The Importance of Resilience and How to Cultivate It – 10 Principles Overview

resilience

A favourite keynote of mine (and larger body of work too) is on resilience – why it’s important and how to cultivate greater resiliency. When I went looking for a formula or guide for resilience, I didn’t find any that spoke to me about my experience and the experience of my clients with resilience. Inquiring into what I was learning about resilience through my own experiences of shifting the shape of my life and through that of my resilient clients shifting the shape of their culture, team or organization, generated a definition and 10 lovely principles of resilience.

Resilience is the ability to find the inner strength to bounce back from a set back or challenge, to recover quickly from illness, change or misfortune and it is your sense of knowing that you have the resources and abilities to handle anything that comes your way. For many of us, this does not come easy. It comes with having survived and navigated many different curves in the road – some when we imagined we must have been through enough already.

Ten principles for cultivating resilience are listed below and each of these will become a little post on its own that you can look for over the next few weeks.

Principles of resilience:

1. Inquire into what works, especially what works for you – since we all have good stories about when we have rebounded or recovered from a set back. When you know what has worked for you and why, it helps you generate more and more of what works – principles from Appreciative Inquiry.

2. Notice your self talk – don’t believe everything you think. Your mind is a powerful tool and it often seems to have a mind of its own. Not really. You can program it. You can wrest back control and use it for your advantage rather than be at the whimsy of unintentional thoughts or stories.

3. Networks of support. We all have people who are our champions and biggest fans, who will catch us when we fall. Of course, you have to let them and that often means you also have to let them in.  Those walls you’ve created are meant to keep others out but what they really do is keep you in or insulated and, in the long run, that doesn’t work.

4. Be present. Lao Tzu offers this: if you are depressed you are living in the past; if you are anxious you are living in the future; if you are at peace, you are living in the present. It takes some conscious effort to keep yourself present in the moment and too often we allow ourselves, our minds, to wander to the past or the future. You will know where you let your mind go by how you feel.

5. Lean in – be aware of and still the voice of your inner judge. Running away from any problem only increases the distance from the solution. The easiest way to escape from a problem is to solve it.  Counter intuitive perhaps but true.

Jim Morrison - into fear

6. The Miracle of Story. You are always, always expressing yourself in story in one way or another. Usually you – most of us – are unintentional about how you do that. I love Charles Eisenstein’s reflection on story and miracles: “We have to create miracles. A miracle is not the intersession of an external divine agency in violation of the laws of physics. A miracle is simply something that is impossible from an old story but possible from within a new one. It is an expansion of what is possible.”

Not how the story will end

7. Intention. Develop clarity of intention, then let go of attachment to it. Hold it with lightness and see what shows up. Know it is an iterative process – you don’t just do this just once. Sorry. Or not. Depending on what’s showing up in the iterative process for you.

8. Act. Take steps. Look for openings, invitations and ease and also examine your limiting beliefs.

9. Life Throws Curve Balls. Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out. Everything is running smoothly and life begs to differ. As you welcome it all in, you sit with it in a different way. A more accepting way. Then those curve balls lose their power to completely throw you off course.

Soul knows how to heal

10. Nourish Yourself. In the Art of Hosting world, we often call this hosting self – the first of the four fold practices. Embrace it all.

Body-mind-spirit healing

Resilience, Grief and Collective Consciousness

Human beings are remarkably resilient.  We have this amazing capacity to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get on with getting on after all imaginable and unimaginable nature of horrors, calamities, catastrophes, shocks to the system – that happen to us, to our families, our communities, our organizations, globally.   Hope really does spring eternal even though at times it is hard to access.  It’s like the grass, flower or weed that pushes it’s way through concrete to bloom again in the light of day.

I find myself in a deep contemplation of this resilience, despite, at times, overwhelming odds and continued attempts at suppression.  My contemplation of resilience is weaving together with grief and what is alive and communicated in the collective consciousness, without it being visible. This is alive and emerging for me because of work and conversations I’ve been in and over the last few months in particular.  What I write today are half formed thoughts percolating more with each conversation.

Recently I worked with a client – a department in a large organization – that has gone through a significant amount of change, restructuring, everyone applying for remaining positions and no one knowing the outcome.  This was the most recent in a series of changes.  I know I could be referring to almost any organization.  The conversation they wanted to have was how to work more horizontally in a hierarchical structure and how to be more transparent with communication.

