Monday, October 12, 2009

From ego-centric to eco-centric organizations

During my son's last soccer game, I was talking with a Mark Haase, a friend who is very active with the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. This coalition advocates to support the second chances of those with criminal records. As we talked I mentioned an article by Otto Scharmer about leadership development that "ignites a field of inspired connection and action." In the article, Scharmer talks about the impact a leadership development program had on one participant:
One of them, a leader in a global multinational company, put it this way... "I no longer work for my company. I am working from my company." The difference between working "for" and working "from" is in the level of awareness and consciousness that moved from a single company (ego-­system-­centric) to the whole social and ecological context that this company operates in (eco-system-­centric).
The conversation made me realize that many people in the Second Chance Coalition also appear to also work just as much "from" their organization as they do "for" the organization where they are employed full-time. Of course, I think that working for the interests of your own employer is important. I think that honoring the commitments, values, and accountability of an organization is often a pre-requisite to acting in true collaboration. At the same time, a narrow focus on those interests can often get in the way of really forwarding the broader purposes and causes that are supposed to be driving an organization. Among nonprofits I work with, we can sometimes get lost in fighting for limited money and recognition. Even among "collaborations," we often get stuck in either fighting for control of the collaboration, or in not really developing a shared responsibility for the partnership. From my experience with the Second Chance Coalition, this group has created a kind of collaboration where several individuals work effectively out of their own organization, on behalf of a broader movement and purpose (or ecosystem, as Scharmer described it). I have seen this kind of ecosystem-centric leadership from Mark, who is based at the Council on Crime and Justice, Sarah Walker at 180 Degrees, Melissa Froehle at Minnesota Fathers and Families Network, Jonathan Maurer-Jones at Take Action Minnesota, Anna Meyer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness--Minnesota, and Lori Stee at Rebuild Resources. There are many others in the Second Chance Coalition who also operate with this kind of leadership.

I give thanks for the individuals who can operate with this kind of leadership, and also for their employers, who are able to support this kind of collaboration.

What do you think makes ecosystem-centric collaboration possible?


sarah said...

Thank you for the important reminder of why and what is special about the Coalition. I know I have said this a million times, but it is honestly the most meaningful experience of my professional life. Most meetings I attend are fraught with undercurrents of antagonism and self-interested positioning. When I leave a coalition meeting I feel renewed and inspired even if exhausted. While some of the satisfaction is helped by small successes the real satisfaction is rooted in the increased support, collaboration and friendships that have grown from the individuals working in the coalition. I can only speak on behalf of what I see at 180, but the coalitions work has also altered perception of "clients" and staff. They see a larger mission outside of the daily grind. I feel blessed to be a part of the coalition.

lori said...

I am honored that you see in the MN Second Chance Coalition the relational dynamic we have cultivated--intuitively and deliberately--over the past two years. I am humbled by the eloquent, thoughtful way that you have expressed your thoughts here, my friend. Thank you for all you have contributed to our effort.

Dennis Avery said...

Your personal insights and the work you have chosen to do contunues to further non-combative, intelligent and informed dialogue at every turn. I was unable to attend the Forum yesterday, but I know first hand about the leadership and real accomplisments of those you mention, who are forwarding a more sane and rational criminal justice agenda in Minnesota. My hat's off to each of you, in recognition of the powerful changes for which you constantly advocate and bring about through hard work and tireless dedication. That's the simple truth.

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