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Collective Visioning

Jun 172019
 

This is the third part of a three-part series on storytelling and community organizing.

I often tell people that while I grew up in poverty, I also grew up with wealth – a richness of many generations of my family history.  Unlike so many people who have had their family histories destroyed or lost through slavery, genocide or assimilation, I grew up knowing the stories of my family – 13 generations, in fact.  

I didn’t realize until I was an adult how valuable – and comparatively rare – knowing this long history is.  It gave me a sense of belonging, even when, as the daughter of a farmworker, socially I was considered a “nobody.”  It gave me a sense of values, knowing stories of my family members standing up for injustice.  It gave me community. It taught me lessons.

Penelope Stout was the first of our family to come to this land in the 1600s and was my 10th great-grandmother.  When her ship landed, their group was attacked by Native Americans defending their home, leaving her severely injured.  Two Native Americans found Penelope near death and took her into their community where they nursed her back to health.   She remained friends with them for the rest of her life.  Penelope’s children were the first Stouts from our family born on this continent.   

The Stouts were Dissenters from the Church of England in the mid-1600s who joined George Fox, the founder of the Religious Society of Friends and the Society of Friends (Quakers).

As I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve met people also named Stout who are Quaker.  Chuck Stout in Denver, CO came up to me and asked, “Do you know Penelope Stout?”  I started laughing and said, “Of course!  I especially love the story about how she used to let her grandchildren feel her scars through her apron pockets.”   

For an organizer in the South, sharing family history is important, regardless of how many generations you can go back.  People want to know who your kin are.  These stories often hold deep meaning for us – stepping stones from one generation to another. 

Our family had a letter from a relative discussing the compulsory military service required by the Confederate army in the Civil War. It tells how my great great aunt’s fingers were smashed and broken as soldiers tried to torture her into revealing where the men in the community were hiding.  They were trying to avoid fighting in a war that was against their spiritual beliefs. 

In World War II, men in my family were conscientious objectors, yet served as medics and ambulance drivers, one winning a Purple Heart.   A more recent story is about my nephew who was severely injured in Afghanistan.  This young man, the first in our family to ever graduate college, yet unemployed five years later, a pagan and 14th generation Quaker, was against this war, yet felt forced to join the military as his only way out of poverty.

These family stories of war make me realize that you can hold two contradictory values at the same time.  Another stepping stone for me.

In the 80s and 90s, Piedmont Peace Project hosted an annual spring tour, where folks, mostly from the Boston area, would come down for a week to share in our lives and celebrate our victories with us.  On the last day, a group of us would sit down with our visitors to exchange our family stories. 

Sharing these stories was difficult and courageous. It made us feel vulnerable but it built deep trust among us.  From very different backgrounds, listening to each other’s stories was life-changing.

We heard from descendants of enslaved people whose stories were ripped from them, descendants of slave owners, and descendants of Holocaust survivors whose stories were annihilated.  We heard from wealthy, middle class and poor people.  One woman, Lynn, told a story of being a descendent of the Waller family, Virginia plantation owners who purchased a slave, Kunta Kinte, whose story was featured in the miniseries, “Roots.” 

Lynn had never shared her story with others, and she told it with deep shame and lots of tears.  Though she had dedicated her life to working for peace and justice she always carried the humiliation of this part of her family history.  Telling that story was a stepping stone for her.

Family stories are complex, filled with challenges, joy, trauma, abuse, laughter, addiction and triumph.  The stories go back for generations, like mine, or not even a generation.  Being able to tell these stories can give us power over the past. They are stepping stones to the future. 

Storytelling is a formidable tool organizers can use to illustrate lessons learned, and the change we want to make in our society.

Jun 112019
 

This is the second part of a three-part series on storytelling and community organizing.

Stepping Stones

One of the things we work on in the storytelling workshop is how to make the first line capture the attention of the audience and the last line show the learning or moral of the story.