We began with a circle, asking people what makes them hopeful.  Eleven people in the room.  Responding with a talking piece but popcorn style.  Nine spoke about what made them hopeful.  The tenth person, with tears just beginning, spoke about not having hope.  Not anymore.  Not after so much change and so little care for human collateral along the way.  The eleventh person went deeper in this vein, apologizing because she had nothing hopeful to offer.

We welcomed the tears into our circle.  Thank you for your courage and honesty.  For sharing what is alive for you in this moment.  Hearing about the hope expressed by so many was too much.  It evoked the other truth sitting in the room.  The truth of grief.  Before we knew it, many in the circle were in tears.  I was not surprised it was there.  I was a bit surprised at the depth of it.

Our organizations tend to make it hard to tell truth – not “the” truth, but the multiplicity of truths that exist in the same space.  And in change efforts, there is a tendency to just want to get it done, to move from A to B.  The fear is that if we factor in the human response, the emotional response, nothing will get done, we will be overwhelmed.  Yet not creating space for it drives it underground, like rivers under the earth that can destabilize what appears to be a solid foundation and where sink holes spring up unexpectedly.  We seem surprised when they show up, caught off guard.  I wonder why?

With this group, after welcoming tears, exploring the change curve which is predicated on the grief curve, looking at circles of influence, in just a couple of hours the group was collectively ready to turn toward the future – with collective hope and inspiration now bubbling through.  It was relatively simple though I don’t, by any means, believe or mean to say that all it takes all the time is just a couple of hours.  But I am curious about what it does take and how much more simple it likely is than we imagine through our fear and structures designed for effectiveness and professionalism.  Emotions?  Not so professional. Trying to banish them from the workplace?  Not so effective.

In a conversation with a friend after this event, she said to me, “We have forgotten how to grieve.  We think we are supposed to grieve alone, but really we need to grieve in ‘community’ – with others. Witnessing each other.  Holding space for each other.”  That’s what I witnessed with this group.  A collective experience of grief that showed up differently for each person.  Those better off feeling excited about opportunity but afraid to speak it knowing others were worse off.  Those worse off afraid to speak their disappointment and disillusionment Almost everyone experiencing some kind of survivor guilt after so many left.

For me, it sparked reflections on the grief embedded in collective consciousness.  I am by no means an expert on collective consciousness.  I understand it is “how an autonomous individual comes to identify with a larger group or structure.  It implies an internal knowing known by all, or a consciousness shared by a plurality of persons.”  Most of it is not conscious or articulated but it becomes visible through the patterns which show up over time – even embodied in individuals. It seems to show up in lineages.  I have witnessed the pain and grief of generations no longer alive in their descendants who were not even alive at the time of the harm – the pain and grief as alive as the time it happened, as in the people it happened to.  It makes me deeply curious about how this is possible, what it takes to release the grief, to open the space for healing?  I don’t have the answers of course.  But I yearn for the spaces where this can happen. Where we can show up with curiosity, with compassion, humility and grace allowing despair, sorrow, grief and pain to come in – the grief alive in this moment, the grief alive in the lineage from days gone by without resolution, yet.  Seeking the ways love, joy, delight, happiness can co-exist – in each of us, in how we show up, in our lineages too.

It brings me back to resilience. Everyday resilience as we arise each morning and go about our day, our lives, our business with varying degrees of success, the resilience of families, of generations, of communities and of our organizations.  I am in awe.  I am relieved.  I am inspired.  Feeling the call, as always, to perpetuate resilience, perpetuate hope.  To boldly, or quietly, bring my healing gifts to the shifting shape of the world and the regeneration of its people, to evoke and invite that in others.

This is the call that invites so many of us to continue to dive deeper into the journey of personal transformation and the call, by the way, to Hosting from a Deeper Place, the Art of Hosting the Subtle, in Brazil at the end of February 2013.

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself.  If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself.  Truly the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” Lao Tzu

As we each do our own healing work, we contribute to healing in the collective consciousness.  But what more becomes possible when we do this work in community – with each other?  This is one of the questions I carry everywhere I go.

Innovation, Responsiveness, Imagination – Lessons from Apple

A few months ago, when I needed to replace my laptop, I considered switching to a Mac but was concerned about the learning curve. I put a note out on Facebook with an enquiry.  Of 20 responses, 19 were from Mac users.  “I love my Mac,” was the essential essence of the messages.  The lone PC user said, “I’ve used a PC for 20 years and never had any problem.”  which might have been a ringing endorsement if were not for the amazingly enthusiastic responses from Mac users.  I bought a MacBook Air.  I have no regrets.

