Friday, October 23, 2015

On some health adventures

Hi colleagues,

I found out in September 2015 that I have a brain tumor that is taking me on some health adventures. I've already found that I'm learning more about building and benefiting from vibrant communities from this experience than any other experience I've had so far. I'm posting updates, reflections, and questions from the adventures here:

Here's an excerpt from this update on October 9:

"We're all going to die sometime. How long I live isn't the most important thing to me. Living as fully as possible in the reality of love in every moment is what is most important to me. I don't have the power to do this on my own. Some days, like when I met with the oncologist a couple days ago, I get lost in fear, feeling overwhelmed, and anticipating what might be. I ask for your repeated help and companionship in returning to the present tense of what connects us and moves us right now, noticing, with wonder, what is unfolding. I pray and trust that this unfolding is also healing for others, for other cancers on the planet and society. I know my brain is one part of who I am, and I want to support its healing. But I feel my identity is more in the connections between us, and the power that weaves us together. The Mississippi River Gorge in Minneapolis is also who I am, as are the leaves falling off the trees, and in the water flowing over Minnehaha creek, washing away tumors. I look forward to finding new ways to be together in these places and others."

Connections on this journey with those of you I work with, learn with, and play with are sustaining me. Thank you.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Insecurity as a resource for leadership networks

A few days ago I had a bad headache and a tight belly, partly because I felt like I was doing work that was harmful. I was organizing an activity for a high-energy networking event for 1,100 community leaders from the region. The activity was a network map that showed how these 1,100 people knew each other. The more connections you had to others at this event, the larger of a dot you were on the map. At times, I felt like I was helping create a shallow popularity contest that encouraged posturing. As my head hurt, I was aware of how much self-doubt I had about my contributions to this event. As I paid more attention to this, I became aware of how much self-doubt many of the 1,100 participants were also bringing to the event and the potential connections they would make. Underneath the event preparation and activities, it felt like there was a strong, restless current, where most of us were trying to keep our heads above the water of these questions:
Do I really belong here? Will I be found out as a fraud?
Will my gifts be recognized and welcomed?

In the middle of this networking event, I was feeling drained and discouraged.  At that moment, a community artist who inspires me happened to walk up to me to ask about the network mapping activity I was working on. In our conversation, this artist surprised me by telling me about the self-doubts he had about how he fit in this large group of leaders. As he vulnerably and openly told me about this, I felt a wave of grace wash through us.

I've spent much of my life asking myself why I was so shy, and why I had such trouble connecting naturally with people around me. The morning after the event, I woke up early with a desire to reframe this history of self-doubt and insecurity. I saw in a new way the value of the path I've been on from intense shyness to choosing a career as a group facilitator that stretched my natural tendencies. My own experiences have increased my attention to and compassion for these insecurities.  That morning, I felt called to a new way of facilitating connections and collaboration--a way that acknowledges and integrates our insecurities about belonging.  I felt the opportunity for healing of my habit of believing that I can't deeply and naturally connect with others. I felt a desire to continue my facilitation work, but from a place of compassion for those hidden insecurities about belonging that are in me and many others I work with.

If we see leadership as something that a small number of powerful individuals do, the hidden doubts we have as leaders will probably always feel lonely and alienating. If we see leadership as an activity that anyone can do, as a way of taking responsibility and initiative for what we care about--then our weaknesses and doubts can point us to the ways we need each other. If leadership is something we do together, my limitations can open up space for connection and opportunity for others.

The network mapping team that I was working with at this event repeatedly showed me the ways that our mix of strengths and weaknesses added up to a larger, more beautiful whole, as this photo of our team demonstrates.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A parody commercial about my work from my son & other updates

Have you been curious about what the jargon I use in my work actually means? My son made a video that both pokes fun at that jargon and also translates it into normal language. I thought you might like it.

I hope to do more philosotating and using fancy diagrams with you!

I want to take my work less seriously and work less compulsively. I appreciate my son's help with that, and also welcome yours!

- Michael Bischoff

P.S. Here are the serious, save-the-world things I'm doing this fall:

Helping facilitate the: 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shyness & facilitating connections between others

I'm shy and introverted, yet I spend much of my time facilitating connections between other people. What's up with that?

Earlier this month, I organized and co-facilitated a bunch of large events. During one of them, a room full of people were enthusiastically networking, as a part of an event to match nonprofits with pro bono consultants. In the middle of this event, I went out in the hallway and questioned my sanity. Being in a room full of people mingling is one of my images of torture. I was one of the people who had the idea for the event and made it happen.

When a colleague and I came up with the idea for this activity, I was energized by the conversation and the idea of a creative way to address an unmet need. I enjoyed getting other partners on board with the idea. And as tiring as mingling can be for me, building a broad and diverse network of people I work with is important to me. I find that acting as a facilitator pushes me out of my introverted tendencies in ways that are quite useful for me, and my tendencies to step back, listen and notice things seems helpful for others. Heck, I even met my wife when I was organizing and facilitating a workshop.

But what the painful moment in the hallway reminded me was that I don't just want to facilitate broad and shallow networking. I want to focus my facilitation work on deep, long-term, transformative relationships and action. I'd like to invite you to the retreat and "deep dive" that are listed below. They are both designed, in different ways, to make space for deep and generative connections--connections to sources of wisdom, connections with others, and connections to bold leadership.

Leading from Source Retreat

August 13
Victoria, MN

I invite you to spend a day in a beautiful place listening for, expressing, and practicing what it means to "Lead from Source." There is a way of leading that trusts that an invisible source, much larger than our own will and limiting perspectives, is seeking to work through us individually and together...
Find out more

Leading Innovation Deep Dive Workshop

September 15-16
Minneapolis, MN 

Are you working with a diverse network of people to solve complex social challenges? Would you like to be?
We invite you to learn and practice an approach to collective innovation that is collaborative, experimental, and committed to transformative results.
Find out more


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Spend a day in retreat with me?

One of my favorite natural place near the Twin Cities is the area around Carver Park Reserve, with a mix of forest, prairies, gentle hills, and lakes. I'd like to invite you to spend a day with me and some friends at a retreat there, listening for what it means for each of us to lead from our deepest sources of strength and guidance. We'll spend some time in storytelling, in nature, moving around, with music and in conversation.

Leading from Source Retreat
Wednesday, August 13, 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM

What is Leading from Source?

There is a way of leading that trusts that an invisible source, much larger than our own will and limiting perspectives, is seeking to work through us individually and together. This source moves toward wholeness and is actively seeking to be in relationship with us. Through stillness, discernment, and reflective action it is possible to move in close connection with this source--in business, in social change, and personally. We call this kind of leadership, "leading from the source" because it is a choice to investigate and operate from the deepest sources for inspired and effective action. Many of us are drawn to this way of listening and leading in the midst of complex, diverse settings and challenges--and we hunger to do it with more integrity and in more connection with others on this path.

Find out more and sign up