Leading with Nature

walking in partnership with nature

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Embracing Reinvention: Part Two: Moving into the Heart

The interior space of a shell reminds us of the heart, where transformation can happen. Image: freeimages.co.uk.

Tony Bond, MBA, MPOD
& Kristen Barney, MA, MSOD

Deepening our earlier conversation about our own practices supporting personal reinvention, in support of our consulting and coaching practices – and of your reinvention needs, we now explore the theme of creating space in the heart to allow for transformation.

TB: It’s hard to bring about transformation while living in the head. Transformation happens when attention is centered in the heart. A few years ago I participated in a transformative retreat with Father Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation. It changed my life, and every day I still connect with the experience and Father Rohr’s teachings.

During this men’s retreat, which was a modern initiation process based on ancient practices, we were asked to not refer to anything outside ourselves: not even our jobs, spouses, or children. For the entire week, we did not know the profession or status of our fellow participants. We could only identify ourselves as who we were at the core. The best part: this stripped away the identities I carried. It was basically me. At first, we were apprehensive. Not really knowing what to expect from the experience (letting go of control) and not being able to rely on the false identities we normally think of as our true selves, we felt vulnerable.

Once the ego is put in check and the focus is directed inside, there is room for growth and true transformation. This is what took place for all who were a part of the experience. There are leadership lessons to be drawn from this type of experience. Accepting the fact that we really cannot control most things, and being intentional in developing a high level of self-awareness can have a positive impact on others and the organization as a whole.

– Practice 3: Explore on the internet for a teacher or speaker who offers daily messages of inspiration, reflection, or inquiry, and subscribe to his or her list. Or choose a book of daily meditations from your bookstore or library. Commit to spending 10 minutes a day reading and journaling about what comes up for you during the reading. Spend an extra 3 minutes writing about how the reading and reflection changes your state of mind or the place of your attention. Keep it up for 30 days, and write a final reflection about what you learned and what you noticed about yourself. This might be about three pages long. If you choose, you can renew your commitment for another 30 days. Here are links to two teachers who offer emails and other resources for meditation: Father Richard Rohr and Tara Brach.

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Embracing Reinvention: Part One: Connecting and Seeing Anew

A defocused, decreasing, spiral fractal pattern, suggesting the true self being reinvented and released into the world. Image: freeimages.co.uk.

Tony Bond, MBA, MPOD,
& Kristen Barney, MA, MSOD


In a sense, we are Tony Bond and Kristen Barney. Yet like you, we are reinventing ourselves. All of us –individuals, leaders, and organizations – are being challenged to move beyond who we were yesterday or last year. This is the gift of our challenging economic times. All of us are called to be more, to dig deep within ourselves to draw out more of our potential. The good news: this is a chance to be truer to ourselves, which basically means shedding unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, or habits which are generating unhelpful results, and embracing more helpful ways of seeing and being.

The starting place for transformation is always at the personal level. And as consultants and coaches, in order to support others in transforming themselves, we (Tony and Kristen) must first be adept at self-transformation. So we sat down via Skype for an open-ended conversation on this question:

  • How can we share the essence of transmutation – shedding old skins and embracing different or refined identities – with individuals and organizations who might not connect with buzz words like innovation or reinvention, yet are being urged by the new circumstances of economic and other conditions, to change?

We have created a three-part blog post to share our conversation, including several practices you can use in your daily life to support self-transformation. We have used a wide range of terms to refer to  transformation, including change, transmutation, reinvention, innovation, and refinement. Many authors have written about the different meanings of these words and for this post we are using them interchangeably to refer to internal shifts that generate new kinds of results in your life. We invite you to explore what these terms mean for you.

Part One: Connecting with the System and Seeing from Different Levels

Tony: When I think of the reinvention process, and how insights can be transferred to other contexts, I am reminded of Professor Chris Argyris’ research, which found that the more educated one is, the less likely one is to look reflectively within.  (See Argyris’ Harvard Business Review article on this theme.) As leaders, we are tempted to look on our organization as something outside ourselves that we are managing (like a puppeteer with a marionette), while at the same time forgetting to manage (or reflect on) our own impact on the situation or system.

