QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART VII. . .

There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. –Simon Sinek

Good morning, Gentle Reader.

For me, two of Greenleaf’s most stimulating and challenging questions are these two: Why is there so little listening?  In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?

In order to respond to Greenleaf’s first question we need to define ‘listening.’  My dictionary defines ‘Listen’ with these words: To pay attention.  Well, this is somewhat helpful.  Greenleaf helps me when he says that the servant listens first and listens in order to seek to understand.  For me, this is significantly more helpful.  In order to find common ground, I invite you, Gentle Reader, to hold with me Greenleaf’s guideline: servants listen first and in listening first they listen in order to seek to understand.

Now given this context it makes sense that Greenleaf would offer us this question: Why is there so little listening?  I go to this place when I am full of internal noise.  I go to this place when I am full of ‘surety’ – If I am sure then why would I want to listen to you?  I go to this place when I am rooted in negative judgement about the speaker(s) – when my prejudices, stereotypes, beliefs take over.  I go to this place when I find myself being disturbed by what I am hearing.  How about you, Gentle Reader, when do you go to this place?

On the other hand, Greenleaf, again as is his wont, ups the ante with his second question:  In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?’  I know that I am not improving on the silence when the eyes of the other(s) glaze over as I speak.  I know that I am not improving on the silence when the other looks away – looking at one’s watch is a sure sign that I am not improving on the silence.  I know that I am not improving on the silence when the other’s response has nothing to do with what I am talking about (this actually happened to me this morning during a ‘conversation’ I was having with a regular at my favorite coffee shop).  Gentle Reader, when have you found that your speaking did not improve on the silence?

Finally, I find that when I speak without being rooted in integrity that I have not improved on the silence.  I am thinking of Don Miguel Ruiz’s counsel:

Speak with integrity!

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QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART VI. . .

Responsibility requires that….-Robert K. Greenleaf

Good morning Gentle Reader.  There are five of Greenleaf’s quotations that I view as a collective:

Do those served grow as persons?

What is the effect on the least privileged in society?

When is serving potentially immoral?

To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral!

Responsibility requires that a person think, speak and act as if personally accountable to all who may be affected by his or her words, thoughts and deeds…Awareness is important.

The servant-first, no matter his/her role, chooses to serve in ways that directly and indirectly support and help enable the growth of the one being served.  I have found it helpful – and more challenging – if I specifically define ‘grow as persons.’  I have, over time, emerged five dimensions that have provided me a focus when it comes to serving so that the one being served grows as a person.  I call these P.I.E.S.S.

There is the Physical Dimension, the Intellectual Dimension, the Emotional Dimension, the Spirit(ual) Dimension and the Social Dimension (think: Relationships).  For each person I serve in ways that both nurture and deplete each of these dimensions.  A goal, of course, is to serve so that more nurturing and less depleting occurs.

As is his wont, Greenleaf ups the ante when he asks the next question; ‘What is the effect on the least privileged in society?’ In this case the ‘servant’ is both an individual and any organized group of two or more folks (think: team, department, organization, society, etc.).

For me, this leads directly into Greenleaf’s next question: ‘When is serving potentially immoral?’  Well, for me there are some ‘obvious’ responses. Here are a few of them: When my serving depletes more than nurtures one or more of the five Dimensions.  When my serving is manipulative or coercive.  When my serving creates a relationship of dependency.  When my serving takes advantage of the one being served.  When my serving is rooted in vice more than in virtue.  When my serving dehumanizes the one being served.

One way I can begin to protect myself from serving in a potentially immoral way is to seek to understand who I am and who I am choosing to become.  The Oracle counsels us to know thyself.  Socrates reminds us that the unexamined life is not worth living.  And Greenleaf, again, as is his wont, ups the ante with: To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral!

You, Gentle Reader, and I have integrated core values, core guiding principles and core deep assumptions (‘core’ = that to the best of our ability we will never compromise them).  It is imperative that I spend time, not just one time, but a life-time, seeking to discern, name and evaluate my core values, core guiding principles and core deep assumptions (these are the most challenging to discern and name for they reside in our unconscious).  Because I have chosen to serve others I have an obligation to know myself and to refuse to do so is immoral.

