- Acceptance is acknowledging what is. Acceptance is not acknowledging your assessments as ‘the truth’.
- Acceptance means that we are centred in the world as it is and ready for action, rather than consumed and off-centre with our assessments or preferences about the situation.
- We are present, and can take action, rather than being in our mood and conversations.
- We are in the mood of ‘it is the way it is—now what am I committed to, and what actions will I take to fulfil my commitments?’ rather than the mood of ‘I don’t like the way it is, and I’m going to be triggered and perturbed’.
- Acceptance has a lot to do with letting go.
- Acceptance does not mean agreement or approval.
In committing to the path of mastery in any domain, we can centre ourselves in acceptance by declaring acceptance that ‘we are where we are’. We have the skills we have, and do not have the ones we do not have. We learn at the rate we learn, and we do not learn at the rate we do not learn. And it does not have to be any other way, and to insist it should be is to indulge in fantasy. Then, we can accept that we are who we are, and celebrate the gift that this is—that who we are brings the possibilities that we bring*.
Action is shaped by language, and the generative acts of language are the actions that shape subsequent actions. So, in effect:
Action equals generative acts in language, and also physical action that is shaped because of these generative language acts.
We interpret action not as some disembodied activity that we have to organize ‘out there’, but rather as generated by acts of commitments by people who care about some concern.
Action is shaped by commitment—by the commitments we make or do not make, the clarity of the commitment and the ownership and importance of the commitment to the person committing. This is crucial for our understanding of action in organizations, because the fundamental unit of work in organizations is the agreement, not the task. Agreements are commitments.
An assertion is a claim of fact, which is either true or false, to a standard established by the community.
Assertions can be substantiated or refuted through observation and evidence.
The important elements of assertions are as follows:
- Assertions are claims of facts.
- Assertions are either true or false.
- Assertions are speech acts that are measurable or evidentiary and can be substantiated or refuted through observation and evidence.
- Assertions are to a standard established by the community.
An assessment is a statement of evaluation, opinion or judgement. Assessments are neither true nor false. Instead, assessments can be grounded (supported by evidence) or ungrounded.
The important elements of assessments are as follows:
- Assessments are judgements, opinions or conclusions.
- Assessments are never true or false.
- Assessments that you make can open or close possibilities for taking care of a concern.
- Assessments are a speech act and it always has a speaker and a listener (the speaker and the listener can be the same person when you are having an internal conversation with yourself).
- Assessments are also most importantly a listening act, and the reason they are called listening acts is because the way you listen to an assessment will impact what action you will take, and hence will impact the result that you have.
Awareness means that something has been distinguished in our perceptual field, giving us the potential of paying attention to it and putting it into language. Awareness is the foundation of our power to act and interact with another. To be unaware is to be blind. When we are aware of something, we have a choice in our response to it. When we are unaware, we have no choice.
The realization that awareness is the foundation of all action is behind the principle ‘awareness creates choice’. We are literally aware only of what our bodies are trained to be aware of.
*Dunham in his Leadership papers for the Generative Leadership programme.
Blindness is a state where we do not know that we do not know. Blindness is a state of no choice.
Being centred is being in a physical, mental and emotional state of choice. We are centred when our body, mind and emotions are in a state where we can choose our actions. When we are not in a state to choose our actions, we are ‘off-centre’; our reactions and tendencies choose for us. We cannot blend when we are off-centre. In centring, we attain complete balance and focus regardless of our situations.
- Our mind is alert, and we are connected to what we care about and we are free of distracting mental chatter.
- Our mood is serene and open to the current situation.
- Our physical state is dynamically relaxed, alert, balanced around our centre of gravity and ready for action.
These three aspects are mutually connected. We can centre ourselves by starting with any one; the other two will follow. Centring is the skill to put yourself in a state of choice rather than be in reaction when a challenging moment demands your leadership. The centred state is proactive and mindful.
- From the body perspective, centre is 2 inches below the belly button.
- From the language perspective, centre is silence.
- From the emotion perspective, centre is acceptance.