I learned this lesson when I first started organizing.  Having been a victim of Klan violence, I left North Carolina under duress, vowing never to return until I could “fight” the Ku Klux Klan.

In the next few years living in Charleston, SC, I met my teacher and mentor, Septima Clark.  In the brief time I knew her, she taught me to stand strong in the face of opposition, like the KKK.  She also taught me the need to build trust. 

I remember once that she sent me to the NAACP meeting in town to bring up an issue that was affecting our community around public transportation.  I came back to her with head lowered, whining, “They didn’t like me.  No one talked to me.”  “Of course they didn’t,” she said. “What did you expect?  Now, next time you go…” and she told me exactly what to do.  I went back three times, before people asked me what I was there for.

The lesson I learned from Septima Clark was that I couldn’t expect to “fight” the Klan.  I had to create an environment in which they could no longer exist.

Septima Clark

This became one of my “stepping stone” stories: 

“I woke up one night to find five men in white hoods standing around my bed.  My heart froze as I tried to see the eyes behind the masks. 

The Ku Klux Klan had broke into my house to teach me a lesson.  I had become their enemy by aligning myself with African Americans — a traitor in their eyes to the white race!  I had hired Black employees at the place I worked and the white men did not want to work with them. They had warned me many times, and I had only hired more people of color.  

After two days held captive and tortured I escaped, leaving my home in North Carolina.  I moved to a low-income African American community in Charleston, SC.  There I met an elderly woman, Septima Clark, who was often referred to as the grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement.  

I declared I would only go back to North Carolina when I was able to fight the Ku Klux Klan.  She taught me that was a no-win proposition. That the only way I could win was by building a society where the KKK could no longer exist.  

Six years later I moved back to North Carolina to organize and build power to eliminate the Ku Klux Klan.  

I hated the Klan.  When I first started working with Piedmont Peace Project (PPP), we had many gatherings at the trailer I shared with my mother.  Blacks and whites were constantly pouring in and out of our home.  Two young white men who helped us with yard work and repairs around the house were often there and were always included in our many dinners, picnics and celebrations.

Many times, PPP members encouraged them to join our efforts – to come to our trainings and conferences.  One day, Billy, the oldest at 20, pulled me aside.  He said, “You know, I don’t think y’all would want us to come because we’re both Klan members.”

It took my breath away.  Don’t I hate these people?  But I loved Billy, just like I had once loved my two uncles until I learned they were part of the Klan.

After taking a deep breath, I said to Billy, “You don’t believe what you’ve learned as a Klan member, or you wouldn’t be hanging out at our house.”  So finally he and his friend started coming to our meetings. 

In one workshop, we were talking about what it meant to trust each other as whites and Blacks working together.

One young African American, William, said indignantly while looking pointedly at Billy, “Well I would need to know that if one of you saw me outside of these meetings, like at the grocery store, you would speak to me.”

“Well,” said Billy, “Just maybe that person was with their father and couldn’t.”

After a pause, William leaned forward and asked him, “What would happen if you went home tonight and told your parents what you had been doing with us today?”

Billy spoke quietly and seriously, “I wouldn’t wake up in the morning.”

Stepping stone stories are not linear pathways.  They take us back and forth across the contradictions and challenges in our lives, making us appreciate that there were turning points, sometimes only to be realized later. 

In our work for social change, sharing our stories, and the moral of our stories, may seem very personal.  But it is only by sharing those stories that we can build trust, understanding, and ultimately, acceptance of one another.

Jun 042019
 

This is the first part of a three-part series on storytelling and community organizing.

Indigenous communities have used stories for teaching and passing down information for thousands of years. Today, science is catching up and starting to understand the importance of storytelling. 

Storytelling isn’t just a better way to connect with your audience:  It also improves their retention of your presentation. “The data shows that all audiences retain emotions and stories better than facts and figures.” (Source)

I believe that to be a good organizer, it is important to use storytelling.  I’ve used stories to break logjams, to explain concepts that are difficult to understand and to help with fund-raising. 

