Monday, March 11, 2013

Talk, Leadership, and Learning

A recent rash of news articles purports that women have more words than men and talk as much as three times as much as men do. Research says there is a biological basis for this found in FOXP2, a “language protein” discovered in the brains of women and male rats, both of which vocalize more than their sexual counterparts.

I have a lot of words and expend a fair number of them everyday. My words haven’t found their way here recently, but have been present on the pages of my Facebook account and in some other writings, teachings, and conversations I’ve been working on.

When I’m leading a training or a meeting, I expend a lot of words. I realize that listening is a big part of being in community, and I try to listen intentionally as much as I can. However, I also do a lot of talking in order to share what I’ve learned and to be an encouraging presence in groups that are seeking to transform themselves and their organizations.

One of the things that happens as one gets acknowledged as a leader is that there are fewer gatherings, be they meetings or trainings, where you don’t have a role to play. The roles may be formal, as in being asked to give an introduction or a presentation, or informal, as in being queried when the group is looking for background information or feedback on the ideas they’ve generated. The responsible thing to do is to respond lightly, sharing appropriate amounts and kinds of information and giving helpful feedback that illumines ways forward. Keeping a check on one's ego is a constant practice in exercising responsible leadership.

I am deeply grateful when I have the opportunity to join a gathering as a full participant to soak up someone else’s wisdom and teaching and I can show up for the meeting without having had to prepare anything in advance to present. Such opportunities are more than merely relaxing; they are generative, giving life to my spirit so that I can bring life to my interactions with others.

In January and March, I had the opportunity to participate in two Province VI Council meetings that focused on conversation around “Why a Province?” and “Mission Fields Appropriate to a Province.” (Provinces are geographical groupings of dioceses in The Episcopal Church. Wikipedia has an informative article on this topic found here.) The discussions were led and facilitated by the gifted laywoman, Ann Fleming, Sangre de Cristo Regional Missioner of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado.

Ann introduced us to Theory U, the subject of the book Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges by Otto Scharmer, which she used as the framework for our discussions.

Theory U is a new approach to talking about the art of being fully present together, so that we can unlock the potential in our systems of relationships to realize what we think about, hope for, and work towards. I found it particularly helpful to learn about how we move from talking nice to talking tough to reflective inquiry to generative flow.
It is always exciting to be in a mode of active learning. Making time for the reading, research, and participation in groups where new learning is offered is a constant challenge to my priorities. It is easy to become stuck in associating only with people, activities, and ideas already known to me. New learning provides valuable, additional lenses through which I think about things and to how I articulate my thoughts. Additional lenses enlarge my view of the world and connect me to more people and different communities.

I'd be interested in hearing what you're learning about. Facebook is a wonderful online community that provides a multitude of input on ideas, authors, films, music, and artists to which I wouldn't otherwise be exposed. Friend me on Facebook! If you don't know me, send me a message first to tell me about yourself.