Now, I’m reading Steve Jobs biography.  It doesn’t pull any punches.  It is a straightforward account of a brilliant, demanding, tyrannical, charismatic man, often running roughshod over people to get what he wanted.  He  had a love for art and technology – a combination that allowed him to imagine possibilities others just couldn’t see.  It was brilliant for Apple and more so for Pixar. He would never win any awards for his people leadership skills but he could dream the future, imagining products we didn’t know we wanted or needed and he followed his intuition all the way to the bank.

Reading his biography, the threads that contributed to Apple’s successful innovation, responsiveness to conditions and opportunity, and the imagination that brought so much alive in techni-colour, became apparent.

Jobs was obsessive about control and when he had an idea he fell in love with, he didn’t want to let go. He wasn’t always right, and he wasn’t impervious to influence, but when he was right he changed worlds.    He revolutionized the computer industry, then the film industry, the music industry and the book industry.

He didn’t treat people well, but he knew a thing or two about the business of innovation. A few themes caught my attention as I read:

  • beauty and intuitive
  • simplicity and focus
  • integration – not just of product design but of the people and departments responsible for all aspects of a product

Apple products were designed for beauty and intuitive use.  Anybody should be able to pick an Apple product up and figure out how to use it without a manual.  And they should love the look and feel of it. This influenced the design of products.  In the development of the iPod for instance, Jobs decided users should be able to get to anything they wanted intuitively in no more than three steps.  The guiding concept: a thousand songs in your pocket.  Products were designed with the user in mind.  The few times Jobs lost sight of that, like with NeXT his company after and before Apple, he didn’t do as well.

Simplicity and focus.  Apple picked a few key projects to work on in any given year and dedicated resources to the most promising of them.  Anyone could pitch an idea – without a powerpoint because formal presentations bored Jobs.  They had to know what they were talking about well enough to free flow it, discuss it (often heatedly) and not rely on a prop like a slide.  Although something tactile, put in people’s hands worked well.

For products under development, long weekly meetings were held with all departments represented to hash out ideas.  Prototypes were developed that could be picked up, turned over and handled to determine what worked, what could be improved and to know when they nailed it.  The conversations were no holds barred – animated, lively.  It all came out in the meetings.  The people who fared best were the ones who figured out how to stand up to Jobs, when to fight, when to wait, when to back down.

Jobs would not allow dissension between departments.  If they couldn’t get along, someone lost a job.  And when decisions needed to be made about product, design, colour or other relevant factors, it didn’t go to a committee for recommendations or a market study to figure it out – decisions were made, often on the spot, without hesitation.  They might not always have been right, but the speed of decision making capability enabled Apple to be responsive, resilient and a market leader more often than not.

Beauty, simplicity, focus, end to end control, responsiveness, imagination as hallmarks of innovation. Not that I’ve done it better than Jobs or come anywhere near to his success, but I would like to think adding in a strong people culture to this great list would only enhance capacity for innovation – so long as we really understand what this means, growing leadership and decision making capacity within an organization, not diluting it.  While there are one or two things that give me pause, there is a lot to be learned from Apple and from Steve Jobs.   After all, he did shift the shape of the world as we know it.

Innovators and Pioneers in Systems Change

In Utah for Healthier Health Care Systems Now (January 11-13, 2012), we used the 2 Loops Model of Systems Change as one of the framing references for why we were gathered. It is a tool and a framing to understand the work we are individually and collectively in that shifts the shape of health care.  The two loops model looks like this:

 

The first loop represents the old system, the one we often name as the dying system.  The second loop represents the new system, the one we keep claiming we want, the one we think cannot emerge by fiddling with the old, the one we believe is needed to bring our current systems out of crisis.

The problem is, when we begin to think about the complexity of something like health care, where there are so many jurisdictions, so many players, so many interlocking systems,  trying to imagine what this new system or systems could be becomes paralyzing.  The conversation often becomes philosophical and theoretical.  It largely comes from an intellectual and cognitive place focused on all the things that need to shift that are outside our circle of influence.

Some of the frustration in being innovators inside of systems is that the systems begin to push back on the work in small and large ways, leading to the exhaustion, frustration and disillusionment so many leaders in health care experience.  This is all part of the old narrative.  Of course this showed up in our conversations in Utah to greater and lesser degrees depending on the questions, depending on who was in the conversation at any given time.  Any time we were in that conversation, thinking about the new system, it didn’t feel like a new conversation.

