Monthly Archives: December 2014

Creating a Third Language



I love something I call the power of a third language. I made this concept up when I realized it was something I was missing in many of my relationships. In a relationship, there is a language one partner speaks, a language the other partner speaks and the opportunity for there to be a third language that both create and speak together. In an organization, there is the language an individual speaks, there is a suggested language that the global culture speaks and then there is the opportunity for groups within the culture or even the global culture to speak which can be their third language. This language is created with the intention to cross-over and bridge people throughout the organization with some constructs that are common and shared; not a “cult” language, deeply steeped in “insider” energy, no, a transparent, open language for anything from how we are going to treat one another to how work flow needs to happen. Speaking of language, the operative words here are “intention” and “shared.”

A recent application of this I used utilizes Steven Covey’s “4 Quadrants” tool. This construct has you look at life within the context of urgency and importance. When you are spending your energy on life, there are events and experiences that come along that fall into one of 4 combinations: that which is not urgent and not important; that which is not important but urgent; that which is important and urgent and that which is important and not urgent. When a group visits each of these combinations of experiences, it doesn’t take long before they are adept at figuring out where they spend most of their time AND where they would like to spend more time. The details of this are not as significant as the language of it. Through this construct, all the people who have learned it have at their “tongue tips” words to convey where they are at in any given moment. For example, someone is working on their to-do list at their desk and someone comes bursting into their space saying “I need the data on that project before the end of the day or I won’t be able to get my prototype out!!!” Here is someone who is coming in with something they feel is important and urgent. The person being confronted has the opportunity to assess where they are at in terms of the urgency and importance of their to-do list and this new demand for time/energy. To play this out, let’s pretend that the person on the receiving end can assist the requestor yet not in the exact moment. They might respond like so: “I know this is important and urgent for you. I have several important and urgent items on my list today as well. What I can do is touch bases with my manager and see about bumping one of my items below the line for the day so that I can make time later this afternoon to address your need.”   That is one response. One more might be: “I am very clear that I have no room to meet your important and urgent need for that data today; what I can do is address it tomorrow before 10:00 a.m. If that doesn’t work for you, we may both have to work with our manager’s on what the bigger picture might reveal is most important for all of us.” Another response: “I see this is urgent and important for you. I am working on some less urgent items this afternoon and will intentionally put those aside to help you with this.” Finally, and not exhaustive, “I cannot do this at this time. Everything on my list today is on fire—urgent and important. I need to ask you to wait or reconsider the urgency of your request.” Once again what’s important here is that the people in this conversation are sharing a common language and frame work to discuss work and the sharing of information. Absent that language, we can find ourselves running around making demands, people stepping on each other’s work and values, frustration and most of all resentment flying all over the place because the culture has not set up a conscious framework for how requests are going to be made.   While this is only a small fragment of a larger conversation around creating culture, I hope it stimulates some thoughts for you around creating a similar “bridge” that will connect well-intending people looking for a

Celebrating What is Going Well

I feel like celebrating around a delightful experience I had with a client the last few months. The very notion of celebration was one that my co-leader and I brought to them. I had used it with a small software company a few months ago and they had so much fun with it I wanted to see if it would have the same impact. It did. No need to keep a great thing a secret: we asked people to share 6 things in 5 minutes with 6 different people (a la “speed dating”) that had gone well for them at work in the last 6 months (wanted to keep the math simple). Yes, they could say the same thing to 6 different people or they could say 6 different things, the point was to share what had been going well.
Huge energy shifter. What we learned is that it is still pretty common for organizations to emphasize what results they want, what has been achieved, and yes, what isn’t working. Spending time on what is working or what has been great, well, not so much time on that. What was fantastic here was that in the debrief for that day’s work, the manager of the group shared that she was going to make a behavioral shift as a result of that exercise: from now on there would be a set time on the staff meeting agenda for celebrations around what is going well. I have this fantasy that such things harken to that infamous small tab on the bow of the Titanic; a small shift makes for a pervasive change in the course of the team’s direction and journey.
This also brings up for me the observation that people, in their real, human essence, do want to feel good about how work or life is going. It’s not soft. It’s not woo woo. We all share a real need for acknowledging that there are things going well and we are on the path. It’s an opportunity to realize some balance in a world that is so focused on go, go, go, drive, drive, drive. It’s a place of shifting into neutral for a second to feel the effects of the wind on your face with the top down.

