Human Potential Methodology for organizational transformation

The following is an edited transcript of a conversation between Sujith Ravindran, Mark Vandeneijnde and Geoff Swannell on the Human Potential Method, a unique methodology for helping organizations, teams and individuals to recognize and achieve their highest potential.

The HP Method utilizes data gathered from an online survey tool- the Human Potential Assessment – that measures the extent that people, teams and organizations are realizing their innate Human Potential. Used  in conjunction with the HP Method, the methodology generates breakthrough results.

I’d like to discuss the HP Method, which is summarized in Peter Leong’s article ‘Leading evolutionary change in organizations through Human Potential realization’. The diagram [see below] shows the 7 step Human Potential Method. In that article you say: “The assessment [the Human Potential Assessment], important as it is, is merely the beginning of an organization’s Human Potential journey.

 

The Human Potential Method has three phases: ENQUIRE, DISCOVER and HARNESS.

GEOFF: In your article, you go on to say: “The journey starts with the ENQUIRE phase, first by Sensing the dilemmas and critical business questions that are “keeping the client up at night”. These are rarely fully articulated and therefore often require a deep sensing into the unconscious reality of the client, their fears and vulnerabilities. This is followed by Assessing [using the Human Potential Assessment tool] and looking at what the data and insights [from the HP Assessment] are revealing along the 4 states and the 23 underlying dimensions.”

“The DISCOVERY phase is about processing and integrating the insights, so they can be transformed into actionable next steps, fully owned by the organization. During these workshops the client is invited to look deeply into the current beliefs and assumptions that drive their business decisions today and make very deliberate choices on who they want to BE going forward. This typically involves “Subtracting” (the process of understanding the disconnects or the shortfalls among the various states and dimensions of the HP Assessment), “Passaging” (releasing control of the familiar processes used to arrive at solutions) and “Arriving” (seeing opportunities in uncertainties and allowing new possibilities to reveal themselves).”

“Finally, in the HARNESS phase, the organization is encouraged to visualize and speak about its new intentions in full details (via town-hall meetings or other means) and start shaping them into a new implementation plan (Re-Scripting).”

“Targeted training and coaching programs are rolled out at the individual and group levels to make the new inner states a reality. Collectively, new language and customs are adopted so that employees are engaged in more empowering ways. Management embraces new leadership habits, and the new consciousness is reflected in the management objectives and tools, like in the Business Balance Score Card (Re-Sculpting).”

GEOFF: What was the evolution of the HP Method? How did it come to be?

Mark, you and I have both been on 8 day pilgrimages in Italy with Sujith, where everyone goes through Subtracting, Passaging and Arriving over those 8 days, so I’m wondering how you came to move that process over into the organizational domain, and what your experience with that has been?

During the 8 days of the pilgrimage we journey together as a group, but my experience was that the transformation that occurs happens at an individual level. So, I’m wondering is this the same process that you use in the HP Method for organizations and teams? That’s the same process isn’t it Sujith, that we experienced on our pilgrimage?

SUJITH: Maybe it is the same experience. We could say that. It is the same experience that we take the client through, whether it is in the pilgrimage or whether it is in the organization. The type of interventions used might be a little different, though.

GEOFF: Sujith, I heard you say that the experience was the same, but the specific interventions might be different. In other words, when you are designing and facilitating DISCOVERY workshops for organizations and teams, you might say some different things and you might get people to do different exercises, but the objective is the same: for people to identify what they are ready to let go to of, to somehow deal with the confusion in the Passaging phase and set some new standards in the Arriving phase. Is that correct?

SUJITH: If you remember Geoff, during the walk, what we did was we deliberately took quality time to get all of us into a heightened state of awareness.  It’s engaging the intuitive mind. In the more recent neuro-scientific breakthroughs, they refer to whole brain experience. That is what we did in the first three days of the walk: really getting us to that heightened state of awareness.

GEOFF: It was beautiful and truly amazing. I remember we were hiking up to a high mountain pass. It was raining and we came to an abandoned stone shelter that St. Francis had used. You called the group to a halt, and right then a large tree fell across the trail only 10 feet in front of me! It was a remarkable experience. Talk about a sense of awareness! Something happened in our group or in me that very likely saved my life at that point. You had somehow decided that this was the right place to stop! Then, we left the path downhill to a depression in the forest to discover a rock circle, where somebody had had a fire. You led the group in the first step of the DISCOVERY phase: Subtracting. My experience was profound.

SUJITH: There you go! And of course, in the organization world we can’t take these people through a three day walk.

GEOFF: No.

SUJITH: But there are other techniques that we can use to get them to that heightened state.

GEOFF: Can you talk about that a bit?

SUJITH: Absolutely. Just this nutshell, and then Mark can fill in more of the detail. The nutshell is that in the DISCOVERY session in organizations, what we do in the Subtracting step is essentially getting people into the deeper heightened state of awareness, and then we get them to engage the problem – whatever that problem definition is. From the HP Assessment, whatever key insights are coming out, like maybe we will notice a divide between the management and the rest of the organization, or men versus women, or we might notice that there is something interesting there between the older employees and the younger employees.

GEOFF: Or it could be something like innovation, or new product development, just depending on how you slice and dice [set up] the Assessment, right?

SUJITH: Exactly! Indeed, Inventiveness might be under expressed. But whatever the problem definition is, we get them to engage the problem definition at a heightened state of awareness, rather than in their mundane awareness, in their wakeful consciousness. Like Albert Einstein said: “You can never find a solution to a problem at the same level of consciousness at which the problem exists.”

GEOFF: He was a genius in so many ways, wasn’t he?

SUJITH: Oh yeah.  He was a sage.

GEOFF: Incredible.

So, to recap, in the ENQUIRE phase, a problem definition emerges and gets refined. You support the client to do some initial Sensing of what the business problems are, and the HP Assessment helps identify possible root causes in the human domain.

In the DISCOVER phase [normally a 2 day client workshop] you identify and take a deep dive into these human dimensions – the drivers of behavior and thinking in the organization – by helping the client team achieve a level of higher consciousness, to go deeper, to become aware of and leave behind some of the beliefs that that may contributed to the business problem, to have more authentic conversations and less resistance to new ideas. Is that one way to characterize it, or is there another way?

SUJITH: Mark?

MARK: Yeah, I think.

GEOFF: The heightened level of consciousness gives them what ability? I’m wondering: The heightened level of consciousness that you are able to lead people to in this step, enables them to do what?

MARK: To resolve issues that they were not able to resolve before, and I think one of things that might happen is that the issue might not even exist anymore. Because they are starting to look at it from a very different angle, a very different perspective, they might actually begin to see that there is a tremendous opportunity that is starting to show itself. Where before they were only able to see issues and problems, and barriers, now they might be able to see new creative ways forward. They might actually see opportunities for innovation, for doing something differently.

GEOFF: Right. I understand. Can you give me a couple of examples where this has happened? Could you give some examples without naming the organizations?

