The Zen of Agile Leadership Episode 2: Being Cause in the Matter With Others

In Episode 1 of this series, I aimed to increase your Zen of Agile Leadership-01awareness of the person you are being with yourself. I also helped you create the clearing (as in the woods) within which your authentic self can naturally occur. This is because, before we can enact change and transformation in the people around us and the world around us, we have to be willing to transform ourselves first. Creating a clearing gives a space for the transformation to occur. In this episode, we will explore who you are being with others—how you impact others—and how this completely informs who these same people are with you.

Despite what Simon and Garfunkel claim in their popular song, no person is an island. Nothing is accomplished on your own. Your yoke (burden) is made easy when you have a partner, or a work group.

Now consider that, as a leader, you have an impact on everyone around you. You are the clearing for interpersonal connections to occur. Being cause in the matter with others means understanding your impact on others because of who you are being with the person right in front of you. Are you being a leader with them? Or do they perceive you in some other way. Let’s explore more.

All of life exists inside of communication.

Be with that statement for a moment.

Nothing exists outside of communication. Whether you value creationism or evolutionism, something occurs when we speak. Life is created in the speaking. In the creationist view, the entire universe was created. In evolutionism, stuff just happened. AND with humans stuff never just happens. We create it, often just through communication.

Yep. You, as the clearing called leader, create life and action with others and your organization through your communication.

Think about it.

Humans speak, stuff gets created. Sometimes it’s physical stuff, like the thing I am typing on called a “MacBook” into a thing called “Word”. I am creating life right now in my communication in this blog and through your reading it. Stephen King wrote that writing is like a form of telepathy: you write down your ideas, and the same idea (or some approximation) takes shape in the reader’s mind.

Pause for a second to actively access what you are thinking and feeling about what you just read, what I typed for all of geekdom to read. I created that thinking and feeling you are now experiencing. Me. I did that.

Whoa!!!  That is some pretty awesome friggin’ power. Yep. I get that I create life through my communication, spoken or written. I have it that I AM the clearing for communication to occur. And so are you.

The question is, what are you creating with your words?

Consider that, just as you create who you are, you create others and who they are … for you. You create others by how you listen to them and by how you communicate with them.

“Say what?”

Yep. You are responsible for how you listen to others and how you communicate with them. You have the power to create, and the access to that power is through your listening and through your communication—especially you as the clearing called leader. You may not even be aware of how powerful your communication is just because of your designation as “boss” or “leader” or “manager/director/VP/CIO”.

As a human, you are responsible for your communication in general. As a leader, you have to take special care in your communication and your creation of others through your communication.

There is a Hawaiian proverb: “Life is in words. Death is in words.” As an interconnected person (remember: no man is an island), you speak and something is created. In today’s day and age, we can at least agree that knowledge is created, given life. You speak and your interlocutor becomes informed of what you are thinking. As a leader, your words become even more powerful. You speak, you take a stand, and it informs the decisions made by those around you.

Models of Effective Communication

As we’ve seen you actually do have an impact through both your listening and your communication. When you take on this responsibility, you start to access models of effective communication.

Start with asking yourself, “How am I listening to people in my life and my organization? Do I listen to them and label them as boring, insecure, selfish, angry — or do I listen to them as a possibility? Do I listen to people to access what they are committed to? What matters to them, what they value, and what drives them?”

Be the clearing for effective communication to occur by being an empty vessel. Listen newly, with an open heart and mind. How you listen newly is by letting go of your agenda, your ego, by forgiving, being of service, accepting, acknowledging … but mostly, listen from nothing.

Listen from nothing?

Yep. Imagine you don’t exist. All that exists is the person in front of you and their communication. You as the leader are the clearing, remember? You create the clearing for others’ communication to occur so that they may be gotten, they may be heard. So that when they leave you, they are left satisfied that you totally got what they were communicating.

Be responsible for how you leave people. You are cause in the matter of others.

When you are NOT the clearing for communication, you listen through a filter or an “already always listening” headphone. Stop that. Listen from nothing. NOTHING.

When you think to yourself while listening to someone else communicate, “I have heard this before,” no communication exists. You’ve already shut down. Turn this statement into an inquiry by asking, “Have I heard this before?”. If the answer is yes, you have an opportunity to give up what you might have heard before and listen newly.

EVERY communication in the moment it occurs is something new. A new creation, a new existence, a new reason, a new motivation, a new purpose.

If you as a leader want access to true power, then listen newly at every moment. Listen for the intent of the person and for this, we have three levels of listening:

  1. Lexical: What the words mean
  2. Emotional: What emotions carry the words and guide their intended interpretation
  3. Commitment: What commitments or values ride on the emotions and words and are driving the conversation

You want to listen at level 3. Ask yourself, “What is the person in front of me committed to inside of this communication?” And then verify what you think the person is committed to by re-creating their communication. You might say, “What I am getting from your communication is your commitment to <your listening of their commitment>”

You might be completely wrong AND what you just created by that statement is two things:

  1. An opportunity for them to really communicate their commitment
  2. An opportunity for you to improve your listening and communication

When you do that—when you really get people’s communication—you create unity and love to occur.

“Dude, you used the ‘love’ word in the first blog, too…”

You got me. Love is a function of communication. Life is a function of communication. People all joined together in something called a “Company” or “Organization” is a function of communication.

All of life occurs inside of communication and when you bring YOU and YOUR agenda into communication, there is no love, no intimacy, no affinity, no life. When you control, defend, protect, avoid, accommodate, manipulate, force an outcome, withhold, convince, and criticize, no communication is actually occurring. All that is occurring is you and your agenda. You are not a clearing for communication to occur. You are, in fact, shutting down communication. In this style of communication, all you are doing is surviving and fixing stuff. No life is created. No listening. No affinity. No leadership.

Instead give up any attachment you might have inside of your communication. Have conviction and commitment without attachment. Without controlling or manipulating or forcing or defending.

As a leader what you want to do instead is be present to the impact your communication has so that around you people are moved and inspired through your communication. Ask people, “What’s it like for you when we communicate?” And really listen to what they have to say without judgment or defensiveness. Their point of view is their point of view and their reality of you. Know what that is as a leader and grow through that knowing.

Wrapping Up

I close this episode with this: As a leader and as a human, you can experience and access profound power by practicing these things:

  1. Generosity – Listen and communicate as if there is nothing in it for you. Be generous in your interpretations as well, for example by assuming positive intent.
  2. Integrity – Be impeccable with your word. If you say it, it is created. If you say it, you live it and keep your word.
  3. Responsibility – Be cause in the matter for all of communication to occur. You are the clearing for effective communication to occur in your life and your organization. Own it.

As you practice these things, consider exploring tools such as locus of control and ladder of inference.

When you live to this level, you create a world of communication and the space for acceptance, forgiveness, and being of service to your organization.

On a personal level, consider practicing these things in your moment by moment listening and communication:

  1. Pause in your day to sit quietly and just experience you and what you create through your communication.
  2. Reflect on various conversations and who you are being with others.
  3. Notice how you can create opportunities to be the clearing for your organization’s listening and communication.
  4. Consider whether the person you come across as to others is who you want to it to be and, if not, make mindful adjustments.
  5. Listen to the space between you and the person in front of you. What do you notice about them? What do you notice about you? and What do you notice about the interaction between the two of you?

In the last episode of this series, I write about you and your organization and how you create teams. Homework: Think about how you, as leader, create the clearing for a team to exist.