Greenleaf is not finished.  He ups the ante again when he writes: Responsibility requires that a person think, speak and act as if personally accountable to all who may be affected by his or her words, thoughts and deeds…Awareness is important.

Greenleaf assumes that the servant will choose to be unconditionally response-able, responsible and accountable.  In order to embrace these three one must choose to be awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full.  And as Greenleaf notes, awareness does not necessarily bring comfort or solace.  Awareness is often a disturber.

I am curious, Gentle Reader, as to what emerges from within you as you hold and reflect upon these five.

We become our thoughts. –Aristotle

 

 

 

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QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART V. . .

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. –Robert K. Greenleaf

Good morning Gentle Reader.  This morning we will focus on another of Greenleaf’s ‘It begins…’ statements: ‘It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.’

Greenleaf notes that some are born-servants.  That is, it is in their ‘first-nature’ to serve.  Most of us, he believed, must, via rigorous discipline, choose to become ‘natural servants.’  This second ‘nature’ we know is possible – think: It has become second nature to him/her.  I am thinking of the discipline it takes to learn to ride a bicycle.  Once we learn – integrate the skill – riding a bicycle becomes ‘second-nature’ to us.  This means, that if I do not ride a bicycle for years and then decide to do so that I will get on a bike and ride again within a few minutes.

The skill has become second nature to me.  I am putting finger to key this morning and I developed the skill of ‘typing’ when I was in high school.  The skill has become second-nature to me.  We also know that our ‘second-nature’ skills can get us into a bit of bother.  I am thinking of driving my car and not being awake and aware and hence…  Now there is another part of this that is crucial when it comes to second-nature skills.

I have integrated the skill so that it is ‘second-nature’ to me.  What I have not, and cannot not integrate is my ‘capacity.’  What does this mean?  If I do not use my second-nature skill I will retain the skill but lose the capacity.  Let’s use the riding the bike skill as an example.

As long as I am physically capable and emotionally capable to ride a bike I will be able to do so (I have integrated the skill into my second-nature).  However, because I have not ridden a bike for years I have lost capacity.  For example, I will be able to ride the bike after a few minutes of practice AND I will not be able to ride it without stopping for 100 miles for I have lost the capacity to do so (assuming that at one time I had developed the capacity to do so).

We know this to be true.  If I don’t use it, I lose it (the ‘capacity’ not the integrated second-nature skill).  We all have developed the skill of listening.  However, as we also know so well, if we don’t use the skill or develop it more fully our capacity to use the skill will be diminished; we will lose capacity.

Now, Gentle Reader, consider this: In order to develop our capacity to use an integrated skill more fully we must have a ‘need’ to do so.  We know that simply having a ‘want’ or a ‘desire’ will not suffice.  Our ‘needs’ trump our ‘wants’ and ‘desires.’  Only a ‘need’ will trump a ‘need.’  Consider how many times a person ‘wants’ to or ‘desires’ to lose weight and is not able to do so or is not able to maintain the weight loss.  The ‘need’ to carry the weight trumps the ‘want’ and/or the ‘desire.’

A ‘Need’ will always trump a ‘want’ or a ‘desire’ or a ‘wish’ – always has, always will.

There is more that emerged for me as I reflected upon Greenleaf’s statement.  This will have to suffice for now.

 

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QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART IV. . .

It begins in here, not out there. –Robert K. Greenleaf

As I reflect upon this statement my mind quickly moves to what I call Greenleaf’s Legacy.  For me, Greenleaf’s legacy contains three dimensions.  These dimensions capture his life, his work and his philosophy.  The three dimensions:  Consciousness, Character & Conduct.

Another way of stating this: Being precedes Doing.  ‘Who’ I am (Consciousness & Character) informs and forms ‘What’ I will choose to enact (Conduct) and Doing informs and reinforces Being.

Given this, Greenleaf’s statement makes sense to me.  My conduct is rooted in and determined by my consciousness and character.  In other words: Who I am will determine what I choose to do.