When I was first starting to work with a multiracial group in rural North Carolina, I brought a group of whites and Blacks together in the same room.  I had placed the chairs in a circle, but people ended up moving their chairs to opposite walls, dividing themselves by race.  

I didn’t know what to do.   

But falling back on the power of stories, I asked each person to tell a story of what they wanted for their children.  As people began to share, they realized they had the same concerns, fears and hopes for their families.  The logjam broke.  They became animated and engaged, and began to move their chairs closer together.  

That was the beginning of one of the largest multiracial organizations in the South at the time. 

To get people comfortable telling their own stories, one exercise I use is called “The Three Stepping Stones.” It involves people identifying three stepping stones, or life events that have brought them to working for social justice today.  

I started using it when I faced a logjam of my own. 

Some time ago, I was asked to lead a workshop for media communicators at the last minute.  As I drove to the gathering, I wondered why I had ever agreed.  I had no idea what I was going to do with these experienced communicators.  

I arrived in a panic but then I saw a garden filled with river stones.  I gathered a bunch of stones in my shirt, intending to return them all at the end of the workshop. 

When the group came into my workshop, I asked them each to pick three stones and to think of three stepping stones, or life events, that brought them to the work they were doing for justice.  Then people went into small groups off our, with 15 minutes each to tell their stories.  

Afterwards, many people talked about how powerful it was for them to hear each other and to tell their own stories.  One woman asked if she could take the stones home with her to tell these stories to her husband of 30 years and her family.  She had never shared her powerful, life-changing events with them.  

Telling each other our stories is one of the most powerful things we can do to organize deeply and profoundly.  It reinforces the importance of our work in a way that people can connect to and understand. 

And just for the record, I did return the stones to the garden at the end ofthe workshop, though minus several stones people had took back home with them!

Sep 202016
 

It’s really hard to have a positive outlook or hope with all that’s happening in the world today: political chaos, hate, violence, environmental disaster, and a list much too long to write here.  And worse, it seems that people are feeding off all this hatred and chaos and it continues to grow, taking over everything else, like a vine that consumes and strangles a tree’s life.  Sometimes it gets so discouraging, that I, like many others I know, just want to bury my head in the sand like an ostrich.

I could ignore it and pretend it isn’t happening.  I can dream about moving out of the country if things get worse.  Many people are talking about that.

However, that is not what I’m here to do in this lifetime.  I am here to create transformative change in my community, my state, my country and my world, and I hope you are too.

For me to do that, I have to bring vision and hope – both to myself and others.  To do this I begin with dreaming, with visioning about what I want the world to look like.

Eleanor Roosevelt said “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”. 

Fred Pollack, a well-known Jewish Dutch historian who went into hiding during World War II, used that time to study 3000 years of civilizations to understand what made some societies flourish, while others self-destructed.  He found through his research that only those that held a vision of the future of their society were the ones that thrived and succeeded.  Those that didn’t hold a vision turned to violence, war, and eventually self-destruction.

He concluded that a society’s image of itself becomes a roadmap for its future.  He wrote, “Those societies with positive and vital images flourish while those with uninspired images stagnate.”  He added, “We found the positive image of the future at work in every instance of the flowering of culture, and weakened images of the future as a primary factor in the decay of cultures.” [The Image of the Future, Fred Polak, translated and abridged by Elise Boulding, Jossey-Bass, Inc. 1973 (p.800)]

Why have we become a society lacking vision and hope for a much better world?  Here are some quotations that inspire me:

Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT”.  – Abraham Lincoln

All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this Administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.” – John F. Kennedy

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”, and “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.”  – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Ultimately leadership is about the strength of one’s convictions, the ability to endure the punches, and the energy to promote an idea. And I have found that those who do achieve peace never acquiesce to obstacles, especially those constructed of bigotry, intolerance and inflexible tradition.” – Benazir Bhutto – Former Prime Minister of Pakistan

Although all of these people gave their lives for their beliefs and their visions, they still inspire generations after them.

