Tag Archive for: leadership

Unsettling the Settler Within

Inspired by the TRC report and my desire to live and act in ways that support reconciliation, I re-read Unsettling the Settler Within – Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling and Reconciliation in Canada (2010) by Paulette Regan. The author was an Indian Residential School (IRS) claims resolution manager for the federal government, then the Director of Research for the TRC.  She completed her PhD in the Indigenous Governance Program at University of Victoria and this book is based on her dissertation.
As a non-Indigenous woman, Paulette asks, “How can we, as non-Indigenous people, unsettle ourselves to name and then transform the settler – the colonizer who lurks within – not just in words but by our actions, as we confront the history of colonization, violence, racism and injustice that remains part of the IRS legacy today?” (p.11). She suggests that, “In the seismic wake of destruction left by the public policy experiment that was the Indian residential schools, Indigenous communities struggle with poverty, poor health and education outcomes, economic disadvantage, domestic violence, abuse, addiction and high rates of youth suicide. It is easy from the apparent safety of our relatively comfortable lives, to judge the apparent inability of Native people to rise above such conditions, thus pathologizing the victims of our well-intended actions. It is equally easy to think that we know what is best for them – hence our persistence in trying to solve the Indian problem. This singular focus on the Other blinds us from seeing how settler history, myth, and identity have shaped and continue to shape our attitudes in highly problematic ways. It prevents us from acknowledging our own need to decolonize.” (italics added, p. 10-11).
This book is one settler’s “call to action” that requires us to start with self and “risk interacting differently with Indigenous people – with vulnerability, humility, and a willingness to stay in the decolonizing struggle of our own discomfort” (p. 13). What I appreciate about this informative and provocative book is that Paulette weaves together a critical and scholarly analysis of colonization, reconciliation and decolonization, with historical information and human stories that enable us to see and understand an alternative story about Canadian history. The stories offered in this book and in the TRC report could be some of our most powerful teachings – they are an invitation to confront and shift our own attitudes and actions.
Paulette also shares her own journey towards de-colonization. In sharing her journey, I could more easily (an uncomfortably) see the settler and colonizer within me. As she says, “I find myself recounting all the reasons that I am not a colonizer: I am working for social justice and change from within my own dominant-culture institutions; I am enlightened and empathetic; my intentions are good; I am committed to finding just solutions to these claims; I have Indigenous colleagues and friends; I grew up in a single-parent, low-income family in an ethnically diverse East Vancouver neighbourhood; I am not one of those white upper- or middle-class people raised in insular privilege! But I also know that…no one came to my home as a matter of government policy or religious imperative to remove me from my mother’s care. My fair skin and colouring protected me from racism…So I now find myself in the uncomfortable position of being a Euro-Canadian woman trying to figure out what it means to bear this unwanted identity of colonizer, oppressor, and perpetrator while attempting to do my work in a way that is congruent with my own principles, beliefs, and sense of integrity.” (p. 171-172). Wow – that one hit home for me!
She also offers a view of reconciliation as an “intercultural encounter” that integrates traditional story-telling and ceremony within a contemporary context. In this way I am reminded of the work that Wedlidi Speck is doing with Leadership 2020 participants on  “cultural agility”. 
One of the immediate takeaways for me was her description of settlers as “ethical witnesses” where the stories of human rights violations and trauma “invite an ethical response”. This is grounded in bearing witness, and deeply and respectfully listening to the stories such that this “giving and receiving of painful stories can restore human dignity” (p. 173). She goes on to say, “As Indigenous peoples restore their own sense of human dignity as self-determining groups, settlers must recognize and respect that inherent dignity…” (p. 177). Lots to work with and think about as I continue the journey.
For a briefer call to action, I encourage you to read Chris Corrigan’s blog post entitled Reconciliation – A practical guide for non-indigenous people

2020 Reflections – The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Report was released in the week just before the start of the Indigenous focus cohort 3 in June and I was both profoundly moved and disturbed by the findings. I was also anxious. The TRC report was a call to action, but how could we respond, and what did we need to be mindful of and do within Leadership 2020 – and with the upcoming Indigenous focus cohort – to honour the TRC’s work and most importantly, the testimony of the thousands of survivors who told their stories? What does reconciliation look like and what could I/we do to live into this spirit? These are questions I invite our Leadership 2020 community to explore and discuss.
The opening paragraphs of the report reflected my anxiety and questions: “Now that we know about residential schools and their legacy, what do we do about it?

