Shifting the consciousness of organizations is a big task. Organizational leadership and management have historically been a “top down” approach based on hierarchical management, lack-of-vulnerability, and a hiding of emotion.
It’s time for a change.
The world is becoming more complex. The future is less predictable. And with technology automating many tasks, revealing the depth of who we are as humans is what will enable us to thrive amidst these changes.
Both the individual leadership work and organizational systems work I engage in are based in shifting our mindset and processes to help us thrive in a more complex world full of unknowns.
What is Teal?
Frederic Laloux wrote the book, “Reinventing Organizations,” which defines a new paradigm for how we work in groups, including within organizations. He makes the case for leaders to shift towards Teal: “a new paradigm in organizational leadership advocating a higher level of consciousness characterized by three pillars: self-management, wholeness, and evolutionary purpose.”
As Laloux states in his book, “Self-management requires a whole set of interlocking structures and practices, so that decision rights and power flow to any individual who has the expertise, interest, or willingness to step in to oversee a situation.”
By shifting our processes and enabling people to empower themselves with decision-making and communication, we are able to embrace complexity throughout organizations and keep the flow of work and innovation moving.
Previous management styles created “personas” of people where they felt they had to show up to work and identify in a certain way.
The Teal paradigm encourages bringing your “whole self” to work. By showing up fully – with our desires, our emotions, our family – we become a more complete person and therefore a more complete leader or team member. Being whole at work enables employees to maximize their own potential and thus what they can contribute to work.
Typically, organizations have a mission statement and the business is almost cemented into this mission and operates in accordance with this goal.
But businesses, like leaders, evolve and shift. Ideally, they evolve to the betterment of the business (and it’s profits) and for its customers. By evolving the mission and adapting as the business grows, you can actually better serve clients and grow business vs stifling growth. This allows for the organization to be a living organism responding to the complexity and unknowns we are facing.
Foundational Attributes of a Teal Culture
Shifting to thrive amid complexity is not a task with five easy steps and no organization makes the shift in the exact same way. Although, there are some foundational attributes that fuel this type of shift:
Leadership Mindset Shift – The shift to a Teal culture starts with an individual shift from within. A shift to leading from the “inside-out” rather than from the “outside-in”. We essentially move the outer processes and social structures inside of us and no longer need stringent and mechanistic processes. The work typically begins with “top” leaders and flows throughout the organization over time. An organization cannot make this shift without “top” leaders first making this “inside-out” shift.
Communication & Empathy – When stringent processes and rules no longer exist, a culture that supports and develops people to be empathetic and engage in deep listening becomes crucial. The ability to deeply listen and seek understanding amongst colleagues and with customers allows for self-management and wholeness to emerge.
Facilitation & Inquiry – Thriving in complexity requires less telling and more discovering. Professional facilitators achieve results through letting others own the agenda and conversation while still moving forward. They are also masters of inquiry and asking powerful questions. This approach allows deeper answers and wisdom to emerge from the broader group. Decisions become more sustainable when there is joint ownership. These skills become an everyday approach in organizations working towards Teal and are not reserved for “professionals”.
Trust & Conflict – A Teal culture is not one where everyone agrees and everyone must vote on each decision. In complexity, we need to be able to move forward without being bogged down by consensus and yet embrace the collective intelligence around us. This is where deep trust and the ability to embrace conflict become key. If I’m not involved and approve every decision, I must trust the process and the person making the decision. I must also feel the psychological safety to fail and to disagree with accountability but not retaliation.
Sense & Respond – Another hallmark attribute of an organization moving towards the Teal paradigm is one of sensing and experimenting rather than predicting an outcome and then controlling the process. There is a shift to using our head, heart, and gut to make decisions and not just our rational mind. There is a shift to experimentation that helps nudge the system.
As the world changes, we need to change with it. The evolution of organizations and leadership will evolve with our mindset, our collaboration, and our abilities to humanize the workplace. By shifting these processes, we can better thrive and more positively impact the world.
What are your thoughts, reflections, or lessons from this leadership approach? I invite you to reflect on your own organization and the next steps you might pursue to shift your workplace.
Please reach out and share!