While I am motivated by these amazing, brave visionaries, I realize having a “leader” is NOT enough.  We can’t wait on one person to step up and take leadership and tell us what we need to do.  We all have to “shout from the mountaintops.”  We need to join together, create a collective vision, and work together to bring hope to a community, a state, a nation, the world.

We begin by looking for the seeds of hope around us.  There are lots.  Think of each one as an acorn (I have some on my vision altar), and then imagine it as a seed of hope growing into the largest oak tree you have ever seen.  We need to start planting now, wherever we are.

What is the barrier to visioning and creating a world that is just and beautiful?  For most people, it is lack of time, commitment, or money.  Sometimes, we’re not strategic about how we work for transformation and get caught up in the minutiae without a long-term vision to keep us on the right path.

I want to invite you to do three things.

  1. First, figure out what you would need to be able to commit 2-4 hours to social change a week.  Could it be not scrolling mindlessly through social media sites, or not watching a couple hours of television one night just to escape the burdens and reality of everyday life?  Many of us are devoting most of our time to making change, but I often hear from people they just don’t have time to make a two- hour meeting, or to go out in the community to canvass and educate neighbors, or drive people to the polls.
  2. Share this blog and webinar invitation for a visioning webinar with other friends and allies.  Have conversations with others.
  3. Figure out how you can support other organizations doing this work.  Can you give up that $3 coffee each day? Or $50 on eating out each week? Or just figure out $5 a week that you could squeeze from your budget.

And remember, it is critical for those doing this work all the time, to devote some time to self-care, whether spiritual or singing or writing poetry or spending time in nature.  This gives us the ability to dream and work for social change.  Yet, many think they are too busy to even do this basic piece by caring for ourselves first.

I invite you to join me on a webinar on October 5, 7pm – 8pm EST (4pm – 5pm PST)  to explore this type of visioning and creating hope for yourself and others. [Click Here to Sign UP]  Hope is contagious and we need to create an epidemic of it in this country.  We’ve done it before.  Now more than ever, it’s important to our survival, both at an individual level and a world level.

If you can’t make this webinar, let us know if you are interested in another date, and we will set another time up as well.

May 212015
 

Last month, on April 22nd, We the People held our first community visioning!  With over 40 people in attendance, our potluck-style gathering was a huge success.  The positive energy in the room was tangible and every single attendee had something affirmative to say in our closing.  “Inspiring,” “exciting,” and “motivating,” were just a few of the words floating around the room.

Spirit in Action’s We the People organizing initiative is located in the unincorporated community of Swannanoa, North Carolina.  We have been conducting a listening project in collaboration with Warren Wilson students for over a year now, and has interviewed well over 200 community members in Swannanoa.  Through this listening project, we’ve identified the top concerns, and this big event was our first step towards making the transition from listening to action.

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

Of course, this event was aligned with Spirit in Action’s values of listening, collective visioning, and building trust.  We held the potluck in the basement of the Swannanoa United Methodist Church, which is where the Welcome Table (featured in our last blog post) is located.  It was a laid back, upbeat atmosphere.  After we all had our fill of food, Linda led the room in a creative visioning process, asking community members to envision a happy, healthy Swannanoa.  Everyone closed their eyes and imagined what Swannanoa could look like 20 years from now.  We were each asked to picture a child we know in Swannanoa, and to dream of what we wanted this community to be like when that child was older.  Then, in typical Linda fashion, we pulled out the art supplies and drew that ideal community.  This envisioned community had sidewalks, traffic signs, hospitals, public transportation and a true sense of community. Just by drawing a town that had positive energy, the room filled with positive energy.

