Being Present is Everything

I was very fortunate to witness the solar eclipse in totality this week. Before this amazing celestial event, I read extensively about what would happen. I listened to presentations from scientists, naturalists, and other eclipse aficionados. I felt as if I was prepared and understood what would happen. I looked up at the sky, protective glasses in place, with my adult son and 35,000 of my closest fans at the ballpark. To say that I wasn’t prepared is an understatement. I was moved emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Being there was everything. The sense of awe, community, and pure wonder was astonishing. It felt like the world stopped for those three minutes, and it was glorious. I felt the coolness on my skin; my eyes saw nighttime in the middle of the day, and I basked in the silent awe of those around me being present.

I relate this to the work we do at Designed Learning. In our Flawless Consulting experiences, being present with a client, partner, colleague, or friend is essential to being effective. With our Leader as Convener experiences, we convene with others to be fully present in larger groups. We utilize small group conversations to connect and be present with each other. These experiences were created from Peter Block’s books. The content of his writings continues to inspire me and help me to be more authentic, alive, and curious. However, if I just read the books, I am missing out. Being present in a room (Zoom or in-person) with other caring and curious people is everything. We learn from listening to others interpret, apply, and question the material and each other. 

Our world is so full of distractions that keep us from fully being present. We rush through meals, rely on texting, and look for “what’s next?” It’s hard to slow down and appreciate the moment and appreciate the people we are with. A fundamental premise of Peter’s work is “The relationship is everything.” Knowing and experiencing it are two different things. The quality of our relationships is highly dependent on our ability to be present and in the moment. Let’s hit the pause button more often. Postpone our desires to take immediate action. Better yet, let’s appreciate that pausing, listening, and thinking are all actions. Let’s focus on what’s now, not what’s next. Be present. It will change your life and the lives of those around you.

Article by Jeff Evans – April 2024

Are You Consulting Without a Safety Net?

What if we worked with clients in ways that could better leverage our expertise, foster trust sooner, galvanize stronger commitment, and make consulting more rewarding? I find these outcomes more likely occur when I weave a safety net in asking clients for what I want and voice them during contracting conversations:

  • I want you to, at any time, talk with me about how we are working together. This simple yet powerful statement opens the choice for clients to speak authentically about what is important to them and what challenges they face—affirming that my relationship with the client is fundamental to solving the problem. I’m now on the hook for asking clients about their doubts and concerns, naming their resistance, ensuring they feel seen and heard, and expressing what they are doing that is useful to me.
  • I want you to talk to me first, before talking to my boss. Waste of time and erosion of trust occur when we go around instead of directly to sources. With a client’s agreement to #1 above, it makes sense that I be the one talked to first. I always explain that if they go to my boss about something I should hear, my boss will ask, “Have you talked to JP about this?” because my boss and I have made this same agreement.
  • I want you to make the decision when others on this project come to a standstill/impasse. In every project I’ve been a part of, people have gotten stuck. When that happens, this agreement reminds clients that the decision to get unstuck is theirs to make.
  • I want you to agree that I will conduct my own discovery to gain a clear picture of what’s going on. My unique value to the client is my ability to see clearly how the problem is being managed. Without my independent perspective of the underlying dimensions of the problem, I’m left solving only the technical/business aspect of the problem—the presenting problem. The resolution of the real problem requires a change in thinking and action on the part of the client. By looking at the problem in a way that the client can’t, I’m able to identify the impact that goals, processes, and relationships have on the problem—how they keep the presenting problem from being solved. Without this agreement, clients have every right to assume I’ll skip the Discovery and Feedback Phases and move directly into Implementation.  
  • I want you to consider what role you need to play to bring about desired changes and how you may be contributing to the problem. This underscores why solving the presenting problem is not enough and invites our shared exploration. By encouraging early ownership and commitment, this minimizes surprises during feedback and points to what clients have the most control over. Rather than solving problems for clients, I set myself up to help clients solve problems themselves.

What I want from clients above stems from my consulting experiences and lessons learned. (Even today, what is challenging in a relationship can be attributed to what I have not asked for.) Although each relationship and project is unique, I voice this set during every contracting conversation to mitigate what I don’t want. These are in the interest of making sure the project is successful—not to satisfy my own personal whims and wishes. What would it sound like to state clearly and simply what you want from a client?

