Friday, July 10, 2020

Leadership Tip 10: Leading Through Change

Leadership Expectation: Be a Visionary

Everyone reacts differently to the prospect of change, and most of these reactions are based on emotion. When an individual is presented with a change, their response will be informed by their internal opinion on whether this is a “good” or a “bad” change—and we each decide what is good and what is not based on our past experiences. Change is inevitable, and helping others manage their responses is a big part of leading through it.

Tips for leading others through change:
  • Make a good first impression. As leaders, folks around us watch to see how we will react. Then, they use this observation to inform their own reaction. When presenting the team with a change, try to find the positive or at least deliver the news in a positive way without going overboard or minimizing the scope of the effect. When your positivity fails, try confidence as a way to carry your message. State facts instead of opinions, and keep conversations focused on those.
  • Be consistent. Continuing to move forward with a positive attitude, even in smaller group settings, is an important part of keeping the positive vibe around the change. If we speak in a positive manner in front of the group but talk down about the change in private conversations, this will not only diminish the positivity of the team but will also serve to hurt the trust they have in you as a leader.
  • Keep communication open. Be honest, be straightforward, ask questions, and leave room for answers.
  • Relieve barriers as they arise. With change comes a learning curve as well as potential barriers to successful implementation. As a leader, do not hesitate to escalate when a barrier arises and help alleviate what you can.
  • Model the behavior you want to see. Be the champion of the change! Reward and reinforce the positive behaviors and coach those reluctant to accept the change to work their way toward acceptance.
  • Most of all, give people time. Even if a change must occur immediately, everyone needs to work through their emotions on their own pace. Working through their emotions does not mean they do not have to comply. It just means they don’t have to like it. 

A note of caution: leading through change does not mean WE will not experience our own emotions. We must also give ourselves the time we need to adjust to the change. Being open and honest about our concerns and fears and moving forward in spite of them will demonstrate the culture of how our collective "we" adopts and implements change.

Tip #10: When faced with a change, lead others through it with confidence, honesty, and consistency. 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

The Blue Flower

The Summer Solstice is usually a time for in-person celebrations: food, fun, sunshine, and fellowship. This year, with the social distancing in full swing, it feels a lot less festive. This seriousness in the air has left me a bit more contemplative than usual, and the following is a result of such musings.

As many of you know, my youngest son has stayed here in Colorado with us for the summer. The older two will also be staying in Columbus for safety. To help alleviate the pang of loss, I've dedicated to taking him hiking every weekend for the duration of the good weather. Our first couple of hikes were at the Rabbit Mountain Open Space, since many of the other trails were closed temporarily (more social distancing). I was surprised by the tapestry of flowers visible this time of year, since I typically only hike in the later summer months when the older kids are in town. I took dozens of photos of all the plants I met along the way, but one flower in particular captured my thoughts.

There was this tiny blue flower, tall stem, little green leaves, four petals, growing straight up in the shadow of a large bush. At first glance, it looked really lonely in there. There were so many other flowers just six feet away, and here is sat, in this dark space, alone. It looked to fragile there. I didn't take a photo of this flower, because of the looming bush. but the image was burned into my mind. What was it about that flower that was so remarkable?

After another mile or more of walking and thinking, I had the realization that the flower, seemingly alone in the dark, was actually well protected. The bush provides shade from the harsh desert sun and a barrier from the powerful mountain winds. It won't be bent or broken by a rainstorm or trampled by a human. It's free to be there, safe and hidden away from what would cause it harm. Then it hit me: this flower is so remarkable to me, because it IS me.

My life hasn't always been easy or gone as planned. I've been through some pretty big things, and in the shadows of my own thoughts and feelings, I have felt alone and isolated. But, I have also been blessed with protection, support, and shelter from the storms that rage around me--and that has made all the difference.

During this time of uncertainty when the world feels far away, remember that in the darkness surrounding you are a whole host of others who are your companions in this. Draw strength and comfort from them and know you are not alone, just like that blue flower.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Kisa Gotami and the Mustard Seeds: A Tale of Growth through Understanding

Read the tale of Kisa Gotami and a lesson in compassion on the Mountain Ancestors Blog: Prairie Tidings.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Leadership Tip 9: Recognizing and Leveraging Strengths

Leadership Expectation: Support Personal Development

We’ve spoken at length about recognizing and leveraging the strengths of our team members, but what does that mean? How do we determine a person’s strengths, let alone “leverage” them? 

It starts with relationship-building. As we build professional relationships, part of our getting to know one another must involve making note of self-reported best qualities (what others think they are good at) as well as observed performance (what we have evidence that they are good at). The four most common and useful strengths are: Communication Skills, Planning Skills, Problem-Solving Skills, and Tenacity. 

