Play is an Attitude

I am becoming more and more serious about play – as an attitude as much or more than as an activity.   These days I’m reflecting a lot on the Law of Attraction, abundance, energy, flow and what blocks flow.  I have been soaking up Abraham-Hicks and their teachings on the Law of Attraction.

Things like worry, stress, fear, negativity, seriousness of character all get in the way of attracting what you want in your life – anything that constricts the essence of who you are slows down the manifestation of what you want.   Anything that gives relief – laughter, joy, love, delight, hope, fun, playfulness – all fuel a vibration that attracts to you what you want to manifest, contributing to expansiveness.

There was a time, a long time ago, that I used to have fun and be fun to be around.  Wherever I was, there inevitably was laughter.  And somehow, when I was distracted by the seriousness of life, running a business, being in relationship, raising children, my natural joie d’vivre slipped away until all that was left was this grave seriousness, worry, fear and strain.  My world and my energy became more and more constricted and flow was blocked off.

One day, I noticed.  I looked up and looked around and I noticed I was all seriousness, intensity and negativity and lacked any sense of joyfulness or play in my life.  Couldn’t even really remember the last time I had laughed out loud or had any sense of fun. How had that happened?  Little bit by little bit the shape of my life had unintentionally and, in some ways, unwillingly, shifted. I was deep in my own shadow.

That day, that observance, marked the beginning of a long road back to joy.  I was blown away by habitual patterns, belief systems that locked me into seriousness and the impact of the voice of my inner judge.  I learned about the voracity of my inner judge by working through the book Soul Without Shame, learning how to identify and disempower it.  While it still shows up, it has less impact for much less time.  I have learned about understanding my emotions as a guide to my experience and as an inner guidance system.

Over the last few years I have been picking away at of the things that have constricted my energy and constricted flow in my life.  I have been opening up to a greater sense of expansiveness and to taking risks and this has been accelerating.

And, I have been learning about play and playfulness.  When I’m leading workshops, playfulness hasn’t been my strong suit.  I rely on other team members to bring that element.  I bring depth and intensity of connection to group process and I do it well.  What is being reawakened in  me is the idea that play doesn’t have to be an action, it is an attitude that opens up or shifts energy in individuals and in groups and particularly in me.  I have been observing how it galvanizes attention and curiosity in the best possible ways even in a room full of strangers.

I have witnessed the impact of play as an attitude in social settings, at home and in the work I do. It is infusing the relationships I have, and even chance encounters.  Play as an attitude brings with it a greater capacity to risk putting myself out there more, risk being wrong, risk trying things that might not work, risk showcasing the imperfection of being human.  It means the willingness to try without needing specific results to show up as proof of success.  Everything then becomes a learning situation which, oddly enough, then contributes to breeding success – and in beautifully fun ways rather than with a seriousness that brings everything down.

Play as an attitude encompasses joy, delight and expansiveness.  It opens up channels for Law of Attraction to work in  favourable ways, bringing wanted things into being.

Now, I smile more even when I’m alone.  I’m enjoying the expansiveness in my own vibrational frequency.  I am more energetic, eager and focused.  All because I am understanding play as an attitude.  I can still be really serious about my work, the integrity of all my relationships and the responsibilities I hold.  But when I infuse them with an attitude of play I bring alive two of my favourite rules – Rule 6a and 6b:

6a: Don’t take yourself so f—–g seriously!

6b: Don’t take other people so f—–g seriously!

These are two rules I have had to be reminded of often for a long time and now they are becoming integrated into my being along with the delightful attitude of play.  What things can you bring an attitude of play to that would enable you to shift the shape of your experience?

Youth Philanthropy

The moment my eight year old son, Shasta Tangri, heard about the earthquake and Tsunami in Japan, unprompted, he said, “We’ll have to make more buttons!”

Kathy and Shasta

Shasta and me displaying the pins he created in support of Japan

In 2010 when the earthquake devastated Haiti, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his older brothers, Spencer and Jacob Dwyer.  Following 9-11 they decided to sell buttons to raise money to help the people of New York following the devastation created by the planes flown into the twin towers.  Their campaign was picked up by by friends, family, work colleagues and random strangers they met as they promoted their cause.   They raised about $1,500.00, were written about in the paper and were on television news.  Shasta knew about it because he had seen the newsclip often.  It inspired him and, of his own accord, he wanted to do the same thing for Haiti.  He sent the money he raised through to the Red Cross, his contribution was doubled by the government and he raised over $2200.

