Welcome to our interview with Alan Seale. Alan is a transformation catalyst, leadership coach, author of five books, speaker, and the Director of the Center for Transformational Presence.
Welcome Alan, and thank you for contributing to the questions that are at the heart of the Exploring Forward Thinking Workplaces 2.0 conversation.
Alan Seale: The first answer that comes to me is you just do it! We think we have to have all these models, special approaches. Just do it! Just decide this is what we’re doing!
It’s about simply making it clear, “You know what, in our workplace, everybody matters.” Invite people into that conversation and just make that choice. You don’t need a big model or sophisticated thing or need to hire some expensive consulting firm to help you do that.
Just decide it and do it. Why make this so hard? Just do it.
Alan: Find out what they care about and then make sure they’re doing something within the company that they care about. There needs to be a connection between the individual’s life purpose—I call it soul mission—and the soul mission or purpose of the business or organization.
There can be layers of this, of course. Is the organization truly operating in integrity with themselves and their mission? Are they operating in a way that’s congruent with who they say they are and what’s important to them? And if they are, then find the connection between that employee’s mission and the company’s mission. Create an environment where the employee feels like, “Wow, when I come to work every day, I get to live my purpose. I get to be who I fully am and do what I’m here to do in this world by working for this company.”
What if creating these kinds of workplaces is simply a choice and you go for it? If not everybody in the company is on board with that, that’s ok. The people will fall away who need to fall away for whatever reason. But bring the company into alignment with its own soul mission or purpose and make sure that your employees or company colleagues feel like they can live their own soul missions at work. It might take some time for this to open out through the organization, but it can happen if you make the choice and move with conscious intention in that direction.
Alan: It’s an interesting question for me because I work with so many people who absolutely love what they do. By the time they come to me, they come not because they’re needing to make a change but because they are ready to fly with what they’re doing. They’re looking for coaching support in taking some really big steps.
So I just want to acknowledge upfront that I’m not the person who is constantly out there in the field with a lot of people who are miserable in what they do.
That said, I think not just in the workplace, but everywhere—what do people want out of life? They want to feel like they matter. They long for that sense of making a difference—that who they are and what they do mean something. That want to be able to say, “It matters that I’m here.” It matters to people that what they sense and feel and experience is heard and recognized. It matters to them that they are seen. It matters to them that they are heard.
We all want to feel like we make a difference. It matters that we are here. I think that’s not just in the workplace. That’s in relationships, that’s in families, that’s in communities, that’s in organizations.
You mention that you’ve been reading my blog, so you know that I’ve been writing a series of articles on what I’m calling “The Great Breaking Open.” And to me, yes, we can look at all the systems that are, what many would say, breaking down. But to me, they are breaking open.
And what is deep underneath all of that is the breaking open of the human spirit. The human spirit, in general, all over the world at this point is just saying, “No more. No more.”
Alan: What’s important to them? We think about interviewing people to make sure they’re the right fit for the company, but you also need to know is the company the right fit for the person? What if interviews are really both ways—certainly there are companies that do that. The more enlightened, progressive, forward-thinking companies are recognizing that, but I think still for a lot of companies they’re just looking for the person who can do the job that they need to get done. Their main concern is finding the best person to do that because they are primarily focused on results. It’s very transactional.
As I sit with your question, I feel it’s not about what is the most important question to ask the potential employee; it’s even more about how you as the employer choose to show up as you meet that person. And what do you care about with them? And how does the company care about its people? What is the relationship that you start to build with them right from the beginning? As you start to build a relationship with that person, you’ll quickly recognize whether or not this person is the right fit for a good working relationship, and not just for a transaction—not just for getting a job done.
There are three fundamental principles behind our Transformational Presence work. They come out of the ancient wisdom teachings and now come from quantum physics. The first is that everything is energy in motion and everything is part of a larger process unfolding. We need to be looking at every single thing that is happening within a much larger context in order to understand it and understand how it fits into a much bigger picture.
The second is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be transformed. What that principle is saying is that whatever is in front of you right now—the challenge, opportunity, person, or idea—is your next co-creative partner. In Transformational Presence work, we say, “A problem is not something to be solved, it’s a message to be listened to.” What you have named as a problem is actually just trying to tell you something. Our job is to pay attention. Listen to it and it will tell you something you need to know.
And the third principle is that the world is built on a matrix of relationships. If we talk about companies and employees, what we’re really talking about is relationships. If we take good care of the relationships within the company—if we take good care of the space in between us—then the rest is going to take care of itself.
I actually love that you’re asking these questions because, to me, it’s really pointing out that, in the bigger picture of where we are in the world right now, I feel like we are, in so many ways, asking the wrong questions. Your question here is pointing that out! It’s helping us say to the world, yes these are the questions we are taught to ask, or these are sort of the common questions that everybody thinks are the right ones, but they’re really old questions. There’s a whole new set of questions we need to be asking now. And those questions are based much more on relationships and honoring the human spirit.
Editor’s note: Alan, we were starting to question if this question and similar ones here were the right ones to ask. We were sensing the responses in this forum were as you say the common ones that everybody thinks are the right ones. Thank you for bringing a lot of clarity to this area.
Alan: What do they care about? What’s important to the management of the company? What’s important to the company? Because we have to find out, do we meet here? To me, it’s not just the question the employee is asking of the potential employer, but for the employee to have a chance to ask that question of other people who are working for the company as well. What does this company care about? It’s one thing to hear that from the management, it’s another thing to hear that from the people who are part of the company. What do they really care about? Then the potential employee can discern how that fits for them. They can ask themselves, “Is this a place I want to be?”
Alan: That’s a really good question. That takes me back to our work at Transformation Presence, which is built on just three basic questions. The first one is maybe the most important question, but I feel like the series of the three is what brings it all together.
The first question is, “What wants to happen?” This is not what I want or what you want or even what we want together. Rather, in the bigger picture, what wants to happen here in service of something much bigger than me or you—in service of something bigger than your company? What wants to happen in the way your company moves in the world? How can your company serve in a bigger way? What wants to happen in terms of my relationship with the company? What is it I have to bring here?
All of these questions are held within that bigger question: What wants to happen? There are many variations on that question: What’s waiting to unfold here? What is the breakthrough that is ready to happen? What is the shift? What is the opening? What’s the opportunity here?
Our job is to come from that place, that perspective of tapping into the bigger message, the bigger request that’s being made right now in our lives.
The second question of our three is, “Ok, if that’s what wants to happen, who is that asking me to be?” How’s it asking me to show up? What are the qualities or characteristics of within me that it’s asking to come forward? Maybe it’s asking me to be courageous or truthful or playful or creative or whatever. Maybe it’s asking me to show up in a certain way or to take on a certain role.
Then the third question is, “What is it asking me to do?” But the third question doesn’t come until you’ve done your work on the first two. So to come back to the biggest question is to ask ourselves: What wants to happen? What’s calling out to me now?
Alan: To pay attention—to everything. I think that’s the essence of the work I do with leaders and coaches all over the world. It’s to pay attention, and so we focus on providing skills and tools, frameworks and approaches that build their capacity to be able to pay attention. Because the more they pay attention, the more their awareness expands, and the more powerfully, effectively, and authentically they can respond to what they sense or hear or feel.
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