Razzelberry Jelly

I love the cartoon version of A Christmas Carol, the one with Tiny Tim singing “…and razzelberry jelly.” What I remember is that something so simple as jelly could create in his tiny body an immense amount of joy. Not a pony or a rocking horse, just some jelly. The place this takes me is to the profundity of simple gratitudes, simple pleasures. The view from there is unrelenting with grace. How many times do I need to read or listen to advice around finding the still quiet place, to breathe, to meditate…to practice mindfulness? A million. Because for all the times that I am in conscious engagement with the world, the percentage of time I hit the universal pause button is comparatively low. And for this I will forgive myself. The moment I get to awareness about something that can enrich my life is a sacred moment reaching out to me and asking me to take the moment in fully. Countless times in my car, one of my places of creativity (I bow to you who find it in the shower!), I will catch myself looking at the sky and as if to wave at it I will say “Hey, I see you there, and you are so awesome, I should take you in sometime….I wonder why I don’t look at you on purpose everyday?” Then I go about my business chuckling. Another insight from Mr. Mark Nepo applies here: “In truth, our aliveness depends on our ability to sustain wonder: to lengthen the moments we are truly uncovered, to be still and quiet till all the elements of the earth and all the secrets of the oceans stir the aspects of life waiting within us.” I take this to be an invitation to go mining. To look into whatever places I find myself today where I can stay a little longer, muse or relish in some simple wonder of life. I have complete faith that before the day is through I will find MY razzelberry jelly.

Breaking Shells

I just learned something new from Polynesian mythology! It is actually through the Philosopher and Poet Mark Nepo in his Book of Awakening. Apparently the Polynesians believe that the world began when their creator, “Taaora” woke to find himself growing in a shell. When he stretched, he broke the shell and that is how Earth was formed. Who knew, but he kept growing and found himself in another shell and stretched and broke that one, creating the moon. This went on until all kinds of cool things we know and love were created. He goes on to piece together for us that,
          “…we each grow in this life by breaking successive shells, that the piece of God within each of us stretches until there’s no room to be, and then the world as we know it must be broken so that we can be born anew. In this way, life becomes a living of who we are until that form of self can no longer hold us, and, like Taaora in his shell, we must break the forms that contain us in order to birth our way into the next self. This is how we shed our many ways of seeing the world, not that any are false, but that each serves its purpose for a time until we grow and they no longer serve us.”

Synchronicity is a beautiful thing and I’m inspired by this quote today because just two days ago with my coach/goddess we discovered a long-standing belief that resided in my body (and truly, whether it is from another life time or an earlier time in this life closer to my birth it really doesn’t matter so much as the depth of the “shell” that was created).  The belief had to do with that my body couldn’t contain all of my beingness and so I often shut it down, more unconsciously than not.  My soul didn’t believe it could be contained in my body.  Over and over and over again in various aspects of my life, more recently in the area of making a contribution to the world with my gifts, I would face paralysis at the thought of “daring” to move forward even a little bit!  I ran around the planet dissing others who live from a place of “all or nothing” and touting that such and existence is nothing short of a  life-sucking quagmire of disengagement.  Not that I had any strong opinion of that, yet there I was, hiding behind my own mask of delusion around “Dear God if I let THIS out, if I even eek a piece of it the whole world is going to run for the hills.!”  So much fiction.  So much false humility.  So little data.  And notice, so much fear.  What I notice now, through the piercing truths that my loving coach/goddess spoke of and Mr. Nepo also pens, is that without judgment (a critical component) I have the opportunity to be aware that I can break this shell around me for it has served its purpose (my guess is that once again the purpose was in some form a perceived protection) and I have a new beginning to create.  I love the no harm, no foul aspect of this, the freshness of that spiritual warrior sense of start where you are.  I laugh also at the notion that there really is no time or need for me to run for the glue to put the old shell back together!!!  This is a new, vibrant place of present moment awareness that provides me with immense possibilities for creating my next beautiful shell!