As we are entering a world where many humans will be replaced with technology, the few areas that robotics and AI will not be able to address, at least in the immediate term, are the very human qualities. Trust, care, respect, empathy, synergy, creativity, resilience and heart felt connection.
For those who care about the relevance of the future of humanity, the future of work and the future of business must change to adapt to these inevitable circumstances.
The human to human interactions, the ability to care for each other, to respond with humanity, to come together and co-create solutions to human problems, will depend on the quality of the team.
Great teams do not just happen. They are, like all quality relationships, invested in as a deliberate conscious act, on a very regular basis.
If we want to maintain the healthy dynamic of a team and to ensure that a great team continues to evolve as a team, then there are several conversations that are worth scheduling as a regular practise.
These conversations are not light weight. They will not work on teams that have not been designed to deeply respect the invisible intangible relationships between the team members that make the team exceptional. They are not to be rushed. The live at the intersection of human engagement with the world of form.
Yet to build a team that has the capacity and desire to step into these conversations on a regular basis, and to do so within a field of safety and respect, is to build a team that might move mountains.
I hold the belief that we need mountain moving teams. I also hold the belief that good people want to be part of extraordinary teams that can move mountains.
If these types of conversations make you uncomfortable, then perhaps you, the leader, might consider your own relationship with these qualities as a first act.
The Conversation with Power
Humans have a skewed relationship with power. There is a considerable investment made to ensure humans feel powerless in some circumstances. The debt industrial complex is masterful at playing the power card over people in debt. It is a form of sanctioned and legally accepted terror. From the harassing phone calls to the heavies showing up at your door to repossess items, debt is exploited for what it is worth through power games and playing the shame card.
Yet government and corporate debt is the highest ever. Ever. No shame there. It appears that the rules apply to the few, and not to the many. Hypocrisy rules.
Our path to our whole self is one of discovering our power. No one has power over us. As we do not have power over another. Someone may have a gun to our head, literally, yet ultimately we choose what we do in that moment. This was one of the most significant messages of Viktor Frankl’s beloved book, A Man’s Search for Meaning. We always have the final choice of how we respond.
In a highly functioning team environment, our relationship with power shifts as the team dynamic shifts. Therefore it is wise that we stay in a conversation with power. If we do not, the team is likely to experience turbulence as power is gained or lost in certain areas, either by design, or by circumstance.
Who is perceived to hold the power?
What is my relationship to power? To my own power? To my perceived experience of others power?
Do I believe I hold power, good or bad, over anyone else? What is the nature of that power?
How do others experience my relationship to power?
Given this teams purpose, where does the power need to sit for it to be aligned and congruent?
How often do we need to revisit the conversation with power?
These types of questions, rarely put on the six monthly retreat schedule for discussion, go to the marrow of human dynamics. They go to the marrow of our own power, or perceived lack of.
Power is a quality. Like any quality, we can use it for good or ill. We can use it to build up, to create, to grow, or we can use it to shame, belittle, diminish and dominate.
Power is also subtle. It lives in our cultural context in ways we are only now beginning to understand. The power of youth, of the beautiful, of the white male, of the tall man, of the CEO, (or whatever title), of those with financial wealth, of those with social connections.
I know there have been many times where I have attempted to ‘over power’ another with my arrogant status around who I know. It has come from lack of self, not my empowered self.
A creation (a project, or enterprise) needs to be held in a field of power, for power is the animation behind a creative idea. Someone/many someones, need to get up and act to bring an idea to life.
The Pattern Integrity of the Source Idea of the creation needs a steward, or a stewardship team. This person, or people, will hold the power as stewards of that creation. Not to shame or belittle, but to be the guardians of its integrity. This is not a dominating power. It is a stewarding power, and the commitment is to something that is not found in any one person.
As we know, give humans power and power might do strange things to good people. Build into the system design the checks and balances to ensure no one (or a group of many) can corrupt the system. Our history has been littered with many good people who became corrupted slowly then rapidly. We are currently watching this play out again on the world stage. For more on this, see this article on Little Atrocities.
The Conversation with Money
Like power, money is a polarising subject. Yet money itself is agnostic and neutral. We humans assign it a universe of projections. Evil, ugly, dirty, good, scarce, hard, powerful, to name a few.
I have yet to meet a human who has complete neutrality around money. Our relationship with money is loaded via our culture, our family, our life experience. I have seen very wealthy people who are so ruled by their money they become slaves to its accumulation. I have seen people without money find joy in the simplicity built from having nothing.