SUJITH: In fact, I am thinking that all of our clients Mark – except for the very first one – the discovery travels organization – other than that, every other situation haven’t we really taken the client through the DISCOVERY process as we have it at this moment?

MARK: Pretty much. I wouldn’t say all of them, but yeah a good number of them sure, yeah.

SUJITH: If you look at the recent one, the wellness organization from the Netherlands, we took them through our process. Of course we can discuss the specific interventions that we used, but then that is more of as a guidance for you Geoff to develop your signature way than anything else. We took them through a process of first getting to a heightened state of awareness and then we introduced the problem definition to them. When the team looked at the data, we saw these big divisions. We asked the client: “Where do you think the divisions – this divide – is coming from?” We got the entire group to look at these insights – based on the findings that came out of the HP Assessment – from that heightened state. I remember Mark, Annelieke [a Being at Full Potential coach] telling me that for one of the subgroups, it was the younger group that brought insights that were previously unknown to the management. That caught the management literally by surprise, a pleasant surprise that “Wow, these people, they are able to mirror the dynamics of their clients.” That was the second group, the younger folks. For me, I remember going like “Wow, I’m having goosebumps.” listening to the update from Annelieke. It was clear that there was this powerful openness, a receptivity that came from the different demographics who were there in the room to deeply sense into, listen into each other, and give merit to the feeling that each demographic was sharing.

GEOFF: in that heightened state of awareness without getting the trust that you were able to generate in the room, that wouldn’t have been possible.

SUJITH: It is one thing to have standards. You can deploy standards to say: “Yes, a standard should be “deep listening” or “having trust in each other.” It is one thing to establish standards, and yes, we always do establish standards before we get into any process. If you remember during the walk, it was like that during the Barlow [Organizational level] training. Absolutely, that is a very important aspect because the standards are essentially codes – it is language or even symbols – that constantly remind us of how we want to show up in the process. There is something else that happens, though. Like remember in the Barlow training, remember we were doing these deep re-centering processes, we had chants and poetry and dancing, and we had the incense or the candle in the room and all of that. There is something very powerful that happens.

You [Geoff] have just come back from the 10 day Vipassana training, so it will be much easier for you to relate. When you come out of an experience like that, where you may have carried resentment for somebody, you will just automatically notice you have a sense of compassion or understanding for the person. Where you felt anxiety with respect to any situation, now you feel a sense of opportunity with respect to that situation. That is all done by the left prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is considered to awaken. This is modern scientific research. They even call it the compassion brain, really. If you would Google all of this, the science behind Vipassana or Zen meditation, all of that, there is so much research that has been done. This is modern scientific research!

GEOFF: In the Subtracting phase, what is Subtracting here?

SUJITH: The wakeful consciousness. The beta.

GEOFF: And maybe some habitual ways of thinking about things, the mindsets?

SUJITH: Yes. The belief systems, the limiting beliefs, our current way of dealing with each other, especially if you are working in an organization, there is an organizational culture effect.

GEOFF: Just what I was thinking, the assumptions that people make about the way things are supposed to be around here.

SUJITH: Yeah. In every relationship we get into these conditioned patterns. That is all conditioning. I remember 15 years ago, I was in the corporate world in the tech sector, in a Fortune 500 tech company. There, it was straightforward and simple. Peoples’ sensitivities never mattered. What mattered was your argument. Literally when you have a  Program Managers sitting there around a table, having a conversation about: “Do we invest in this, or do we invest in that? Do we kick off research in this area, or in that area?” Literally what they say, around the meeting table, is: “So, what’s your argument?” Or they would say: “Please defend your point of view.” And it turns into, if you look at it, it is like a pack of wolves going after a catch. Energetically, they are fighting with each other – throwing accusations, and if I have a point of view or I have a certain recommendation, the others are hell bent on cutting it down. And that was a norm in that company.

GEOFF: These are cultural ways of Being. What you are saying is, we are getting them into this heightened state of consciousness that is able to cut through these previously unconscious assumptions that are driving their behavior, and they become aware of them.

SUJITH: Even if they become aware of it, I know many people who have actually become aware of their toxic patterns from that deeper state but if that happens, that’s a bonus. It is important, it is valuable. But when you look at the DISCOVERY process, whether you use music – Annelieke uses poetry – I use the sacred Indian chants. If you remember from the 10 days Vipassana, in the end there is a chant – the goodbye chant – that is the same goodbye chant I use when I am closing any ceremony. Different people use different techniques to get people into that heightened state of awareness. You can design your technique for that. The important thing is you must do this first and foremost – before you introduce the HP Assessment data, because if I am in my wakeful awareness – in my beta state – there is a very, very high chance that if you introduce some of the discrepancies in my organization to me, chances are I am going to enter a state of defensiveness and denial. And you are finished!

This is one of the biggest issues that I noticed, the reason why consultants have often failed. I remember – this is statistics from more than 12 or maybe 15 years ago, maybe things have improved – but I remember seeing statistics that said that 80% of consulting projects do not create any added value.

GEOFF: I agree with that. It’s reinforced by what McKinsey found based on 15 years of research – that 60 or 70% of change initiatives in organizations don’t meet their objectives, or they fail outright. And they found that 10 or 15 years later, there was no statistically meaningful improvement, despite all the professional advice given on change management. So this rings absolutely true to me. It is pivotal! It is crucial, it is what we can do to overcome this big problem in organizations and society.

SUJITH: Indeed, you understand it, you understand that, the fact that you are referring to that study already shows that you understand how our wakeful mind works. It is typically the kind of reaction that you can expect especially when you have some kind of structural findings on the table and very often that is one of the great things – when we do a sincere job with the data and look deeply within, invariably 9 out of 10 times, we stumble upon some very deep divides within the organization. The funny thing is if you are going to introduce this data, or these foundational findings, to the management, what is going to happen to the amygdala, the reptilian brain? I am going to become defensive. I am going to get into denial, I am going to get into this not invented here syndrome, I am going to feel very territorial, I am going to get into invalidating your status. These are all mechanisms of the reptilian brain. This is what happens, if you engage the wakeful mind of an organization with such profound findings. So, for us it is extremely important to do the Subtracting of all that conditioning, and then from that heightened state of awareness – where the left prefrontal cortex is active and the amygdala is by-passed – from that place, you get them to engage the findings. Rather than feeling defensive, being in denial, minimizing the finding and trying to poke holes through the data, or challenging the accuracy of the tool – all of this happens!

Yes. Instead of that, there becomes this beautiful openness, kind of a sense of innocence and curiosity towards the finding, and it’s a grace-filled space to problem solve.

GEOFF: Which is certainly an unusual experience in an organization. Perhaps this will be the first time that in an organization these people have experienced anything like this personally, let alone together.

SUJITH: Mark would you like to reinforce what I am sharing? Plus, also I am reminded of your experiment last year in Cincinnati, where you ended up creating that space that was becoming like a contagion for the rest of the office.