“Getting to the truth was hard, but getting to reconciliation will be harder. It requires that the paternalistic and racist foundations of the residential school system be rejected as the basis for an ongoing relationship. Reconciliation requires that a new vision, based on a commitment to mutual respect, be developed. It also requires an understanding that the most harmful impacts of residential schools have been the loss of pride and self-respect of Aboriginal people, and the lack of respect that non-Aboriginal people have been raised to have for their Aboriginal neighbours.Reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one. Virtually all aspects of Canadian society may need to be reconsidered” (italics added, p. vi).

The TRC calls for us to become more aware, as a start, “Too many Canadians know little or nothing about the deep historical roots of these conflicts. This lack of historical knowledge has serious consequences for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and for Canada as a whole. In government circles, it makes for poor public policy decisions. In the public realm, it reinforces racist attitudes and fuels civic distrust between Aboriginal peoples and other Canadians. Too many Canadians do not know the history of Aboriginal peoples’ contributions to Canada, or understand that by virtue of the historical and modern Treaties negotiated by our government, we are all Treaty people. History plays an important role in reconciliation; to build for the future, Canadians must look to, and learn from, the past” (Italics added, p. 8). 

The TRC report is a heart- and gut-wrenching read – but I believe that it should be required reading for any of us working in this sector. The truth-telling of the 100-year story of the IRS and the resulting cultural genocide, as well as the ‘sixties scoop’, helps us become more historically and culturally aware. It positions us to better understand the diverse contemporary experiences of Indigenous people and communities. It is also a humbling and significant call to action. The recommended actions in the section on Child Welfare (pp. 137-144) are of particular importance, although the child welfare interests cannot be separated from health, education, justice, and culture.

The TRC also suggests that “reconciliation as an ongoing process of establishing and maintaining respectful relationships. A critical part of this process involves repairing damaged trust by making apologies, providing individual and collective reparations, and following through with concrete actions that demonstrate real societal change” (p. 16).

So now what? Certainly the different levels of government have work to do, but so do we as individuals and as leaders in this field. As we prepared to welcome the Indigenous focus cohort to Bowen Island in June, the hosting team spent a number of hours talking about the TRC report, what it meant to us, what was being called for now and how we would ‘show up’ for the participants and for each other. Through this dialogue and intention, I gained a different level of presence and mindfulness and am grateful to Wedlidi, Caitlin, Chris and Annemarie for the dialogue. I have a long way to go on my journey from cultural awareness, to understanding, to competency, to humility, and to cultural agility and wise action, but it is clear that it cannot be a solitary journey.

In the Fall we would like to host some online dialogue circles on reconciliation and invite your ideas. What questions are you carrying? What do you need to learn, discuss, or practice in order to live into the spirit of reconciliation?

Working With and Through Conflict

As mentioned last week, I have been thinking about how we might share with each other the gems we are gathering from our readings and our experiences. Here is how you can contribute:

  • Recommend resources, websites, TED or YouTube talks, speakers or books.
  • Share a review of or highlights from a book or resource.
  • Pose a challenge to other 2020ers to help you find a great resource, website, book, etc. that will benefit your leadership practice (and which will undoubtedly benefit others also).
This week, I have been inspired by the Blended 3 and 4 cohorts’ conversations on working with and through conflict. We welcomed mediator Anne Marie Daniel for several sessions, and what I appreciated is that she unpacked conflict – and our reactions to it – and took us back to some vital truths about conflict and resolution. Here is my version of the key ideas, followed up with some useful references if you are ready to get better at working through conflict.

Understanding is not the same as agreeing
By seeking to understand what is going on for the other person or party, we gain knowledge and perspective that can help us move from fear, anger, resistance, etc. to a place of openness and creativity. Instead of feeling that we have to keep putting our points, needs and demands forward (or just give up) we can take a step back and try and figure out what is going on for the others involved. This doesn’t mean we are agreeing with their perspective – just aiming to understand. This act in itself can diffuse a lot of conflict.

Separate impact and intention 
When we feel negatively impacted by a situation, we often believe that the other party intended to cause this harm. We attribute negative intent to them and act from that uncomfortable place of being the wronged party. In many cases, people have no intention to cause harm and are surprised to learn of the impact that they have. To avoid escalating misunderstanding it is helpful to go through a few steps with ourselves, before responding: isolate the facts of the story (not the enhanced version of events that our minds create), look critically at the impact the situation has on you, consider what the other person’s intentions might have been, look at what your own intentions were/are, and how your behaviour might have contributed to the situation. Doing this can be quite humbling, and it also gets our pre-frontal cortex (our rational and creative mind) back online so we can separate from the emotional reaction and respond in a way that increases the likelihood of success.