Now, he has a goal of $1,000 for Japan (he will also contribute through the Red Cross) and while it is early days I suspect he will surpass his goal pretty quickly.  He’s almost half way there after only a few days.  He is enthusiastic, unabashedly advocating for his project.  This well spoken youngster has no problem specifying his request of a minimum contribution of $2.00 and, of course, many give more including at least three people who have each given him $100.00  (I was one).

It is wondrous to see how many people respond warmly to the request made so beautifully and simply from a young man working from his heart having been touched by a tragedy affecting people half way around the world who he has never met.  It warms my heart.  Of course, I will do anything to support him in the unfolding of this path, as long it as it is one he chooses willingly and of his own accord.

A good friend of his has offered to help.  The Dartmouth Players Theatre, where he is in a theatre class through Upstage Studios,  has offered to let him have a table at their event this Monday so he can sell buttons.  His school is allowing him to sell buttons to children and teachers.  Tomorrow we will be knocking on neighbours’ doors.

As this has been unfolding in my home, I have had the opportunity this week to meet Stefanie Shute and Blair Ryan, founders of the Empathy Factory, a cool new initiative providing the opportunity for children to act on their innate generosity, developing ideas they feel passionate about so they can act on their desire to make the world a better place.

This work and these actions in my home and my community and further afield in the world continue to inspire my own deep sense of hope and optimism that we can consciously shift the shape of the world in beautiful and profound ways.  Shasta is already doing that for himself and for so many others at the same time.  What will you do to shift the shape of your world?

Shasta and me

A 1500 Day Collaborative Journey

In November 2006, the Council of the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia (CRNNS) embarked on a 1500 day collaborative journey, the likes of which they could hardly imagine was possible at the time.  What was clear was that the College had a vision and a mandate to grow inter-professional collaborative practice (IPCP) from pockets here and there across the province to a more widespread practice as one of the responses to a health care system in need of shifting the way services were delivered.

They knew this was not a mandate that could be achieved alone and they weren’t quite sure how to invite other professions into the conversation.  They contacted an Art of Hosting colleague of mine who invited me into the process and we worked with a team from the College to begin to clarify the work.

Early on we identified that this would likely be a long term process that would use Theory U to define the journey and Art of Hosting as the operating system. Before the journey could even begin, others needed to be invited into the conversation so that other people and organizations could identify what contribution and what level of support or commitment they were willing and able to offer.

The College hosted its first assembly in November 2006 to announce its mandate, speak what they were hearing in the system and being called to do, invite a broad array of health care professionals into conversations using processes like Appreciative Inquiry, World Café and circle which many participants experienced for the first time ever that day.

Out of this assembly a core team of about twenty-five people and financial support from a broad range of health organizations self identified to commit to a multi-year process that included two Art of Hosting retreats (one a sensing retreat and one a presencing retreat) to train the core team, deepen their understanding of the purpose and principles of the work and identify a strategy to move this mandate forward.  We called on Art of Hosting colleagues doing similar work in Ohio and in England to come and also support this initiative, bringing with them a wealth of experience and weaving in the stories from other places that increased the anticipation of successfully shifting the shape of collaborative health care in Nova Scotia.

The collaborators included: Annapolis Valley Health, Capital Health, College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Nova Scotia, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University, IWK Health Centre, Nova Scotia Association of Health Organizations (now Health Association of Nova Scotia), Nova Scotia Department of Health, Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, Registered Nurses Professional Development Centre and the Pictou County Health Authority.  The team included people from many of these organizations and was itself inter-disciplinary.

In between the two retreats, the core team embarked on a series of sensing strategies to broaden their own understanding of the health care system in Nova Scotia, identifying challenges and opportunities without assuming they already knew all the answers.  One purpose in this was to also engage a more stakeholders and learn from them what would capture their support, interest and imagination.  Seven group interviews and thirty five individual interviews were conducted, designed to elicit their private voice more than their public voice.  It is in the private voice that deep despair and incredible hope both reside.

The information that came back from these interviews was powerful.  So powerful it was used to invite back a large assembly of stakeholders in May of 2008 to hear the results and, most importantly, to hear the voices of the system spoken back into the room.  In response, somebody said, “What we are seeing is a crisis of the soul.”