- Centring is an embodied commitment to self-knowing*.
Conversation is the interaction of human beings that creates action, meaning, listening, moods and emotions and the future.
Conversations are not just words, but whole body reactions that are provoked when we interact in language or when we interact and language is provoked.
Conversations include language, moods and emotions, body reactions and experiences and the listening that is based on the history of the people in the conversation. Conversations are shaped in linguistic and cultural practices**.
Conversation for Action
We coordinate our actions towards bringing about something specific in the future by clarifying and making certain who is committed to doing what by when. We make promises for specific actions to specific people in specific time frames. We make requests of specific people for specific actions in specific time frames.
The conversation for action involves two parties, the customer and the performer, who work together to negotiate COS to which both will commit. The customer is a person who makes a request, and the performer is the one who makes a commitment. The key milestones in the conversation are as follows:
- Request: The customer makes a request along with the COS to the performer.
- Negotiation: The performer does one of four things: accepts, declines, counter-offers or commits to commit (defer).
- In the event of a counter-offer that the performer makes to the customer—the customer has the same four choices of accept, decline, counter-offer or commit to commit.
- Promise: After the negotiation, the performer makes a promise to perform.
- Execution: Performer performs.
- Declaration of Completion: Performer declares ‘complete’ to the customer.
- Declaration of Satisfaction: Customer declares satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).
- Revoke/Cancel: During this process, the customer can revoke the request, or the performer can cancel the promise.
Conversation for Possibility
Conversations for possibilities shape the way you see the future, and the actions that you take today. Conversations for possibility generate ideas for possible action. This conversation is conducted in a mood of speculation, identifying possible future actions without judging them or committing to them. Its purpose is to generate a range of possible outcomes, especially including many that are not obvious in habitual frameworks and current constraints. To maintain the mood of speculation and generate the richest set of possibilities, the speakers wilfully refrain from making feasibility assessments or commitment. An example is a ‘what if’ conversation requested by a team member to explore a proposal. Another example is a group brainstorming session that designs goals or ways around obstacles.
The structure for conversations for possibilities includes the following elements:
Conversations for possibilities culminate with the declaration of a new future of design.
Conversation for Relationship
To get meaningful and productive results with other people, the first conversation you need to have is a conversation for relationship. Conversations for relationship create a foundation of workability in which people are free to express their concerns, make open requests and even decline requests. Participants in this conversation relate to each other as a function of their commitments, instead of relating to each other based on the assessments, interpretations and feelings they have about each other. Rather than resigning themselves to patterns of defensive behaviour, resentment or cynicism, they focus on building relationships and opening possibilities through their speaking and listening.
The objective of this conversation is to discover the basis for collaboration between individuals. For the conversation for relationship to be effective, you discover the following in your conversation:
- Shared interest
- Shared care or concern
- Shared commitment
*Richard Strozzi-Heckler, The Leadership Dojo: Build Your Foundation as an Exemplary Leader (California: Frog. Ltd, 2007).
**This distinction of ‘conversation’ has been created for IGL by Bob Dunham.
A declaration is a speech and a listening act, made by a person of authority to do so, where he or she, out of nothingness, brings forth a new possibility, a new future into existence that they own.
A declaration can begin, resolve or end things.
Default future is the future that was going to happen unless something dramatic and unexpected happened. By default future, we do not mean the inevitable future—such as ageing and eventually dying—but rather what is going to happen in our experience, whether we give it much thought or not*.
*Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan, The Three Laws of Performance: Rewriting the future of your organization and your life (San Francisco: Jossey–Bass/Wiley/Times Group Books, 2009).
Future of Design
Future of design is the opposite of default future. A future of design is a future you create with your declarations.
Communication is considered to describe things, not generate them, to be the transfer of information, with an emphasis on good presentation rather than listening skills. However, language is generative in addition to being descriptive. We focus on the aspects of language and communication that generate action and thereby results; that generate possibilities, meaning, value and satisfaction for ourselves and others; and even generate moods and emotions in our experience.
