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Visibility and the Balance of Criticism and Appreciation

Welcome to Edgework Consultancy. Launching the Edgework website has been my own excursion to the ‘edge’. I’ve been forced to take stock of my life, where I’ve been, who I am and what I stand for. What you see on these pages represents the sum total of all of that. It’s been an exhilarating and daunting process because it represents my own transformation from a full time employee in a large public service organization and a part time consultant, to a full time consultant. All sorts of worries and fears have come up during this transition. The issue of visibility is one of them. I’ve turned myself inside out for you dear reader-exposed some of my passions, values, and credentials in a long lasting way. There are those who long for visibility. Some say visibility is now too accessible in this year of 2012. I suspect that many equate visibility with appreciation and respect. I am not one of them. Visibility for me has always been a risky business, with the potential to expose flaws, to being caught out in some way, to face criticism in a hyper-critical world. This led me to think about the prevalence of criticism, a way of thinking and being that seems to saturate all our lives. What’s it all about? I suspect some of it may be about ‘showing off’- ‘see how smart I am’. Some of it is self protection, deflecting negativity from oneself to someone else. Some of it is about fear and disempowerment- ‘let someone else do it, while I sit back and poke holes in their efforts’. I suspect criticism and the fear of it has stood in the way of fulfilling potential for many of us. I’ve worked with MBA students across the world on the balance of criticism and appreciation. Invariably criticism leads to one of two reactions or both- withdrawal or aggression. Appreciation on the other hand leads to a soaring feeling, a singing of the heart, an openness and a moving forward in life. Of course, there is always a place for genuine critique that improves any condition including the human condition. But it’s time to consign the gratuitous criticism that dogs our daily lives, to the dustbin. Today, I am writing to you from my cottage in the country, in the hills of deep Wales. As I look out the window at the dance of colours in the autumn leaves still falling in auburn and russet drifts I want to stop and savour this golden moment, to appreciate those leaves that protect and cover the ground for new growth that is yet to come. Appreciation and savouring are linked to gratitude. Experiencing and expressing gratitude are fundamental to well-being. The next time you catch yourself thinking an appreciative thought, stop for a moment. Take notice and savour.

Hope, Journeys and Shifting Perspectives

Time to sacrifice the queen: transition and transformation

Time to Sacrifice the Queen: Transition and Transformation I first came to Wales at exactly this time of the year, when the countryside was at its most luscious, verdant green. Though somewhat overcast, it was hot, very hot, as it can be in late May. I had rented a car at Heathrow, having just got off the 10 ½ hour overnight flight from Los Angeles. I drove all the way to west Wales without stopping, mostly because I didn’t know how to negotiate the roundabouts should I leave the M4. On the last lap of this odyssey of a voyage, when I had finally ventured onto the A road taking me to my destination, and hoping for a short cut, I turned down a tiny unmarked road, a lane really, lined with tall hedgerows on either side. I realised that I had probably taken a wrong turn and in my attempt to turn the rental car around I realised I didn’t know how to put it in reverse. So there I was, in my car, half way turned, stuck across the road. The intimacy, the very smallness of the lane, made me less worried than I might have been. Two women came along eventually, in a four wheel drive. They had obviously just done their grocery shopping and I felt just a hint of reassurance in the familiar sight of grocery store shopping bags piled up in the back. Both of them got out, dressed in shorts and small tops. ‘Where are you from?’ one of them asked, noting my black long sleeved silk tee shirt, leather skirt and tights. ‘San Diego’ I responded. ‘Dear God you must be hot,’ the other said. ‘Well, it was a lot cooler in southern California when I left than it is here. . I’ve run into a bit of a problem as you can see. I can’t seem to put the car in reverse,’ I remarked a bit sheepishly. One of them got into the car, positioned herself behind the wheel, jiggled the stick a little and instantly the car reversed. She showed me the trick. They wished me well and we all went on our various ways. How grateful I was to these kind women, part of a global sisterhood, who, in their matter of fact way, took charge, solved the problem, without flap or judgement. Their generosity took on for me a symbolic meaning, a trust that a helper, a guide, an ally with slightly greater wisdom will emerge during the most arduous part of the journey. I was in transition. Life changes had dared me, compelled me to step outside my familiar life, to test my metal, to leap into the unfamiliar. It was a time of anguish, loss and utter