Greenleaf reminds us, over and over again in his writings, that we must be awake and aware.  He also reminds us that awareness does not bring comfort or solace.  I must be awake and aware of what formed and forms my ‘Character.’  Consider some of the following tap roots that feed and sustain my ‘Character.’  Here is a short list: my core values, my core guiding life principles, my core beliefs, my core assumptions, my prejudices, my stereotypes and my judgments.

When it comes to ‘Consciousness & Character’ Greenleaf ups the ante when he writes: To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral.  I up the ante for myself when I add: To refuse to examine the core values, core guiding life principles, etc. is immoral.   I also know that during the times I choose to explore these – to be awake, aware, intentional and purpose-full in naming and exploring them – that I will not always be comforted by what I discern; at times I will be disturbed.

I have choice.  This simple sentence is also, at times, disturbing.  I can, for example, choose to respond and I can choose to react.  Greenleaf counsels that we must prepare to appropriately respond and appropriately react without knowing what we will be preparing for.  Again, Greenleaf, as is his wont, ups the ante when he tells us that the servant will choose to be unconditionally response-able and responsible for all of those served.

Greenleaf also reminds us that even when we are at our healthiest we are living paradoxes.  We are, using his words, both good & evil.  Others soften this a bit by saying we are both virtue & vice or that we are both light & darkness.  A question I hold for myself: Do I really believe that I am capable of great good and that I am also capable of great evil?  For me, in affirming that I am capable of both I find that it is easier for me to be more accepting of my humanity.  I also find that I am more capable of empathy and compassion for the ‘other.’

I could write more as I reflect upon Greenleaf’s statement but this will have to suffice for now.

We become our thoughts. –Aristotle

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QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART III. . .

The search is everything. –Robert K. Greenleaf

Good morning Gentle Reader.  I concluded PART II with four questions: Why do I serve?  Who do I serve?  How often do I serve for money?  If not for money, what do I serve for? 

Consider that there are questions to respond to immediately and there are questions to respond to after some time is taken to reflect upon them.  Then there are questions ‘to hold’ – or as the great German poet, Rilke suggested, there are questions to live.  For me, these four questions are questions to hold and to liveto live into. 

[AN ASIDE: Gentle Reader you might have noticed that I used two words, to respond, rather than the two words we generally use, to answer.  I have learned these many years that there are many more questions to hold and to respond to than there are questions to answer.]

Consider that responding to and living the questions involves (requires?) that I engage in a search.  Greenleaf ups the ante when he asks me if I search in order to find or if I search in order to search.  I have throughout these many years reflected upon this question.  About twenty-five years ago I had an insight.  Since then I have been watching and listening to individuals and groups while holding my insight.  Thus far I have found that my insight continues to be affirmed.  Here is my insight:

People think differently when they are searching to understand than when they are seeking to make a decision or take an action.

When the ‘search to understand’ is primary people’s thinking expands; their thinking broadens and deepens; their thinking opens pathways and reveals thresholds to be crossed.  When the ‘search to find’ is primary people’s thinking becomes focused; their thinking narrows and is less broad and often is less deep.  I am recalling the president of a company becoming frustrated with Greenleaf and yelled at Greenleaf: ‘I don’t want to think about it; I just want an answer!’

I remember James Autry telling his direct reports that in times of crisis don’t just do something, sit there!  He wanted them to think and explore (search) so they might respond rather than simply react.  I am thinking of James E. Burke who, during the Tylenol poisonings, spent more than ten hours with his team in a searching conversation and only then did they respond.  And as it turned out their response not only addressed the threat it also enhanced the publics’ trust of Johnson & Johnson.

Finally, I remember meeting a scientist many years ago, my Uncle Steve introduced me to him.  He spent most of his time simply searching – no ‘find’ to either guide or focus his search.  What emerged was a sticky substance that he applied to paper – just to see what would happen.  What happened was the ‘Post-it-Note’ and the rest, as they say, is history.