MARK: Sure. Indeed, Geoff it’s something that most people will not have experienced, and they will very much learn to – or get to – enjoy it! If the workshop is at least 2 days, I think they will enter into it. I have seen everyone – no matter how resistant they have been at the beginning, and there have been some very resistant people show up into some workshops – ease into it. And at the end, embrace it and very much step out with very different perspectives on how they are looking at challenges and problems.

However, I have to say to be very honest, it’s one thing to get people into a certain state and it’s another thing for that to last, and for people to truly take it with them on ongoing basis. I have also seen situations where the experience has been so intense and so profound, so kind of taking people out of their comfort zone, people who have no further experience with personal development work and have had a very profound experience and then when that space is not held for them anymore, by their boss, by their colleagues, by their spouse at home, by their friends, when that space is not held for them anymore, that it feels like they have been …, it’s almost like a pendulum, it swings all the way to one end. Like there is someone in the middle going along in life and feeling ok – not great but just kind of going along – and then we pull them all the way to one grace-filled end where they have this peak experience, and it’s like the pendulum doesn’t go back to the middle, it swings to the opposite side of confusion, of disappointment, of a “Now what?” kind of a feeling, and eventually comes back to the middle somewhere, may be little bit more towards that other side, who knows. But what I have seen and what I believe is that when we don’t continue to hold people and when they are given an experience that is not followed up in the correct way, it has the risk of doing more harm than good. That’s a bit of a controversial statement but yeah, I am …

GEOFF: It is a risk associated with a heightened state of consciousness?

MARK: I think there is a little bit of risk associated with it. Yes.

GEOFF: In other words, I imagine the sustainability, as well as bringing about the that need to occur – that are discovered in the ENQUIRE phase – happen in the HARNESS phase. And so I am wondering if the HARNESS phase is about not only coming up with concrete ways to impact the business problem, but also to put in place the space and caring, and mechanisms that enable the organization to sustain that kind of receptivity to this new way of Being, and to maintain it, as well as to harness the potential that’s been realized or that’s been made clear.

So there are two things that go on in the HARNESS phase [Re-scripting and Re-Sculpting] but let’s just leave that until we finish the DISCOVERY phase if we may, just to elaborate on steps 4 and 5, the Passaging and Arriving stages – because having experienced the pilgrimage, we have some familiarity with that – but in organizational context, now that you have got these people into a heightened state of awareness where they are able to escape their conditioning, and their cultural norms – which maybe they have become aware of – what happens in steps 4 and 5?

I imagine in Arriving, we are putting in place some new standards. We talked originally about setting standards earlier, and how an organization might have some standards already, but that these are espoused values. But knowing how culture works, the actual values that drive behavior are generally different [from the values statements up on the wall]. So, is what we are doing in this stage recommitting to some existing standards, or do we have new insights into what is driving actual behaviors in the organization? And are we looking at the difference between these new deeper, felt standards and the espoused standards that the organization has had before the consulting project started, and highlighting that discrepancy? How do we actually get to the insights into what is driving current behaviors that are problematic and how do we change that? Is that what’s going on in that phase?

MARK: I don’t think we as facilitators change anything. I think they need to come to a point where they feel ready to change, and come to their own new insights on what is it that they need to make commitments towards, towards each other, towards how they are going to act on the insights that they have gotten from the DISCOVERY, from the HP Assessment. And it could be that it is very little things and that’s perfect, or it could be it is very foundational things that they are going to agree on. But for me Arriving is kind of new agreement, the new commitments.

GEOFF: Or re-commitments?

MARK: Yeah, and that is going be different every single time. That is completely up to the group and up to their context, up to their Assessment and the findings they have from the Assessment. All of that is going to inform where they end up, and I think as coaches all we can do is help them navigate through that. And feel when it is time to move to a phase of going beyond, to “What does this mean?” What are we going to do differently? If we go too quickly there, then you are going to miss some things out. If you stay too long in that open space of… I feel like we need to just tune in to when is the energy ready to shift, and into what? What does all of this mean? Where do we take it? What are we going to do differently? But that’s different with every group, with every intervention.

GEOFF: But that’s the intent? To create a felt need to change around a different way of Being in the organization, whatever that means to the client.

SUJITH: This thought that Mark shared, the last one, it also gives you a sense of Passaging. There is an element of allowing ourselves, allowing the client to be in the experience, in the mud. Rather than trying to salvage or rescue them. If I am a consultant and I have been a consultant, I know my tendency would be to rush from Subtracting to Arriving. I want to get them immediately engaged into problem solving, instead of kind of “allowing” them [to sense the ambiguity of the Passaging stage].

GEOFF: Thinking about it, we got a problem, we want a solution. But this is the part… that helps them to feel the pain of their current situation, and come to realize  that there is an opportunity there.

SUJITH: Yeah, just Be with it. If you are going to push somebody because that you as an expert, you know that is a right way to go. That is different than you being a coach holding space, and allowing them to dictate the pace of their problem-solving process. The parallel – the example that you will remember -during the walk, if you remember, we had to make decisions about our dinners. Sometimes we had to make decisions about the “Pay it forward.” Remember we had a “Pay it forward” custom?

GEOFF: I sure do.

SUJITH: I – not just I, but every one of the participants in the walk – we are all quite knowledgeable about “What is the right thing to do?” and we can just simply take 10 seconds, enforce our own preference, and then move on to the next thing. Yet that would be MY preference. I am pushing what is right for me, what I think is right, using my authority. Instead, my responsibility there was to be a coach, introduce the problem definition and simply hold space. And people will start building their own relationship with the problem, their own relationship. If you are an Italian, the chances are the way you are going to build your relationship with the problem is: you are going to go back to your childhood and talk about a situation where you had to actually give money to somebody, but you felt deeply inside that that person was undeserving of this money and you felt traumatized, and before you know it, the Italian is standing there and weeping about some childhood trauma. My responsibility is not to truncate that process. It is that person’s process of building his relationships to the problem definition. Ad when he is ready, he will himself take the next step forward. The best part is – instead of 3 minutes it will take 30 minutes – but the best part is he automatically becomes the leader, the champion of that way forward.

GEOFF: Doing this in a group context, is it the same thing? Is it that the group then becomes engaged in the problem and takes responsibility for it as a group, to work together to solve it?

SUJITH: Exactly. That Passaging is for me is a process of just not rushing the foreplay! 😊

GEOFF: What does it look like in terms of the kinds of things you do for the organization at that point? What do you tell them about Passaging and allowing that space for this change – this felt need for change for their group to take ownership of their own relationship to the problem? Do you speak in so many words, or what does that aspect to the workshop look like?

