By Jules Bevis and Kaat Vannieuwenborgh for Enlivening Edge Magazine
A little while ago 12 members of our Teal Meetup Group met at St Ethelburga’s Centre, a unique space for reconciliation and peace in the City of London. With original arches and stained glass windows, it is a space that embodies faith in the modern world and a structure that stands high in its reinvention since the 7th century. Together, the 12 members created a sensitive journey, moving inch by inch through an inquiry into self, other, and organisation. We navigated the question of making Teal real, that is, bringing the structure of consciousness to organisations.
What am I curious about?
We began our inquiry by suspending this question “What am I curious about?” in meditation. We took a moment, not to consider the answer, but to look at the question and feel into the space it opens, to invoke new questions from it. In a circle, we revealed those questions one by one, and each person’s story offered meaning to the next. Each moment of sharing, honest and vulnerable, was met with openness and acceptance. Each question pointed to the patterns of relating that were unfolding before us, creating a real-time texture to the experience. Those questions included:
What conditions are needed for showing up?
How do flow and disruption play a part in change?
How do I build capacity in me, to sense and respond?
I didn’t feel comfortable with your reference to ‘moving upwards’. When is hierarchy OK?
The latter question provoked cognitive understandings, personal values, and our felt sense of change to tussle and fold over and into each other. It was a weave of origami sense-making; complex, edgy, and picking up pace. That was, until a powerful insight offered us an anchor:
“A natural hierarchy can occur in practice groups or in the collective where there are strongly shared intentions, a clear sense of purpose, and a deep sense of ease. This palpable unified field of non-separation enables individuals to access new potentials in their being, and through this sharing of unity and truth with the trusted others in the group, we grow upwards, and we expand outwards” (Dave Pendle).
It was an insight born out of a lived example of the structure of consciousness in groups, and on hearing it, this had a converging effect on our individual journeys.
For me, it births a new question into the present:
“What is happening when we bridge internal space with external realities through authentic relating?”
Our discussion had landed in completion. Our collective was forming. It was fragile and temporary, but held steady in the fertile ground we had created. We were ready to move on.
What is happening when I am listening?
Our next calling-question gathered us to share in triads, with one person responding to “What is happening when I am listening?” and the other two people receiving and feeding back what they noticed. One speaker in my triad described what he was experiencing in the very moments he was hearing himself speak. He was riffing in real-time and as he found a rhythm, a dialogue came to the foreground of my awareness. I remember it only as energetic resonance. We were attuned to each other through body language, and the meaning he was making merely added colour.
The next speaker took a more reflective style, looking back and exploring his listening patterns already known to him. As my turn came around, I could feel the calling to dance with both approaches. I started by reflecting on my listening, but something was blocking me from making the switch to feeling what was alive for me there and then. It was something that wanted to be voiced, and it sounded like:
“I’m really wanting to change my expression to what’s emerging moment by moment. I’m really needing authenticity”.
It was a voice that wasn’t available to me because I was engaged in what often happens when we lose connection; I was “listening to the thoughts about the words rather than listening to the words themselves” (Roger Martin). If listen to the words themselves and we include our bodily responses to what we’re hearing, we can stay present with the words we’re receiving. That is, when we sense in order to respond.
A new question arising: Where does listening start?
It’s a question that finds itself in a story shared by Maarten Rooney, when he and a new acquaintance were talking for the first time, wanting so much to connect, but caught on a flat-line of small talk. A second conversation came around and they surrendered. There was a life force that wanted to move through them, like an elastic band building tension and direction until it pinged into an explosion of energy for each other. It’s not just what is spoken and received that matters; it’s the energetic rapport between us that creates connection.
A structured collaborative inquiry
To complete our practice together, we held a case clinic – a method for collectively offering what is true and useful in response to an organisational challenge. Our case came from Phil, a team leader at a global NGO, who is challenged with fostering and instilling a new culture of consciousness. He had taken time out to research their approach. The CEO is enthusiastic about Teal after reading Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux, but now change is in the air, and people feel insecure about their position. The calling question for the group was: “What images, metaphors and questions does this story invoke for me?”
“A fish swimming and not seeing the water” (George Pór) was the first gift to Phil. It seemed that intellectual distance had crept in, catching the change agents in the “how” of culture change, as if it were a problem to be solved. With this, the flow of opportune moments for trust and love in relationships were being missed. As group member Roger Martin said, “Outside circumstances are not the problem; it’s the way we look at it”.
To remedy this, each individual needs to own their journey of transformation, with the compassionate support of their peers. Duncan Coombe writes in his recent article on love-powered organisations in Harvard Business Review that it starts with smaller spheres of influence. From his work with Zappos, George Pór advised that these spheres begin with engaging coalitions of mentors or “Teal Navigators”. These mentors will be skilled at knowing when to support, when to challenge, and when to get out of the way. With this, “people will take ownership and build the platform to propagate the change” (Roger Martin).
The last key learning for Phil was surfacing the assumptions behind the way the CEO views the change. The invitation is to surface and reframe the narrative: moving to Teal may include some problem-solving along the way, but is fundamentally a way of being and relating to be embodied, rather than an exercise in problem-solving.
For those embarking on any culture change, this brings to the foreground new questions:
What is the level of thinking leading the change?
What narrative are you shaping?
Who is discerning what is (in)visible?
Our collaborative inquiry has been a liminal space for understanding the qualities and structures of consciousness, and with that it was a microcosm of the very conditions we want to create. For Phil, the multiple perspectives of the collective, including those who were more experienced, was what allowed the invisible to come through, to be named and, we hope, integrated into his organisation.
To bridge the gap from fixing the problem to embracing the journey of reaching our full potential, our relationships need an unshakable centre of love and its manifestations: trust, presence, responsibility, and choice.
Throughout the journey, breakthrough moments of realisation might be fleeting, or they might land heavily and disrupt the status quo, depending on how much tension is in the system. It is connection, open curiosity, and their ripple effects which will keep new consciousness flowing through the system until a tipping point occurs.
Another question comes to mind:
“How do we bridge, nurture, and hold a culture of consciousness across distributed groups?”
There is an expansive nature to inquiring collaboratively through a Teal lens, and with that there is a real tension in containing this article!
Jules Bevis is a learning and development practitioner, and psychospiritual coach on a journey of soul making. She has a life calling to bring the psychology of consciousness to sustainability leadership. Email her at jules.bevis07 @ gmail.com
Kaat Vannieuwenborgh is a transformational business consultant on the journey of becoming aligned to her mission and purpose; her drive is to inspire a shift in the way organisations view and run their business. She has a real interest in sustainability, innovation, social responsibility, and the digital world. kaatvannieuwenborgh @ gmail.com