The Still Point

In the midst of the onslaught of emails, Facebook posts, and LinkedIn messages about all the do’s and don’ts during this exceptional time, I meditate. Each of us appears to be searching for inspiration. One morning, T.S. Eliot’s words about the still point floated into my mind from my years as an English literature major in college. I will not use his words to add to the list of tips flooding social media. I will, … Read more…

The Gifts and Challenges of Generative Listening

The first time I was listened to, really listened to, was a revelation. It happened in my mid-twenties while talking with Grace, a close colleague and friend. She did something deceptively simple. She paid attention. She restated back to me what she understood me to say. Then she asked a question to increase her understanding of what I was trying to convey.  Hearing my words reflected back to me was revelatory. I felt seen and … Read more…

Engender Psychological Safety at Work

Would you like to wield a magic wand and create a work environment in which people feel safe enough to take interpersonal risks, try new things, acknowledge mistakes and learn? In other words, a climate in which people do NOT embarrass, reject, or punish one another for speaking up? This is what you could get if employees feel psychologically safe. A 2017 Gallup poll estimated if leaders could move the current ratio of employees who … Read more…

A Series of Small Acts

These past few days, I have been waking up to a jumpy body and an overall sense of “How am I going to get it all done?” It seems that life has a way of constellating all the “yeses” I have offered over a long period of time into lots of activity in a short period of time.  As I sat meditating, I reached for a copy of Tao Te Ching and read these passages: … Read more…

Human Consciousness and Generative Social Fields

This post is inspired by ongoing conversations with my colleague Alan Briskin as we consider writing a book about social fields. The intention is to examine what they are and how to create generative ones in the service of positive social change. I intend it to be a follow-on to Alan’s blog post The Power of Fields. As I reflect on conversations with my friend and colleague Alan and his recent blog post, these phrases … Read more…

Building Infrastructure for Engaged Leading

Cyril Oberlander, Dean of the Humboldt State University Library, recently took Roger James and me on a tour of the library. It’s impossible to capture in words how inspiring he and the library were to us. In the most recent HSU Library Annual Report, Oberlander stated, “HSU Library provides information resources and curates many outstanding opportunities to investigate, inspire, and invent.” In the last five and a half years he and his staff have transformed … Read more…

Four Rivers of Life in 2019

Although I live in the land of six rivers—the Smith, Klamath, Trinity, Mad, Van Duzen, and Eel—today I write about the four rivers of life: Inspiration, Surprise, Challenge, and Love. I learned about these rivers from my beloved teacher Angeles Arrien (1940—2014). According to Angeles, many traditional societies believe that these rivers—Inspiration, Surprise, Challenge, and Love—sustain and support us. They also connect us to the greater gifts of appreciating one’s life and making sure we … Read more…

Courageous Conversation Practices

“A difficult conversation is anything you find it hard to talk about…difficult conversations are a part of life.” —Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen in “Difficult Conversations” What difficult conversations do you typically avoid? How do you talk yourself out of speaking up? What makes difficult conversations difficult for you? During our annual Cascadia Center for Leadership program, we ask the 28 participants how they respond to these questions. Over the 20 years we … Read more…

Courageous Communication

Picture about seventy people crowded into a dimly lit room with a creaking, wooden floor of an old building at the edge of San Francisco Bay. It was the home of the Dolphin Club, a legendary swim club founded in 1877, and their board of directors called a meeting to propose a series of upgrades to its aging facilities. I was standing at the back of the room with a swim buddy listening to two … Read more…

The Fourth Dimension of Social Fields: The Human Mind

A note from Mary: This post is longer and more dense than usual. I am exploring some big questions so please hang in with me and read through the whole piece. I would so appreciate your sending me your questions, comments or suggestions. Last Saturday night, my husband, Roger James, and I watched the last episode of HBO’s five-part mini-series “Chernobyl.” It tells the story of the nuclear accident that occurred on April 26, 1986, … Read more…