Asking Myself the Tough Questions, with Generative Conflict

In Seattle, it has been an unusual summer. And so far September has been unusual as well. It has been sunny, like I experience the sun in California. After 21 years in the Northwest, this is strange to me. Now, maybe this is a pattern that happens every 100 years, or every one million, we don’t know. There is no written record, and the oral history is hard to interpret.

But this delight of sun and summer and warmth brings with it a somber realization about climate. As far as I can tell from the sources I choose to listen to, we are creating more damage than we can repair.

When I travel into the awe-inspiring giant hemlocks and cedars in the forests around Seattle, I can sense what we have lost: major ecosystems that clean our air. When I look into my children’s eyes, I can see what we have gained: more people, a global consciousness, leaning toward a new way, a sustainable way forward.

I know this is heavy. It feels heavy when I sense change but feel utterly powerless to turn it around. Now is when I want to be that superhero who has the power to change the world.

In a sense I do have the power. We all do. One way we can change the world is to learn how to have these hard conversations internally, and be in conflict with ourselves.

In order to change the world, the first step we have to take is to ask ourselves the tough questions when we are faced with our wants and desires. I really want that new car, or appliance, or those jeans. Yet, do we know: what really went into making that new car? Is that sustainable? Where are the factories? What happened to the people downriver? Do my jeans contribute to the global degradation of clean water?

Practicing this kind of dialogue with ourselves makes us examine how we live. Not only our relationship to our environment, but our relationship to others, to work, to family, and to ourselves. Every element of the life we live deserves occasional scrutiny, tough questioning, conflict. And a foundation of practice with ourselves prepares us to have these honest, real, scary, guilt-producing conversations with others.

So my contribution to changing the world is a tool called Generative Conflict. It teaches us how to have conflict that inspires a new path, one not seen before, when we face the challenging dilemmas of our lives. It teaches us how to have conversations at the edge of our beliefs; to forge into the unknown; to disagree till we understand that our disagreement itself is common ground.

Sound like fun? Join me on October 10th to learn how honest conversations and conflict generate options not seen before and enhance your leadership presence.

Your family, your community, and the planet need these conversations. Be the super hero and save the earth. Join me and invite perspective. There is no time to waste.

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Deconstructive Feedback

“I have some feedback for you.”

These words cause us fear. We fear hearing them and saying them. We may not call it fear: perhaps anxiety, nervousness, or tension. But these are all names for the automatic physiological response to stress. We cannot help having a reaction. Even if we think we are not reacting, somewhere in our body our physiology is triggered.

Just like our external need for food, water, and shelter, we have internal needs. Biological needs. To be safe, to feel we belong to something, and to uphold our dignity and sense of respect. For us to thrive, these needs must be met.

Deconstructive feedback offers a way to the heart of the issue. It can preserve our safety, belonging and dignity. It can give us the confidence to create novel solutions for future challenges.

The model is simple really. Like many feedback models, the key lies not in the model itself, but in practicing new ways of listening, and communicating what we hear.

When we practice feedback real time, we run into ourselves over and over: our usual reactions, our old behavior patterns. When we follow a feedback model, we are even more limited in the choices we can make, further highlighting our areas for improvement. Painful!

Yet, we all know practice is the foundation of change.

On September 19th at the Access Leadership Lab, we will deconstruct feedback. We will give you an opportunity to practice the most important step in either giving or receiving feedback: the feedback loop.

Most models advocate a monologue approach to feedback. They rarely involve you in conversation that generates understanding and trust.

Deconstructive feedback builds understanding through paraphrasing, perception checking, and iterative questioning. This is the feedback loop. It can go anywhere. It reveals the deeper motivations for the behavior we want to offer feedback about. It can take time. It is uncertain. We often learn something more about the other person, and about ourselves too. Occasionally we have to let go of the feedback we had formulated, as we now understand the other person’s motivations, which normally justify their actions.

In the long term, this feedback model saves time. We spend less time fretting, and more time connecting.

Join me on September 19th to practice the feedback loop, settle your physiology, and invite perspective. Who knows what the unknown holds for you?

Here are some questions to ask your self in regard to feedback:

What happens to you when you give or receive feedback? Some examples: I shrink away, I let go of my point, I get more confident in my point, I get aggressive to defend my point, I forget everything, etc.