Relationships

Embracing the Elephant in the Room

"Every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind. The goal is to find it."  ~ Buddha

We've all heard the phrase 'there is an elephant in the room'. It's code for a difficult issue or significant problem that people don't feel comfortable talking about. It has a power and weight to it that can immobilize an organization or team. However, despite being unspoken the "elephant" issue is either consciously or unconsciously impacting relationships and the ability to get things done.

I believe we should learn to embrace the elephant in the room. Yes, it means that there is some force causing people to be uncomfortable and not talk about something. It's an energy that is big and unmovable. In fact, it could be something that is so sacred, fearful or important that no one wants to go near it. Isn't that usually a signal of something of vital importance that has to be courageously and respectfully explored?

Elephants as a species are powerful. They are very strong and they are gentle. They are loyal. They are patient. It is often said that elephants do not forget nor do they forgive. They are also associated with having great wisdom and compassion. They will fiercely protect what is important to them.

I would like to shift the perspective on elephants in the room. I believe that when the elephants emerge in team processes it's a signal of something transformative unfolding. It may be a bold change that is on the verge of happening. It could be a shift in dialogue that is becoming more open and honest; that the true essence of something important is being revealed. The elephant tension denotes vulnerability and diversity of opinion emerging.

Elephant energy can feel edgy. However, when we embrace it and explore it we can reveal important things that untended to will limit change, innovation or brave new visions from emerging. When we pause to honour the elephant, to name it and work with its energy, we are tapping into a wisdom force that needs to be honoured in order to move forward.

In my experience coaching teams, I often call out the elephant(s). I draw one on a flip chart and ask the team what it is. I playfully identify that the elephant(s) are in the room. I then ask people to pause and quietly reflect on what elephants are present and to write them on a post it note. Everyone gets to put them on the elephant. From there we group them by similar themes. This is a way of revealing the voices of the system; often the marginalized or unpopular ones.

Once we see the themes, we create conditions for people to talk about the elephants. It requires a tenderness and respect in  how people talk about them. I always ask about the elephant wisdom and how it is trying to serve at this time. We explore what is needed so that this wisdom can be considered as we go forward.

While it may be easier to ignore the elephants because they take energy to deal with, I find that when teams can talk about the elephants in a curious and supportive way they release energy that blocks them from true creative collaboration.  Acknowledging and processing the elephants can be a bonding process. It is a way of sharing history and story of an organization in a constructive manner. By speaking of the elephants some of their power is diminished. It frees up energy and opens awareness to what people want to see happen. Elephant exploration helps rewire the collective brains of the team so that new energy can be realized.

It is my wish that instead of ignoring or marginalizing the elephants in the room, that we embrace them and actively invite them into conversations. Only then can we access their wisdom so we can move forward together in more productive and positive ways.

We have much to learn from elephants. The following is a description of the attributes of elephants from a shamanistic perspective. May we embrace these qualities for the sake of healthy and vibrant team relationships and organizational cultures.

"Elephants can teach us that gentleness, commitment, and communication in relationships is very powerful and necessary to keep relationships alive, trusting and loving, whether it be friends, family or partner. Deeply committed to all creatures with whom they have relationships, elephants are tough when protecting others and gentle when nurturing them. The matriarch (the oldest, most experienced female leader of a herd) leads in a way that is both gentle and inclusive. Elephants are able to communicate telepathically. This can teach us how to truly listen to others."

http://www.shamanicjourney.com/elephant-power-animal-symbol-of-commitment-royalty-strength

 

Conscious Collision

It’s been about six months since Innovation Works London opened. It’s a co-working space dedicated to social innovation. It’s an incubator for creativity. It’s a collection of people and organizations dedicated to social purpose work. It’s an intergenerational, cross cultural and multi-sector co-working space. It’s a hub where social change ideas are birthed. It’s a place designed to create sparks from conscious collisions.

Conscious collisions? What the heck? Stay with me, you’ll get it.

I am in love with this place, the space and the people. I feel myself flourishing in this micro community of like-minded people. I am inspired by the talent and heart of the co-tenants. I am grateful for the new connections and collaboration opportunities that emerge daily.