Communication skills are not always easy to teach. Some folks are inherently good communicators and others are decidedly not. Placing a good communicator in connection with an under-communicator can often help the under-communicator to improve.

Planners and note-takers are typically undervalued, but these folks are necessary, especially for complex projects or long-term goals. They are also typically good at keeping track of progress and seeing the big picture where others may only see the parts relevant to them. 

Problem-solvers think outside the box, and when you find yourself stuck in one, you will be grateful for their ability to find solutions to problems that allude the rest of the team.

Tenacity is a latent skill that doesn’t show itself until it is needed. Tenacious employees rise to the top when the going gets tough. They perform well under stress and often do their best thinking under difficult circumstances (when the planners start to lose it). 

Finding the strengths of our team members is an important part of developing them as individuals, because it shows us what types of tasks will help them grow and which ones will give them the opportunity to shine. Development is a balance of validating the skills they already have while pushing them to try new things. 

Start now by building relationships and getting to know what those around you are doing well. Make note of when they ask for help and what those tasks are. As we build these strengths profiles for those around us, we can open ourselves to finding the right balance of tasks to lead our employees to become better versions of themselves. 

Finally, personal development mandates that you also make a list of your own strengths. What are you good at? What do you struggle with? Where do you have room to grow? Learning to recognize and leverage your own strengths will show you best how to do this for those around you.

Tip #9: Find the balance between doing what you know you are good at and trying something new.

Bonderud, D. (2018). How to identify and leverage employee strengths. Spark. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Journey of Protection and Knowledge

You may wish to grab some paper and a pen, etc., to write down notes at the end of this journey.

Breathe with me. Breathe in and feel your lungs expanding with fresh, clean air. Exhale and feel yourself letting go of the worries and concern you’ve been holding. Feel your shoulders relax, feel your body sink deeper into your chair, feel yourself at peace as you continue to breathe.

In your mind’s eye, you see a path before you. It is a path you’ve walked before, and you know it leads to your inner nemeton, the place within the otherworld where you meet with your spirit allies. As you begin to follow this path, you notice the signs of wildlife and new growth. This place smells of wildflowers and damp, cool earth. You breathe in these smells, filling your heart as you fill your lungs, with memory.

When you reach the nemeton, you notice a fire in the center of the clearing, right where you’ve kindled it many times before, and you know others have been here, tending and caring for this place as is your bargain. You walk to the altar where fresh flowers have been strewn about the shrine of the Earth Mother, grain spilled onto the ground in her honor. You add your offerings to this shrine with reverence and respect. You feel her gratitude in the bottom of your feet—a deep heart-beat pulsation in the earth.

You take up the solid incense and oil and move to the fire. You take your seat before the hearth and make offerings, calling to those who would guide you in this work. You speak their names into the aether within and feel their echoing reply.

Now, rest deeply into your seat before the fire and allow your mind’s eye vision to blur. Close your eyes, if you would like, and follow the path of your breath to your center. Create a sphere of protection within yourself, and enfold your heart within it, protecting you from emotional pain and suffering. Breathe in and as you exhale, enlarge the sphere to include your mind, protecting you from painful thoughts and psychic harm. Breathe in and as you exhale, enlarge the sphere to encompass your entire body, shielding you from that which means you ill. And as you breathe in once more, enlarge the sphere to encase the clearing where your nemeton lies, protecting all those you allow within from outside harm.

Seated, safe and protected, within your sphere, you open your mind’s eye to see the shimmering boundary of your orb, swirling and pearlescent in the firelight. You see a shape approaching the orb which resolves into a familiar one—your guide and guardian, come to stand sentinel in your space, admitting those who pass scrutiny for good intentions.

Now, open your awareness to take in your surroundings. You feel animal and plant spirits going about their business in the clearing and beyond. You see others, beings you know, appearing, drawn by your Good Fire. They come before your guardian ally.  They nod to one another and the first being enters. You gesture for them to sit opposite you across the hearth and wait. When they are settled, you ask why they have come and listen to their words intently, making note of them in your waking mind to recall later. *pause*

They thank you and rise to depart with the council you have given them. You look toward your guardian ally to see if anyone else comes, repeating the hospitality and sharing as others arrive, noting their requests and concerns. *pause*

You sit mindfully with the fire when all the guests have gone, reflecting on what you have learned. *pause*

After careful cataloging of the experiences and requests made of you, you rise, and thank your guardian for their work. You begin to retract your sphere, slowly shrinking the orb until it encompasses you alone and becomes one with your flesh, a protective layer that shimmers, brightens, and fades into you.