SUJITH: I am sure that Mark can also add to this one. You must remember from during the walk I kept the process a bit mysterious in the beginning. And this is one of the biggest traps that consultants fall into. This is one of the biggest traps that we are trained in, when it comes to public speaking. The public speaking mantra is: You get up on stage, you tell the audience what you are going to tell them, then you tell them what you are telling them. After that you tell them what you have told them. You lay out the overview, then you take them through the substance, then you close by again laying out the overview.

GEOFF: it is a great framework for public speaking.

SUJITH: It is a very stimulating framework. It engages people. But something worth asking yourself is” “Which part of the mind is the audience engaging there?”

GEOFF: The intellect?

SUJITH: Yes, and the big part of our problem is that we kind of intellectually try to approach all the intellectually created problems around us. At the expense of receiving criticism, I still kind of keep things fuzzy during the minutes before taking somebody through it, simply because if I would tell you right now: “You are in the Passaging phase and I am just allowing you to build your own relationship to the problem and build your intimacy with the problem definition, etc. This is exactly what you are going through at this moment.”, the problem is your intellect will kick in, you will constantly cross-check your lived experience against your framework. You are never fully in the process.

GEOFF: Danger is the framework will win out?

SUJITH: Yes, your intellectual brain will continuously be engaged and nothing is changed. Mark you do this quite effectively in the visualizations, and also the process that you take your clients through.

MARK: I think the one thing we have established very clearly is that we don’t start by showing the data, no matter whether it is a two hour debrief online, such as the one we did with the Being at Full Potential team in Canada, or if it is a 2 day workshop. In the case of a 2 day workshop, the data may come at the end of day one. That in itself is hugely different… it throws people off a little, it gets them into a different state of mind, especially because they are expecting … they have all filled in a questionnaire [the HP Assessment], they are all expecting to see a PowerPoint with some nice graphs and slides and data. And they are all sitting there with their intellectual mind ready to go in and tear it apart. Not giving people what they are expecting to receive, can be a very powerful method.

GEOFF: Takes them out of their comfort zone that’s for sure.

MARK: That is something you can say upfront. I would say I know everyone is expecting to get the data, but we are very deliberately not doing that. We are very deliberately choosing to invest quality time upfront to create the right environment for us to receive the data. People understand that. I think that is quite important to say that up front as it does put people, somewhat at ease: “Ok, there is method here to the madness. There is some design here.” But very clearly position it this way without giving everything away, just saying we are choosing to really invest the whole morning or the first 5, 6 hours into creating the right conditions so that when we do get into the data we would be able to do so much more with the data. Intellectually people won’t be able to really get that, but they will be able to say “Ok, I am willing to go with this. It’s coming. There is a plan here.” I do find that quite important, because otherwise you have when you don’t set that clear upfront, then it’s going to be more difficult to get people to stay present and focused, because part of their mind is going to be like “Oh what’s going on here? When are we going to see some results? When are we going to get into the data?”

GEOFF: Yeah they will be very uncomfortable.

MARK: We don’t want that. We don’t want them to be distracted in that way.

GEOFF: No. it’s a different kind of discomfort that you want. If that’s the right word, It’s like the Passaging phase isn’t necessarily a [linear] follow-on to the Subtracting phase. There’s something about both going on at the same time maybe.

MARK: I think that’s a good point. I don’t think they have to be sequential.

GEOFF: Yes. The Passaging phase is more like creating acceptance for the uncertainty, where Subtracting is about overcoming conditioned ways of thinking and feeling about things in the organization, and maybe that in itself creates some uncertainty. And Passaging is about Being with the uncertainty, the ambiguity that [workshop participants now] find themselves in. And creating a container for that so that people can tolerate that degree of uncertainty and ambiguity that would have been intolerable otherwise.

MARK: Yeah. It is about calming the brain, calming the intellect. The same thing with the listening stick and the candle, and the fact that people are sitting in a circle. You set all that up and if you don’t address it , if you don’t talk about why you are doing it. Again, people in the back of their mind, they keep … half of them is kind of listening and the other half is sitting there still asking themselves “Why are we sitting like that?” If you say upfront we are sitting like this for a very good reason, because of this, and this and this. We have a stick here, in the room with us because of these reasons. Then people can relax. It’s like: give the brain what it needs, so that people can show up fully, so that there are not these distractions happening in the background. I feel like that is taking the mystery out of the mysticism.

GEOFF: Putting them in a mindset where they are willing to experiment with something new. Right?

MARK: The experiment is in the Being together in this way. There is so much more that is going to happen, once those conditions are created, that is really the experiment. The experiment is not so much sitting in a circle or passing a stick around. That is not the experiment, the experiment is about Being together in a certain way that we haven’t been together with, or like before.

GEOFF: Yes, which can create an ability to think differently, to be together differently and to trust one another to say things that were formally undiscussable, to think of things from a different perspective, listen to other peoples’ perspectives, to hear those perspectives perhaps.

MARK: Exactly. So many of the interpersonal issues are there because there are things that are not being talked about. There are kind of these uncomfortable things that people are holding for themselves, even are unaware of, unconscious about. And those interpersonal issues can be resolved immediately if you create an environment, if you hold that kind of space, with the standards supporting all of that, where people can express themselves in a way that is non-judging – not judging somebody else – but they are sharing their truth and people can listen in a non-judging way and can receive. And then within 5 minutes, a huge tension that may have existed can be resolved.

GEOFF: That creates incredible value.

MARK: That is extremely powerful. That same tension could otherwise last for years and could prevent people from collaborating, and could prevent projects from manifesting. The implications for business, – – having tensions within teams – the business implication of that is huge.

GEOFF: Can you give us an example? The example where the client said this happened, or you saw it happen.

MARK: This case that Sujith was referring to in the Netherlands, where there was really this big distinction between Millennials and the founders, the owners who happened to be an older generation there. So there is a generational gap. There was this belief [of management] that because these guys are young, we need to tell them what to do. When we were young and we were coming into an organization, our bosses told us what to do, and that’s how we learned, that’s how we grew and that’s how we developed. So, there was this implicit belief that we need to tell them how to, tell them what to do and that way they are going to grow. Millennials looked at things very differently. They were like: “We know what to do, we are very resourceful. We are very creative, we have lots of energy and ideas!”, but they were feeling like they were put in a box. And they weren’t talking about that. They were talking about it amongst themselves, so there were all this kind of gossip happening amongst that group. And then there was gossip happening amongst the other group: “These younger kids, they think they know best, they are high maintenance.”

But when we got them into this space and we showed them the differences in the data, we sent them away and we said: “OK look at your data and look at the data of the other group and then come back.”