For me, many of my greatest insights and many of my most creative ideas have emerged as by-products of searching without a goal of finding.  How about you, Gentle Reader, how often do you simply search without a ‘find’ in mind?

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QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART II. . .

Listen, first, in order to understand. –Robert K. Greenleaf

I have been taking time to stop, step-aside and reflect upon two words: ‘to serve.’  As Greenleaf notes, the search is everything.  As I search, via the discipline of reflection, I strive to create an inner space where I might go and search and then to ‘listen first, in order to understand.’

Consider, Gentle Reader, two thought-full positions.  The first is captured by the great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz.  He writes: It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:/Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

The second is captured by the great American poet, Maya Angelou.  She writes: We all must be serving someone or something:/Do you know, do you comprehend, in the moment, who or what you serve?

I believe that both are correct.  How can that be?

What motivates me to serve?  My parents were powerful role-models for me when it came to serving.  They raised six children.  My mother was a nurse, my father was an ‘old-time country doctor’ (that is, he was a doctor who did it all – attending to those with a cold, assisting at child-births, performing surgery, making house-calls, etc.).

My mother co-founded a ‘Service League’ in our city.  This was a volunteer group of women who served the under-served in our city.  She served the ‘League’ and our city for close to 70 years.

When he was 74 my father gathered together four of his physician friends and they volunteered their time at the ER (we had one hospital in our city and the younger docs at that time did not want to work in the ER).  One unintended consequence of their serving in this way was that more and more folks came to the ER because they would receive great care from these veteran docs.  The hospital finally hired ER specialists.  My father ‘practiced medicine’ until he was 82.

When I was six years old my father woke me one night and asked me if I wanted to go with him as he was going to make a ‘house call.’  My father routinely invited one of us to go with him; he would then have father-child time.  He drove into the country and went to a farm house.  He said he was there to help a mid-wife deliver a baby.  When he returned to the car several hours later the farmer followed him.  The farmer carried a large container of beans.  When I asked my father what the beans were for he looked at me and replied: The beans are my payment.  He then paused, gave me the ‘father-look’ and continued: You don’t serve for money!

Why do I serve?  Who do I serve?  How often do I serve for money?  If not for money, what do I serve for? 

[to be continued…]

 

 

 

 

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QUOTES TO NOTE – AN INVITATION FOR REFLECTION, PART I. . .

Good morning Gentle Reader.  This morning I will offer you a number of quotations from Greenleaf’s writings.  I invite you to spend some time reflecting on them.  At minimum I invite you to choose one that speaks to you at this time in your life. I invite you to hold it and periodically set aside some time and reflect upon it – perhaps even capture in writing what emerges for you.

Beginning next time I will offer some of what has emerged for me as I have held each of these.  As always, if you want to share your reflections with me I invite you to do so.  If you want me to respond to what you offer me I will also do so.  As a reminder, here is my email address: searcherseeker@yahoo.com.  Here are the quotations:

I believe that caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is what makes a good society… If a better society is to be built, one more just and more caring and providing opportunity for people to grow, the most effective and economical way while supportive of the social order, is to raise the performance as servant of as many institutions as possible by new voluntary regenerative forces initiated within them by committed individuals: servants.

The search is everything.

 It begins in here, not out there.

It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.

What is the effect on the least privileged in society?

When is serving potentially immoral?

 To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral!

 Do those served grow as persons?

 Responsibility requires that a person think, speak and act as if personally accountable to all who may be affected by his or her words, thoughts and deeds…Awareness is important.

 The servant-leader may not be so much the prophetic visionary (that is a rare gift) as the convener, sustainer, discerning guide for seekers.

 [the servant makes] sure that other people’s highest priority needs are being served.

Why is there so little listening?

 In saying what I have in mind will I really improve on the silence?

 Five concluding observations [Greenleaf’s original ‘inspired’ essay]:

  • True servant-leaders are artists in the true meaning of being open to chaos.
  • Not much that is really important can be accomplished with coercive power.
  • Nothing much happens without a dream. For something great to happen, there must be a great dream.
  • To refuse to examine the assumptions one lives by is immoral.
  • In the end, all that matters is love and friendship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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