So, how could we be in conversation about Healthier Health Care Systems Now without  focusing on the second loop or the new system?  Well, by remembering who we are – pioneers and innovators in health systems – working under the first loop – in the in-between spaces – championing the new or being championed.  We began to focus in on and explore new questions: Where are the edges of my work?  What is the new territory I could begin to walk when I go home?  How can I draw on the resources in the room to expand my thinking, even turn it upside down and on its head – like the person who relies on gift economy in her practice, for her livelihood?  What more becomes possible in generative spaces with other innovators?  This was a different conversation, in tone, texture and energy.  This one did not come from the head. It was embodied in a whole new way – the beginnings of a new narrative of health.

The awareness of the old narrative and of the stuck places infiltrated us in the best of ways at the end of the first day of our three day gathering.   Someone suggested what we needed to do was create a vision of the new.  Ordinarily I might agree.  In this case though, that didn’t feel right.  It felt like it would take us further off track given that our roomful of people were geographically stretched from coast to coast across two countries with countless “systems”?

So, without taking our eye off the intention of shifting the narrative of health, we refocused on innovating and pioneering and guerrilla tactics of  hosting, collaborating and co-creating, engaging those around us in this journey that is health.  We didn’t leave with a specified vision of the new system.  We left heartened in our respective journeys, knowing the way to the future is through new processes, deeper conversations and finding our way with as many of our friends and colleagues as we can attract, engage and embolden along the way.

As we continue to shine the light on the experiments already underway, the successes, the challenges and the “failures”, and tap into the individual and collective resilience that is fighting to emerge, we can remember it is a journey that will shift and change as we go.  We remember life actually wants to help and it wants to heal. If we focus on how to expand our individual systems of influence and share those stories with our friends, our collective system of influence automatically begins to expand.  What seems like isolated work informs pockets of work elsewhere and we grow an energetic field that is part of the new, part of the second loop and is fueled by everyone stepping into innovative, courageous and pioneering ideas and projects.

I still can’t see what that second loop is for health care – other than it is about health and it is healthier.  I’m not sure anyone who showed up for this conversation can see the second loop either.  But I am absolutely sure that the innovators and pioneers are already prototyping what’s possible, what’s new, and in this work more and more of the new and the new narrative will show up.  I am reinvigorated by what’s possible, by the people who continue to explore these questions, who challenge the status quo, despite possible personal risks in doing so and know that there are better and more healthy ways to engage health care.

I and my hosting mates are committed to convening more of these conversations with people compelled to be in them to grow the field.  We envision large gatherings of people convening in new ways, continuing to innovate our way into the new system(s) so that maybe one day we will wake up and see in front of our eyes what we once thought impossible – a new generative system of health resilient enough and healthy enough to be sustainable in unexpected and beautiful ways.   If we take our eyes off the urgent need for something that feels impossible and put it in the places where possibility thrives… well, what more is there to imagine or say?

Steve Ryman, Tenneson Woolf, Kathy Jourdain, Marc Parnes

 

 

2 loops of systems change

Turning to Each Other in this Time of Chaos

My news does not, for the most part, come from mainstream media.  Long ago I stopped reading the papers and watching TV news.  Far too depressing and non-constructive.  My news comes from other sources like the Art of Hosting listserve that I am part of (and you could be too, if you aren’t already) as well as other social media like Facebook and Twitter.  I am grateful to these sources and the friends I know in each of these media for the sharing of stories and events that show us all the courage, humanity, connection and community that we all know exists beneath and beyond the news coverage.

Government and related agencies, politicians, the news media do not know what to do.  They do not know how to respond to the mounting chaos in their countries and their communities.  They do not have answers – we all know this – and they are afraid to admit it, so rely on strategies that not only don’t work but actually contribute to making the situation worse (beefing up police presence as an example).  As one person from England suggested on the AoH listserve, wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone in a position of authoritative leadership would be able to see, voice and make more visible the larger patterns that are at work. Borrowing from his posting:

“We must now ask deeper questions. Why do so many young people believe it is alright to cause such destruction and distress in their communities? Whether it is ‘copycat’ activity or not, why is it happening? What does ‘community’ mean to each of us?  Across the country people are self organising, they are meeting in groups and cleaning the streets. Leaders are emerging. People are talking to each other. This is true community.”

If we are not seeing the kind of leadership we know is needed from our formal leaders, how do we continue to do this work in all the places we, ordinary people all over the place,  show up and influence where we can.  Let’s not undervalue our own systems of influence or own readiness to do what we know works – even if this is “simply” holding space, holding intention, infusing with love the situations and people we know about and the stories that touch us deeply – no matter where they or we are.