The Millennials were together, the older generation were together. We gave them both data sets and we gave them an assignment: to look at it for 20 mins and come back and deliver a presentation to the other group explaining why there is differences in the data. The Millennial group had to come back and say that the Human Potential of the Millennials is less expressed versus the older generation because of this and this. The older generation had to come back and say our Human Potential is more expressed than the Millennials because of this and this. It was incredible to see that their stories were completely different. For the older generation to hear the explanation that the millennials were giving was so eye-opening, and they were just like “Oh my god, how could we have missed the fact that you guys have this high ability, this high propensity for self-leadership? And you guys don’t want to be told what to do, that you are resourceful, that you have all that?”. So it just opened their minds, and opened their hearts, because they saw them in action as well. The way they presented – even the form of their presentation was highly creative and really mind-opening. The older generation presented in a very traditional way, they had like 3 points this, this, and then, so there was a real contrast in the delivery of the presentation which was also fascinating to step back and see “Wow look at that! It’s telling a story in itself.” Within an hour and half session, there was this huge … many multiple insights. Not just insights, there was this heart-opening effect that took place between these two groups, and they started to see each other in a different light. Of course, going forward they can start utilizing each other in very different ways than they had in the past.

GEOFF: Fascinating Mark! That’s a great example. Thank you. It occurs to me to ask in that example, what did the Arriving stage of discovery look like? Was it the presentation?

MARK: Hmm. At the end [of the workshop] – the last half of the last day – was all focused on the action planning that we do in the 5 day training. We took them through visualization and integrating everything that they had learned, what were they committing to, what are their actions, they came up with the whole plan.

GEOFF: I just want to make the observation that my understanding of the HP Method would put that in the Re-scripting stage, the action planning. I appreciate that it is necessary to get there and that’s prelude to the rubber meeting the road, the action planning. But if we step back for a moment and consider the DISCOVERY phase, I am just wondering maybe the presentation itself is the Arriving, the ability to listen and to tolerate different styles of presentation and in particular what you described is the heart-felt reception that people had, would have been different in the old culture which was established by the founders – a more rational and kind of linear approach to things, not accepting of others’ ways of doing stuff. So maybe Arriving was the presentation.

MARK: Could be. Yep.

GEOFF: Okay, the Re-scripting could have been the action planning which I think people inherently understand needs to happen. Culture change doesn’t happen without behavior change, and so the action planning then is moving into the HARNESS stage. It occurs to me is there anything more to say about the Discovery phase?

MARK: I am not sure. I think we have travelled quite a way.

SUJITH: Yeah. You know GEOFF you are doing the right thing here. You are looking at the subjectivity of the process rather than put things into buckets, like ok alright …

{Connection issue} …

SUJITH: You are understanding the subjectivity of such a process with human beings, so instead of getting into the trap of literally putting a certain outcome into a certain box, like wait a minute this articulation is literally sitting under Re-scripting… People in the team… you would notice that. When we were in Barlow and we used day 5, day 5 was all about the Arriving. We went on a very profound 4 day journey and then at the end of it, we re-surfaced from that journey with setting clear intentions of how do we want to take this into our next steps. Now you would notice, some of the ideas were just very lofty intentions. Like, I remember in Mumbai, there is this one coach who left saying like “This is going to become my life’s work from here on”. That is just an intention, just a very abstract, very emotionally charged, powerful intention. Whereas, if you remember Marie Josie saying in Barlow, she was kind of like coming out of this and she was like I am going to put my life experiences – my own experimentations of feminine leadership – into a book. You could say wait a minute, stop, stop, you cannot go that far because that’s in Re-scripting. No. Human Beings are very subjective in that sense. It’s good that you are not getting trapped in that in trying to objectify the process.

GEOFF: I understand. I’m trying to flesh out the skeleton a bit, in order to make it real to people, to demonstrate that there is substance here, and to illustrate the various stages by examples. I’m hoping that will give greater understanding and credibility to the HP Method.

SUJITH: Yeah. Indeed. For me always the Arriving is a place of reconciliation. This is very abstract word, but it is a place of reconciliation of everything that happened in the Subtracting and Passaging.  They would have gone through a very profound experience of completely looking at their colleagues, at their organization, at the various demographics and all of that in a completely different way. It must have been a very profound self-encounter. Like, the idea of mysticism is so foreign to so many people, yet once they get into the experience, they just can’t have enough of it. They just simply don’t want to close the process. Arriving for me is a really the reconciliation of the Subtracting and Passaging. Of kind of like coming out of that, with this Aha!, this cellular knowing of how my world could be like – and the world could be my own self as a human being – or that world could be my team, or that world could be my entire organization. It could be myself at home, or my family.  At a cellular level, coming away with a cellular level realization “Aha!, of how my world could look like next.” That is at a very abstract level what Arriving means for me.

GEOFF: Thanks Sujith. Is that the same as vision? Organizations have been talking about developing vision statements for a long time. It sounds to me that what you are talking about is like a vision, but it is at a cellular level, it’s something that is deeply felt and seen to be part of their identity, maybe even a new identity as a group or as individuals. It’s something that people have talked about in terms of the benefits of having a vision but this is an actual experience, the people are having of a vision as opposed to more of an intellectual exercise as if well we want to be the leading company in our industry or something. It’s an intention isn’t it, that’s what you are saying.

SUJITH: It’s a knowing, and knowingness.

GEOFF: OK. This is like culmination of their spiritual quest in knowingness.

SUJITH: You could say it like that. This is interesting. Mark anything that is coming up for you?

MARK: No. not right now.

SUJITH: I am looking at the time, this has been a beautiful intellectual deep dive into the Method and it has been extremely valuable because I had to seek into myself to find the words that really refer to the details of what we do. And to bring it into words is super valuable because you are actually helping us in broadcasting this, in giving it to others, to be able to use it through this exercise, through this process of bringing words to it.

GEOFF: I am so pleased with what we have achieved so far in this discussion. I even think the HARNESS phase is clearer for me – as we have touched on Re-scripting and Re-sculpting – is really putting these action plans into effect, not only from a business perspective but from a Being perspective. What sort of projects, initiatives people need to undertake in order to keep experiencing this level of connection with what’s important to them, and how to be together differently in order to achieve the sorts of breakthroughs that were achieved in the DISCOVERY workshops. Sujith, you made the point in one of your articles about the importance of language, symbols, rituals and ceremonies and this is what is necessary for an organization to achieve that end. And in particular these are different ways of behaving and even thinking and speaking that enables a new way of Being to be sustained and to be carried forward on a ongoing basis. So I think we can say that, is that conception of what happens in the HARNESS phase, is that correct and is there anything more that needs to be added?

SUJITH: I feel that’s a great summary, that’s a great starting point. We should gradually take more time to deepen into that in subsequent call.

GEOFF: I will be delighted to do that.

SUJITH: I want to check in with you GEOFF, do you feel you have gained a conceptual understanding of the Discovery process?

GEOFF: Yeah, I think I have a better understanding of that. Absolutely! And I am pleased to be able to put that onto paper, so that it can be shared with the other coaches and prospects, people, clients and organizations to carry it forward. Because this is a process that needs to be ongoing in an organization – as you pointed out Mark. I am hoping by articulating this, in somewhat greater detail than in the 3 or 4 paragraphs that were available before, this will serve a multiplicity of purposes.