disorientation. I was desperate. So I left a career, a reputation, a community, a life behind. I sacrificed the queen. There is a story in the chess world, about one of the most famous moves of all time made during an international competition by a player called Frank Marshall. He was under serious attack and it was thought he would move his most important offensive piece, the queen, to safety. Instead, he sacrificed the queen, an unthinkable move, to be made in the most desperate of circumstances. Ultimately, this turned out to be a brilliant move and his opponent conceded the game. What is important and relevant is not that he won. The learning is that Frank was able to suspend standard thinking long enough to consider such a bold move. He took an imaginative risk, based on his judgement and his judgement alone. I didn’t know what was ahead of me, but in this liminal state of transition, this freefall place, I was willing to place myself in a cauldron of transformation to learn what I really was and who I could be. Of course, not everyone can take such a leap of external change –of continent, country, culture, work and home during their stay in the zone of transition. Often, the transition is sparked by something entirely internal and we have to carry on in jobs and in life. It could be that you have already made a decision about something of which you are not quite aware nor is anyone else. This can make it all the more confusing and painful. The neutral zone, as William Bridges calls this time of transition, is inevitably a period of internal waiting, of restlessness. It’s almost always a lonely time, of emptiness, uncertainty, and without a sense of something to hold onto. Former life seems to have lost its meaning. It is often an unfocused and unproductive time, a time when life feels stuck between the end of the past and the beginning of the future. When you are in the zone of transition you are at the edge, the edge that we talk about and work with at Edgework, this zone between the known and the unknown. This is life’s most fertile time, life’s vein of gold. It is the source of growth, creativity, transformation. What can you do to make the most of this time of repair and recharging, rebirth and renewal? Patience and curiosity have been among my most reliable allies, as they can be for you. • Embed the intention – I will learn from this. This has probably been the single most sustaining thing I have done for myself. At the time, I had no idea what the learning would be, nor perhaps will you, but setting the intention offers a sense of continuity, a reassurance that there is a future to which I will take this learning. • Write. Keep a journal in which you create a living log of your neutral zone experiences. You can capture the tone of a day or a week that goes beyond the usual daily routines. What’s large in your awareness right now? What is its shape and size? Tastes, textures, smells? What are your hopes? What are your dreams both in sleep and awake. What synchronicities show up? Draw a picture of your world right now. • Write an autobiography. I worked through much of Ira Progoff’s book ‘At a Journal Workshop’. It was immensely helpful for me to identify patterns, to evoke buried thoughts, feelings, longings. The very act of writing, made these real and helped me reclaim myself. • Acknowledge what you really want. Consider directly if you can, what you really want without the inevitable ambivalence, guilt, injunctions and expectations from the world around us. Ask yourself the question: how do I know what I really want? • Find some time to be alone. You don’t have to move across the world, to a remote region of West Wales. An hour, carved out of the day, that you can count on, an hour when you are allowed to be the self that is in transition, can be very soothing. • Try something, anything new. Something you and you alone have chosen. This won’t necessarily move mountains, at least not right away, but the ripple effects are real. Finally, I share with you this piece that came across my desk many years ago. I don’t know who the author is but I have kept it with me all this time and it has always inspired me. I hope it will inspire you too. Fear of Transformation Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments of my life, I’m hurtling across the space between trapeze bars. Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (o not-so-merrily) swinging along, I look out ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging towards me. It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart of hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on this present, well-known bar to move to the new one. Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing I have always made it. Each time I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed by unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.” It is called transition. I have come to believe that is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched. I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing”, a no-place between places. Sure, the old trapeze-bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real too. But the void in between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through s fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives our incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives. And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to ‘hang-out” in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying, it can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly. (Source: Anonymous) Warmest wishes, Anita. Bridges, W. (1996) Transitions. London: Nicholas-Brealey Progoff, I (1975) At a Journal Workshop

