Full Circle POV

Nurturing a holistic, integral point of view for greater leader and team effectiveness and member well-being.

The Full Circle Point of View

Life and work are more effective and satisfying when
body, mind, heart, and spirit
are all nurtured and aligned toward purpose.

We are buffeted daily by polarities,
opposite, yet interdependent, values,
that we must acknowledge and accommodate
in order to avoid the pitfalls
that come with onesided thinking.

Bedrock: ‘Above all, to thine own self be true.’

Schopenhauer 1852.jpg

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher often referred to as the pessimistic philosopher. Although very male-centric in his writings (sometimes jarringly so), what he wrote about the sources of happiness in life rings true for everyone.

I observe that the fundamental differences in human lot may be reduced to three distinct classes:

  1. What a man is: that is to say, personality, in the widest sense of the word; under which are included health, strength, beauty, temperament, moral character, intelligence and education.
  2. What a man has: that is, property and possessions of every kind.
  3. How a man stands in the estimation of others: by which is to be understood, as everybody knows, what a man is in the eyes of his fellow-men, or, more strictly, the light in which they regard him….(p. 11).

The only thing that stands in our power to achieve, is to make the most advantageous use possible of the personal qualities we possess, and accordingly to follow such pursuits only as will call them into play, to strive after the kind of perfection of which they admit and to avoid every other; consequently, to choose the position, occupation and manner of life which are most suitable for their development.

Imagine a man endowed with herculean strength who is compelled by circumstances to follow a sedentary occupation, some minute exquisite work of the hands, for example, or to engage in study and mental labor demanding quite other powers, and just those which he has not got––compelled, that is to leave unused the powers in which he is preeminently strong; a man placed like this will never feel happy all his life through. Even more miserable will be the lot of the man with intellectual powers of a very high order, who has to leave them undeveloped and unemployed, in the pursuit of a calling, for which his strength is insufficient….(p. 16).

What a man is contributes more to his happiness than what he has, or how he is regarded by others. What a man is , and so what he has in his own person, is always the chief thing to consider; for his individuality accompanies him always and everywhere, and gives its color to all his experiences. (p. 20).
Schopenhauer, A., Trans. Saunders, T. (1995),  (See Bookshelf for full citation).

And which of the three classes is continually influenced by our culture to strive toward as most important? Classes 2 and 3, Schopenhauer concedes, have importance but pale compared with what we do with the inherent person that we are.

Team Differentials

As if there isn’t enough complexity in teams, given the diversity of personalities. Consider the potential dynamic differences, or differentials, that can cause conflict and disruption among team members, one-on-one and collectively. Differentials are differences with the potential to generate misunderstandings, trigger biases, envy, rivalry, and sometimes lead to bullying behaviors. Team leaders need to be conscious of their own reactions and biases related to the differentials which often translate into power conflicts. Although the following list is incomplete and not all relate to you and your team, consciousness matters.

There is a myriad of potential differentials at play: knowledge, skills and experience; social class and culture; philosophical and religious beliefs; polarities; professional philosophy and approach; economic status; demographics (age, gender, generation, race, culture, sexual orientation); personality; motivation and purpose; power; work contexts; horizontal and vertical relationships; and more. And, clearly, many come bundled.

These differential gaps can make or break the effectiveness of the team or organization. Solid leaders anticipate, without assumptions, that the differentials present among team members have the potential to be corrosive and address that potential openly, and as matter-of-fact. The point isn’t that leaders need to surface all the potential differentials and work them through, but to raise team openness to and anticipation of how “otherness” plays out dynamically among team members in the workplace.

My Bridging Differences-Minding the Gap team process seeks to name and make dynamics around differentials explicit (Mind the Gap), address the wounds caused by those differentials (Mend the Gap), and leverage the positive potentials the differentials offer the team going forward toward an agreed upon higher team purpose (Mine the Gap). The team moves beyond a narrow concept of unity to a truer, richer “multiplicity in unity” mindset.

Architectural Abstract 3r

An I Ching Reading to Live By

Heng/Endurance, Hexagram 32 of the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, offered up sage advice when I threw the coins with no particular question in mind. As always, I take heed.

Enduring. Success. No blame.
It is beneficial to persevere.
It is beneficial to have somewhere to go.

To endure means to keep going despite obstacles. Endurance is neither stagnation nor a state of rest. It progresses forward, unlike stagnation, and it keeps moving and growing, unlike rest. What endures renews itself and its effects through continuous activity. What endures does so through change, not in spite of change. Its effects are understood against the experience of change. We see this in the cycle of the seasons that continually renew themselves as the earth moves around the sun. The cycle of the seasons repeats perpetually because its underlying causes continue. Plants and animals grow and change as they endure over time. When they cease to grow, they die, and then they cease to endure.

