Curious about Curiosity #2: Cultivating Curiosity

This is the second installment in a three-part series on curiosity. Today’s entry considers how to cultivate curiosity in others and in yourself about others. In the Feb. 13 post we investigated being curious internally, i.e., self-reflection. Finally, on March 13 we will explore the role of curiosity at work and its relationship to organizational and group performance. In a recent conversation with colleagues and former students, they wondered aloud about how, in difficult conversations or situations … Read more…

Meetings as Sacred Practice???

I imagine “sacred,” “spiritual,” or “spiritual intelligence” are words you do not associate with meetings. (See quote in the graphic above.) For my purpose here, “sacred” means being devoted to one important purpose or use that is worthy of being treated with respect and care. For example, as the purpose of a charitable organization is sacred. “Spiritual” means that it relates to or affects the human spirit or soul. But, to what does “spiritual intelligence” … 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…

Networks of Conversations

Conversations, aka meetings, are the sine qua non of organizations and communities. They are how things get done. “Is there anything that matters that isn’t done through conversations?” asks Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, authors of The Three Laws of Performance. Planning, problem solving, policy setting, coaching or staying up-to-date with colleagues: all of these occur through conversations. In addition, meeting conversations feed into other ones. Managers develop a recommendation for a board of directors. … Read more…

6.5 Lessons From Basketball

Once they squeaked by the Houston Rockets, it was predictable that the Golden State Warriors would squash the Cleveland Cavaliers in the National Basketball League Finals. For those of you who are not basketball fans bear with me for a moment. Let me show you how lessons from basketball can make your meetings more effective. I begin with a personal note. I was born and raised in Springfield, Massachusetts where basketball was invented by Dr. … Read more…

Change the Brain for Good: Responding to Disturbances

This entry is the first in a five-part series. It will describe what we know about the impact of contemplative practice on the human brain, and the relevance of these findings to doing meaningful work in groups. For 15 years I’ve been tracking the impact of meditation on the human brain and its potential to help people be more constructive in meetings. In my work as a leader, consultant and facilitator it seems to me … Read more…

Possibilities of Good Conversation

“I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” — Kurt Vonnegut

When I asked a group of 50 members of the Silicon Valley Organization Development Network during my presentation in June about the role of good conversations in creating change, here is what some of them said:

  • Encouraging collective wisdom to emerge
  • Expanding knowledge and perspective
  • Growing healthy relationships
  • Creating something more than and beyond what each individual brings
  • Creating a sense of shared ownership

How might you and your meetings change for the better if you thought of them as opportunities for good conversations? What possibilities might you discover if you dedicated at least one meeting or conversation a month to expanding people’s perspectives, inviting their wisdom into the room, and strengthening your relationships?

The recipe for a good conversation includes asking questions of genuine curiosity, opening to truly understand the perspectives of others, listening as if your life depended on it, sharing your highest aspirations and deepest concerns, and remaining connected to yourself and others when you disagree and when you don’t know, when the way forward is unclear. Good conversation goes to the edge of what you know and steps into the uncertain to create something beyond what individuals bring.

Perhaps there’s a conversation you’ve been hoping to have about a question you’ve been mulling or a nascent idea you’ve been chewing on or an emerging issue that is worrying you. Invite others to join you on the edge and see what possibilities good conversation stimulates.

Mary’s book—“Talk Matters! Saving the World One Word at a Time”—was named one of the best indie books of 2017.  Click here to purchase it.

Basics Still Matter

Rae Levine, a longtime colleague and friend, with whom I taught meeting management once looked at me in faux disbelief and asked, “Is there anyone left on the planet who does not know how to define desired outcomes for a meeting and build an effective agenda to achieve them?” We both cracked up. It seemed we had been teaching this to multitudes for years. I still teach both because there are many who either don’t … Read more…