Time to sacrifice the queen: transition and transformation

Authentic Leadership and the Focusing Process

More on Focusing, Authentic Leadership and Positive Psychology

It's hard to believe two years have passed since I last posted an item here. Needless to say, life and work have been hectic. I have devoted considerable time over the past coupld of years to honing my Focusing Skills. I am now a certified Focusng Practitioner. Of course, I am always interested in how to improve any leadership process and in the brief article that follows, I explore more about the relationship between Focusing and Leadership. Focusing, Positive Psychology and Authentic Leadership If you want to identify me ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, and ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for. Thomas Merton Introduction Focusing came into my life over 30 years ago in a rustic lodge in the forests of Vancouver Island. I learned about Gendlin’s six steps (Focusing, 1978) and how to apply them in my own life and these stayed with me through many life changes. Those life events and changes often involved leadership roles in higher education, organisational development and health and social care. I reconnected with Focusing four years ago through the BFTA, (British Focusing Teachers Association) through whom I found a Focusing teacher. I learned that Focusing has moved on. Among other new approaches, Barbara McGavin and Weiser Cornell developed Inner Relationship Focusing,(The Focusing Student’s and Companion’s Manual, Parts 1 and 2, 2002) which draws substantially from Gestalt approaches, Jungian Active Imagination Dialogue, and relies heavily on Rogerian skills and demonstration of Core Conditions. Weiser Cornell and McGavin place a strong emphasis on quite a precise use of language. As I have learned, relearned and practiced Focusing over these four years I have come to understand that Focusing is a technique, a process, a way of life and a philosophy. I have come to believe that Focusing has a potential transformational role to play in authentic leadership and leadership development. I will touch briefly on that connection in the first section of this paper. In the second section I shall present some of my thoughts on Focusing as a philosophy, process, technique and way of life. The third section will explore more fully leadership and especially authentic leadership. The fourth section will present on outline of a workshop series ‘The Four Seasons Leadership Development Programme’ that blends Focusing with Leadership. This paper is essentially about languages. Often, different languages get in the way of mutual understanding. Different languages can describe the same or similar phenomena, and can stand in the way of cross fertilisation. This paper attempts to make some translations between Focusing and Leadership languages. How do Positive Psychology, Focusing and Authentic Leadership fit together? Martin Seligman, one of the founders of Positive Psychology defined it as: ‘the scientific study of optimal human functioning [that] aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive. (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000, p. 5-14) Focusing too is concerned with optimal human functioning and what makes life meaningful. While Positive Psychology concentrates on the ‘study’ of factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive, Focusing, while rooted in a philosophy, is primarily an individual and experiential practice that can help promote individual flourishing. The interest in Authentic Leadership has been fostered by and included in the realm of Positive Psychology, specifically Positive Organizational Scholarship. The term refers to a constellation of attitudes, beliefs and behaviours which aims to promote community well being. ‘Authenticity… an important introspective yet relational concept… has a substantial influence on how one lives one’s life. Furthermore, authenticity on the part of leaders influences their followers well being and self concept.’ (Iles, Morgeson, Nahrgang, 2005, p.373). Iles et al (2005) describe authentic leaders as ‘deeply aware of their own values and beliefs, and are self confident and genuine. Focusing, with its emphasis on ‘inner relationship’ could well be an important vehicle for supporting the development of Authentic Leadership. This paper will explore the potential dynamic between the two. Leadership is one of those concepts, much touted as ‘the’ answer to collective human dilemmas, if only it could be done right. Doing leadership right however, remains elusive. Studies over the last century especially, that attempt to extract and apply the essential ingredients for ‘doing it right’, have focused first on leaders and more recently on the process of leadership itself. What should leaders be and do, and what exactly makes leadership