply we are able to reach within ourselves. Intent is our internal reach and commitment is our external reach.

While other individuals and specific events may inspire us, we are each solely accountable for our motivation. As an individual, you must open to intrinsic need – where your desire to address this need is not dependent on external circumstances or on others approval.

Open to your own intent so you may have will enough to act; to free desire in finding a form in which it can be spoken authentically.

Awareness is encouraged by acts of intent. As you open to the internal reach of intent you are now free to learn powerful and positive things about yourself. You have opened to the flow. You have stepped into the stream.