Co-working spaces are intentionally designed to help people collide. At Innovation Works, the shared kitchen is a hub where people gather – for weekly Salad Club or Wine Down Fridays. Flex desk users sit in different spots, with different people, daily. People literally bump into each other while pondering the latest quote or poll on the chalk board. Dialogue walks are emerging as a new medium for intentional collision moments. They are invitations to walk, talk and share stories, dreams and motivations that form the root of relationships and spark ideas for new ways to collaborate.

Here's my definition of CONSCIOUS COLLISION:

The intentional act of intersecting with people with diverse talents, interests and expertise to co-create through collaboration. Collision moments are often facilitated in co-working spaces - either by chance or design.

Conscious collision moments create opportunities to talk, share, listen, ponder, be curious and learn. What might seem like random, one off conversations often lead to a series of interactions where relationships are deepened and ideas for collaboration emerge.

As I reflect on the highlights of 2016, I notice how grateful I am for the many positive collisions that I’ve experienced so far at Innovation Works. They’ve got my heart racing with joy and possibility thinking.  This community represents a shift in how people work, engage and co-create. It’s fun to be in on the ground floor.

I am also deeply grateful to my dear friend Johnny Fansher who was the spark of this idea in London. I call him the birth father of this project. He was passionate about the possibility and persistent in holding the vision. He gathered people to co-create and cultivate the vision. Eventually Pillar Non Profit, the London Arts Council and London Heritage Council caught the ball and helped bring the dream to reality. Patience, sprinkled with large doses of faith, paired with gritty determination have made Innovation Works come to life.

I can’t wait to see what innovations and collaborations we’ll be celebrating this time next year that got birthed in conscious collision moments. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

Janet Frood is a proud founding co-tenant of Innovation Works London and part of the original dream team that helped cultivate the vision for Innovation Works London. She is the Founder of Horizon Leadership Institute and is an executive, leadership and team coach.

 

 

 

 

For The Love of Dads

Today is all about Father's. I find myself reflecting on the Dads that are part of my immediate family. Each is a teacher to me. I am grateful and today celebrate them.

First, my own Dad Oren Claude Frood. He's been gone from my life since I was 29 yet I feel his spirit every day. He was charismatic, funny, creative, kind hearted, logical, and wickedly smart. He was also tortured, sad and lost. He and I shared a special bond. The kind where you could just be with the other, not talk and yet we spoke volumes to each other through our hearts. In fact, he was the person who taught me most about empathy. To this day I can still hear his hearty laugh and see his eyes sparkly with mischief.

I was blessed to have William Charles Hawke for a father in law. He quickly became my local Dad. He and I had a unique relationship in that we worked together for nine years. He was also a match maker as he set Peter and I up on our first date. We joked that ours was an arranged marriage. As a Dad, Bill wanted the best for his kids. He wanted them to achieve success in whatever they did. He was proud of each one of them for following a passion. Bill wrote poems for every occasion. He also wrote words that no one else could find as part of the eulogy for our son Ryan when he died. Bill was a very social guy and brought out his goofy, funny side often. However, I was privileged to see his deeply caring and compassionate side on many occasions. I learned a lot about loyalty and heart from Bill.

Then, there is my brother Peter Cameron Frood. Together, with his wife Francoise Cooper Bouchard, he has modelled what it’s like to unapologetically adore your kids. I have watched closely how he has loved and nurtured them through each of their life stages. He is a proud papa bear for sure. He too brings a good humour and teases relentlessly. He has gifted his kids with adventures in life and has modelled setting goals and going for them. His go with the flow state of being has been a powerful antidote to the sometimes intense life we experienced in our birth family. I’ve adopted that in my parenting style and am full of gratitude for the model of parenting he has shown – as Dad and now a Grandpa.

I also want to recognized the wonderful Barry Mark Moore. He is also a devoted Dad. When I think of Mark I think of play. His inner child is alive and well. He is a man of music and has a deep commitment to God, I have seen how he has woven his core values into parenting. His love for family in unparalleled. His care and concern for community has inspired his family to engage deeply in the lives of their friends and community. His commitment to playing in nature, exploring on a bike or communing through music has created many cherished moments with his family. Through Mark I have learned the power of being with not just doing as a parent.