There is a difference between want and need – focus on the needs 
In conflict situations people may provide a list of what they want, take positions, make threats, or aim for the quick fixes, e.g. “I want you to stop doing that now or I will refuse to participate.” By focusing on needs and interests – what underlies the expressed wants – you can open up other possibilities for solutions. For example, perhaps the person demanding that you stop doing something might be needing some recognition of and support for what they are already doing before adding anything further. By focusing on what their interests and concerns are you can trim away the ‘noise’ and come to the core needs. The desire for respect, recognition, understanding and appreciation are core needs that often get clouded over by demands and ‘wants’. Hint: if you think that you have resolved an issue only to find it re-surfacing again, it is quite likely that you and the other party were addressing the surface ‘wants’ rather than the underlying ‘needs’.

Look for shared goals  
“How can we meet (what you need) while making sure that (what I need) happens?”
This is not about compromise (where both parties go away with less than what they desired) but about creating something that works well for both parties.

Some of the best references on working with and through conflict were written in the 1980’s by professors at Harvard University Law School and the Harvard Negotiation Project (HNP). Although the focus was on tough negotiations, they are highly still relevant resources on conflict resolution and principle-based negotiation. Getting to Yes –Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In (1981) by Roger Fisher and William Ury was the first in the series. This was followed by Getting Together – Building Relationships As We Negotiate (1988) by Roger Fisher and Scott Brown, Getting Past No – Negotiating Your Way from Confrontation to Cooperation (1991) by William Ury, Getting Ready to Negotiate – The Getting to Yes Workbook (1995) by Roger Fisher and Danny Ertel, and Beyond reason – Using Emotions as You Negotiate (2005) by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro. The two I refer to most are described below.
Getting to Yes was the groundbreaking book on principle-based negotiation, and it offers a commonsense approach to address conflicts and other matters where the parties are not in agreement. This includes: separating people from the problems; focusing on interests, not positions; discovering mutually acceptable options; and figuring out objective criteria to ensure fairness. I also like that they address situations in which you have less power in a situation, and how you can still have influence.
Getting Together expands on Getting to Yes and challenges the view that some relationships are just destined to be ‘bad’. Their premise is that “although it takes two to have a relationship, it takes only one to change its quality.” Their goal is to help us build relationships that “can deal well with differences” and be constructive. They suggest 7 elements:
  1. Rationality: Balancing emotions with reason
  2. Understanding: Learning how they see things
  3. Communication: Listening and consulting before deciding
  4. Reliability: Being wholly trustworthy, but not wholly trusting
  5. Persuasion not coercion: Negotiating side by side
  6. Acceptance: Dealing seriously with those with whom we differ
  7. Congruence: Putting it together
You can get some free reports from the HNP that are well done, especially the one on Dealing With Difficult People and Dispute Resolution.