I read all the posts on what’s happening in London, Spain, Greece, Egypt, the US and other places from the perspective of ordinary citizens, friends and colleagues around the world who see the human story as it evolves, who sharpen their awareness of the relational field and the growing power to effect large scale systemic change from this place as well as individual one-on-one relationships – holding heart break and growing open heartedness, even in the chaos.  I share these stories with people I know who are not part of or even aware of these conversations.  It makes people hopeful.

My own hopeful heart continues to expand for every post I read.  There is a lot of trauma in this time but if that is what we, the world, needs to be able to see just how much the systems we have created or supported or just lived in do not work for us anymore, then we need to go through this to get to what lies on the other side.  I am imagining, working toward and living into a world and systems that emanate out of love, loyalty and community in the relational field because if we cannot turn to each other in our joy and our agony, there is no one else.  If we cannot turn to each other, we will not create systems that support life and resilience, courage and vibrancy.  If we do not turn to each other, we will live only in fear and isolation that propagates more of what we don’t want.

Everyday I experience encounters with people who are more and more ready to turn to each other, more and more ready to understand life as more than just the physical components that we see, more and more ready to embrace uncertainty and live into resilience, more and more ready to open their hearts in a time when the media reported news events might cause us to want to close our hearts and shut down, more and more ready to be intentional about shifting the shape of the world.  I am holding space for the courageous, the open hearted, the heart broken, the resilient, the cracks, openings and invitations.  I am working and writing where I can in support of a future I want to see emerge out of the chaos we are in these days.

From my heart breaking, open hearted journey to yours.

Ode to My Mother on Her 79th Birthday and Mother’s Day

My mom and dad in 2000

As another Mother’s Day and my mother’s 79th birthday rolls around I am inspired to write a little dedication to my mother: Mary Patricia Ann Ritcey Jourdain.  This beautiful woman now lives in long term care because of dementia.  I write in appreciation and gratitude for all she means to me because of what she has made possible in the shifting shape of my life.

When I was a baby, my mother took me in.  I didn’t know this until recent years and not until after dementia had already significantly  impacted her, but she loved me like her own – because to her I was her own, even if she wasn’t the one who actually gave birth to me.

She loves me so fiercely she was afraid to tell me this little bit about my life story.  And I certainly felt like I belonged, even in those teenage years when I wished I was adopted so I could escape the craziness of our family dynamics to some idealized dream family – which I didn’t actually think existed but now that I know they do, I know it’s also not an idealized dream family but real people with their own crazy family dynamics and stories.  It’s good my mother wrapped me in her warm embrace and shepherded me into life.

My mother had the gift of gab.  She could talk to anyone about anything, no matter who they were.  And in the summers when we brought guests aboard the Bluefin, my dad’s pride and joy, my mother had a storehouse of knowledge about just about every home you could see from the water and every island we cruised by.  She didn’t like being on the water so much, but she loved being the social director.

When I was younger, I didn’t really appreciate her gift of gab.  I may, I hesitate to say, have even been a bit embarrassed by it.  But as I grew older and found myself in situations where the ability to make small talk would have come in handy, I grew to appreciate what I now understand as a gift and wished I had the same capacity.

My mother only learned to cook when she married my father.  I definitely heard the stories about not even being able to boil water.  She became a pretty decent cook, except for when she wasn’t paying attention – Harlequin Romances were usually the culprit and sometimes it was Another World.  There was more than one burned dinner in our household when I was growing up.  Somehow that motivated me to learn how to cook and my mother gave me free reign to cook and bake as much as I wanted.  To this day, I love cooking and baking.  I find it relaxing to cook for a large crew of people.

She was, thankfully, an adamant voice when I considered whether I should actually go to University because I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.  I went and I never looked back.

Over the years, as I got married and had children, my mother showed up more than once when I called.  When I was nine months pregnant with my second child and my husband and I both came down with flu and couldn’t take care of our toddler, she came, tended us, made chicken soup and watched our son.

When I was traveling and needed a hand with the kids, she showed up.  When I moved – both with and without my husband, she was there.  Never any questions or judgment when I got married or when I divorced.  Just always there.

She had a way of unobtrusively lending a hand.  She never got in the way, she just started helping out.  This is a gift I really appreciated as I saw other people clumsily get in the way even when trying not to while my mother just began to do what needed doing, gracefully and easily.

She was amazingly resourceful, resilient and always cheerful.  She loved the few years she worked as a waitress or host in several different places during the summer months.  She could regale friends and strangers with her stories as if they happened yesterday.

