Shifting from Pieces and Parts to Wholes

When tackling a problem, it’s easier to analyze its pieces and parts and try to solve them one by one than it is to try and understand the whole situation or system. However, this approach rarely works because analyzing the parts does not help us understand how the system in which the problem is embedded works nor how it keeps the problem you want to solve in place. Systems thinking, on the other hand, seeks … Read more…

Are We Stuck at a Cognitive Threshold?

The complexity of issues facing us is outstripping our ability to understand and solve them. Governmental institutions spin on gerbil wheels of outmoded, linear processes and procedures, attempting to tackle issues with multiple, inter-connected parts one part at a time. This is as true in the United States Congress as it is in state legislatures and city councils. In the world of business, economic considerations (i.e., profit), trumps all other criteria in determining whether or … Read more…

The Importance of Being Seen

This is a more personal piece than usual. It came early one morning as I was thinking about my mother on her birthday. I have been fortunate throughout my life to have family and friends who see me and love me. Some are still my dear and good friends while some have passed: my mother died in March 1981; good friends Mary Curran and Jean Westcott died in 2002 and 2008 respectively. An important teacher … Read more…

Six Myths About Leadership

What are your beliefs about leadership? That leaders are born, not made? That there is only one right way to lead? Or, that you need to be in a formal leadership position to lead? Let’s explore these beliefs and others that are myths (i.e., widely held beliefs or ideas). Myth #1 Leaders are born and not made.  If this is true then the $14 billion dollars spent annually on leadership development is a rather colossal … Read more…

The Power of Silences

Early in my career I had the privilege of working with an all Native-American Board of a foundation in the northwest and with the Board of a Buddhist Monastery. In each meeting, they taught me the power of silences: both spontaneous and planned. People around the world cultivate silence as a source of equanimity, creativity, and wisdom. For example, silence is an essential element in indigenous ways of knowing and healing as well as in … Read more…

Four Essential Questions: #1 What Are We Doing Here?

This is the first entry in a four-part series that explores four questions: (1) What are we doing here? (2) Who is leading? (3) Who owns this place? (4) Who belongs? Aftab Omer, President of Meridian University, shared these “archetypal” questions while we were planning the annual gathering of the Global Learning and Exchange Network (GLEN) with the founders of the GLEN, David Sibbet and Gisela Wendling, and fellow GLEN members Karen Buckley and FireHawk Hulin.  The question—what are we doing here—might appear … Read more…

Creating A “Friendly Emptiness”

A friendly emptiness? That sounds paradoxical. Let me explain. In my blogs I write about how to include and interact effectively with those who might, at least on the surface, differ from us. Perhaps I am naïve in still believing this is desirable and possible. In the last few years we have seen a dramatic increase in language, law and policy that seeks to divide us into categories where some are included and others excluded … Read more…

Tackling Toxic Talk

To begin 2018 I offer two pieces on how to counter talk that undercuts and damages our ability to interact in constructive ways. This first one considers how to stop toxic talk in the work place. The next one explores how to handle talk that cuts close to people’s core: degrading comments about race, ethnicity, gender, age and sexual orientation.  I wish you a wonderful New Year, -Mary   “Public statements are not private,” asserts … Read more…