work? There is some agreement that leadership is essentially about vision and change, moving from one state to another hopefully better state for all concerned. Ron Heifetz, a well known Harvard researcher and his colleagues have developed the notion of ‘adaptive leadership’ and have suggested that leadership is fundamentally about giving meaning to one’s life beyond personal ambition. The ‘better state’ is one which gives greater meaning to the lives of all those involved. Having purpose gives focus to that meaning. These ideas about leadership draw from the work of Burns, (1978) who first developed ideas about transformational leadership, in which both leaders and followers, in pursuing a mutually held higher purpose, are transformed. Rost, (1991) defined leadership as an influence relationship among leaders and followers who intend real changes that reflect their mutual purposes. Thus, there is agreement that purpose is at the heart of leadership. However, purpose is another one of those elusive concepts. A mutual purpose may be something that a group of people think they agree, and yet, when it comes to the means of achieving that purpose, those same people realise that they have very different ‘slants’ or angles what the purpose actually is. Leadership is almost always a messy business. Leaders dwell in a tangle. My own experience in public sector health care and higher education was one of competing agendas, scarce resources, apparently similar goals to many other players but differing viewpoints about how to get there. I was always a reluctant leader, because it is an uncomfortable place to be, with great responsibility and little certainty. This led me to a tendency to control my own feelings, and to dwell in a place of hyper-vigilance, of careful and risk adverse behaviour. I was too fearful of ‘organization’ the confines, constraints, injunctions of bureaucratic systems, too blinded by the heaviness of organizational life, to sustain the lightness, clarity, lateral thinking, that I could achieve, for example in a Focusing workshop or a Focusing session. I was simply too overwhelmed to carry the Focusing attitude with me at all times. I’ve written extensively on how to ‘balance mind and heart’ for example see (Rogers, 2001, 2004) as one way of coming to grips with these perennially ‘wicked issues.’ Leadership is a mutual influence process that requires emotional intelligence, that is: self awareness, self management, empathy and relationship management. Emotional intelligence relies on authenticity, acting from one’s genuine feelings, vision, values. Books, theories and studies tell us that leadership requires authenticity but rarely if ever do they help us at a micro level how to develop it. Focusing offers an essential key. Not only does it offer an approach to accessing an authentic self, it offers a framework for developing a practice, as in the practice of a virtue, so that Focusing and a Focusing attitude becomes embedded in daily life and leadership. Working at the ‘edge’ an important feature of Focusing, is about transformation, or rather the ‘edge’ carries the seeds of transformation. The edge is life’s vein of gold. It is akin to the neutral zone that William Bridges talks about in his book Transitions (111-131) a period of vigilant waiting between what has been and what is yet to be. It is that fuzzy, pre-linguistic moment that requires courage and patience because it can be a time of restlessness, dissatisfaction, sometimes being stuck. This vein of gold is also a source of creativity and growth. The attitude which has helped me the most through turbulence, stagnant times and periods of waiting, is to set the intention: I will learn from this. This is the Focusing attitude, one of gentle curiosity. It is an attitude and a state, a state of being awake. Focusing is a living process. It helps to us to give voice to those things that we sense but do not know and do not yet understand. It is emergent, not determined. It is not a hiatus from the journey- it is the journey. Not knowing the future gives space for possibility and hope. The Focusing journey includes five important steps: 1) Take time to pay attention within yourself 2) notice what’s there 3) recognise and name what you notice 4) resonate 5) move forward It is within this stage of recognition and naming that we find the ‘aha’ moment, the sense of something clicking into place, felt deep with the self. Resonating, or checking with the whole of oneself, body, mind, emotions-does this handle, or label truly fit, is almost always followed by a felt shift, a moving forward. Leadership is a living process too. It is a journey from where we are to the unknown future. It is a journey of transformation, from one place and state to another. Leadership requires leaders who possess the immensely rare constellation of capacities to develop and hold an emerging vision, to articulate the zeitgeist, set a life forward direction, all the while dwelling in the complexities of people and context. Focusing can support leadership and leadership development in using the potential at the edge to shift to new ground, new ways of being and doing. The Philosophy Behind Focusing Focusing is rooted in existential philosophy, (Kierkegaard, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty) and