As humans, our reactions are strongly influenced by the environment we inhabit, and the same holds true for our clients. Without a safety net, we risk doing to the client as an expert or doing for the client as a pair of hands. What’s possible when, as Flawless Consultants, our decisions are grounded in the security of our safety net? By fostering an environment of relatedness and connection, we offer insurance for working with our clients, allowing our expertise to shine. What does your safety net of wants look like?

Article by JP Tier

‘Yes’ is the right question

 Something in the persistent question, “How?” expresses each person’s struggle between having confidence in their capacity to live a life of purpose and yielding to the daily demands of being practical. It is possible to spend our days engaged in activities that work well for us and achieve our objectives and still wonder whether we are making a difference in the world. What if ‘Yes’ is the right question?

My premise is that this culture, and we as members of it, have yielded too quickly to what is doable, practical, and popular. In the process, we have sacrificed the pursuit of what is in our hearts. We find ourselves giving in to our doubts and settling for what we know how to do or can soon learn to do instead of pursuing what most matters to us and living with the adventure and anxiety that this requires.

We often avoid the question of whether something is worth doing by going straight to the question, How do we do it?” In fact, when we believe that something is definitely not worth doing, we are particularly eager to start asking How? We can look at what is worth doing at many different levels: As an individual, I can wonder whether I can be myself and do what I want and still make a living. For an organization, I can ask for whose sake does this organization exist, and does it exist for any larger purpose than to survive and be economically successful? As a society, have we replaced a sense of community and civic engagement for economic well-being and the pursuit of our private ambition?

Too often, when a discussion is dominated by questions of how we risk overvaluing what is practical and doable and postponing the questions of larger purpose and collective well-being. With the question, we risk aspiring to goals that are defined for us by the culture and by our institutions at the expense of pursuing purposes and intentions that arise from within ourselves.

While there are many positive values to our desire for concrete action and results, it does not ensure that what we are doing serves our own larger purpose or acts to create a world that we can believe in—in other words, a world that matters. Thus, the pursuit of how we can act to avoid more important questions, such as whether what we are doing is important to us, as opposed to being important to them. While we do create value when we pursue what is important to others, it is different from doing what is important to us.

If knowing how offers us the possibility of more control and predictability, then we may have to sacrifice them to pursue what matters. The choice to worry about why we are doing something more than how we do something is risky business. It is risky for us as individuals, for our organizations, and for society.

Choosing to act on “what matters “is the choice to live a passionate existence, which is anything but controlled and predictable. The alternative to asking How? is saying Yes – not literally, but as a symbol of our stance toward the possibility of more meaningful change and change that promises real commitment to what draws us into what matters. 

To commit to the course of acting on what matters, we postpone the how questions and precede them with others that begin to shift us from “what works” to “what matters.” Taken in isolation and asked in the right context, all how. The questions are valid. But, when they become the primary questions, the controlling questions, or the defining questions, they create a world where operational attention drives out the human spirit. 

How Question 1: How do you do it? 

becomes

Yes Question 1: What refusal have I been postponing?

How Question 2: How long will it take? 

becomes

Yes Question 2: What commitment am I willing to make?

How Question 3: How much does it cost? 

becomes

Yes, Question 3: What is the price I am willing to pay?

How Question 4: How do you get others to change? 

becomes

Yes Question 4: What is my contribution to the problem I am concerned with?

How Question 5: How do we measure it? 

becomes

Yes Question 5: What is the crossroad at which I find myself at this point in my work/life?

How Question 6: How are other people doing it successfully? 

becomes

Yes Question 6: What do we want to create together?

When we look for tools and techniques which are part of the how question, we preempt other kinds of learning. If we want to know what really works, we must carefully decide which are the right questions for this moment. Picking the right question is the beginning of action on what matters, and this is what works. This is how we name the debate, by the questions we pursue, for all these questions are action steps. Good questions work on us; we don’t work on them. They are not a project to be completed but a doorway opening onto a greater depth of understanding and action that will take us into being more fully alive.

From The Answer to How is Yes by Peter Block.