You wave your hand over the fire, which dims, smolders, and finally goes out, trails of smoke leaving the spent logs like incense in a censer. You begin walking away from your nemeton with a final nod in thanks to the Earth, Mother of all, who witnesses and holds your every journey.

Once you have reached the place where you began, you turn your mind’s eye back to your physical body. Become aware of your heartbeat. Feel your breath in your lungs. Feel your body in your chair and begin to stretch and awake yourself once more. When you have fully arrived, take a moment to recall your exchanges, preparing to share what you can with us.

Write a few notes, if you wish, to remind you of what you have learned today.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Leadership Tip 8: Everyone Leads

Leadership Expectation: Promote Team Mentality

The dominant leadership paradigm in the United States is one in which few lead and everyone else is expected to follow. As we all know, this approach works in crisis moments, but for general operation, expecting everyone to be a follower will not result in a strong team. Part of building or re-building a team lies in our ability to promote the strengths of every team member in a way that shows each person how important they are to the team. When done successfully, everyone is a leader, and the team will flourish even when management is not physically present.

Here are the five core values of building a team where Everyone Leads:

Focus on Assets. Instead of focusing on what you think your team needs to get in order to be successful, focus on what assets they already have. Everyone is both “half-empty” and “half-full.” We all have strengths and areas for improvement. Recognize and leverage the untapped array of assets as the building blocks that make the foundation of your team.

Diversity and Inclusion. In addition to our differing strengths and areas for growth, we also have differing perspectives. Part of making the team strong is including these differences in the way we view the world. Welcome and encourage constructive disagreement and ensure those who have the courage to Speak Up are included and not socially ostracized for their discourse. It is too easy to hold those who are different to standards that differ from those with whom we agree. Honor AND include diverse people and points of view.

Collaboration. As our working styles assessment shows, we also differ in how we engage our work. Knowing ourselves (including our own strengths, weaknesses, and biases) teaches us how best to work with one another. Give introverts time to reflect and extroverts time to discuss. Hold neutral space for those who need time to process, especially when big decisions or changes are on the table.

Continuous Learning. Remember that “half-empty” part? We all have room to grow. Continually seeking new lessons in our everyday world ensures we are always learning. Being open to learning requires us to be truthful about our shortcomings. As leaders, developing these areas in others not only adds to their individual skillsets but strengthens the trust and solidarity of the team.

Integrity and Accountability. Integrity is being true to ourselves. Accountability is being true to one another. Leadership requires a strong inner core where our sense of purpose and values lie. If everyone leads, then the inner cores of all team members must be aligned in terms of the purpose and values of the team. Only then can we achieve the integration we need to truly be a high-functioning team where everyone leads.

Tip #8: Everyone has the potential to add value to our teams. 

Schmitz, P. (2012). Everyone leads: Building leadership from the community up. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Divinity Beyond Monotheism

Polytheism has long been defined as a multiplicity of divinity, though modern beliefs range from the singular to the non-existent and everything in between. The early cosmotheologians of the Indo-Europeans were hard polytheists, believing in a set of distinct, individual deities as evidenced in the Hellenic Greek, Germanic, and Vedic religions. After Aristotle’s ponderings of an “Unmoveable Mover” in his Metaphysics, the idea of a creator God with a hierarchy of lesser beings underneath took root, making it easier to accept the notion of a monotheism, and several previously polytheistic peoples were converted to faiths such as Christianity. We see similar changes in the east involving the early Indians and Islam. Today among pagans, we still see a varied approach to the nature of divinity from the “All is One” seen in Universal Spiritualists societies to dualism (two opposite gendered deities) and aspecting (a mostly singular entity that can appear in any form) in Wiccan practices to the hard polytheism held by Druids and some eclectic pagans. Humanist pagans even argue for a non-existent or at least divinity-within/universalist perspective.

Pre-axial Hellenic, Germanic, and Vedic practices are all considered part of the Indo-European family of religions due to their similarities, one of which is the belief that there are multiple and separate beings known as deities, gods, or “Shining Ones.” Though the evidence for such a concept is not recorded verbatim in the recorded lore, this can be deduced from anthropological examination of their religious behaviors. For example, each deity had separate rituals, received their own offerings, and often had their own shrines and/or temples (Armstrong, 2006, p. 4). Their understanding of the cosmos was a reflection of their own world, meaning individual deities as plentiful as individual people in the middle realm.

Personally, while open to continued learning and growing in this area, I am a hard polytheist. I have “met” many beings, and after the work of the Court of Brighid with Rev. Ian Corrigan, I do not foresee any other way of viewing the world for me. Divinity is the collective of all the beings, as divinity lives within us, AND we are all individual beings.