in Gendlin’s own developing school of experiential philosophy. While differing on many points, existential philosophers had in common the view that humans are beings in process and in context. They take a holistic view of humans, who are in the constant process of creating themselves in interaction with the totality of their environments, past, present and future. Gendlin’s philosophy builds upon this view adding an experiential emphasis. One feels one’s existing and this is basic to such notions as authenticity, authentic living, authentic relating to others [and]… ‘this rests on direct access to one’s living process which is beyond words and ultimate definitions. (Gendlin, P.319) In conjunction with this visceral sense, or not uncommonly, instead of it, an image or a symbol, words or a story spontaneously emerge about an issue at hand. Checking back and forth between the issue and the bodily experience or symbol, Gendlin calls ‘resonating’ . Here is an example from my own experience. The issue is my relationship with my husband. A symbol of a large boulder in front of a doorway emerges. The sensation of throat constricting, chest tightening. What is it about all of this that makes me feel this way? – The words trapped, smothered come forward. They change to crushed, extinguished like a flame. The holistic bodily experience or felt sense, the symbolizing in images and words serves to define the meaning of this relationship to me at the moment. The ‘psyche’ knows and a ‘felt shift’ occurs which contains embedded within it life forward moving energy. A slight clearing, a slight space occurs in the psyche and in the bodily sense, something new in my approach to this relationship, less cluttered with the medicines of shoulds/wants/solutions. Gendlin’s experiential philosophy concerns itself with how symbols such as thought, speech and concrete experiencing are related to each other. While existential philosophers are concerned with what is real and what is not, they do not propose ways of recognising authenticity. Gendlin’s unique contribution was to change the rules of the game. Instead of asking ‘what is authentic?’ he suggested asking instead, how authenticity is determined through the interactive process of symbolising and returning to the concrete ‘felt sense’ In other words, he moved the focus from content to process. His development of experiential psychotherapy emerges out of this understanding and the process of Focusing itself. Focusing as process The metaphor of life as a ‘river of experience’ is a theme that runs through the Focusing world (Klasburn, Smith etc) What an apt metaphor it is for capturing the sense of fluidity, ever changing forward movement that the focusing process embodies.. Iteration… Focusing is full of surprises. Often, in Focusing, you may choose to focus on a particular issue. You may think you have ‘thought through’ all of the implications, considered all the alternatives And yet, Focusing can lead to somewhere unexpected, someplace you had not considered. This is what comes from suspending intellectual control within which so many of us are enslaved. Surprise, something creative, somewhere unexpected- this is where Focusing can take you when you move intellectual control from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat. In another personal example, I was recently Focusing, with my partner in attendance, on a problematic and troubling relationship with a family member. I was hoping, looking for some additional analytic understanding, some solutions. I wanted to understand more about what I exactly I was feeling, why I was feeling the way I was. I was preoccupied by whether I was ‘in the right’ or ‘wrong’ in a recent confrontation. I reviewed repeatedly what I had said, what the other person said. And I rehearsed over and over what I would say, what the other person might say. Instead, Focusing led me to befriend the disturbing feelings within my body and soul, to just acknowledge them and sit with them. From that place of gentle accompaniment emerged a swelling sense of space, warmth and lightness within myself that truly supported me in finding a calm centre, a peace within the eye of the storm. Not what I was expecting, but nonetheless just the right thing for me, then, at that moment. Of course, that was not the end, but a marker, a way-station in the journey of this life long relationship, with its moments of light and darkness. Partnership plays an immensely significant role in the Focusing process. While Focusing ‘sessions’ can be conducted alone and often are, (after all, this paper advocates the Focusing attitude as a way of life,) having an empathic partner or witness in discrete Focusing sessions often seems to ‘ramp up’ the apparent effectiveness of the process. Focusing Techniques The expansion of the Focusing world has brought change to ways in which Focusing can be conducted. Gendlin’s original six steps offer a simple, concise and effective ‘formula’ that any one can learn. Weiser Cornell and McGavin have developed their Inner Relationship approach which incorporates gestalt concepts such as mini selves. There are echoes of the work of people such as Hal and Sidra Stone on Voice Dialogue (1990) and Shakti Gawain on developing intuition.