Give and Take

This week I want to share 2 references: Give and Take (2013) by Adam Grant, PhD and the classic parable, The Alchemist (1993) by Paulo Coelho.
Organizational psychologist and business professor Adam Grant wrote Give and Take to challenge the pervasive contemporary thinking that people achieve success by being aggressive, individualistic, charismatic, hard-driving, exceptionally talented and occasionally just plain lucky. Instead, he suggests that in our increasingly complex and interdependent world, our success depends on how we interact with others.
He draws on extensive research and suggests that there are generally three ways of being in relationships: taker, matcher and giver. The assumption has been that the dominant ‘takers’ will step on others and rise to the top and the ‘givers’ will be the ones at the bottom of the heap, content to serve selflessly. The ‘tit for tat’ matchers lie somewhere in the middle. Adam points to research that, at first glance, confirms this assumption. In a number of fields and professions, people that are high givers tend not to do as well at school, and in the workplace. They have difficulty getting all the work done as they are busy giving to and caring for others.  These are the ‘selfless givers’ who often become exhausted and unappreciated. So is it the takers or matchers that achieve more success? Neither – it is the givers who demonstrate both high concern for others AND high concern for self – what he calls the ‘otherish givers’. 
These people have self-preservation instincts. They give happily, lovingly and without conditions but are also selective – working on matters of significant importance and concern to them that are aligned with their ‘calling’, building strong networks, but also recognizing when to step away and do something restorative. These people are exceptional at connecting people and ideas, collaborating, influencing and giving credit to others. They favour ‘powerless communications’ instead of ‘power-over communications’. They may toil for some time without overt recognition but their many ‘weak ties’ with people that have benefited from their kindnesses and contributions enable them to be more nimble and adaptive as their approach encourages others to offer what they can when needed.   
Adam’s perspective on how to be an authentic and loving ‘giver’ that doesn’t get depleted was intriguing to me as I see so many of us in this field burning out – or getting burned – by the seemingly endless demands on our time, resources and energy. What can we learn about resilience from Adam’s research? Otherish givers have a clear cause, they derive genuine satisfaction from helping others, they act in ways that builds trust which inspires others to offer what they can, they are not afraid to ask for help, they give credit to others, they build up ‘reserves’ of happiness and meaning that they can draw on when the pain or sadness of the work wears them down. Adam offers suggestions about how to practice and nurture otherish giving. 
There is a lot more that I may say about the book in the future as it is full of stories that shed light on the qualities of givers, how to be a giver while staying whole and strong, and how to overcome our bias that gets in the way of us clearly seeing what others contribute.
By contrast, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a simple, sweet classic that fits well with the topic of Elango’s work. This ‘hero’s journey’ story follows a Spanish shepherd that pursues his dream/calling – or ‘personal legend’ – and discovers much about himself and his purpose in the world. 

2020 Reflections – Authenticity at Work

Authenticity at Work: Loving What You Do and Doing What You Love

The Indigenous Focus 3 cohort welcomed 50 people onto their webinar with Elango for the first all-cohorts session. Hearing voices from every group made me smile and miss you all.  I am looking forward to continuing to build these opportunities through the Fall and seeing where we can take it. If you would like to see that session, the edited webinar is up here.

We will be sending an edited copy of the slides plus the articles and resources Elango recommended with next week’s communique.
The session made me think a lot about my own ‘calling’ into social care work (4 decades ago next year!) and the many ups and downs along the way. When have I felt most authentic and congruent with my values and purpose (and yes happy)? What are the common threads in these experiences that I can learn from in order to construct a more intentional connection between what I do (in work, community and family) and purpose? In light of this, how do I define ‘success’ now? (For me, it is definitely no longer about position, power and authority, which drove me for the first few decades).  And what does this have to do with my Leadership practice anyway?  How can I work within the often-constrained systems of social care and still crack open a little more opportunity for others to achieve greater alignment and authenticity so we can do stronger work together? If you are inclined, crack open your journal and see what these questions uncover.
Elango also mentioned Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks and I highly recommend them to you. His first talk in 2006 is one of the most watched TEDs. Although the title is, Do Schools Kill Creativity? it is a highly engaging presentation about passion and purpose.

His second talk is entitled, Bring on the Learning Revolution, and he encourages us to think about creating opportunities for people’s strengths, gifts, talents and interests to flourish. Although focused on children, the message is just as pertinent for our workplaces. This is the one Elango referred to.

Elango shared a few creative inspirations. The first was an excerpt from the poem by May Sarton, Now I Become Myself, and I have attached the full version for you as a beautiful reminder of being authentic. The second was a recommendation to view Jiro Dreams of Sushia documentary about a man in his 80’s that continues to pursue his calling

It is sometimes through these ‘oblique’ and apparently un-related references and concepts that we gain new insights to apply into our daily practice and work. (More on the power of obliquity in a future post.)
Other ideas on learning, and an invitation…
No matter how old I get or how old my daughters get, September feels like a ‘back to school/learning’ time. Because you stepped into 2020 we know you are the continuous growth types, so my assistant Kate and I have prepared a resource about a newer approach to learning – Massive Open Online Courses – or MOOCs. There are some wonderful offerings coming up. For example, edX is offering a course taught by Otto Scharmer who developed U-theory which we work with in residency 2. Entitled U.Lab: Transforming Business, Society and Self, it begins on September 15th.  Coursera is offering a course entitled Women in Leadership: Inspiring Positive Change, which might be interesting.  However, I am most intrigued by their course entitled A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment, because it features some of the most interesting researchers in the field of positive psychology and neuroscience. I am curious about how we might create some cross-cohort learning circles around some selected courses by taking the program together and then discussing – sort of like an online book club but a ‘course-club’. Thoughts?