 

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

Once the creativity level was high and our minds were wide open with the possibilities, we voted on the top 3 community concerns (identified through the listening project) and formed 3 committees: public transportation, sidewalks, and the revitalization of downtown.  We split ourselves between those 3 committees and got to work.  As the ideas bounced between community members, you could feel the energy in the room!  Everyone had something to contribute and by the end of the evening, each committee had solid action steps to take forward.

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

During the months of May and June, We the People interns will be busy researching next steps for these three issues in Swannanoa.  We will be hosting follow-up meetings with each committee and working with community members to develop leadership for these committees in order to start moving Swannanoa towards a better future!  Stay tuned for many more success stories to come.

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

April 22 2015 Community Visioning Swannanoa NC

 

Dec 102013
 

In-These-Times-01linda-blog-imageFor In These Times’ December 2013 cover feature, “Generation Hopeless?”, the magazine asked a number of politically savvy people, younger and older, to respond to an essay by 22-year-old Occupy activist Matthew Richards in which he grapples with what the movement meant and whether Occupy’s unfulfilled promises are a lost cause or the seeds of the different world whose promise he glimpsed two years ago. Here is Linda Stout’s response.

After reading Matthew Richards essay, I was disappointed that he felt hopeless and felt he had to wait until the United States was “far less hostile to change.” He says “Now that I’ve already done my best to fix the world and it didn’t work, I am at peace with the fact that it is no longer my job and won’t be again for a few more generations to come”. Richards hated the song, “Waiting on the World to Change,” by John Mayer, but that’s exactly what he’s decided to do.

Having been involved in activism for more than 40 years—one of the old guard of activists—and having spent most of my life working for justice, I think we need to look at history. The United States is not going to get less hostile if we sit “waiting for the world to change.” Corporate control will become even stronger than it is even today.

I don’t know if anyone who has experienced a period of “normalcy” in U.S. history. From the time this country was invaded by Europeans, we have been a country of repression and violence; against Native Americans, women, people of color, non-Christians, etc. In the Labor Movement of the early decades of the1900’s, many people were killed, shot down by the military and others, while working for a better life for all. Military tanks rolled thru our streets in the small mill towns throughout the south, shutting down protesters thru intimidation, repression and killing massacres. In spite of that, the movement continued.

During the Civil Rights era, repression was at its worst. Churches used as organizing space were blown up, one with four little girls in it. Leaders were shot, jailed for weeks and months, and attacked by mobs, FBI, military, police, dogs and fire hoses. Meeting spaces like Highlander in Tennessee—–a center for labor unions and later for the civil rights movement—was confiscated by the state of Tennessee and later burned to the ground. More than 40 deaths were attributed to the repression of civil rights protesters, but people continued to work for civil rights even when as late as 1979 five more people were massacred in Greensboro, N.C.

During the VietNam protest people were jailed, tear gassed, and the Ohio National Guard shot and killed four unarmed college students and wounded nine, one permanently paralyzed.

Occupy was a positive event, even though it didn’t turn into a full blown, sustainable movement. As a multi-generational movement, many young people became involved and have stayed involved through other organizations they connected with in Occupy. My organization, Spirit in Action, worked with thousands of people to learn how to use “collective visioning” to dream of the world they wanted to create, look for common ground and then create a long term—3-to-20-years—strategic plan to move toward their positive vision. Collective visioning is a positive, solution-based focus that advances our goals. And yes, political strategy, organization and discipline are key to building a sustainable and lasting movement.

As for 99% being the perfect message, it was a message that got a lot of media attention. But it missed reaching some of the most important potential allies we needed to understand the message. In my conservative, Tea Party family reunion, they were all talking about the protesters (Occupiers) who were tearing America apart. When I asked if they understood what 99% meant, none of them did. As I explained and told them this was how people were fighting for our own self interest as poor people, my aunt looked at me, and said, “Well, it’s not a very good message if no one understands it, is it?” I had to agree with her.

