• I have to admit, my yearning for control often outweighs my yearning for a better world. My visions are large, but my daily interactions are laced with an urge to put things in nice orderly lines and boxes.

    My ‘shoulds’ outnumber my ‘what ifs?’ Literally. I use the word ‘should’ promiscuously (I had been doing this quite unconsciously for a long time, but a coaching session with my friend Gerardo Sierra, made me more aware of this). In an effort to shift this pattern, I’ve gotten into the habit of stopping myself mid-sentence, just as I feel the word ‘should’ beginning to take shape on my tongue. I take a second to notice the direction my thoughts are leading me and then quickly search for an alternative way of expressing my intention. Although it’s a small thing, I’ve found that it has really helped me to observe my need for control and to slowly begin to curb it.

    Struggling with my need for control – my inner bureaucracy – in this way makes me wonder how social purpose organizations can work on keeping their own rigid and controlling tendencies at bay. Control always involves reinforcing things as we know them, quite the opposite of the energy that is needed to craft the world anew. Social change requires a certain wildness of spirit.

    One of the ways we can create space for this wildness to emerge is by being conscious of and questioning the energy sinks that weigh down and bind our organizations. Here are a few examples that arose during some interviews I was involved in several years back:

    “An outcome of my work is that they got rid of their fundraising committee. The committee wasn’t doing anything. It was dead. People felt they had to be there. There was no goal. Why did it exist? It gave people something to participate in, but wasn’t effective or engaging.”  -Fundraising coordinator

    “I helped to dissolve the advisory board- it felt like a weight on the organization’s shoulders that needed to be lifted- the group had lost its spark- people were participating out of a sense of duty rather than out of a feeling of connection and inspiration.”  -Program coordinator

    “I think I’ve finally convinced my colleague to do something other than paying bills. He was so unhappy in that role, but didn’t consider the fact he could do something different. Just the other day he told me that he has been doing a lot of thinking and has decided that he would like to coordinate the publications.”  -Director 

    These examples may seem mundane, but, in my experience, confronting what we have come to take for granted as a fixed part of our organizational reality is rare and difficult to do. In retrospect these structures and committees seem small, but when we are living in them, they feel large and immutable. We tell ourselves subconsciously, “We’ve worked this way for so long. There must be a reason for it.”

    I’m wondering if there is a regular practice that organizations can adopt to remain conscious of tendencies towards control and rigidity so that they can respond before becoming too calcified – what would a collective version of the practice that I’ve been using on myself look like?

    January 26th, 2011 | Tana Paddock | 11 Comments

About The Author


Click here to learn more about me.

11 Responses and Counting...

  • Simone 01.26.2011

    You know guys what’s missing on your website: a share button. Such great stuff coming out of you and I want t share it! Thanks for another amazing, authentic sharing learning through experience Tana!

  • Good idea. I just went ahead and added a share button. Share away! : )

  • Tana you have a remarkable GIFT of stripping the argument down to its bones and then reconstructing a fresh new insight. Keep on going! I will keep on reading! I have started sharing your writings via my facebook. Lots of love Nici Richter, Johannesbug, South Africa

  • “my inner bureaucracy” I have to love this metaphor.

    There are many spiritual traditions and personal growth philosophies that toss with the notion: “as it is within it is without” (or something like that, but more poetic).

    Isn’t that part as well of the same flow you guys are set to explore?

    Our organizations have to be the change they intent to bring to the world… If so, do I have to be and become the kind of person I want my organization to be? or What if I simply shall celebrate how my being contributes to my organization being as a whole? = )

    I really appreciate your courage sharing your own challenges (i.e. “I have to admit, my yearning for control often outweighs my yearning for a better world”). I guess many of us can state a similar condition, mine might not be about control, but it certainly sometimes outweighs as well my yearning for a better world.

    Maybe that could be a good survey-post: How what you yearn for, gets on the way of your yearn for a better world? and then let people respond (assuming that is good English grammar).

    Anyhow, my yearning for writing as beautifully as you two do, has outweighed, so far, my yearning to contribute that so promised post. Anyhow, I will get to work on that yearning, soon ; ).

    Be well. Warm spicy Mexican hugs, from lovely freezing Montreal.

    P.S. Thanks a lot for the mention. I am currently using more the http://www.aryentu.com site to frame my work, though.

