Sussing Out Our Sense of Superiority

Our judging brains are powerful things. Within nanoseconds of seeing or meeting someone, we decide whether or not we like them. We are attracted or repulsed. My meditation practice, in addition to my intention to treat others respectfully, helps me notice the train of judgments that seems to spontaneously arise when I meet someone new or when I encounter someone whom I already know. Thankfully, I can now more easily notice the judgments and step … Read more…

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…

Systems Thinking for an Interconnected World

Are you trying to tackle a problem that, despite everyone’s best efforts, does not go away? Are you trying to optimize your part of an organization without considering the impact on the system as a whole because it seems too complicated or too effortful to do otherwise? Are you afraid your short-term efforts might undermine your intention to solve a problem in the long-term? Are a number of groups working on the same issue at … Read more…

Suspending Judgment

This year I have the privilege of serving on the dissertation committee for Jen Mason, an engaging and highly competent graduate student conducting seminal research into “Mindfulness, Suspension and Learning in Multi-Stakeholder Groups” for her Ph.D. from Prescott College. I am grateful for this opportunity to reconsider the importance of “suspension” in productive dialogue and collaboration. I first encountered this idea while participating in a series of International Women’s Dialogues through the Dialogue Project at … Read more…

Seeking the Great Perhaps

“I am going to seek the great perhaps.” These were Francois Rablais’ last words according to his biographer Peter Anthony Motteux. Rabelais was a French renaissance writer, physician, humanist, monk and Greek scholar.* I sincerely hope that none of us have to wait until our final words to seek the great perhaps in our conversations. To me the “great perhaps” hints at what might be possible in the future, including when we engage in “good … Read more…

Practicing What I Preach

It’s getting harder to practice what I preach these days. It seems that several times a day I want to fight or flee from what I am hearing and seeing. In a recent Op Ed piece in our local paper, the headline “My skin color is my curse in today’s America” over the face of a mustachio-sporting white man pulled my chain. I immediately turned to the next page with unkind epithets spewing in my … Read more…

Effective Conversations Are a Critical Leadership Tool

Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? You’ve been conversing your whole life. There’s no mystery involved, right? Maybe. As a leader how do you use conversations to lead, to get stuff done? (I am distinguishing between a task-oriented meeting with four or more participants and conversations among two to three.) People often start conversations with present-day events or concerns. For example, imagine that as you walk back to your office after a meeting, you exclaim … Read more…

Why Can’t We Converse with One Another?

It’s a tough time for conversations. The toxic national political environment is infecting interactions among friends, colleagues and neighbors. We are having a harder time listening to one another and an easier time vilifying those who think differently than we do. Social media feeds the flames. Curiosity and compassion have gone AWOL. Conversations are fraught with fears about the future, anger about the past, and disbelief at how we got here. The challenge for each … Read more…