Tuesday, June 2, 2009

15 ways to cultivate spiritual grounding in work with organizations

Most of the work I'm doing now is Organizational Development consulting--usually contracting with organizations to facilitate long-term planning and goal-setting. In doing this work, I'm seeking ways to integrate my interest in the spirituality of organizations into that consulting. I want to incorporate spirituality into what I'm doing, while also respecting that most organizations I work with are not explicitly spiritual or religious groups. I am also keeping in mind that I have lots to learn.

This is a list of 15 ways I'm aspiring to begin this integration. They aren't all appropriate in all circumstances, and I certainly don't do all these things well--but I have found each one of these meaningful in at least one project.

1. Don't take myself too seriously. Remind myself that it is not up to me to fix any organization. There is a Higher Power up to something much better than anything I could come up with, and many in the organization are listening carefully for what is true and right for the group. If I listen carefully, I can play a small role in that larger movement.

2. Return to purpose, both for the organization and the individuals. Reflect on what is in sync with it, and what is not.

3. Affirm the gifts in the people and organizations that I am working with--both practical and spiritual gifts.

4. Pray for people and the organization--by myself, with friends, and, if way opens, with people in the organization I'm working with.

5. Frame decision making in organizations as discerning the calling of the organization--where the world's pressing need meets the organization's deep joy.

6. Notice who is on the margins of the organization system (and systems connected to the organization). Go to them, listen, and incorporate that input in planning.

7. Meet individually with key leaders in the organization and other involved staff. Ask how organizational changes and challenges fit with their own personal and spiritual changes and opportunities.

8. Support deep and effective collaboration among organizations and individuals that is not ego-centered or self-centered, so no one organization self-interest is dominating a partnership.

9. Call attention to professional development in those I work with (and myself) that includes ways to open our hearts, minds, and wills. Reflect together on the mental models and emotional habits that could allow more effective action in the workplace. The language of "personal mastery" in some work cultures taps into this.

10. Focus on values they'd like to guide the organization. Build consensus about what these should be and how they apply.

11. Ask for stories of where the life-giving energy is in the organization, using Appreciative Inquiry language and processes.

12. When individuals and organizations are hitting walls, look for openings where we can notice and trust new ways of being that are emerging, letting go of ego and control.

13. Invite community building within the organization, at whatever stage of community they are at. Look to conflict as a way to deepen community, drawing on circles and other forms of community-building.

14. Ask about the organizational and individual shadows that hide behind the strengths. Ask how these shadows are related to, and what they can teach us. Acknowledge my own shadows.

15. Develop a shared vision for the communities they are seeking to build. Allow that vision to bring together diverse gifts to make it happen.


Anonymous said...

Michael, excellent list. I especially like focusing on the interconnection between "where the world's pressing need meets the organization's deep joy. Later you refer to the shadows behind the strengths. Could you explain "shadows" a bit? Keep up the great work! Barbara Carson

Michael Bischoff said...

Thanks, Barbara. Here's a somewhat formal description of organizational shadows, from an article by Martin Bowles:
"Organization Shadow is understood as facts which organizations wish to deny about themselves, due to the threat posed to self-image and self-understanding and, more generally, the need to be viewed in a favourable light by others. The Shadow is repressed, and, as unconscious content, is projected onto others, often those who are incapable of resisting it."

Oh, and I should've acknowledged in the post that the "pressing need... deep joy" idea is an adaptation of Friedrich Buechner's definition of a sense of calling for an individual: “the place where your deepest joy meets the world's deepest need."

Anonymous said...

Micheal, such a blessing that you are still focusing on the roots that makes any situation or community work as a unit,and that focus point would be out of the spirit in which "yeshua" (Jesus Christ) left here for us to share, so from me to you many prayers and holy blessings . Charles Simmons