So it is in life. All life is change. But in order to make change intelligible, there must be things that persist, against which change can be understood. To give your life meeting, you must have something that endures: your identity, your relationships with others, and your principles. If you surrender what is enduring within you, then you surrender to the flux of events and become indistinguishable from them. Then there is nothing left of you.

The lesson of Heng is that you must learn to be consistent and persevere in the face of a changing world. Circumstances around you are changing, but you must maintain your integrity. Be consistent. Do not allow yourself to be blown about by a momentary alteration in fortunes. Do not let concerns about what others might think or how well others are doing by comparison lead you to take drastic or reckless action. Instead, focus on what is and should be enduring in your life: your relationships, your character, and your principles.

The situation that you face now requires you to persevere even though you face adversity and obstacles. Choose a path and stick to it. Keep your long-term goals firmly in mind and progress slowly but surely toward them. Employ routines, practices, and cycles of activity that you can engage in over the long haul that will bring you closer and closer to your goal. Be content to make progress step by step through time-tested methods. Attend to the little things. If you neglect them, they will cause problems in the long run. But if you take care of every day tasks, you’ll head off a lot of problems before they can become large.

The secret to endurance is character. Stick to your principles. Maintain your vision. This will see you through difficult times. You will inevitably have to adjust to your strategy as times change, but do not give up its essential features. Don’t be tempted to make radical alterations out of fear or anxiety. Slow and steady will win this particular race. When things go well, keep going and do not become lazy. When things go badly, keep going and do not become disheartened or afraid. But whether things go well or badly, you must keep going. Never give up. Through endurance and continuous practice, advantages will slowly but surely accumulate, and the situation will eventually move toward your desired goal.

Balkin, J. (2002), p. 352. (See Bookshelf for full citation).

zen-stepsZen Steps




Workplace mistreatment: The importance of cross-situational empathy

David Yamada’s blog on workplace culture is well worth following especially in his concern with workplace mistreatment. Check out Dr. Brené Brown’s short video on empathy at the end of the post.

Minding the Workplace

Comprehending one form of workplace mistreatment, abuse, or trauma ideally should make us more empathetic toward those going through different, but similar experiences.

However, this is not always so. Over the years, on occasion I have observed the unfortunate tendency of some people who have experienced serious workplace mistreatment to be dismissive of the difficult experiences of others, even when those situations bear similarities to their own. For example:

  • Targets of workplace bullying who are dismissive of people alleging discrimination on the basis of race, sex, or some other group;
  • Those who are deeply concerned about discrimination in society but are dismissive of claims of workplace bullying, assuming that it’s not as bad; and,
  • Professionals who rail against the unfair or wrongful treatment that disrupted their career tracks, but who disregard the sufferings of underpaid and mistreated low-wage workers here and abroad; and,
  • Targets of workplace mobbing (group bullying) who put down targets…

View original post 287 more words

Revisiting Plato’s Cave

The cave of Plato; in a cavernous room are two groups of philosophers separated by a wall; atop the wall is a row of figurines including Cupid and Bacchus and a light casts a shadow of them against the wall; at l, a group of philosophers stand together debating; at r, in a darker portion of the space is a crowded group of philosophers in animated discussion  Engraving

Think about the sheer volume of messages we receive every day in the media, in our work lives, meant to sway our perceptions and beliefs. More and more the purveyors of “truth” are able to micro-target us to shape how we perceive our realities and to influence us to act, or not act, in accord with the messengers’ goals. They are sophists.

Frederick Copleston, SJ, in A History of Philosophy, Vol. 1 tells us of Plato’s allegory of the cave [bracketed additions are mine]:

Plato [in The Republic] asks us to imagine an underground cave which has an opening toward the light. In this cave are living human beings, with their legs and necks chained from childhood in such a way that they face the inside wall of the cave and have never seen the light of the sun. Above and behind them, i.e. between the prisoners and the mouth of the cave, is a fire, and between them and the fire is a raised way and a low wall, like a screen. Along this raised way there pass men carrying statues and figures of animals and other objects, in such a manner that the objects they carry appear over the top of the low wall or screen. The prisoners facing the inside of the cave, cannot see one another nor the objects carried behind them, but they see the shadows of themselves and of these objects thrown on to the wall they are facing. They see only shadows.

These prisoners represent the majority of mankind, that multitude of people who remain all their lives in a state of eikasia [the lowest state of knowing], beholding only shadows of reality and hearing only echoes of the truth. Their view of the world is most inadequate, distorted by “their own passions and prejudices, and by the passions and prejudices of other people as conveyed to them by language and rhetoric” [and, in our age, images]. And though they are in no better case than children, they cling to their distorted views with all the tenacity of adults, and have no wish to escape from their prison-house. Moreover, if they were suddenly freed and told to look at the realities of which they had formerly seen the shadows, they would be blinded by the glare of the light, and would imagine that the shadows were far more real than the realities.