The relevance of speaking and listening for organizations, leadership and coaching is to recognize the generative power of language. One way that language is understood in our current age is as a description of our world, a set of linguistic tokens for entities in reality, a medium for the transfer of information. Much research in language has worked in this framework—that words correspond to entities and phenomena in the world. We see that a word like ‘chair’ corresponds to an artefact by that name in the world. As I have said, this perspective hides that language is generative, not just descriptive. Language has the power to generate action, the outcomes of action, possibilities, commitment, identities, opinions and much more.
In the 1940s, Oxford philosopher John Austin pointed out that we perform acts in language that are not descriptive, but that generate commitments and the future. He discovered that when we make a promise, for example, we are not describing something in the world. Instead, we are making an act, and the act is one of commitment—showing what the speaker is committed to—for the future. A request is a similar act, in which we do not describe something but rather make an act that shifts the future through the commitment that is spoken, listened and asked for. Austin called these linguistic acts ‘speech acts’*.
Generative language has the power to create new futures, to craft vision and to eliminate the blinders that are preventing people from seeing possibilities. It does not describe how a situation occurs; it transforms how it occurs. It does this by rewriting the future*.
At IGL, we state that for an interpretation to be generative, it must
- be observable,
- be executable,
- be learnable through practice and
- generate the desired result.
A generative practice is a conscious choice to embody a behaviour that can be used in whatever situation we find ourselves in. It is a commitment to a way of being in the world. It is life affirming, creative, and it produces a reality by how we orient to our life situation.
Learning to type, on the other hand, is a specific practice; it is specific to a certain context and it takes care of a specific concern. But typing is useful only when we are typing. A generative practice we can use anytime, anyplace, even when we are learning to type*.
Grounded assessments are assessments that have answered a set of questions that require clarification before the listener can accept the assessment. These questions concern care, standards, domain and evidence.
Grounding is a practice to make assessments about assessments. If an assessment is ‘grounded’, then it has evidence to an acceptable standard, and is more likely to be effective in producing a desired outcome than an assessment that is ‘ungrounded’—lacking clear standards, evidence or specification of the domain of concern. Grounding does not make an assessment true; it only provides evidence and argument that it is a good assessment for our purpose. And ungrounded assessments only mean the assessments lack relevant evidence to trust the assessment. In grounding, we recommend that you ask certain questions.
To ground assessments, we find answers to the following questions:
- For the sake of what future action?
- In which domain of action?
- According to what standard?
- What true assertions support the assessment?
- What true assertions are against the assessment?
So in general, grounding is a way to produce more trust in an assessment.
*Extracted from the papers authored by Robert Dunham, for IGL.
Internal conversation is the conversation that you have with yourself. It is that little voice inside of you that is rarely silent. This internal, little, voice determines how you observe the events in your life.
Interruptions are nothing but a break in your transparency. An interruption disrupts the ‘established order’, and this established order was transparent till the ‘interruption’ took place.
If something happens that leads us to a different assessment of what it is we can expect in the future, we would call this an interruption. An interruption implies a change in our space of possibilities. What we assumed was possible before may no longer be possible or what we assumed may not be possible before may suddenly become a possibility. Whenever the observer assesses the space of possibility has changed, be it in a positive or in a negative way, that observer is facing an interruption*.
*This has been adapted from Rafael Echevarria’s (of Newfield Network) paper on ‘Moods and Emotions’. While he calls this a break in transparency, I have called this an interruption, as we do at IGL. At Newfield Network, there is no distinction between a break in transparency and a breakdown. At IGL, we distinguish a break in transparency as an interruption, and then based on the observer, she/he may declare a breakdown (or not declare a breakdown).
A Leader is someone
- who creates an extraordinary future, given the perceived current circumstances;
- who gets others to commit to this new, extraordinary future; and
- who takes and generates action to achieve this new future*.
*Adapted from the works for Werner Erhard and Michael Jensen.
In the world of generative leadership, missing actions are missing conversational moves that are distinguished by the observer. If you do not have the results that you want, there are missing actions/conversations, those that you need to distinguish first and then have with others and/or with yourself.