SUJITH: Great. I want to thank you GEOFF for taking this leadership to actually do this daring step for yourself and I know that is going to benefit a number of other people. Before saying goodbye there is one thing I was curious about. And that is how now that you are actually taken this deliberate commitment, plunge into coaching, how do you feel in this GEOFF 2.0 avatar, how are you going to manifest all of this?

GEOFF: It is a good question. {This section is redacted to ensure privacy}

SUJITH: You have done well by speaking it out because the universe is hearing you. You did the Rhodes coaching. Don’t look at the coaching and that coaching in a limited one-on-one way.

GEOFF: No I don’t. I recognize it is mindset, different way of enquiring into organizations.

SUJITH: Exactly. So even your organizational consulting or your OD work, you have a tremendous opportunity to approach it in a different way. In a way – I am being judgmental saying this – in a way that actually works. I remember from my time in organizations. I was fed up with consultants. Our favorite hate was consultants. There was so much prejudice that organizations carry for consultants and its simply because, it is the same thing, it is like no teenager likes anybody to advise them. Organizations are like that, we don’t simply like being advised. So [coaching is] an alternate way…

GEOFF: That reminds me of the of statistic you were mentioning about, 80% of consultants’ recommendation don’t make it in the real world.

SUJITH: You can actually approach this as a coach.

GEOFF: I understand that. That was my reason for getting into coaching anyways.

SUJITH: There you go. That is good. You can bring your practice into a completely different form of organizational engagement. One that is based on holding space and enquiry rather than lecturing and educating.

GEOFF: Yeah problem solving, or diagnosis and prescription.

SUJITH: Exactly. You’ve invested well in doing that. So I can definitely see that approach bearing fruits.

GEOFF: Thank you. I appreciate your concern and your encouragement in this, your interest. Thank you.

SUJITH: Lovely. Great. So just give us a sign whenever you are ready for taking this into the next step.

MARK: Just one last thought on my end, do give us a sign GEOFF but also realize that we don’t have all the answers to all the questions that you have either. This is a journey that we are on together. Even though we have given form to HP Method, we have put language there, but in my mind we are just scratching the surface of what this methodology can do, and how we can do it, and what the examples are, etc. So let’s look at this more as, let’s bring to the surface the best practices we have so far, but also look at this as something that we are going to continue to learn about, and that learning journey is not going to end any time soon.

GEOFF: I really appreciate and I want to recognize the humility that lets you to say that, the authenticity and honesty, those are values that are very important to me. And I think they are all prerequisite to learning and growth. So, thank you for saying that. I want you to know that I am on the same page. I enjoyed having an opportunity to be of service and work with you guys together on this.

Human Potential Realization. A £400M opportunity…If only we can align what we KNOW with what we DO

On November 13th we attended a business development event in London. The concept sounded good. During this day we would be paired up for 10 one-to-one 30 mins meetings with pre-qualified HR leaders. “Pre-qualified” meaning that these HR leaders were decision makers, had budget to spend and most importantly were looking for innovative solutions to ignite the performance of their organizations. As part of the pre-conference match-making process we had to complete a form describing our USP (unique selling point). Much like online dating platforms, the HR leaders would review the profiles of the various service providers and then make a choice of who they would like to meet based on the best fit with their needs.

 

This is the first time we invest in such an event. Until now all our business has been developed organically, either through our network of partners, word of mouth or simply because more and more people seem to be googling “how to measure human potential”! We knew that to do this right we couldn’t do it alone. We had to bring together a dedicated team and approach this as a project that would need significant investments in time and energy both during the preparation and follow up phases. So making such an investment together with the core group (10,000 pounds and many hours) was a big decision. Until recently we would not have dared to take such a bold step but with many small and medium sized projects under the belt, and a fantastic team of Human Potential facilitators in place, we unhesitantly took this leap of faith. It signals to the world that we are ready and committed to play in the “big leagues”!

 

The day started with a key note by Kevin Green, founder of What’s Next Consultancy and ex-HRD at Royal Mail. His message was simple: 85% of future value creation will come from the intangibles of the organization (in other words by accessing and unleashing the tremendous Human Potential that is dormant or sometimes even suppressed in organizations).

 

He went on to say:

  • Leaders are experiencing an overwhelm of information and yearn to get back to basics / simplicity (ie: human connection)
  • HR is at a tipping point. As a function we need to “get on the offensive” and lead the human capital revolution.
  • Reinventing culture is a 400M pound opportunity. Key focus areas need to be on building a coaching culture amongst line managers as they are the bridges between high level vision / strategies and operational activities.
  • Changing mindset and improving employee experience (vs structure and tech skills) are the two most critical focus areas to access the 85% of intangible value in the organization.
  • Need to change mindset on talent. It’s not the people that are in the spotlight that usually create the most value. Rather it’s the “unsung heroes” who do the critical behind the scenes work that need to be acknowledged.

What an incredible setup for the day! Sujith and I were exchanging smiles throughout the talk and couldn’t wait to sit down with our “blind dates” to connect the dots between this keynote and the ins and outs of our Human Potential solutions.

 

Looking back on the day, over a cold British Ale in a neighboring pub, we felt a deep sense of fulfillment. The 10 people we had met were all high caliber HR leaders with a genuine interest in our approach. For each one we had come to clarity on what their need was and how we could take a small next step together. A follow up conversation to further explore the scope of a collaboration was the obvious one, so we took the next couple of days to summarize all our notes and send a personalized email to each one of the delegates.

 

Almost three weeks have gone by now and of the ten people we met, two have responded. In most sales situations this would be quite a positive outcome. However, given the targeted approach of this event and the quality of the conversations that we had, I have to admit that we were expecting a higher initial response to our follow up invitation. Of course there are many plausible explanations for this: pre-Christmas overwhelm, emails getting lost in inbox, ignored voice messages, other more urgent priorities and the list goes on…

 

All of this might be true AND…we suspect there is something more foundational going on to explain the disconnect between the intentions that were shared on November 13th and the lack of follow up action afterwards.

 

This finally brings me to the key point of the story.

 

We know unequivocally that 85% of future value creation will come from the intangibles (ie, the human lever) of the organization. The evidence is overwhelmingly clear. However, our HR interventions do not yet reflect this knowledge and understanding. There is a big gap between what we KNOW and what we DO. This is not a judgment, it’s simply a reality we must acknowledge in the midst of these transformational times. The following framework by Edgar Shein (thought leader in organizational culture and transformation) helps us understand why this disconnect exists and what needs to be done before it can come back into alignment.

 

 

The theory goes that the top and bottom of the pyramid are ALWAYS aligned. In other words, our observable behaviours are inevitably an expression of our unconscious thoughts, beliefs and assumptions about the organization/the world. For example an individual who exhibits excessively competitive behaviour (top of the pyramid) probably sees the world through a scarcity lens. In this case the core assumption or belief is that for one person to win another must lose (bottom of the pyramid).