I know from my hard lived experience that I have entangled my value with money, or lack of it. That I have lived most of my life on the story that if I did not have money then I did not have value as human being. I am not alone.
I am going to repeat this statement. Because it is how we have built our world to now. How we have decided that it is still OK for approximately 45 million people to live today as slaves. For 17,000 children to starve to death a day when we throw away about one third of all the food we grow.
If we do not have money then we are not valuable as a human.
Our society works hard to reinforce this as a belief. Our worth is measured by our accumulation of money, stuff, power, status.
To continue to explore our relationship with money within a team might create the space to give money the place where it can do good for many.
A vision and a strategy, married with love and money, can help many people.
What is my relationship with money?
Why do we want to make money?
How much is enough? For me as an individual, for us as a team, and for the whole enterprise?
When we have enough, what will we do with the surplus?
What legacy do you want to leave?
What legacy do we want to leave?
What is an appropriate salary for the CEO? Is there a limit?
What is the minimum salary for anyone?
How do we celebrate value that is not to be reduced to a dollar value? Like care? Compassion? Generosity of spirit?
The conversation with money is ongoing. Our relationship to money will change, depending on the ebbs and flows of life. Someone with little money has low bandwidth to be able to focus on much else but their immediate financial needs. Someone with a surplus of money might be stressed by how to be a wise steward of money. A person with low self worth might see money as the antidote to their own value. As I have learned, we need to value ourselves, no matter what our bank statement reads. (Or our business card, educational status, country of origin.)
A Conversation with Love
I believe that humans want to come together to co-create things that they deeply care about that is good for humanity.
If we offered humans the opportunity to do this, every day, as their work expression in the world, the majority would say yes. And they would then get on to create things that really matter.
They would stop spending their days doing work that kills their soul while paying (or not even managing to pay) their bills.
Yet the way we bring humans together around a clearly defined purpose so often ends up in a messy human heap of upset, disagreement and misunderstanding.
We are not very good at what I call relational synergistic design. At how to bring diverse humans together around a central organising purpose, and enable the individual sovereign human to get to show up bringing their best selves, in a community/team/environment that has been deliberately designed for the emergence of the collective brilliance – dependant on all, not on any one single person.
Our current models of enterprise are outdated in their design. They do not respect the contribution and value of all players, they do not allow people to show up whole, they are cumbersome, redundant, slow, boring.
They are of course the classic dominator hierarchy model, rather than a dynamic agile networked model.
If we are going to create the future of work and business that enables people to be employed doing things that they care about, and that adds value to society, then we need to build new models of human relational design within enterprise.
The thread that holds it all together, the metaphysical gravity, is love.
Simon Sinek might say that it is purpose. The why. Before the why, intrinsic to the Source Idea, is love.
I do believe that it is time we humans brought a conversation about love into our workspaces as a regular practise. Not to be new-agey, but because, as everyone finally figures out, if not for love, why bother?
When we move from love, when we work from love, when we create from love, we evoke the field of all fractals of love to be present in our creation.
Watch a child. They explore, seek, are endlessly curious, not to achieve an end point, but simply because this is what is arising now. Curiosity is evident in most young children. And with it, creativity. Add love to this and we have more power to do good than is held in any number of atomic bonds.
Talk of your experience of love. How are you aware of its existence?
What about your work do you love?
What about your work causes love to flee?
If love was more present, what would happen in our team/our work?
Where do we do things together that evoke love?
Where are we far removed from love?
How might the customer be aware of love in our work?
For the leader/steward, to be present to a conversation about the absence of love might be confronting. To be willing to be vulnerable in the face of love might be even more confronting.
If in doubt, go home, stare deeply into the eyes of your child or loved one and remember what matters.
The Conversation with Integrity
I have a life long relationship with understanding and practising integrity. My first embodied experience was when I built a tetrahedron from toothpicks and jelly-babies. (Soft sweets)
The moment that forth relationship was built, the structure, the tetrahedron, held its shape, had an inside and outside, and was in integrity. Whole. Complete. There was a rightness to it. Every part of my being felt it. It changed my life. (Yep, I am weird!)
Integrity co-exists with coherence. If we listen to music, we might know when a note is off. The musicians can perform the piece in a thousand different interpretations, yet there is an integrity to the sound that even those of us who are not steeped in music are able to discern.
