Week #5 LeadWise Academy Assignment

I’m writing this post two days after I was meant to, and my brain is still stubbornly resisting the task of ‘landing’ on one thing I’ve changed my mind about during my experience over the last five weeks. Maybe it’s because I’m not quite ready for it to be over, in the sense that I still have so much more exploration, reading, thinking, and processing to do. It’s all still solidifying, so to pull something as concrete and settled as what I’ve changed my mind about feels forced.

I think this course has changed my mind, and maybe even changed me, possibly significantly. Time will tell, but already I have felt many of the concepts, tools, and topics we’ve been discussing sliding tentacles into diverse and disparate areas of my life and worldview; making new mental connections, reframing past experiences, bringing some things into sharper focus, and softening the edges of others.

I’ve struggled to describe the course succinctly to others. And yet I’ve seen connection points everywhere, and have probably left friends, colleagues, and loved ones a little bewildered at the enthusiastic, if seemingly random, additions I’ve made to conversations inspired by what we’ve been reading and doing in LeadWise Academy.

Every great period of learning in my life has involved the realization and acceptance of how incomplete my understanding of the world is, like opening a previously unnoticed door in a house, only to discover that there is an entire other floor that I hadn’t known about, filled with other people who seem to have never not known.

In this case, to stretch the analogy further that it probably deserves, it’s like I’ve discovered that there exists a subterranean and critically important tunnel connecting the house filled with everything I know about work, and the shed in the back yard where I’ve kept my own inner workings neatly separated.

That is, I’ve come to realize that I held the belief that we can successfully enable, engineer, or design the way that people work together without taking seriously our own inner work. It seems clear now that the delineation between these spheres, while almost certainly more comfortable, is severely limiting for all involved.

If someone would have told me this a few months ago, I might have agreed, but I would have done so with a superficial understanding of why it was true for the world ‘out there’. The underlying assumption for me was “Yes, we should consider inner work as an element in the way that we advise and support other people.” It felt arms length, theoretical, abstract. Integrating this into my everyday work and inviting others around me to do the same feels like an entirely different undertaking; one that is personal, uncomfortable, and a bit risky. But the experiences over the last 5 weeks have convinced me that it offers enormous possibility and value for our experience as humans at work and beyond.

Ultimately, I’m not sure that a ‘changing of my mind’ is the best way to describe what I am taking from this course. That suggests (to me) a debate, a case being made and won. Instead it feels like it has clearly illuminated important connections that I had previously ignored. I found myself trying to explain one idea or element to someone outside the course and failing to convey the feeling of ‘rightness’ it had evoked in me; I gave up a few times, searching for the right words and doing no better than “It’s all connected”.

Post-script: I am enormously grateful to Susan, Kate, Ian, and Mariana for their effort, kindness, and courage in designing and delivering this first Practical Self-management intensive, and to my fellow participants, who were generous in sharing their experiences, selves, and ideas. Thank you.