However, if one of the prisoners who has escaped grows accustomed to the light, he will after a time be able to look at the concrete sensible objects [the broader realities], of which he had formerly seen but shadows. The man beholds his fellows in the light of the fire…He sees the prisoners for what they are, namely prisoners, prisoners in the bonds of passion and sophistry….

[Sophistry is commonly thought of as the use of messaging [word and/or image] intended to create false or, at best, partial truths; those shadows on the wall, that the prisoners take to be reality. The intended effects are to keep people mesmerized, manipulated and bound to the pseudo-realities being projected by the shadow masters]

This allegory makes it clear that the “ascent” of the line [consciousness] was regarded by Plato as a progress, though this progress is not a continuous and automatic process: it needs effort and mental discipline [in my thinking, not becoming cynical, but examining cherished assumptions, entertaining contrary perspectives and expanding our critical thinking].

Copleston, F. (1946, 1993), p. 160. (See Bookshelf for full citation).

Interesting image, isn’t it?

And this from William Deresiewicz’s (2014) book, Excellent Sheep:

Society is a conspiracy to keep itself from the truth. We pass our lives submerged in propaganda: advertising messages; political rhetoric; the journalistic affirmation of the status quo; the platitudes of popular culture; the axioms of party, sect, and class; the bromides we exchange every day on Facebook; the comforting lies our parents tell us and the sociable ones our friends do; the steady stream of falsehoods that we each tell ourselves all the time, to stave off the threat of self-knowledge. Plato called this doxa, opinion, and it is as powerful a force among progressives as among conservatives, in Massachusetts as in Mississippi, for atheists as for fundamentalists. The first purpose of a real education (a “liberal arts” education) [or at the least an on-going “self-study”], is to liberate us from doxa by teaching us to recognize it, to question it, and to think our way around it.

Excerpt From: William Deresiewicz. “Excellent Sheep.” iBooks.


Solvang Shadow

Freedom and Accountability

A thought to ponder about your approach to your work environment from Peter Koestenbaum and Peter Block in Freedom and Accountability at Work:

According to existential thinking, our blame and judgment of others is merely a symptom, as are our feelings of vulnerability. A root cause of the blame, judgment, and complaining is our denial of our freedom. We institutionally deny the fact that each of us–through our actions and our view of the world–is creating the organization and the leadership we are so fond of complaining about. Deciding that I have created the world around me–and therefore I am the one to fix it–is the ultimate act of accountability. (p. 26)

It takes courage to be more than Persona, simply aping the established culture at work. Start by quieting your own complaining and strategize steps, however small and tentative, that have the potential to move your work culture toward a more effective and affirming environment. Whatever you in your sphere of influence can attempt. Remember the old saw “If we try, we might succeed and we might fail. If we don’t try, we’re guaranteed to fail.” Even failure can feel satisfying, because we tried to make a difference, however small.

See full citation in the Bookshelf

Blue Balloon 2

“To Thine Own Self Be True” is No Easy Feat

Emerson captures where I think each person’s center of gravity should lie:

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people may think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. (“Self-Reliance,” p. 33 – for full citation go to Bookshelf)

Out Standing in It's Field
Out Standing in One’s Field

As I’ve written before, our Persona is the necessary adaptation we make to the external environment that is a  compromise between our internal selves and outer circumstances. We can’t disregard the world around us, but how easy it is to let those external circumstances habitually dictate our realities. For me, Soul is our lived experience, our unique inner self, that gift that is ours alone. What does it profit a person to gain the world and lose one’s soul? The center of gravity resides best within our own truths, with a respectful nod to the realities of the world. Center of gravity means the primary, not exclusive, focal point.

The Art of Making a Living

So much rides on our ability to create and maintain our personal and professional Persona. To swim with the big fish, in whatever pond we’re in, we have to jump in and start swimming, like the others, like right now. Unfortunately, that focus on swimming can become the end in itself; we can’t stop swimming, too much to lose. Polarities are manifested, sides are picked.

In the process, we lose track of the gold we let fall into the shadows, that we can reclaim, rather than defend against. There are life-enriching, life-expanding potentials, in our individual and organizational Shadows, that become adversarial because of inattention, neglect or abuse. They turn on us. The things that go bump in the night, and day, that, actually, can be helpful. And, are meant to be helpful.

I like the way Laurence G. Boldt, in Zen and the Art of Making a Living, captures how parts of us, sometimes the best of our potentials, become split off and lost, and are seen as contrary  or other as we shape and maintain our individual and collective Personas. [My interjections in red].