Next I think of my nephew Jonathan Gerard Frood. On the Frood side, he is the first of the next gen to have a child. Seeing him step into this role seriously melts my heart. His pride and joy in being a Dad is pure joy to witness. His intentionality in wanting to be the best teacher, guide and champion for his son Logan is a reminder to me of the importance of the role of parent. His desire to inspire Logan to follow a sporty life is so much fun to watch. The world of opportunity is open to this little guy if you see the abundance of every type of ball or sporting equipment he already has. However, Jon also wants to inspire a love of reading and music, of being a social being and make sure he passes on the legacy of fun and play.

I am also equally inspired by our nephew Christopher James Kroeker.  He too has taken on the role of Dad with an abundant heart. He joyfully plays and creates with his kids. The laughter and fun that is in his heart comes through his interactions with Aubrey and Everett.  As a next gen father he’s found a way for Dad’s to bond by creating the Midnight Dad’s Club. It’s kind of a play zone for Dad’s to unit and spend time together. From Chris I’ve learned that parenting does not forego having fun.

Recently, I’ve been blessed with getting to know and love another Dad. Lorne Murray Hay is my dear friend Kat’s Dad. I’ve been an orphan for a while as my parents both died when I was younger. Lorne, and his beloved wife Betty, adopted me with open hearts. At 53, the opportunity to have Lorne in my life is a great joy. To find someone who can give a hug like only a Dad can at this stage of life is amazing. Lorne is a great story teller and I love hearing about the threads of his life that have shaped him to be the wonderful man he is.

Last, and definitely not least, I want to celebrate Peter James Hawke. Pete and I entered into parenting in a very precarious way. We were intentional and ready. Yet our first son Ryan had other plans for our parenting journey. He was born early and very ill. When Ryan died Pete was solid, steady and always present.  He was also open with his own vulnerability and fears. He journeyed with me through the healing work of grief. He was stalwart in his commitment that we would survive our loss together.

Then came the lights of our lives – Shannon and Jason. Since the day they showed up, Pete’s mission has been to be a devoted Dad. I have a movie reel of images in my mind of many sweet moments he’s shared with them. All I know is how deeply he loves them, how he’s celebrated them at each stage of life they’ve achieved, and how much he savours the time we spend with them now that they’ve flown the nest. I love both his devotion to our kids and how fully alive he is when he’s with them. He is a proud Papa and I am blessed to share the role of parent with him. Through Pete I have learned the artistry of co-creation and the power of strengths partnering for a common mission – the wellbeing of our kids.  

So, these are the Dad’s that I celebrate today. They are an extraordinary group of men who value family, love, commitment, and caring connection. I can’t help but notice that they all share common threads -- those of humour as they all tease and have wicked wits and how they show their love through play and being fully present.

NOTE-- Why I’m using full names. I recently had an amazing experience with a healer, energy worker and musician. He taught me that our unique essence as human and spiritual beings comes through in the architecture of our name. We each have a unique rhythm that is rooted in the syllables of our names. So I am using the full names of these awesome men as another way of honouring their spirits.

Truth and Reconciliation: A Shared Journey

Truth and Reconciliation: A Shared Journey

Where am I from?
Where am I going?
What is my purpose?
Who do I want to be?

These are the four questions that Justice Murray Sinclair stated are at the heart of all Indigenous people as they quest for meaning in this life. He said exploring these questions is part of the healing that must unfold as part of the Truth and Reconciliation process in Canada.

Trust Trumps Everything

Trust Trumps Everything

In our work, we coach individual leaders and teams. Regardless of what the focus of the coaching, all roads eventually lead to trust. And so, this has become a signature of the work we do with our clients. Definition: “...trust is a pragmatic, tangible, actionable asset that you can create much faster than you probably think possible. Simply put, trust means confidence...When you trust people you have confidence in them – in their integrity and in their abilities.”  Bottom-line – trust is an asset that can be developed when we are intentional about it.