The common-sense understanding of possibility, as per the Oxford Dictionaries, is ‘A thing that may happen’*. I am not talking about this as possibility that may happen someday in the future.
The possibility that I am talking about in this book is a creation of yours, that empowers you in this moment, shapes the way you think and feel in this moment, to take new action. When you create this kind of a possibility, you impact your ‘now’. You impact your present.
For example, when I created the possibility of setting up IGL, India, it changed the way I felt in that moment. I felt a new surge of energy, a new power to take actions that were hitherto unknown to me. A possibility that excites you automatically puts you in the mood for taking action right now. You know you can make this happen, as long as you take actions in line with achieving this possibility.
To have presence is to live in this moment, in the here and now. Not in your past, and not in your future. To have presence is to be bodily alert in this moment. It is to be aware of your emotional state, its impact on how you see the world and also its impact on others around you.
To have presence is to be connected every moment with the question: ‘for the sake of what am I doing what I am doing?’ It is being connected to your purpose, and acting in fulfilling your purpose.
The above-mentioned definition is the internal aspect of presence. There is another aspect to presence, which is the external aspect of presence.
Simply put, presence is how you land on others. In others words, presence is the assessment others make of your impact on them. Even before you open your mouth to speak the first word, people may make assessments about you. This assessment is based on the body you show up in and the emotional energy you emit generally, and in particular moments. Of course, once you start to speak, what you speak and how you speak also impact the way others assess your presence.
The 3 Cs of leadership presence are
- care and
When something happens/does not happen, and for you that should not ‘be’, then ‘it’ is a problem. Problems are all about ‘what I make of what is so’. Problems do not exist in reality—they exist in the seeing of the observer.
*Oxford Dictionary, accessed 18 February 2016.
A relationship is a promise.
I am the father of my children. While my children are my own, it is not that because they were born through me that I have a relationship with them of being a father. I am their father because I choose to be in this relationship with them and honour the promise of this relationship. There is a certain set of expectations that my children, my wife, my parents, my children’s school and the society have of me as a father. And when I honour their expectations, I do truly become a father in their eyes.
My brother on the other hand has two adopted sons. They were not born through him, and yet, his promise as a father is by no means any less than mine. There are biological fathers, who do not keep the promise of being fathers. So, my claim is that being a father is not about blood, but about a promise.
Similarly, all other relationships are promises. A relationship between a client and the vendor company, a relationship between a subordinate and his line manager, a relationship between a husband and wife and so forth.
Responsibility is being willing to be the cause in the matter. It is taking the posture that you are the source or the cause of something, and that outcomes can be shifted by your actions.
The term ‘somatics’ derives from the Greek word somatikos, which signifies the living, aware, bodily person. It posits that neither mind nor body is separate from the other; both being a part of a living process called the soma.
The soma is often referred to as the living body in its wholeness; somatics, then is the art and science of the soma*.
‘A speculation is a conversation in which the participants create new possibilities for future action, and set a context in which those actions make sense.’ Speculative conversations relate to what could exist or might be done in the future. The key questions to be asked are ‘What is it possible to do?’ ‘What future would we like to create?’ or ‘What new can we achieve or create?’**
*Richard Strozzi-Heckler, The Art of Somatic Coaching: Embodying Skillful Action, Wisdom, and Compassion (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2014).
**Peter J. Denning and Robert Dunham, The Innovator’s Way (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010).
A team is a group of people with a shared promise. A team is constituted in a promise. Without a shared promise, the team is not a team; it is just a group of people together.
Transparency is the functioning of a process without the user being aware of its presence*.
*Oxford Dictionary, accessed 18 February 2016.
What Is So?
‘What is so?’ are assertions, claims of facts, which are either true or false, when compared to a standard established by the community.
What I Make of What Is So?
‘What I make of what is so?’ are assessments, statements of evaluation, opinion or judgement. Assessments are neither true nor false. Instead, they can be grounded (supported by evidence) or ungrounded.