(2000). There is a growing ‘mutual influence’ between Focusing techniques and psychotherapy (Gendlin, 1996) and between Focusing and Expressive Arts (Rappaport, 2009) All of these approaches help an individual articulate ‘tacit knowledge’ (Polyani, 1966) with the aim of expanding wisdom, positive change and optimal functioning. Individuals seem to have preferences regarding ‘access’ points to this tacit knowledge. Image is my preferred access point. How often are you aware of those spontaneous and fleeting images that form and float away so rapidly? How often do we pay attention to the possible wisdom those images offer to us? Others may more readily experience their ‘knowing’ in their body. Indeed, the philosophy and processes emphasize the significance of embodiment or embodied ‘knowing’. Regardless of preferred access points, what is fundamental to effective Focusing is what I have come to recognise as ‘Precision mirroring’. Whether Focusing alone or in partnership, acknowledging, and reiterating to yourself with care, compassion, empathy what you are experiencing at any step or moment along the way is pivotal. Authentic Leadership Of course, leadership often moves at a rapid pace…there isn’t always the time in the fray of the moment, to make the space that Focusing so often requires. However, having developed the ‘practice’ of tuning into our bodies, our images, the holistic wisdom, it can take but a moment to assemble a wise response to any given situation. . New studies on the biology of empathy have of course shone the light on this key element of embodiment –empathy is literally embodied and can be developed. (see for example an article in Psychology Today October 2013, The Neuroscience of Empathy by Christopher Bergland) Until recently, leadership studies and leadership development have spent more time on the cognitive and emotional dimensions of human functioning and less on the embodied. However, the study of leadership and leadership development has started to benefit from discoveries in neuroscience. For example, Goleman and Boyatzis, in their article Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership (HBR, 2008) explore how leaders can improve group performance by understanding the biology of empathy. The exercise of empathy relies on a highly developed level of ‘self awareness’ and self awareness is a key component of authentic leadership. Avolio, Walumba and Weber (2009) suggest that there is general agreement now that authentic leadership include four key components: balanced processing, internalised moral perspective, relational transparency and self awareness. More broadly, authenticity as a psychological construct is defined as ‘the unobstructed operation of one’s true, or core self in one’s daily enterprise. (Kernis, 2003, p.13). Ilies et al (2005) elaborate further on authenticity as’ a construct reflecting one’s general tendencies to view oneself within one’s social environment and to conduct one’s life according to one’s deeply held values. (p. 376) The two preceding paragraphs exemplify the quite complex, detailed explorations in the scholarly literature on the nature of authenticity and authentic leadership. This brief paper attempts merely to identify the key components of authentic leadership and makes the suggestion that Focusing is both an appropriate and incredibly rich resource upon which to draw for the development of Authentic Leadership. The next and final section presents a workshop series that links Focusing and Leadership Development. An abiding metaphor in my life has been that of the ‘Hero’s Journey.’ A number of years ago, a colleague and I developed a research project to study women’s experiences in higher education using the Hero’s Journey as a framework for women to explore their experience (Heinrich, Rogers, et al, 1997). Out of the project, I went on to develop a series of life purpose workshops known as the ‘Re-enchantment of Work’. Perhaps the Hero’s journey is also an appropriate metaphor for the Focusing process. Stage one: The Call to Adventure….a time of dissatisfaction, restlessness, uneasiness. A time of taking stock (Noticing what’s there. Clearing a space) Stage two: Facing dragons (what stands in the way of feeling fine right now?) Stage three: Finding allies ( Identifying the Felt sense naming and resonating, finding a handle) Stage four: Reward, resolution and return to share my gifts. (Receiving) Positive Psychology, Leadership and the Practice of Focusing This exciting and innovative new module explores the practice of Authentic Leadership in the context of Positive Psychology and the powerful technique of Focusing. Leadership has been the subject of intense examination over the last decades in the quest to understand what makes a good leader. Most recently, Leadership theory and practice has benefited from its relationship to Positive Psychology which emphasizes strengths and recognises the force of emotion in Leadership. There is now a vast understanding of the cognitive and emotional aspects of leadership, very little if anything has been said about the role of embodiment in developing great leaders. Focusing is a practice that develops your ability to access directly your own body’s knowledge. It is a holistic process that integrates the cognitive, emotional