Four Rivers of Life in 2017

Roger and I have organized our last newsletter of 2017 in the Four Rivers of Life that we learned from Angeles Arrien (1940-2014) during our many years of study with her. According to Angeles, many traditional societies believe that these rivers—Inspiration, Challenge, Surprise and Love—sustain and support us. They also connect us to greater gifts like appreciating one’s life and making sure we are living the life we desire and dream. River of Inspiration Working … Read more…

Dangers of Climbing the Ladder of Inference

I appreciate students and clients who, through their questions or disagreements, invite me to rethink and reconsider what I say and espouse. This happened recently after a two-day workshop on communication and meeting skills with the staff of a governmental agency. I had reviewed the Ladder of Inference to help people learn how to give effective feedback by separating observable behavior (what they see and hear, e.g., when you interrupt me) from inferences or judgments … Read more…

Creating Brave Spaces*

Setting ground rules or conversation guidelines seems to be the sine qua non of meetings these days. Having ground rules can create a safe space for people to interact, but they can also interfere with authentic conversation because people conflate safety with comfort. Is it possible to be both safe and uncomfortable? My husband and business partner Roger James and I believe it is and that it is essential to be able to be both … Read more…

“Duh’s” and “Aha’s”*

When do your best ideas come to you? Perhaps while you are walking, showering, or having a good conversation with people you trust? Or, do they come while you are studying an issue and trying to solve it based on your past experience with solving a similar problem? When faced with a difficult issue many of us try the latter and often come to an impasse or apply an ineffective solution. This happens for two … Read more…

What Do You See?

Look around the room you are in right now. What do you see? I notice the lamp on my desk and the printer to the left of my computer. When I broaden my focus I can see the welcome rain out my window and the quickening of the green in the grass and the darkening of the asphalt in the road. What you see is shaped by the society in which you exist. In societies … Read more…

Asking Good, Big Questions

I love good, big questions. When thoughtfully asked and open-heartedly and open-mindedly received, they evoke deep reflection, deeper than the everyday queries we ask ourselves such as what to have for lunch or when to convene a meeting. My questions tend to emerge during periods of quiet reflection or when I feel a sense of disquiet in my days. They also arise from curiosity and a desire for meaningful conversation, both with others and myself. … Read more…

Why Your Organization’s Culture Matters

In the 1990’s Roger James and I tried to help an engineering firm tackle some difficult issues like retaining staff and completing projects.  The groundbreaking work of Edgar Schein on Organizational Culture and Leadership had just been published. Most leaders and consultants did not understand what culture was nor how it affected organizational performance. Now, with the benefit of having helped numerous organizations successfully define and create strong, desired cultures, I realize that the engineering … Read more…

Patience Is a Virtue*

Imagine you are a four-year-old and a man places a marshmallow on a plate in front of you. He tells you that if you wait 15 minutes before eating that marshmallow you will be given one more. The man leaves and there you are, alone, with that marshmallow and 15 minutes of time. What do you do? If you waited 15 minutes not only did you get to eat two marshmallows, later in life you … Read more…

What’s happening, really?

Sally, a small business owner, shares an idea with an employee, Joe, who furrows his brow as she speaks. Sally assumes that the young man is ready to criticize what she is saying and gets defensive. She begins to build a case in her mind about Joe. “He reacts negatively to any ideas I bring up about the business. I am the boss around here. He should just do what I tell him.” (In her … Read more…