Why should they trust you? Restoring Relationships Should be Top Priority for Today’s Business Leaders 

Building trust is imperative for organizations, especially during times of economic uncertainty. When trust is present, it can help to stabilize relationships, foster cooperation, and increase confidence amongst teams, clients, and key stakeholders. While trust is the bedrock of team success, there is no doubt that building it is especially important during times of economic turbulence, where uncertainty and risk can cause team members and stakeholders to become cautious and resistant. 

Leaders should prioritize building trust because it’s good for morale. Even more so, it’s good for business. Trust generates resilience and confidence within any company, organization, or community among those key to its success. 

Trust strengthens relationships 

So here’s what is obvious: trust is the foundation of any healthy relationship between organizations and their stakeholders. When those with a vested interest also trust a business, they are more likely to be supportive and authentically interested in its success. This can lead to stronger partnerships and boosted collaboration. 

Trust fosters resilience 

Building trust can help businesses weather economic uncertainty by creating a sense of ownership and belonging. When stakeholders have confidence in the relationship, they are more likely to remain committed and engaged, even during difficult times. Trust allows an organization to maintain momentum and overcome inevitable, unpredictable obstacles. 

Trust boosts confidence 

Economic uncertainty can create fear and doubt for businesses and their stakeholders. By building trust, leaders can help alleviate these concerns and boost confidence, increasing investment, stronger partnerships, and more significant growth opportunities. 

As many of us know, trust is not easily won by everyone. Part of being a leader is to engage your team and those with whom you collaborate in a way that demonstrates a genuine effort to connect and foster a positive relationship. If you are a leader, there are some concrete and specific steps that you can take to build trusting relationships in your organization. 

Step One: Identify the levels of trust in your relationships 

Let’s face it; some people are more complicated to work with than others. That’s okay. That’s life. Without playing the blame game, take time to note down mentally those relationships where trust is not there, whether it’s an adversarial one or one of indifference. 

Also note where the relationships are solid, those who you go to with ideas, possibilities, doubts, and concerns. Those are high-trust relationships, and it’s essential to put effort into maintaining them too. 

Step Two: Develop an approach and strategy for different relationships based on the level of trust 

Relationships with different levels of trust require different approaches. For example, strategies and methods exist to build trust with people with whom we do not connect or agree. It starts with connecting with people without judgment, valuing others’ points of view, and finding instances of agreement and similarities instead of differences. Part of any strategy that must deal with trust is an acknowledgment of what role you play within the relationship. Leaders who wish to approach building trust with intention must start with a willingness to let their guard down and be vulnerable. 

“I can create a high-trust environment any time I want. All I must realize is that I am creating the environment in which I live,” explained Peter Block in the article Trust in Whom. ”We are afraid of being naïve and a fool if we continue to trust in the face of others’ betrayal. Well, what is so great about being strategic and clever? And what is so wrong about being a fool? Maybe being willing to be a fool is the exact means of creating the high-trust world that we each long for.”

Step Three: Plan and practice conversations that matter

The starting point for action and change is conversation. The quality of how you are with others matters even more than the expertise you each bring. That said, holding trust-building conversations requires authenticity, vulnerability, and a learned communication skillset that takes practice. 

In a time of uncertainty, trust is an invaluable resource, and it requires action and intention from the side of leaders who depend on it to achieve successful outcomes. In Flawless Conversations: Building Trusting Relationships, learn how to plan for conversations that inspire not only a shift within your one-on-one relationships but can even empower broader transformation within your team, organization, and beyond.

Training is Not the Answer

Industry developments and reform make changes in the workplace inevitable, and training is the tool most often used to implement that change.

Many see training as a staple in the workplace that generates a common language among employees. The way that change is exhibited can contribute to the longevity and success of the organization. It is important that the stakeholders understand how to engage their peers and employees.

In the article, Training is Not the Answer, Block recognizes that most reform efforts are unsuccessful because of the format in which training is offered. Rather than allowing employees to have a say in training methods, top level management determines which programs will be beneficial.

Block says that the problem lies within the ideas that “Training is mandatory and top management with staff support knows what is best.” Training can only be truly successful when it gives employees the opportunity to create ownership and responsibility at the point of contact.

Instructing employees to follow new guidelines will not work unless they are given a voice to express their opinions. Only after we allow them to join the conversation to determine and understand their stakes in the organization’s success will sustained, effective change occur.