We asked people: “What would you do that you’ve never done or dreamed of doing to change the future of healthcare?” They responded:

  • Change the way we deliver health care
  • Change the focus of health care
  • Change education of practitioners
  • Change what we say to communities
  • Change governance of health care
  • Change relationships and how we work together

We asked, “What should the purpose of the health care system be?”  To which they responded:

To create and maintain holistic, accessible support and care so that Nova Scotians may live well in a place they call home.

 

To facilitate and empower the individual and the community to create and maintain

optimum health as defined by the individual.

 

The purpose of the healthcare system is evidence based, person-focused, preventative, holistic, and uses a collaborative approach to optimize the health, safety, wellbeing and environment of people within their communities.

People made commitments that day and the College made a commitment to check back in later with their last assembly to acknowledge and celebrate progress.  That day happened in June 2010.

Six champion collaborative practice teams currently providing services in Nova Scotia were invited to present at the Assembly, modeling the way and illuminating the steps to successful collaborative care in Nova Scotia.

Have all the ideas identified in May of 2008 been implemented?  No.  But in 2010, there was far more collaborative care in Nova Scotia than there was in 2006 when the College began its quest and invited in collaborators, retaining its willingness to be a champion of this work and, at the same time, “letting it go” so that it could be co-created throughout the whole journey with those who stepped forward to share the leadership and responsibility of this work in Nova Scotia.  Other initiatives focusing on Collaborative Care also emerged during this time helping to expand awareness and the field of practice and this does not lessen the impact of the Inter-Disciplinary Collaborative Practice initiative in generating impactful responses to a system in need of change.

Some things have fundamentally changed.  Some things are still to come.

Shifting the Shape of the Game

On the weekend, my eight year old son and I played mini-golf.  As I took the score card, he told me he didn’t want to keep score.  I found myself a bit attached to keeping score – what’s the point if we don’t?  But I agreed, grumbling a little in my mind.

It felt a bit strange starting, knowing we weren’t keeping score, feeling like my shots didn’t “count”.

On about the third hole, his first shot didn’t go very far.  In fact, you could probably say it failed.  He looked at me and asked if he could take it over.

Could he take it over? I realized his question was kind of pointless if we weren’t keeping score.  It didn’t matter if he “took it over” or not – it wouldn’t be reflected anywhere.  Of course, he could take another shot.

He asked the same question a couple more times and I told him it didn’t matter – of course he could.  And that was about when I realized it did matter – but in a different way than through the traditional lenses through which we were both seeing the game – me through the lens of keeping score in order for the game to have meaning and him through the lens of continuing to ask permission to re-do a shot to keep his score low.

We had shifted the shape of our game, but we both still playing by the old rules.  How often does this happen in the larger world?  How often do we continue to play by the old rules even when we know we want something different, even when the field opens up for something different to emerge.  It is only through awareness, reflection and mindfulness that we are able to fully embrace the shifting shape of the game and shape shift ourselves to flow well with the emergence that then becomes available.

In that moment of realization, the potential of the new “rules” opened up.  Not only could my son re-do a shot, but he could now “safely” develop his skill at the game without feeling the need to “cheat” to try to keep his score low.  So instead of sliding his ball into the hole, now he could “risk” hitting it to see what happened and learn how he could improve.

It was just a game of mini-golf — and it was so much more than a game of mini-golf.  Grateful to this youngster who is such a teacher in my life.

Art of Hosting: Example of a Collaborative Network

The Art of Hosting is an example of a collaborative network.  It’s not the only one but it is the one I am most familiar with and it is the one I find myself speaking about most often when the topic of new models of organization or business comes up.

The Art of Hosting network emerged organically, even before it was called Art of Hosting (AoH) as practitioners of dialogic processes gathered to inquire into what it was they did that was different and what were the conditions that contributed to their successful consulting or process work.  They created the conditions for relevant and meaningful conversations to occur in such a way that the conversations individuals, organizations and communities had were different and more impactful than the ones they traditionally had had and where wiser, more informed action often emerged.

As trainings were offered – always co-hosted by a team, they were a place of co-learning and open source sharing and such a meeting of mind, heart and spirit that people naturally wanted to stay in touch to continue sharing and learning.   Teams of hosts were invited into the same work together and variations of these host teams emerged as people newly introduced to AoH who wanted to deepen their understanding and practice began to call AoH trainings and join host teams.