and physical realms of your experience. This integrated ‘knowing’ can lead to greater, more accurate insight and to more effective behaviours in your immediate circumstances and long term direction. It has been developed over the last 40 years by Eugene Gendlin, an American philosopher and psychologist and his colleagues. Focusing is quite a natural process and most of us do it from time to time. If you have ever had the experience of forgetting something, spending a few moments checking inside yourself for what it was, then suddenly remembering and experiencing a wave of relief, you have done Focusing. It is also a skill which can be learned, refined and applied. The implications are vast. Gendlin has pointed out that unresolved problems actually exist in our physical body. By Focusing on them, we can identify and change them and we know if we are doing it correctly because each step in the Focusing process is marked by a release of tension. Focusing promotes positive change. If Leadership and Positive Psychology are fundamentally about growth and change Focusing as a technique and a practice is a powerful enabler to both. Objectives • Understand the relationship of Positive Psychology, Leadership and Focusing • Identify your personal leadership stories • Recognise and develop your own leadership strengths • Learn and practice Focusing techniques • Apply Focusing perspectives to current leadership challenges Day 1 Focusing and the challenge of change (the call to adventure) What do Leadership, Positive Psychology and Focusing have in common? What kind of a leader are you and what kind of a leader do you want to become? The first day will provide an overview of how Leadership, Positive Psychology and Focusing converge with their emphasis on attention and intention. You will take stock of your current leadership strengths, challenges and directions. You will begin to lay the groundwork to a Focusing approach to Leadership- gentle compassion • Theories of leadership, Positive Psychology and Focusing • Your personal stories of Leadership experience • The key steps in the Focusing process • Clearing a space – Mastering step one in the Focusing process Day 2 Focusing expanded (Finding allies, Facing dragons) How do you currently cope with the major challenges you face as a leader? The second day will enable you to unlock your body’s wisdom. You will learn the language of Focusing, develop greater awareness of the significance of imagery and form an important ‘listening’ partnership. The day will offer new concepts –precision mirroring and soft thinking for your consideration. • Dissolving Inner and outer obstacles to leadership • The use of imagery and metaphor • Practicing the next 5 steps in the Focusing Process - • Developing a Focusing partnership Day 3 Focusing and your vision for the future- thinking and working at the edge (Resolution and Return) What matters to you? What do you feel passionate about? What are you doing to make it happen? How hopeful and optimistic are you? During the final day, you will have the chance to work with a real time leadership issue applying all six steps of the Focusing Process to develop innovative new approaches. • Integrating Focusing, Leadership and Positive Psychology • Evaluating your progress. References Avolio, B., Walumbwa, F., Weber, T.J. (2009) Leadership: Theories, research, and future directions. Annual Review of Psychology. 60. pp. 421-449 Bergland, C. (2013) The Neuroscience of empathy. Psychology Today. 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(October, 1995) Doctoral study as heroic journey: the dialectic between the personal journey and creating a community. Sixth Annual International Critical and Feminist Perspectives in Nursing Conference: Personal Journeys and the Politics of Difference. Prouts Neck, Maine. Illes, R., Morgeson, F.P., Nahrgang, J.D. (2005) Authentic leadership and eudemonic well-being: Understanding leader-follower outcomes. The Leadership Quarterly, 16. 373-394. Kernis, M.H., (2003) Toward a conceptualization of optimal self-esteem. Psychological Inquiry. 14, 1-26. Klasburn, J., Rappaport, L., Marcow Speiser, V., Post, P., Byers, J., Stepakoff, S. and Kerman, S. (2005) Focusing and expressive arts therapy as a complementary treatment for women with breast cancer. Journal of Creativity and Mental Health. 1,1. 101-137. McGavin, B. and Weiser Cornell, A (2002). The Focusing student’s and companion’s manual. Parts 1 and 2. Berkeley: Calluna Press. Polyani ,M. (1966) The Tacit Dimension. London, Routledge. Rappaport, L. (2009) Focusing Oriented Art Therapy. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers Rogers, A. (2001) Nurture, Bureaucracy and Re-Balancing the Mind and Heart Journal of Social Work Practice, Vol 15, 2. November Rogers, A. and Martin, V. (2004) Leading Inter-professional Teams. London: Routledge Rost, J. C. (1991) Leadership for the 21st Century. New York: Praeger. Seligman, M.P. and Csikszentmihalyi, M (2000) Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist. 55, 1. , p. 5-14) Smith, D. Writing the River. www.creativitysmith.com Stone, H. and Stone, S. ((1993) Embracing ourselves: The voice dialogue manual. Novato California: Nataraj/New World Library








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