Published in Conway Daily Sun
Published in Conway Daily Sun
In part 1, we discussed how attitude, responsibility and feedback relate to turning problems into opportunities. Part 2 tackled resources, collaboration and problem solving. As promised, today we will discuss trusting the talent of the group, creating chaos, creating order from chaos, and dealing with the fear of all the above.
Chaos is your friend; that would be nice, if it were credible. The truth is, chaos is the enemy of order and control, which is where we feel safe, productive and efficient, right? This is why so many of us prefer very small committees or even better, a committee of one. When we invite input from an entire group, we get chaos, arguments, indecision, complaints, negativity, hurt feelings and occasionally a food fight! Ok, we do not usually get the food fight, but we do sometimes get tears and people leaving in disgust and sometimes quitting the group or even their job. It is no wonder we avoid creating chaos at all costs. The cost of avoidance can be great.
It is through chaos that new growth emerges. It is through control that we extinguish the fires of creativity and passion. Yet, we need to maintain order to meet our goals. What is a modern leader to do, while under pressure to produce predictable results in less time with fewer resources?! The magic is understanding the difference between control and order. Picture a continuum – or a line, if you will – or perhaps a tug-of-war rope. Put Chaos at one end, pulling hard toward total pandemonium. Picture Control at the other end, pulling for domination as if life itself depended on it. Order, lives in the middle – a balancing act dealing with inevitable change, while accepting the need for systems and best practices. Without both chaos and control, order cannot exist. The best practices and ideal systems are invented by risking control. This is too scary for most people to endure, thus the slow pace of innovation
for most organizations. We all say we hate the expression “we’ve always done it this way”, yet it remains so common because we only want other people to take risk and create changes and improvements. For ourselves, we prefer to do things the way we know will succeed. We would rather ignore the fact that everything around us has changed, and what “we’ve always done” would have never been done in the first place if things were then, as they are now.
So how do we embrace or even intentionally create just enough chaos to be innovative without losing control? First, leadership must be truly willing to let go of control. This requires the security and confidence to make oneself vulnerable in the eyes of those who associate control with strength. Paying lip service to group members is not sufficient for building trust and ownership or even creating consensus around the problem, let alone the solution. Before we can expect all stakeholders to participate, we need to prepare ourselves to truly welcome their participation, (which to date, has made us crazy). Real change always starts with ourselves. Then, we can recognize the same need for our members to grow their own participatory skills. Each of these steps will require the creation of the just right questions – often easy questions, but poignant, appropriate and deep nonetheless. The questions open up the potential for chaos, which, with enough established trust and structured facilitation methods, we can work through to re-establish order in a new and better way than we had before.
The deeper answer to this question takes at least a few days of conversation to address. Our favorite source of wisdom on the subject is www.artofhosting.org . My partners and I have been studying Art of Hosting, which is a suite of facilitation methods taught and used successfully all over the world in business, government, education, healthcare and communities to solve complex problems. While common in Africa, Europe, Canada and portions of the US, training is rarely offered in the Eastern US, and never in NH. To that end, my partners and I will be bringing the first ever Art of Hosting (Conversations that Matter) training to North Conway this fall. We expect to draw students from far and wide for the 3 day total immersion program, but we hope to benefit some locals as well.
Still nervous about how any of this could work in real practice? It works in large and small healthy organizations all over the world, where leadership trusts the wisdom of their staff/members and is willing to embrace the fear and forge ahead through the chaos.