  • Hi Gerardo…nice to ‘hear’ your voice. Yes, the spiritual tradition that you mention is exactly what we’re talking about. However, we’re most interested in exploring what it means at a collective level since that is so rarely talked about and even more rarely experimented with. Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world” is a common mantra among those working towards social change, but it is almost always focused on the link between the individual and society, rarely is it applied to the link between the two organizations (whether they be formal or informal). Perhaps in more collectivistic societies, that’s not the case.

    I like the idea of your survey post. Perhaps that could be your first post as a guest blogger. What has helped me in my blogging on this site is letting go of expectations…and thinking of writing each post as the beginning of a dialogue, rather than a final piece. So send us whatever you feel inspired to write and let’s start the dialogue…

    I’ll change the link to aryentu. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Thanks, Nici, for the feedback. These posts are a labour of love so it’s great to hear that you are finding them thought-provoking. And thanks for helping us get the word out. We’re celebrating Organization Unbound’s one-year anniversary this month and it’s exciting to see how much we’ve grown in only one year by word-of-mouth! Hope your job is going well!

  • […] recent post on “unbinding” reminded me of some reflections I had made in a paper I wrote a few years ago. […]

  • Beautiful and refreshing as usual, Tana.

    You ask a vital question and it may seem like trying to mix oil and water, but in reality, it is not. I think we know intuitively what you shared here – “Social change requires a certain wildness of spirit”. I think any progress requires “a certain wildness of spirit” but we tend to shut out anything that allows spirit to thrive in our organizations, especially for-profit enterprises, which is where my interest lies. Spirituality is usually not brought into the work place and so we shortchange ourselves. I think there is a place for control but it requires a way of being that puts control in its place while allowing spirit to thrive.

    I think one way to begin is what you are doing – let’s even bring it to the table. Let’s talk about it. It does require some courage especially for those of us who work in for-profit environments. It is one of the reasons we started a blog at Zenith Cleaners, talking about those things that make us human and make our societies progress but which we systematically shut out of business – love, spirituality. One of our recent blog posts is titled “Invitation to the dance.” You may want to check out blog.zenithcleaners.com.

    As an entrepreneur, reading this reminds me of Peter Drucker’s statement that “whole dimensions of what it means to be a human being and treated as one are not incorporated into the economic calculus of cap­italism.” Your question can be another way of saying how do we incorporate those missing dimensions of being a whole spirit, soul, body human being into the very fabric of our enterprises? Interestingly, before I came here this morning, I asked a similar question on Zenith Cleaners’ blog.

    Thanks for your courage and honesty Tana. I never stop talking about you by the way. How are you guys doing?

  • I totally agree. What I find challenging is how to verbally bring it to the table in the context of organizational life in a way that engages people. It feels like the most powerful way to do this is to live it. I’m curious to know what your experiences have been when speaking more overtly about spirituality and love with Zenith Cleaners’ staff and customers. I remember having this conversation with you a while back after a staff meeting where you were quite open about the spiritual aspects of working at Zenith Cleaners and am wondering how you’re thinking about it now.

    You are also a guiding light for us Tolu! I just read “Invitation to dance” and would love to highlight it in an Organization Unbound blog post as a great example of “The Giving Field”: http://organizationunbound.org/expressive-change/thegivingfield/

    We’re doing really well. Relaxing in the Himalayas in our last week of relaxing, thinking, writing before heading to the urban wilderness of Delhi.

  • At Zenith Cleaners now, we are learning to simply create a space for spirit to thrive. I remember separate conversations I had with you and Rennie about being vs talking. We lean towards “being” now. With clients we rarely talk about it. Clients want their premises cleaned! So we just focus on that. However, we try to weave it into every interaction, including when we need to fire clients – when we realize we are not the best dance partners.

    It is also partly why we started a blog – to talk about it less intrusively. Staff are permitted to talk or not to talk depending on where they are at spiritually. However, we realize everyone is happy being fully engaged, which happens easily once the space is created to make it happen. Conversations happen more spontaneously, one on one, and are somewhat led by individual staff. No staff is obliged to read or even visit the blog and no client has to either. Did I answer your question or did I ramble again?

    Thank you for wanting to highlight “Invitation to the dance…”

    Have a good time in the Himalayas and in Delhi.

  • It sounds like you’ve found a great way of integrating verbal expression and “being”. Thanks for sharing a bit more of the details.

Leave a Reply





* Name, Email, and Comment are Required

kurumsal reklam