Somewhere along the way, the AoH listserve was born and, as is typical of listserves, there are sporadic bursts of activity around themes that catch fire among some list serve members and there is also silence for some periods of time.

There were always people who carried a deep curiousity about this work and what, for many of the AoH practitioners I know, is a sense of deep calling.  They – we – work together often, deepening learning and often find each other at other gatherings like, for instance, ALIA.

From early on the notion of stewarding began to emerge and there have been many conversations along the way about what is stewarding, what is a steward, who is a steward, what is the AoH, how do we protect the integrity of this work, is there a brand, what do we do when someone calls an AoH training and no one in the network seems to know who they are.  These kinds of questions are integral to gatherings of stewards – practitioners who do not just use the AoH in their work but tend to the larger field.  A steward seems to be someone who understands deep within themselves what we call the DNA of the AoH – the formative field from which the AoH emerged.

Over the last decade, the number of AoH offerings has grown exponentially through public offerings and through client work that many of us are engaged in. These offerings have now occurred literally around the world, although not in every country yet.  We have experimented with forms of AoH like the Art of Participatory Leadership, the Art of Collaborative Leadership, the Art of Social Innovation, the Art of Harvesting, the Art of Protection, the Art of Humans Being and I’m sure there are more.

The AoH network is not without its faults or its own shadow.  It resists defined structure, hard and fast rules and continues to be organic despite calls from time to time for definitive answers.  It resists responding in traditional ways and roles.    Not everyone is happy with the way it works. And it works exceptionally well.

There is no central office and there are no staff.  While not a perfect system, AoH host teams are invited to share a percentage of the revenue earned in trainings to help support the technology that is key to connecting this global community and to offer something to those in this network who host this on our behalf.  And any of us can also contribute personally.

The AoH community is held together by a strong sense of purpose and principles in the work, a commonality of language and practice and core methodologies, processes, and world views. We understand that before we can host others, we must host ourselves and that we grow the body of knowledge and our own knowledge and practice through communities of practice.

It is easy to find people to work with on small and large projects and on systemic change work because there is such a strong alignment of principles and values.  I’m a sole practitioner but I’m not a sole practitioner because at any given time I either draw on the body of knowledge of the AoH or the mates I have in this network.  I have the privilege and benefit of often working on international hosting teams – here and elsewhere.

As the network grows, the sense of caring for the core of the AoH grows stronger amongst those of us who feel we are stewarding something here,  recognizing that it is completely impossible to control how it spreads, nor would we want to.  That is both the beauty and power of it – and the frustration.   It is a chaordic organization.

When we come together as teams to work together there are no hard and fast rules but there is certainly a sense of honour and integrity in relationships and of patterns of hosting and relationship.  We operate by agreement and we determine who and how host team members get paid by agreement achieved in conversation each time we gather.    People who are not part of this network sometimes have a hard time understanding that we don’t necessarily need a written contract to work with each other (like when one of my good friends was trying to get into Halifax to co-host with me and others and the customs officials asked several times to see the non-existent contract).

We care deeply about this work, about this body of knowledge, about this community and about the relationships we have entered into that are enduring for many of us.  We have a lot of conversation – purposeful conversation.  We don’t have a lot of structure.

A lot of information on AoH can be found on the website and on the community ning.  What I’m offering here is just one version of a very large story, the beginning of which I did not actually witness.  I don’t think this form of organization is the right form for every organization but with the clients I work with who are in a question of what next and how to structure their organization, I offer it out as an example to take some learnings from.  I also talk about World Cafe and Berkana, among others, as organizations experimenting with different organizational models.  Built on trust.  Built on relationship.  Purpose.  Principles.

And, it will be one of the collaborative networks used as an example during the Art of Collaborative Leadership next month in Halifax as we explore the conditions that foster good collaborative networks and what their role is in shifting the shape of the world.

Creating Conditions for Collaborative Conversations

Collaboration is a process where two or more work together with deeply held collective intention and determination to reach a shared objective.  As  the planning for the Art of Collaborative Leadership (March 16-18 in Halifax) begins, we are becoming even more curious about what it really means to be collaborative, the leadership or relational skills that foster collaboration and the subtle changes that can shift the shape of a relationship from defensive, tentative, co-existing or cooperative to collaborative.

