May 17

Awareness – A Flashlight on Process Work and Leadership

Stephan Polomski
Stephan Polomski is director human resources, coach and trainer

About two years ago, a friend of mine, who is leadership coach and as well process worker, got me acquainted with the notion of process and world work as Arnold Mindell and his associates have developed it during the last 30 years. I was so fascinated by this approach to organizational change and conflict management that I began a professional training in process oriented psychology in Zurich half a year ago.

Process work focuses on the unfolding of systems – individuals, groups, organizations, nations, the world and the universe. It is about change and the process of it – a constant development sometimes shaped by conflicts – and it uses theoretical models and practical methods of systemic and Jungian psychology, physics, group dynamics, creative expression and philosophy like e.g. Taoism.

Apart from change or process one of the most important dimensions in Mindell´s teachings is awareness, especially self awareness – - awareness of the individual towards itself, towards its relationships, to social groups in which it is involved, to culture and to society. Starting from a stuck state or disturbing experience – a conflict for example – process work tries to grow potential through the effort of integrating that what is seemingly disturbing into the very system. This attitude or awareness leads to what Mindell calls deep democracy or in other words: a balanced system.

In the context of business and economy my first encounter with “awareness” was in Daniel Goleman´s groundbreaking work on “Emotional Intelligence”. For Goleman awareness is the first step to be taken in order to enable oneself to lead a system. He foremost means awareness for one´s own individual system, the person itself, because for the leader his person and personality is the most important tool for leading by creating resonance. Peter Senge calls this awareness personal mastery, which then in a second step applies leadership models and methods, develops a corporate identity and constantly learns within the social group of an organisation through feedback. If balanced, once again, all of this together creates positive resonance in a system.

Resonance was also depicted by Gundl Kutschera, psychologist and NLP-expert, as fundamental skill for all human interaction on the basis of ethical values and – again – democracy, freedom and peace, objectives, which the individual attains through self-awareness and further skills in conflict management.

Mindell outlines deep democracy as an attempt which enables human beings to realize their own potential and to pursue their own way of being happy.

In Greek the word demokratia means the ruling of the people. Democracy splits and balances power in a social system. However, power is nothing which can be balanced through rules and regulations, as Mindell says (and as our worldwide experience shows), it only can be balanced through the awareness of each part of the system, especially of the leading parts.

Now, business as it is executed in our society only works through hierarchy and dependence. As a result of the sociological development of mankind, business organization is nailed down to obedience and function like in a vicious circle. Simplyfied, the manager rules by setting goals, the employees execute his strategy.

Here now Mindell says, I quote, that “for organizations, communities, and nations to succeed today and survive tomorrow, they must be deeply democratic–that is, everyone and every feeling must be represented.”

For leaders, especially for business leaders who have to manage organizations in a world of sometimes totally different paradigms to deep democracy, e.g. such as profit maximization, this approach certainly is a challenge. And it goes further than what we know as democratic leadership style.

However, this approach enlarges the economical principle with a wider set of values which may be called humanitarian and/or humanistic.

“At the edge of European and worldwide economical breakdown may be new ways of leadership towards economical and social security for all members of the worldwide society are desperately needed.”

At the edge of European and worldwide economical breakdown may be new ways of leadership towards economical and social security for all members of the worldwide society are desperately needed.

New approaches towards leadership can only be those which are able to integrate and to balance all parts of a system, all stakeholders. By doing so, a leader needs to be at the same time constantly aware of his own role and communicative impulse within a system and he needs to take care for the fact that each part is really heard.

The idea behind is to deepen democracy on every level, to move from ‘majority rule’ — or even ‘money/power rule’ — to control over our own lives. Translated into the view of an employee that means: self-responsibility and self-motivation.

Another idea behind is that the leader as facilitator finds ways for all parts of a system to recognise their shared humanity and to start to communicate – especially when parts are in conflict with each other.

And conflicts are a daily organizational reality.

To solve them or – in other words – to process them and thus to balance the organizational system you need awareness for yourself and awareness for all parts of the system. And that means for you as a leader, that the requirements towards your ability to perceive are of the highest standards if you want to succeed.

In order to succeed as a leader within a business organization you need to understand yourself. And in order to understand yourself, you need to explore your inner experiences, Mindell says and continues: “likewise, if multi-leveled organizations want to know themselves, they need to explore open forums to understand their various parts.”

Open Forums like appreciative inquiries or group dynamics are the method to achieve the awareness of a whole organization. In Mindell´s definition they are, I quote, “structured, person-to-person or cyber-space, democratic meetings, in which everyone feels represented. Furthermore, they are facilitated in a deeply democratic manner, which means the deepest feelings and dreams can also be expressed. In other words, the open forum is to a corporation or city as innerwork is to an individual…an organization’s self-discovery process depends on openness to the diversity of its individual members, and the diversity of their inner and outer worlds.”

This is how awareness emerges within the leader and the organization and through their mutual feedback.

This is how organizations change on a commitment to core values of awareness, learning, relationship and wholeness as integral to the code of conduct of process work which also claims:

“The practice of Process Work is a discipline that encourages the practitioner’s willingness to work on his or her own process to benefit the whole.”

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This entry was posted on Monday, May 17th, 2010 at 06:16 and is filed under Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Resources, Leadership. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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  1. Dear Stephan
    once again a real good article full of truth, well researched and aditional inspirations.
    Well done!
    Thank you for beeing :-)