It is the same with humans. Each of us has a Pattern Integrity that we are either expressing or not. Our desire is to hit that flow state, that mark, where coherence is obvious to self and others. Most of our days are spent off that mark, attempting to get back to it, or find it for the first time as adults.
An enterprise has a Pattern Integrity to it. It might express itself in a multitude of forms, yet the Pattern Integrity needs to be honoured as sacrosanct. We know when we encounter businesses that do this. We also know when we do not.
And we know when a business starts on the path of expression of its Pattern Integrity, and then violates it at some point. Short cuts taken, quality goes down.
Violations of integrity often start small.
We tell ourselves stories about our values, our beliefs. What we will and will not do. What we promise to self. Then we do not do it.
Our first violation is with self. Repeated, over and over. Until our Self cannot trust ourself.
Our second violation is with others. Not keeping agreements. Cheating, lying. Saying one thing, doing another. We are in a world where this violation of integrity is epidemic, modelled by those who hold the political reigns of power.
Violations of integrity can be extremely subtle. We can be living in a low grade victim conversation while preaching about being responsible. (I know that one.)
To invite a conversation with integrity on an ongoing basis is to invite that we hold ourselves to Integrity in a world where many dismiss integrity as having value. The very act of inviting integrity into our daily conversation will ensure our integrity is challenged.
I want a world where I see people take a stand, against the odds, for integrity. These are my people.
What is my relationship with Integrity?
Are my words and actions in the world aligned with my inner world of promises, values and beliefs?
How do I violate my own integrity?
How do I violate the integrity of the team?
Is the team in integrity with the enterprise as a whole?
If we were to upgrade our teams integrity, what would that actually mean?
Is there any place that the business is out of integrity?
Do we make promises we then do not deliver?
Is there a truth that is not being told?
What would our customers say about us and Integrity?
In my work with leaders, teams and businesses creating Syntropic Enterprise, these are some of the areas I address.
This is not the usual business strategy session. What I know is that the structural integrity of any human relational design is a critical part of enabling the full expression of a team.
These conversations are often had, but they are had as gossip, in the back rooms, around the water cooler. Conversations held in frustration. The agony of going home from work knowing that your best self, the brilliance you have to offer, is once again not enabled to be present in the work place. The anger at seeing someone with a silver tongue, or the societal status of being a white/educated/with-a-title and usually male, get all the accolades for your idea, again. The sheer frustration from experiencing a group of the usual suspects design a system that is absent any diversity at the design table. Again. The hypocrisy of a leadership team that promised the earth, and then takes it all for themselves. Again. Or the CEO in the ivory tower surrounded by executives who create what they believe are solutions to problems which they then hand down to the people working at the coal face who have to deal with the shitty design by people who have either no experience at what actually happens at the coal face, or they just couldn’t care – just as long as they get their ROI from the solution. Or the CEO/leader who has zero capacity for any self awareness as they go about their business leaving a wake of human destruction, declaring or course that they are not the problem.
Rare is the organisation that deliberately invites these conversations to become part of the fabric of the team.
We are entering a world of uncertainty. The jobs of the future will not be the same. AI and robotics will eliminate many, creating a new set of tensions for business and governments wanting to ensure viability for themselves and humanity.
Our most exponential technology is relationships, and in business, this means how a group of people coheres to create products and services that add positively to all stakeholders. (Not just shareholders)
If you are creating Syntropic Enterprise – Enterprises that you hold as an exemplar of humans working together for a better future, if you want to create the type of business that has increasing relevance in the future of business, if you want to be excited out of your skin because of the synergy that is coming from your people – far, far greater than you could have ever imagined – if you want to be the leader steward of this type of business where these types of conversations happen by design, then I might be able to support you to create and build that.
This is my work, or at least a part of it.
These four conversations are by no means prescriptive. They are transformative. The transformation might take you to unexpected places.
What I know from 30 years of working at the intersection of leadership development, human relational design and systems creation, is that the quality of the relationships, the quality of the conversational glue of the relationships, that stuff that builds trust, resilience, synergy…is the secret sauce of great business.
One of my greatest personal joys is to work with a team where synergy is present. Where the sum of the outcomes far exceeds what any one person might create solo.
We have significant problems to solve as humans and the opportunity and threat to do that within a world of accelerated acceleration of technology. Wisdom and real leadership is required.
It is going to take the best of us, the best of our leadership, the best of good people coming together to do great work, and to do so elegantly and with considered design.