Monday, July 28, 2014

Doing Your Work

Suppose you're part of a cooperative group that makes decisions by consensus and there's an important issue under discussion. At the end of the first meeting it's clear that a lot of people see the issue differently than you do. While the group has not yet drafted a proposal about how to respond, what is your work—as a responsible member of the group—to be ready for that step?

For any process to function well it's helpful if the participants are relatively self-aware and are willing to look at the ways in which they may be stuck, or not owning their portion of what may be difficult. That's especially true in consensus, where one obstinate person can monkey wrench the whole shebang.

That said, even if you agree that it's important to do your "personal work," what does that mean? Here's a list of nine ways you might go about that. While this list is not exhaustive, it's highly suggestive. Think of it as priming the pump.

1. Are you respecting the views of those who think differently than you?
While you have the right to have your opinions taken into account; that's paired with the responsibility to take into account those of others. Have you done that?

2. Are you discerning the difference between personal preferences and what's best for the group?
While it's fine to give voice to what you'd prefer, have you paused to think through how much of that is legitimately in the group's interest, as derived from group values?

3. Are you owning your mistakes?
On those occasions when the group proceeds despite your concerns and everything works out fine, do you afterwards adjust your thinking in light of what happens? Do you admit to others that your fears proved baseless?

The flip side of this is celebrating (note that I did not say "gloating") when your concerns turn out to be justified. The lesson here is that your assessments are sound—please remain courageous in expressing them.

4. Are you considering both the head response and the belly response?
We take in, process, and "know" things in a wide variety of ways. While the default mode of examination in Western culture is to share your best thinking, there is also emotional intelligence and body knowing. Are they invited to your inner council also? Perhaps more importantly, are they taken seriously when their advice diverges from what you think?

5. Are you letting the work happen?
Sometimes we allow our busy lives to crowd out the time needed to digest the issues at hand and to come to know fully why we've responded as we have. Do we protect adequate time for reflection, and are we sufficiently disciplined to use that time well.

6. If you're having an emotional reaction, are your clearing that first, before deciding what action to take relative to the presenting issue?
Strong reactions are often accompanied by strong distortion and distraction. If you don't first attend to working through the upset, it can be the very devil sorting through what's best for the group.

7. Are you exploring what's at stake?
Sometimes it's illuminating to look closely at why a thing matters—both to you personally and to the group. What's the bad thing that might happen if you don't get your way?

8. Have you slept on it?
For some of us, subconscious processing—the kind of thing that happens when you're not paying conscious attention to a thing—can yield an insight. Sometimes we awaken to a sense of resolution even though we went to bed troubled. (Meditation may produce the same effect.)

9. If you're the kind of person who likes to talk through things with others, are you being careful to not solely discuss things with those who share your views?
While the theory of talking things through with others is that we'll be less likely to get stuck in our own tape loops, sometimes listeners just reinforce our prejudices. If you purposefully seek out the ear of someone known to have a different view than you, you're far less likely to become ensnared in this silken trap.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I worked for organization that used consensus in decision making it was done away with on a leadership change in the corporation and left a sour taste in people's minds when another leadership change brought back consensus and then when the last leadership change did away with it- in my mind what was needed was training and willingness to really give it a try