Hopelessness is our biggest enemy. It causes people like Richards to give up and think they’ve done all they could. To hold a vision of the future and work toward that vision step by step, even when it’s one step forward, two steps backwards sometimes, is the strongest, most positive thing we can do.

I spend most of my time working with young people to help them become the future leaders of our movements for social change. I see so much potential, determination, strength and most of all hope. This belief in the younger generation is what gives me hope for our future.

This article was reposted from In These Times.’ To view origional posting click here- http://inthesetimes.com/article/15926/hopelessness_is_our_biggest_enemy/.

Jul 282013
 

making a cultural shift2

I just wrote my new 15 year vision.  I had created a 13 year vision back in 2007 for the year 2020.  But, now I need a new one because almost everything in that vision has been accomplished.  My new vision begins with “it is July 2028 and I am 75 years old.”  I went on to say what I was doing currently, what I had accomplished in the past 15 years and how I was doing it.  I am excited to begin this next journey by reflecting on my accomplishments, and with a renewed vision in partnership with my Spirit in Action team.

I want to share a story of visioning with a group I’ve been involved with since spring of 2006.  The most exciting thing about this work is that it has been with young people.  This month, at a national education conference, several young adult leaders came running up and hugging me. Only after looking at their name tags did I recognize them from the young people I had lead visioning with back in 2006.  The first year working with Kids Rethinking New Orleans Schools — the summer after Katrina — we began with a vision of the schools and world they wanted to create 25 years into the future.  One of the young boys said “this is only just pretend!”  I agreed.  It was just pretend, unless we created a roadmap and action plan to get there.  Now, that young man is one of the leaders working with the current group of “Rethinkers” in developing this year’s curriculum and co-leading the 6 week program this summer.  The dreams the young people had that first year, and subsequent years have been astounding.  They have had victories around every annual visioning project they have done.  Last year they made a video about visioning and the impact it has had on their work.

Has their collective visioning worked?  They have had multiple victories.  One such victory around changing the cafeteria food policies in their schools is shown in an Emmy nominated HBO documentary called “Weight of the Nation: The Great Cafeteria Takeover” starring the Rethink students.  They were able to take on Aramark, a multi-national corporation that serves cafeteria food to two and one half million children across the United States and the Rethinkers succeeded!  They have not won everything they want, at least not yet, but they now have their foot in the door and are holding these powerful people accountable to what they promised.

rethink draw

What does all this have to do with cultural shift?  First, the idea of beginning with a collective vision – focusing on what we want to create rather than what we are against – is the most important step in creating real, successful, and sustainable change.  Second, strong voices and accountability can make change – even with large multi-national corporations.  Three, sitting in circle and building relationships are a critical part of developing trust, hearing each other and creating change.  Four, taking action on the vision we create leads to victories.  Five, giving young people the knowledge and empowering them to speak for themselves create our leaders of the present, as well as for the future.

So, visioning has everything to do with creating cultural shift.  Starting with vision provides us a positive grounding to work from.  It supports us to look for solutions and ways to get there.  It also inspires ourselves and others to keep motivated toward that vision even during times where we feel hopeless and ready to give up.  In a society where we’ve grown up focusing on the problems and what’s wrong, shifting to a positive vision approach can be challenging at first, but once you have participated in this process, you will never want to go back.  It builds trust, collective power, hope, and joy.  It sets us on a path toward winning on the issues we are working on.  Collective Visioning helps us create a different culture in the way we do our work that is sustainable, supportive, and achievable.

To learn more about how to lead a collective vision process within your own group or organization, go to https://spiritinaction.net/toolkit/   to download a free copy of Occupy the Present, Change the Future: A Collective Visioning Guide, or if you prefer a full  understanding of how to set up diverse groups, prepare and lead collective visioning with exercises and examples, order a copy Collective Visioning: How Groups Can Work Together for a Just and Sustainable Future.  Feel free to use the comment section below for any questions or ideas you have (we would especially like to hear your thoughts if you have participated in collective visioning in the past).  We would love to hear from you and will respond.