 

The middle of the pyramid represents the intentions of the organization (values, vision, strategies). So let’s say the organization has set the intention to become more collaborative and as a result puts in place state-of-the-art systems and processes to make it easier for people to collaborate. Chances are very small that this will translate into the desired new behaviours (top of the pyramid). So simply changing the middle and expecting the top to follow is unrealistic and the main reason why so many well intentioned change programs fail.

 

Unless we work on the bottom layer and genuinely reassess our underlying belief systems and assumptions about the business we will not be able to create the sustainable changes in behaviour that we are aspiring for. This is of course very daunting work. It can feel like “opening Pandora’s Box”.

 

Because we don’t know what will be unleashed, is it not better to keep it tightly closed?

 

This is certainly the feeling many people have and undoubtedly one of the reasons why deeper, human centric HR interventions are avoided. It’s a fascinating paradox. One the one hand, addressing the bottom of the Shein pyramid offers the greatest hope, and on the other hand it also triggers the greatest fear.

 

As stewards and thought leaders of this work we have a deep compassion for leaders who are confronted with this dilemma. It’s a scary path to take and doesn’t come without risks. However, if executed with great care, it is possible to make the self realization journey more accessible and relevant to the organizational context. Creating transformational tools and methods that meet organizations where they’re at vs expecting them to take this huge leap of faith is what Being at Full Potential is all about. By quantifying the intangibles, we help shine the light on the invisible layer of culture. HR leaders now have a practical way to measure and release the 85% of intangible value and in doing so, it is possible to start harnessing the vast creative potential of their people. This goes a long way to bridge the gap between what we KNOW and what we DO and truly align all three layers of the Shein pyramid described above.

 

In our experience, when it comes to large scale organizational change journeys, there is no better place to start than with ourselves. As we grow in our HR leadership, so will we grow in our ability to inspire and engage other stakeholders throughout the organization.

 

Is this a challenge you are ready to take on? Do you want to courageously examine how some of your own beliefs may need to change in order to spark a deeper transformation within the organization? We can help!

Human Potential Realization starts at home – Part 2

Whenever I feel stuck, I eventually realize (sometimes faster than others) that a shift is needed. I have learnt that this requires active engagement in the tension – a stepping into of sorts – rather than just getting on with my life and hoping one day I will wake up transformed.

Let me try to describe my process of accessing the creativity and breakthrough potential inherent in every tension.

The first step of course is to acknowledge it. Usually it manifests as some sort of heaviness in my body, moodiness or irritability. Then there is typically a moment of pause, sometimes triggered by a breaking point, other times a deliberate choice to step out of the status quo. For me this often looks like a long walk in nature or even active engagement with those lucid moments just before falling asleep.

This helps switch off the mind and connect to a deeper part of myself. In our work we refer to it as the BEING. It’s a place of heightened awareness where we can more easily become the observer of our triggers and limiting beliefs, and therefore, step out of victim mode and become the choice maker.

In this moment it helps me to bring to mind what we refer to as the 8 BEING Attitudes or the 8 qualities of a transformational leader.

  1. Fierce Authenticity
  2. Live in a state of enquiry
  3. Harness the intuitive mind
  4. Relentless experimentation & play
  5. Alter my relationship to all adversities
  6. Help others shine
  7. Commit to a higher cause
  8. Synchronize individual and collective purpose

Then I simply run each one through my awareness and honestly ask myself how I am doing on that particular dimension. Inevitably two or three stand out as key levers for me to embrace more of in relation to the tension I am feeling.

Let me share a personal example that is unfolding as we speak. I will use this opportunity to work through a real life tension to illustrate how this process works for me and hopefully walk away with some new insights for myself as well.

I have been fortunate to spend the last 10 years working from home which has given me plenty of quality time with my two children Oscar and Audrey.  In front of my eyes they are now transforming from child to adults. I couldn’t be prouder of who they are becoming. However, there is a part of me that struggles to let go of the parent / child relationship I have had with them until now. I still yearn to spend more time with them while they are off with their friends. I still catch myself “telling them what to do and what not to do” while they are laying the foundations of their own values and standards.

This is the nature of my tension at the moment and I am in the middle of processing it. I know it is important work for me to do right now because I am being triggered more than usual these days. In particular my energy gets affected when I see my son – what appears to me –  withdrawn, upset and irritable from time to time. In these situations my reflex is to fix it. But of course being asked “what’s wrong” is the last thing he wants to engage in and therefore the tension only intensifies.

So here I am, feeling somewhat stuck but at the same time aware that a breakthrough lies ahead. Let’s see if any of the 8 BEING Attitudes can help shed some light and perhaps even shift my perspective.

  1. Fierce Authenticity: when I sense into this attitude I feel it might be too expressed at the moment . I am quick to “stand my ground” and share my frustration with some of his behaviour. What if this dimension was less expressed at the moment? Would it give each other a bit more space?
  2. Live in a state of enquiry: there is important work to do here. There is a lot I can do to remember what it’s like to be a teenager, to see the beauty of him finding his own voice, even if it conflicts with mine from time to time. Rather than ask him “what’s wrong” so I can fix it, how about opening my mind and heart to the emotional reality of being a teenager. I can immediately feel compassion and in that compassion take a step back to be more accepting and tolerant.
  3. Harness the intuitive mind: absolutely relevant. In fact this process of stepping back and becoming the observer of the tension is all about accessing and harnessing the intuitive mind
  4. Relentless experimentation & play: I feel the greatest breakthrough lies in expressing more of this attitude towards my son. I realize my responses have become quite predictable. When he is spending too much time on a video game then I will automatically tell him to shut it off. When he doesn’t help around the house then I have to remind him to do so. This is tiring for both of us and doesn’t create a lot of positive energy. Instead, what if I would respond in a more playful way, experimenting with different (perhaps unexpected) responses. For example the other day when he left the dinner table without helping to clean up I could tell he was testing me, perhaps even wanting me to get triggered. Because I had more awareness at the time I was able to sense into the dynamic and realize it was natural teenage behaviour. With this awareness I could remain calm and simply go about doing the chores without asking for any help. Some minutes later he stated the following: “if you need help, let me know”. Instead of welcoming his half hearted invitation I paused and from a very neutral place simply responded: “If I have to ask for help, then it’s not needed”. It wasn’t so much what I said but how I said it. Depending on my energy those same words could be perceived as confrontational and therefore recreate the same dynamic. But because they were coming from a really authentic / non triggered place it caught him by surprise and I could immediately sense that he went into self reflection mode. Clearly something has started to shift (for both of us). It’s like a game but instead of kicking the football around together we are playfully and positively pushing each other’s boundaries and opening the possibility for deeper self exploration.

I could go on in the same way with the other 4 BEING Attitudes as well but there are already so many rich insights to harvest. Hopefully this has given you a feel for the inner process that works for me and perhaps some of it can inspire you next time a trigger or tension comes your way.

