I was with a leader yesterday who’s making some big decisions. They are struggling with feeling like a failure. After years of investment in their work, it’s clear things are not going to turn out the way they wanted or expected, and they are listening to the question, “What’s trying to happen here?”
Not, “What do I want to happen?”
Not, “What can I make happen?”
They are leaving behind what they know for the unknowable, trusting the universe will catch them.
Vaclev Havel says, “Keep the company of those who seek the truth—run from those who have found it.”
There are so many people professing to have found the truth—the truth about superfoods, intermittent fasting, team effectiveness methodologies, cultural and political trends, parenting, what time to eat breakfast or which search engine to use, how to invest your money or train your dog. We have confused opinions with truth, and opinions are being hawked on every street corner.
I’m looking for uncertainty. I’m looking for:
- I’m not sure about this, but let’s try it and see.
- What can you teach me?
- This is really complicated. I only see a small part of it. Which part do you see?
- My brain wants to be in the driver’s seat, but I’m going to check in with my heart and body and see what they are saying.
- I don’t know what to do.
- I’m going to trust my inner teacher on this.
- In your heart of hearts, what feels right?
- Here’s my opinion on this now, but I’m willing to think like a scientist. How could I be wrong?
And I’m not inclined to follow when I hear things like:
- This is how we’ve always done it.
- Case closed.
- Stick to the plan.
- Just trust me.
- That information will be given on a need-to-know basis.
- You’re a _______________ personality type, so you always do things _________way.
There are so many “flavors-of-the-day” in organizational life. The latest book or methodology, pontificating about what a functional or dysfunctional team looks like. My friend Ben Bratt in his book The Team Discovered: Dialogic Team Coaching, says, “The team’s search for coherence in a complex world is a never-ending journey. From stasis comes change, from chaos, order, and vice versa. The team’s challenge in these conditions is to find adaptable paths to greater effectiveness, rather than some rarified state of a pinnacle, high-performing team.”
Yes. Those rarified states don’t exist. They are concepts. Much better to be in the (uncomfortable) state of seeking the truth rather than the dangerous place of claiming to have found it.
My colleague Geoff Bellman gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten: In working with teams and organizations, my job is to be a cook back in the kitchen, not someone ordering from a menu. There is no methodology or ultimate truth—no mixing and matching of menu items that can help my clients heal or grow. There is just how I show up, in an open, uncertain way, and how willing they are to take that ride with me.
I’ll be looking for ways to practice being a seeker this week—here we go!