Jun 272013
 

making a cultural shift2

How do we embrace the challenges that we face today as well as tomorrow’s promises? To do this we must lead with hope and optimism, with vision.

If we really want to create change in the world, it begins with “me” — with [insert your name].

We are all leaders although some may be playing many different roles. Some lead in the front, some within, and some lead while following. But unless we are leading in the way that is grounded in our values and leads by the example of what we are trying to build, we aren’t able to create the change we want.

We’ve all heard Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” But have we truly explored and understand what this means for us – especially what it means for you?

We come from a reactive culture that is fixated on problem solving. We examine problems and work to fix them. What would it look like to live proactively into only thinking about solutions? To live into what we are creating, what we want, being the change we wish to see.

Before you pass this idea off as to Pollyannaish, unrealistic, or just too woo-woo, let me share a recent experience I had. I was accepted and sponsored to attend the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in a year- long program called “Deep Dive Leadership.”

Out of 60+ people, I am the only social change activist in the group. Others head up or hold high positions within large, multi-national corporations, banks, and hospitals. Many of the companies were names I recognized.

In our first week, we were learning about visioning, mindfulness, and how to lead from a positive, relationship-based place. So why was I in a group of business people learning things that I already knew about, believed in and worked for in my years of training? Because these business leaders have figured out it is the most effective way to lead – to work in balance. To lead with hope has now been “proven,” through years of scientific research and studies, to be the most successful and the most profitable. They have proven that the mindful and hopeful leadership approach is the way to win!

So why should we care about the “proof?” It was interesting and affirming for me to see brain scans and data of leaders who begin to think and work in a different way. It was fascinating to learn about how much more effective you can be by incorporating these practices into your leadership and to hear how companies have been able to turn around and increase their productivity multiple times.

My real interest, however, is how do we start to work this way, to be the change we want to see within the social justice movement? How do we learn to inspire hope and action in the majority of people? How do we reach beyond the choir to create a force of power with which no amount of money can contend?

What I learned in that first week of training is that real change begins with me – with you. Until we can embrace our own visions, our own ability to work from a visionary and relationship-based place, we can’t teach others. And to be successful we have to change the way we lead.

I want to bring you with me on this journey of learning and will continue to write monthly blogs as I dig deeply within myself as a leader and learn how to be more effective and more powerful.

In my first week of being home, I have crafted out time to do a year-long workplan to prioritize and instead of trying to move forward with the belief I have to do it ALL, figure out what I will “Do, Delegate, Delay or Delete”. I am working to assess what I can do excellently, while keeping the balance of health, love, play and mindfulness in my life. This is one step for me to become a better leader. What is yours?

Making a Cultural Shift Exercise #3:

Take time to reflect on yourself as a leader. Are you trying to do it all? Are you working with balance in your life? Are your staff and/or co-workers inspired and excited about working with you? Do you bring the best out of those you work with? Are you happy and inspired in the work you do? If not, it is time to take stock and look at ways to change your leadership.

Below I have listed the first book that we are working from that is about emotional intelligence, relationships, and sustaining your effectiveness.  It is filled with exercises that help you evaluate yourself as a leader from many different perspectives.  It also helps you prepare and develop a 15 year vision for yourself.  I recommend reading and working the exercises in this book as a first step in becoming the leader you want to be.

Becoming a Resonant Leader, by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, Frances Johnston, Harvard Business Press

Becoming a Resonant Leader resonates with the basic leadership truth that when we have the courage to reach for our personal dreams, we also inspire those we lead with a vision of optimism and hope.  There is nothing more powerful than leaders who let their passion shine through.”

Andrea Jung, CEO, Avon Products Inc

 

 

 

Spirit in Action