The opportunity for collaborative relationships begins to show up when we recognize there could be more power or strength in creating a collaborative space or action.  It also begins to show up when we become curious about what more could happen if we could generate a space of shared understanding – although that usually starts from a place of  “I wish they understood us and our point of view better.”

If we want to change the nature of our conversations with others, we first need to change the nature of the conversations we have with ourselves – personally and/or organizationally.  What would need to shift in how you think about potential collaborators in order to open the space for a collaborative relationship to form and then deepen so it has the potential to create sustainable and fundamental shifts in the area/work/system you care about?

What are the different dimensions and depth of collaboration?  What does it take to stay in a collaborative relationship, especially during the episodes of difficulty that often challenge our understanding of the relationships we are in?

These are some of the questions we will be inviting into the Art of Collaborative Leadership.  What about you?  What questions are you holding?  Will you share them?  Will you come?

If you want to come, you can register at this Berkana site.  If you can’t come but want to contribute you can follow the conversation on Twitter using #a0cl or at the Art of Hosting Community Site.

The Wisdom of Failure

This past weekend I was deeply inspired by youth leadership at Dalhousie University‘s student led Brains for Change event.  Thirty or so community resource people (me being one of them) were invited to participate in conversations with well over 100 students about big ideas that could become projects over the next few months.  Some amazing ideas to shift the shape of our city emerged – like get Halifax certified as a Fair Trade City.

I got to be in some cool conversations and one of them was about failure.  One of the risks we seem afraid of is anything that might remotely become failure.  And yet, failure is what we need in order to foster innovation, new ideas and new ways of doing things.  We put up so many barriers – risk management, liability, public response –  that we stifle creativity.

We also often respond to failure in very personal ways. We need to remember failure is an action, not an identity. It is not who we are or what we are; rather it is an event or situation, or it is related to a choice we have made – individually or collectively. Yet, most of us, at some point in our lives, have worn failure as an identity or have played the blame game around it.

In these situations, we have difficulty separating ourselves from the event or situation. It brings up all kinds of emotions: anger, guilt, regret, remorse, sadness, a sense of having let others – or ourselves – down. It can be overwhelming at times if we lose our sense of self in the failure.  We might even be  haunted by it, generating fear about participating in anything that might lead to another failure.

Personally or organizationally, in order to let it go, we need to be able to separate our sense of who we are, individually and collectively,  from the actions or choices that led to the failure.  We need to redefine success which then allows us to redefine failure. What if success was actually the learning process – what we learn from what happened – whether we see it as a success, partial success, not quite successful or dismal failure?

Let’s step back from the failure so we can get a different perspective of it.  What happened? What led to what happened? What decisions were made? Based on what information? Did we pay attention to all the information – the analytical, intellectual and the intuitive or gut reactions?  What could we do differently?  What’s the next iteration or prototype of what we were trying to do?

Failures provide valuable information – personally and organizationally. They help us know when we’re off course or when we’re not paying attention to something in our environment. Sometimes they lead us in a direction we hadn’t previously anticipated. In both business and personal circumstances “failure” has led to big breakthroughs. The classic business example is 3M’s post-it notes, now an institution in both home and office. Someone recognized the opportunity in a product “failure” (a glue that didn’t stick things together) and created a new revenue stream for 3M and a new way of drawing attention to things. What did we do before post-it notes?

Personal experiences of failure are often those points we look back on with gratitude because they shift the shape of our lives in ways we couldn’t have otherwise imagined.

Innovative businesses and communities cultivate an environment where making mistakes is not only acceptable but recognized as a valuable part of the innovation process. Mistakes only become failure when they are not learned from.

We wouldn’t be who we are today without our failure experiences. They help define us; sometimes they show us exactly what we’re made of. Bottom line is, we make the best decisions we can, with the knowledge, resources and awareness we have available to us at the time. It’s easy to see, with 20/20 hindsight, we should have done something different. The question now becomes what to do with the 20/20 hindsight to change patterns or increase your knowledge going forward so that “failure” becomes the wisdom from which you grow, innovation emerges and  success is created.

The best thing we could do for youth leaders is create environments where we grow our risk and failure muscles knowing that this is actually a route to success – sometimes beyond measure – one of the many topics we may end up exploring during the Art of Collaborative Leadership from March 16-18, 2011.