30 Slices
Medium 9781576750407

1 The Wilderness Within Ancient Views of the Soul

Alan Briskin Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

The journey is difficult, immense, at times impossible, yet that will not deter some of us from attempting it.… I can at best report only from my own wilderness. The important thing is that each man possess such a wilderness and that he consider what marvels are to be observed there.

Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey

Andy is in his mid-thirties. He graduated with an M.B.A. from a prestigious university and sees himself as particularly skilled in transition management. He describes himself as comfortable with ambiguity and positive in his outlook on managing change—confident that he can help others with the difficult task of organizational transition.

When a reengineering was announced in his organization, he welcomed the opportunity for himself and his organization, which he saw as too insular and too reluctant to change. Told that an entire layer of senior administrators would be removed, he remained optimistic even though he was in one of the positions likely to be terminated. “Everyone was walking around with their heads down and filled with gloom,” he said of his peers, “but I’m feeling upbeat about the changes. Sure, there’ll be pain, but I’m not a victim. If I stay with the organization, that’ll be fine, and if I don’t, that’s OK too.”

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Medium 9781576751114

8 Role As an Expression of Soul

Cheryl Peppers Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

137

Something we were withholding made us weak, Until we found it was ourselves.

—ROBERT FROST

THE NEATLY CARVED-OUT roles of the modern era have disappeared. Traditional hierarchical relationships are confounded by matrix, team-based, and even virtual organization designs. Gone are the cut-and-dry performance reviews, clearly written job descriptions, and even private office space. Mergers, spin-offs, and frequent restructuring mean constantly shifting positions and roles. Reporting relationships are less direct, often remote, and performance management systems are increasingly complex. Job descriptions can’t capture all of what we do, ongoing responsibilities compete with project-based initiatives, and process changes require constant adaptation to the work itself. Not only are we confused about our own roles, but the shifting roles of our colleagues leave us unsure of where to go for support and collaboration. It’s no wonder that, in the attempt to hold on to our sanity, we learn to withhold parts of ourselves. And then that weakens us, because we are split, and parts of ourselves are not present.138

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Medium 9781576754450

SEVEN: The Unlimited Cocreative Power of Groups and Communities

Alan Briskin Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

We must envision our work as a creative act, more akin to the artistic endeavor than the technical process. This never negates skill and technique. But it does suggest that the wellspring …lies in our moral imagination, which I will define as the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.

—John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination

We know that groups are often the settings for stress, discomfort, and wounding. We are also aware that all too often, we are subject to destructive actions and emotions that can influence our thoughts, affect our biochemistry, and even alter our physical brain. Pick up a newspaper, glance at the Internet, turn on the television, or listen to the radio, and we are immediately drawn into images of raw aggression and conflict. Nor can our workplaces or even families be safe havens from agitation, aggression, and worse. Each of these systems has its own conflicted histories, habitual behaviors, and potential new crises.

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Medium 9781576750407

3 The Domination of Souls How Organizations Become Our Keepers

Alan Briskin Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

Under the absolute government of a single man, despotism, to reach the soul, clumsily struck at the body, and the soul, escaping from such blows, rose gloriously above it; but in democratic republics that is not at all how tyranny behaves; it leaves the body alone and goes straight for the soul. The master no longer says: “Think like me or you die.” He does say: “You are free not to think as I do… but from this day you are a stranger among us.… You will remain among men, but you will lose your rights to count as one.…

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

No one can mature in a culture or organization without internalizing aspects of it. We are by nature dependent on family, community, social institutions, and our workplaces for our survival and to a large measure our sense of identity. To become aware of what it is that culture blurs—namely, the distinction between our utter uniqueness and the demands to fit in—is an essential task of soul seeking. We must continually confront the questions of meaning: “Who am I?” “What have I become?” “Where am I headed?” To answer these questions, we must confront our own history and socialization. We must also confront the power of ideas to shape both us and the organizations we are part of. The question of how we become more fully what we are takes on meaning and texture when we look inward and outward.

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Medium 9781576751114

3 Soul As a Chorus of Inner Voices

Cheryl Peppers Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

How queer to have so many selves.

How bewildering.

—VIRGINIA WOOLF

IN THE 1920s, English fiction writer Virginia Woolf made a major contribution toward understanding the structure of the personality through her technique of character development. Moving beyond dialogue between people, Woolf brought forward the dialogue within oneself as a way to reveal the inner complexity of a character. Through stream of consciousness, the reader could listen in on the protagonist’s interior dialogue. Thus the story shifts to an inner drama, played out among the character’s multiplicity of selves. Woolf’s appeal, no doubt, stemmed from her readers’ recognition of these different aspects within themselves—if not quite the same, similar in their complexity and juxtapositioning. At the time, the popular view of the personality was that of a single, dominant self—an individual who by will could control himself or herself. Woolf and others introduced the idea of many selves, whose voices sometimes harmonize and other times conflict.42

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