She doesn’t tell her stories anymore.  Even before she went into long term care on July 2, 2008 she was losing her capacity to string thoughts and sentences together.

The hardest thing we ever did as a family was sign the admittance papers that turned Harbourview Haven into her home, what will be her last place of residence.  At first, we could take her out for little trips.  We even brought her to my home for Christmas Dinner that first year.  But it wasn’t long before taking her out was just too difficult for her.

She went from walking to sitting in a wheelchair, using the wheelchair to motor around the dementia ward to moving less and less.

My mother, who never let me sleep in, now refuses to get out of bed a lot of mornings – making up for lost time maybe.  She never complains – and almost never did – although she’s been known to suggest that maybe some people should be thrown out the window!  Sometimes I think dementia removed a filter,  allowing her inside voice to become an outside voice, maybe giving her freedom to say things she would have been horrified to say pre-dementia.

I have written before about my mother’s situation and only being able to understand it through the perspective of soul journey.  I feel that even more so now.  What I know is that even though she doesn’t talk much and her thoughts seem all jumbled and incoherent, she brightens up when she sees people she has known and loves.  It takes a bit longer these days but it still happens.  She still knows what she wants and is adamant about it.  She’s on a bit of a hunger strike at the moment – not likely a conscious one – but she is refusing to eat.  I have no doubt she wants to be acknowledged for her choices.  She does accept the milkshakes they give her full of the nutrients she needs to sustain her physical body.

For her birthday and Mother’s Day, I can’t really offer her the kinds of gifts that would have excited and delighted her in the past.  Opening presents, which use to be a much anticipated delight, has no meaning for her now.  When I see things that I know my mother would have liked, I also recognize that as a memory and an honouring of my mother more than as a gift to buy.

My mother’s world has shrunk dramatically and she has too.  She has lost much of her vibrancy and joy in life and her ability to comfort others.  But she’s still a human being.  She’s in her journey, in her way, in her soul’s calling and I would only be fooling myself if I didn’t recognize that she is in a transition from he vitality of a full life to what’s behind the veil.  The rest of her will catch up when the timing is right.

She is still a person.  She is still loved.  She is still my mother even though our relationship has shifted yet again into a next phase – as has been happening over the whole course of my lifetime.  Even when the rest of her passes beyond the veil, she’ll still be my mother and she’ll still be loved – remembered for this most amazing journey she stepped into 79 years ago.  Who knew where it would lead but thank goodness she was here for me because who knows where I would be if it weren’t for her.

My Mother and Grandmother - 1991

“Soft Skills” – A Real Misnomer!

Ask anyone.  The hardest thing we ever do is relate to other people, especially as leaders in our organizations or communities, but also in our personal relationships.  Ask anyone what the most difficult component of their job is: relationships, interpersonal dynamics, people.  Ask project managers why most projects fail: inadequate communication and team members moving in different directions or having differing priorities.  Ask teams their greatest challenge: getting work done – because of interpersonal dynamics that get in the way.  Because people challenges interfere in getting the job done, slowing us down.

Empathy, leadership, communication, sociability, ability to laugh, optimism, common sense, responsibility,  integrity and motivation are some of the skills identified as soft. Somehow soft has become interchangeable with expendable so when budgets become tight the first thing to go is soft skills.

Soft skills are not about being nicey nice.  They are about creating the conditions for relationships to grow, enabling individuals and teams to engage in difficult and necessary conversations, not so we can all live in some kind of utopia but in service of getting work done, achieving results, having impact, shifting systems, seeing possibility, opening to emergence.  We do our best work with people we like, people we care about and people we love.  We have our greatest resilience in systems that care. We reach our highest potential in supportive environments that encourage growth.  We take our greatest risks when we know someone will help us up and dust us off when we fall so we can all be ready for what’s next.

There is nothing soft about soft skills.  They require discipline, practice and self awareness.  They require risk and letting go of control, trusting others to step up and in when we create the space for them to do so and they require discernment about what is the right amount of leadership, coaching and support required to allow teams and individuals the highest possibility of growth and contribution.

One of the reasons I gravitate to the Art of Hosting Body of Knowledge is because of the emphasis on creating the field or conditions from which wise action, results and impact will flow, flowing out of a well tended relational field.

We will not shift the shape of the world only through projects.  We will shift it by paying attention to the quality of the relational field and our relationships.  The greater the quality of the relational field, the greater the power to engage in actions with such purposefulness that the shape of the world cannot help but shift.