The truth is, the idea that we are “in control” as leaders is somewhat of an illusion, and our efforts to control actually block critical insights. When leaders and individuals can look inside at their own role in a situation, that’s when organizational transformation begins. I experienced this myself: when I paused to see how I was contributing to a situation, a veil of illusion was lifted and I could see more clearly.

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Update: Stakeholder Engagement in the Community Garden

Tricolor Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) shown through the garden fence, is a planting intended to give passers-by a connection to the garden while the organizational boundary (fence) remains clear.

Author: Kristen Barney, MA, MSOD

So, what has happened in my experiment with stakeholder
engagement in a community garden?

  • As I tend my plot, people walking by continue to speak with me and even compliment the garden.
  • There continues to be little or no evidence of littering.
  • Only a rabbit or vole has committed theft (and murder by the way), neatly executing a promising zucchini plant at the base and knawing up the first squash. (I may not cast any stones, however, as I mashed some harlequin beetles, or Acrocinus longimanus, which breed quickly and transform kale leaves into lace.)
  • Today a petite elderly woman in a turquoise tunic spoke softly to
    me in an Asian language and made hand gestures about my weeding activities and how she was exercising her legs.

Stakeholder engagement aside, the blackberry brambles have tripled in size, the cabbage is nearly ready to harvest, and I snack on gold and red cherry tomatoes with every visit.

Organizations (and farmers!) usually have more ambitious goals than stemming the tide of litter, preventing theft, and having friendly conversations; yet, the principles of stakeholder engagement do scale well. I hope you will tell more gardening and/or stakeholder engagement stories below and share posts with friends and colleagues.


Walking the Stalk: Leadership Lessons from the Garden

The community garden relies on goodwill and a chain link fence to protect the gardens.  My 17' x 30' plot is partly covered with plastic to keep weeds down while I slowly reclaim parts of the garden for production.

The community garden relies on goodwill and a chain link fence to protect the gardens. My 17′ x 30′ plot is partly covered with plastic to keep weeds down while I slowly reclaim parts of the garden for production.

One year into my tenure as a community gardener, as I unearth a tangle of mint and mugwort roots, I remember those distant first mornings digging up broken bottles and old shirts. When I first saw the plot and was informed it had “issues,” I took a deep and fearless breath, knowing that I love a good challenge. Being a corner plot close to a sidewalk in a densely populated residential neighborhood, my little rectangle of earth has long been viewed as a handy place to throw coffee cups and cigarette ends. And all plots, not just corner ones, have suffered from theft of the bounty: corn, tomatoes, beans, and peas.

In the first weeks as I piled up hitherto buried treasures (cast iron utility markers, plastic bags, and old shoes), I reflected on the community garden as an organization with physical and social boundaries. There were gardeners who were insiders, and people walking by who were outsiders. I wondered what I would learn about organizations, leadership, and myself during my adventures with weeds, seeds, soil, and the elements.

Seeking to Create New Dynamics

For one who adores sifting out roots and stones with her bare hands, happening on broken glass is a bit dangerous, so my first desire was to stem the flow of new trash in the plot. One obvious approach would be to strengthen the physical barriers: build up the four-foot, chain-link fence with chicken wire and other materials, and grow tall plants like morning glory vines, sunflowers, or climbing roses to create a barrier between my plot and people walking by.

Yet being a natural practitioner of polarity management, I suspected there would be complementary strategies that did not involve building barricades. (Of course, others may have already tried my complementary strategies to no avail! Our knowledge management system in the community garden is a bit haphazard!) So yes, the amended fence is increasingly un objet d’art brut. I also removed trash as soon as I found it, a strategy that is documented in The Tipping Point as a powerful way to encourage respect of shared spaces. And, I would take the seemingly opposite tack, and engage with those who may have been tempted to trash or filch.

My Experiment

Now, I will never know who exactly lifted last year’s corn harvest, nor do I care to know. (I am starting with the hypothesis that “outsiders” have been the culprits since the insiders have agreed to abide by an honor system.) So, I wanted to know something about the people who walk by and how they experience the garden. I went outside the chain link boundary and walked around the entire garden (made up of about thirty plots). On my side of the garden, walking down the sidewalk, sweetpea and sunflower greens leaned into the sidewalk space. By the end of summer 2010, one could hardly use the sidewalk due to larger-than-life foliage. As gathering places for trash and dead stems and leaves, the stalks were also quite unsightly: nothing much to enjoy or admire.

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