It’s time to get a job. Time to forget all that stuff about choices. Don’t think about visions or values. Don’t concern yourself with whys. Just be responsible [sic] and concentrate on how you can get the “best” job. Suppress your awareness of yourself as an observer and creator of social reality and plunge into playing the game as it is already defined, with your eyes closed. We have seen other ways. We are aware of choice, and yet if we are to be “responsible” citizens, we must try to forget. Be a good kid, now, and get yourself heavily involved in the game of winning social approval [power, network, income, job]–anything else and you risk ostracism [loss of same]. That’s enough to keep most of us in line for a long time. We still think about these things–now and then. We may talk about it some weekend, late at night, over a few beers or glasses of wine. As we grow older, we may bore our children with repeated tellings of stories about the good old days of our freedom (of choice). What was questing, searching, evaluating now gets stuffed, shelved, and compartmentalized. But make no mistake; it is not dead. It is only sleeping. (2009, p. 87)

[For full citation go to Bookshelf]

Into the Woods

The Suit: Persona Embodied

In checking out Andrew Sullivan’s blog this morning, my attention was drawn to a great article by A.A. Gill about the venerable and enduring Suit. Gill captures the story of the suit:

There is not a corner of the world where the suit is not the default clobber of power, authority, knowledge, judgement, trust and, most importantly, continuity….

No one knows or can say what the spell of the suit is, or how it works, but still it exudes its inoffensive writ.

It is the naivety of young men to believe that it’s what they think that is important; that surface and show and fashion are what the established order uses to maintain itself. But just look at those group photographs of powerful men, of left and right, outside conferences and meetings, and see the power of the suit. It’s not in the singular but the collective. If there were only one in the world, it would be a mad thing, but its strength comes from the massed ranks, the united power, the union of flannel.

Remember the flap when President Obama wore a tan suit to a briefing on the terrorist group ISIS?

Shutters and BlindsShutters and Blinds

We are Awash in Persona, Drowning Perhaps

The professional persona, the complex web of how we present ourselves and our expected knowledge, skills, and abilities, is a high-level example of persona-shaping. Persona is what we want other people to experience and perhaps rely on when they observe and interact with us. We simultaneously build connections to the world around us and maintain barriers against intrusion into our inner psychological worlds (Ego and Shadow). We work hard to build and preserve our reputations. Be seen and not seen at the same time, project and protect.

Here’s an interesting exercise: Choose a day to be especially observant and conscious of the multiple ways you adjust how you present and interact (or don’t) with the various people and situations you encounter that day. Notice the constant shaping of your Persona to sync with people and situations; notice the feedback when you fail to, choose not to, or are simply unable to sync.

Persona is not a static mask we wear. Persona is a dynamic shaping process. As I pointed out in Persona, the Public Face:

Persona is more a reflection of the collective values and expectations, than personally created, being at heart the adaptation to the social environment of family, culture, and society. The person particularly bound to the dictates of the collective environment without reflection is the most identified with the Persona.

The Center of Consciousness, the Ego, tends to over-identify with it’s Persona. For most people the “locus of control” is external. Always turned out and  cognizant of the expectations of their environment, either quickly shifting with the changes in the surrounding environment or narrowing that environment to only deal with particular types of people. As we grow, we develop a greater ability to shape shift somewhat quickly, even as the composition of the group we are with changes, or simply walk into the next office at work. Our sense of proper persona can easily become rigidified.

From the moment we wake, we navigate the social milieu. Observe how you interact with your partner, your friends, your new love interest, your kids, your coworkers, your boss, the other gender, people of another race or ethnicity, your boss’s boss, the barista at the coffee shop, strangers,… Observe how you come to understand what is appropriate and not with those different people and in different settings. Notice how you shape shift.

Notice your vigilance. Notice your discomfort when you are out of sync with your social environment and, conversely, the discomfort of people in different environments when you are innocently or flagrantly not syncing; when you aren’t acting as they think you should be acting; you don’t look like they think you should look. Notice race, gender, ability, sexual orientation, age…

Turn on your TV and observe the myriad ways advertising plays into this dynamic persona-shaping process. We’re bombarded with messages, products and services that are designed to impact our public faces. Branding is a company’s persona-shaping activity.

Watch politicians shape both their Personas and their opponents’ Personas.

We make judgments about people as we experience their Personas. Narrow, rigid personas are intolerant, even afraid of a diversity of personas. Observe discrimination. Notice how dangerous, even deadly, the inability or unwillingness to adapt the Persona to the social environment (for whatever reason–where someone is seen as other) can be. Think hate crimes, religious persecution, lynching, genocide. Think ISIS.

How can such an essential aspect of our psyche be so destructive? To be conscious, we need to understand Persona’s ever-present twin, Shadow, and the dynamics of Polarities.


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