Monday, May 26, 2008

The Downside of Parenting

"I bet it just makes you want to hold your babies tight?" she said as I returned and enfolded my boy in a hug.

If you didn't know where I had been you'd have guessed from my attire - sombre suit and tie - weddings and funerals only and I've never done a wedding on a Monday. It wasn't exactly a funeral either. I was visiting the home of two of our pastors - a husband and wife team - who's second son had just taken his own life aged 21. Open casket - white with gold handles on a bed of mats in a room wallpapered with mats. We sat and talked and sat some more. And prayed and shared scripture and memories. Comfortable in my uncomfortableness.

I paused for a while before replying to Kristen's question:

"The problem is: you can't hold them tight enough."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How Do You Get A Walrus Into the Fridge?

A. Open the door and let the Polar Bear out!

Rhys is very imaginative when it comes to play. But also in a way very literal and precise. A great example this week: I went to the fridge to discover the entire polar bear family was in the fridge - the daddy, mummy and baby. Later a penguin also appeared.

When asked what the bears were doing in the fridge Rhys answered:

"They like it in the cold."

And then for good measure he clarified further:

"They don't like it in the hot places."

Which made perfect sense to me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

To lead or to plant petunias?

There are lots of things I'd like to write about, but frankly at the moment I am too busy to write. And too busy writing to write for fun. Sounds awful, but its really OK. I like what I do. But one of the thoughts that has been swirling in my head for some years - really ever since I did my MBA dissertation on Systems Theory and the Church - the art and science of church leadership.

The basic premise of my dissertation was that for churches and other NPO's the organic systems metaphors are most helpful. Top down authority structures are unlikely to work with volunteers. So I was looking for learnings with people like Peter Senge and "The Learning Organisation", and Peter Drucker who famously described the product of an NPO as "a transformed human being". Beautiful. I also liked Wheatley's thoughts on the organisation as organism driven by 2 key determinants: the need to self-determine and the need for one another. The promise and the paradox of community. She summed the challenge to live in this tension very nicely:

It seems that whenever we bargain with life and seek to satisfy only one of its two great needs, the result is a quality of true lifelessness. We must live within the paradox; life does not allow us to choose sides. Our communities must support our individual freedom as a means to community health and resiliency. And individuals must acknowledge their neighbors and make choices based on the desire to be in relationship with them as a means to their own health and resiliency.

Since I completed that study, I have become a lead pastor within a new church. And so I have had the chance to practice what I preached. Its not perfect, but I try to live in the tension. Mainly I do this by investing in the people around me - Senge's Five Disciplines are probably most influentual to me in trying to create the Learning Organisation:

…organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.

The Five Disciplines are:

Systems thinking
Personal mastery
Mental models
Building shared vision
Team learning

Personal mastery is probably the main one that doesn't really sound like what it is! Senge says it best:

‘Organizations learn only through individuals who learn. Individual learning does not guarantee organizational learning. But without it no organizational learning occurs’.

Personal mastery is the discipline of continually clarifying and deepening our personal vision, of focusing our energies, of developing patience, and of seeing reality objectively’

It goes beyond competence and skills, although it involves them. It goes beyond spiritual opening, although it involves spiritual growth.

Personal Mastery is a special kind of proficiency. It is not about domination or authority, but rather about calling. Vision is vocation rather than simply just a good idea. People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never ‘arrive’. It is a process. It is a lifelong discipline. It requires high amounts of reflection at an individual and corporate level and that is sometimes (often!) painful or boring or time consuming. People with a high level of personal mastery are acutely aware of their ignorance, their incompetence, their growth areas. BUT they are deeply self-confident.

Anyways, I try to approach this task of promoting the 5 Disciplines through relational coaching and maintaining 'span of care' across the leadership of the organisation. That means leaders caring for leaders and caring about their growth. Also drawing people together to envision one another.

Thats an interesting dynamic sometimes - people understandably resist the time squeeze that spending the time to distil vision really takes - and this is part of the prompt to write something (even something this unfocused!) - actually it came out of reading this article in todays Leadership Weekly email and pondering on the sustainability of this kind of time-intensive ministry and then thinking about how that would be received in my context! Four guys in team ministry. Seems like a fun environment, although I think one that a volunteer-heavy scenario would struggle with. This defintely has the luxury of fulltime staff attached to it! Some plusses and minuses which they are pretty frank about - I like the way they don't focus on the perfect organisation but acknowledge that you basically pick your problems with organisational structure. Every choice has both understood and unacknowledged consequences - mostly you get to decide which problem to eliminate rather than to deal to them all! And I liked the band metaphor in terms of an organic creative process (they obviously never watched the Commitments!)

Anyway some nice thoughts along the way which were stimulating and interesting - and it made me write something! Albeit that it really offers no conclusions...