One doorway into expressive change seems to be to turn your practice on yourself. What are your outwardly-aimed tools and approaches – the things you use to help your clients or further your mission? What would happen if you inverted these and used them to help your organization?
Tana worked with a counseling organization in the States. The organization was having a difficult time of things. It was filled with stress and conflict and confusion. People were having trouble relating to each other and working together effectively. In one meeting, almost out of desperation, someone suggested that the group use their counseling protocol on themselves as an organization. Everyone in the room was experienced at offering comfort and insight to people who were suffering from stress, but they had never used that experience to help themselves. As they began to do so, possibilities for a real cultural shift started to emerge.
At St. George’s School, Megan talks about how the teachers have begun to use their pedagogical approaches on themselves as teachers. That is, they are teaching themselves to be better teachers using the same philosophies and techniques that they use with their students. At Southwest Baltimore Charter School, ‘Choice Theory’ explicitly informs the development of students and teachers alike. One teacher told me that when she was new to the school, it was her students who really taught her what Choice Theory meant and how it was applied. They had been at the school longer than she had, and were more experienced with it. They were 9 years old.
When we were in Toronto in March, we had a great conversation with Jennifer Latrobe, an organizational consultant and facilitator. Jennifer says that, in her experience, organizations almost always fail to use their greatest strengths inside the organization itself. “Show me what an organization does well, and I’ll show you where its blind spot is. The cobbler’s children have no shoes.”
The core of any social purpose organization’s work is likely to involve specific methods of helping others to learn, develop, heal, and grow. Yet we rarely turn those methods inward. I wonder why not. Even organizations that aren’t involved in direct service can take this approach. An advocacy organization, for example, might be skilled at various ways of communicating and building relationships. Can it use those hard earned skills to enhance communication and relationships internally as well? I’ve only encountered a few real-world examples of this kind of practice inversion, but it seems like such a natural and powerful concept – such a complete “Of course! Why wouldn’t we do that?” sort of revelation – that I’d love to see more organizations experimenting with it in a sustained way.