By Katherine Woods with contribution by Kenda Gaynham, for Enlivening Edge
In 1999 I left my well-paid, corporate job to pursue my passion for facilitation and to co-found Meeting Magic. This article is a summary of the key stages of Meeting Magic’s evolution towards Teal, highlighting the key learnings on the journey. A version of this article with more depth and breadth about how we made each transition is available here.
The pluralistic phase (Green)
This was the first form MM took beyond the initial partnership Ingrid and I had. The focus was almost entirely relational. People were drawn into the MM Network because of their relationships with me. The ‘rules of the game’ were all about how we worked together, and decisions were entirely consensual.
LESSONS FROM THIS PHASE
- You can’t manage a whole business by consensus – over-collaboration has as many issues as command and control.
- Every business needs some commercial focus – cash is key for most businesses to survive.
- People need to be willing to experience some pain to make a new way of working work for them.
- You can’t set up a business half-heartedly – it needs to be all or nothing at the start.
- There needs to be clear direction and accountability for a (networked) group to take action together.
The achievement phase (Orange)
I brought in a Chairman to support me in looking at the organisation with an external eye. Our aim was to remove pressure on my workload and to make a commercial shift into profitability. We implemented a management structure. We insisted on exclusive membership to MM by its members. For the first time ever we set targets, and we had financials in our vision.
LESSONS FROM THIS PHASE
- For a networked organisation to work, its members need to understand and care about the whole system.
- Too much focus on commercial growth leads to greed.
- Our business was founded on principles which had not been explicit, and therefore got lost.
- The financials and metrics are an indicator of behaviour, and should not be separate from the people.
Transition and evolutionary breakthrough (Teal)
We experienced a tough transitional period as I made significant changes to save the business from financial ruin. During this phase we made two critical shifts
- Refocus on founding principles
- Co-creation of a new compelling purpose
We entered the world of Teal in Spring 2015, when we became aware of the work of Frederic Laloux and the Reinventing Organisations book. One of the most helpful aspects of Laloux’s work is that it has provided a common framework and language for our team to have conversations about how we work
When we looked at Meeting Magic through a Teal lens we realised we were Teal, to some extent, but some aspects of how we were working needed tuning up. The key shifts we have made in the last year have been
- Removing management structures – in particular with respect to how we meet, and visibility of information
- Transparent financial information – everyone sees all the financial data and reports
- Changes in the way we meet – the frequency, the blend of virtual and face-to-face, and our focus on how we work
Being Teal is work in progress
One of the things I have personally let go of is “getting there.” I really believe and feel that being Teal is a journey and that I need to focus on enjoying it, rather than constantly trying to fix the present, to get to some mythical state of Nirvana.
At this point on our journey there are three questions we are exploring together
- How do we manage membership; how do we bring people in and exit them from Meeting Magic?
- How do we equip a Teal world to self-facilitate? (We believe facilitation skills are key to Teal working)
- What is the role of a Founder in a Teal organisation; how do I need to be, to support this group becoming purposeful, self-managing, and whole?
I have invited Kenda to share some of her reflections on our recent transition and current ways of working, to give a different voice and perspective on our journey.
A journey to integrated living through Teal working
I am South African-born and the spirit of Ubuntu* is deeply ingrained in my psyche so the interplay between the individual and the whole is endlessly fascinating to me. I have rigorously sought to articulate what this means in my life, with mixed degrees of success, and it was not until I encountered Meeting Magic that I found a place where this has truly been able to play out in my work.
I had several early experiences in my career with organisations that were Orange (to use Frederic Laloux’s colour-based shorthand) and knew very quickly that, despite my apparent ability to be “successful” within that framework, at a deep level they were not a good fit for me. So I made a conscious decision to seek out and work with organisations that were Green instead. These provided a better fit, but still not quite right.
For several years I then chose to operate as a solopreneur and although that fulfilled many of my needs for satisfaction through my work, I missed feeling like part of an everyday team, and I still sometimes discerned a bit of a disconnect between my personal and professional lives. Hard to name the dissonance exactly, but there were still parts of me that felt solely reserved for my professional persona and inappropriate for mention in “the workplace.” And I’m not talking about a love of the trees or unicorns but rather things like intuition and connectedness, and how these relate to sound business practice. What I sought was integration. And then came Meeting Magic….
I believe it’s fair to say that my approach to life and personal evolution has always explored how an individual as part of a group, a community, and society as a whole can realise potential and also sustainably achieve a state of integration, whilst continuing to evolve in response to an ever-changing environment. To me this is what doing the work we do is all about; it’s the value that we bring to our clients, and it’s what being Teal within our own operation enables us to offer them.
When I joined the Meeting Magic network just over four years ago, this is the sort of organisation I hoped I was joining. Certainly the stated ethos of the network suggested this. It felt like a homecoming.
As Katherine has described above, the road from there to here has not been without its bumps, detours, and even dead-ends. I do not need to reiterate the stages we’ve gone through and the fact that we’ve made some fairly drastic shifts along the way to learn and adjust so that we can realise the vision of being a Teal organisation – even when we didn’t have the language to describe it that way – and it’s not always been easy. Our commitment to the shared vision and a deep-seated willingness to “sense and respond,” to co-create the Teal reality of our everyday, has been what has kept us together and kept us moving forward.
The one thing I will add is that now, as a part of this living entity that is still growing and evolving and (I hope) will always continue to do so, I believe that we are bringing a deeper, more meaningful approach to our clients, who in many cases are undergoing their own transformations. This seems to have brought a richness to their worlds and ours that appears to be directly linked to the way that we are organising and operating individually, within our network and how we engage with them at the broader level.
Not to mention that I show up every day to work, whole-hearted and soulfully engaged: integrated!
* Ubuntu – often used in a philosophical sense to mean “the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity.” An article published in Global Education Magazine for the World Health Day describes it as follows:
“In this sense, the Ubuntu ethological polymorphism represents wisdom to learn to grow together as a world-society (…). This reconsideration demands effective authenticity with a thoughtful civic consciousness capable of enduring sustainable development in harmony with nature. Thus, the paradigm shift implies a holistic view of the human being and the universe itself from the perspective of consciousness, where we are all interconnected.”
Ruano, Javier Collado; UBUNTU Cosmic Energy: the Ethical Basis for Future Worldists; Global Education Magazine, 7 April 2013.
Katherine Woods, Founder and CEO, Meeting Magic Limited
I founded Meeting Magic on a passion to help organisations leverage the way people work together when they meet. The Meeting Magic Network is operating in a manner that enables people to bring their whole selves to their work. Frederic Laloux’s work made a strong connection with me, for my client work and the way I organise the business. www.meetingmagic.co.uk
Kenda Gaynham, Meeting Magic Limited
I’m part of a great team at Meeting Magic Limited. We work with forward-thinking clients across the world who achieve great things, both through the work they do together and how they work together. I bring my own passion and purpose to this work and we also seek to embody the principles and practices of a whole-hearted and soulful next-generation organisation in our own business. email: [email protected]