You can find more info on the 8 BEING Attitudes and how they are the foundation of full expressing our FULL Human Potential here.

Human Potential Realization starts at home – Part 1

My 13 year old daughter, Audrey, is the most social one in the family. She thrives whenever we have guests over and like all good hosts she will start with a tour around the house. Invariably the first room that gets proudly shown is her bedroom. It’s well kept and frequently redesigned to match her evolving personality. Last on the tour is my office (just before the toilets).

My office has served me extremely well these past 10 years as a stay-at-home dad / Being Entrepreneur. It’s been the place where I can retreat, reflect, access creativity and collaborate via the internet with a growing network of committed Human Potential partners.

However, it has also become the dumping ground for all the rejected objects of the household. After years of accumulating stuff, the cluttered feeling was also starting to rub off on me. My presence was not as sharp and I was finding it increasingly difficult to access new realms of possibility for myself and Being at Full Potential. I knew it was time for a cleaning but didn’t know where to start.

As with most things, the solution is often closer and more at hand than we think. I realized it was time for me to tap into the natural design talents of my daughter and in doing so put to the test the grand vision of Being at Full Potential:

 

Every Human, Being at Full Potential. 

 

What better place to start than right here at home!

 

I also figured that if we are going to do this we might as well do it right. So I approached her, as I would any professional, giving a brief and asking for a mood board, budget, timeline etc… Given we had been watching “The Great Interior Design Challenge” show, she had become familiar with this approach and immediately started putting her ideas on paper.

The first presentation was to my liking so signing off on the design was easy. More challenging for her was the question of budget (especially putting a number behind her time and effort). It was a fascinating process to watch her go through. She went from having no expectation at all to thinking that a “daily rate” meant 24 hours of work. Rather than tell her what I think such a project is worth I continued to coach her through the question so she could discover for herself all the variables that come into play when valuing the unique contributions we make.  Not only did it lead to an outcome that we both felt great about but it also served as an extremely valuable lesson for the rest of her life.

With all the details signed off we could now get to work. For me this meant rolling up my sleeves and subordinating myself to her vision and all the different steps she had in mind to get us there. It started by dismantling the current office space. Everything needed to be sorted in 3 buckets. 1) The absolute essentials, 2) The things I have outgrown and no longer need and 3) the unsure pile. This last one of course was quite large and required further choice making. I was asked the tough questions like: “why do you need it? How does it help your work?” Eventually more clarity came and with it a sense of lightness and freedom.

Next step was to go on a shopping trip to add some of the elements that had been missing like a plant, cosy lighting, comfy chair, some candles and the signature Being at Full Potential blue paint. After the complete deconstruction of the place it was time to reassemble according to the new vision.

It was brilliant to see it all come together exactly the way it was intended. Even more fulfilling for me though was to see my daughter shine in her greatness all throughout the process. If I am able to fully trust and surrender to my 13 year old to redesign my sacred workspace then just imagine what else is possible with all the incredible talents that are being under utilized in the world today!

Here’s a short time lapse video that she made to document her first real interior design assignment. If you ever come to Schaffhausen, please do stop by for a visit. Audrey will give you a tour of the house and there’s a good chance that the first stop will be the office!

The day our CTO faded away

A CTO is a Chief Technology Officer. In our case this was a young brilliant systems engineer in India named Nikhil. He single-handedly built the entire backend system that supports the infrastructure to administer and manage our Human Potential assessment products and services. He did this out of passion, mostly in the evenings and on weekends due to a full time day job.

 

As our business grew, so did the number of assessments and the complexity of the DB. Under his leadership we knew that the backend platform, upon which our clients relied, would be robust and future proof for years to come. There are currently 4000 registered users and we expect this to grow exponentially. In order to meet the needs of the many IT projects in the pipeline, we found ways to unload the more basic technical tasks with other programmers but were adamant to keep Nikhil engaged for the tech vision and more advanced projects. This set up worked well and was sustainable as long as Nikhil remained available as CTO.

 

However, a few months ago his priorities started to change. With a growing family and an even more demanding day job, the number of hours he could commit to BFP was declining rapidly. One of the cultural idiosyncrasies  about working with Indians, is the fluidness of their communication. Sometimes it can be hard to tell what they are thinking and feeling. In the case of Nikhil, he kept affirming that the status quo was fine and that he would continue to find time for us but his actions told another story. As a consequence we kept holding on to someone who wasn’t really there anymore, rather than accept his need to re-prioritize his life and find another partner who could take over the reins.

 

There is one project in particular that suffered from this void in technical leadership. It would have been a fairly routine initiative so we felt confident with the aggressive timings promised to the client. Without Nikhil’s involvement though nothing was happening. The programming team was waiting for instructions and guidance but nothing was coming. As a result, Sujith and I put all our effort trying to pin down Nikhil and inspire him to carve out some time. It was hard work with very little impact. We felt drained and, as the project kept being delayed, our initial commitment to the client had to be pushed back significantly as well. This went on for a number of months, and as our frustration grew, we noticed a tendency to fall back into old patterns of pushing people to deliver rather than inspiring them. We were losing touch with the BFP way. Fortunately we caught ourselves in time to notice what was happening. It was time to press the pause button, step back and gain some new perspective.

 

It was time for a shift from DOING to BEING

 

The first thing we had to acknowledge was that Nikhil was out of the picture and unless we accepted this, nothing would change. So we lovingly said goodbye with an open invitation to come back on board whenever he wanted to. In that moment of acceptance, where we consciously closed one door, of course something amazing happened. All of a sudden we could see what had always been there but we had been blinded to it. Our attachment to Nikhil prevented us from seeing the brilliance in all the other programmers that had been working under his leadership.

 

One company in particular (Sunlight IT) had felt hand-cuffed with the current set up. They had expressed this in the past but at the time we were not really open to hand over more responsibilities. Somehow we were carrying the belief that only Nikhil knew the system well enough to be in the lead. When we chose (or to a certain extent were forced) to let go of this belief and invited this new partner (Sunlight IT) to the table as an equal and credible alternative to Nikhil, they started to shine.

 

To demonstrate their technical competency they volunteered to take the weekend to study the ins and outs of our system and prepare an overview of the work that needed to be done. Within days we had agreed on a proposal and a couple of weeks later the project was delivered. Not only did they complete it on time and within budget, but they also did so in the most professional way. We received daily progress updates and efficient communication whenever they had a doubt or question so no time was lost trying to figure everything out themselves. It was beautiful watching them thrive and show us all their creative potential. This project had turned the relationship from a transactional one to a deeply fulfilling collaboration on both ends. So it seems our technical needs are once again in good hands to allow a fresh wave of new innovations to come forth.

 

The other good news is that Sunlight IT is opening its doors to serve more small & medium sized companies in Europe and North America. So if you are looking for high quality IT support from a young innovative team at competitive prices then please do reach out. I’d be happy to share more of our experience working with them and put you in touch.