Leading from Behind: Leadership in a Circle-Based Business

My Iroquois teacher Paula Underwood, held ten thousand years of stories and history in her head. She called them her “data base.” The stories were the life lessons of a small group of people that valued learning above all else. The stories were in pots in her head, literally. Her father had planted seeds timed to sprout in the last part of her life. I was there when they came up through her poetic voice.

Before she died, I was a fortunate member of a small group who became certified trainers in her “Learningway” approach. We sat in many circles together over a ten year period. Sometimes we met in conference centers and other times she rented a house and gathered us together. It was like summer camp for adults, only better. We played, joked around and cried together.

Teaching us, one of the first things she pointed out is that, we were children in her culture. We knew nothing of her perspective.

With Paula, however, she told us our perspective as children was valuable because learning was her prime concern. I could relate to her example. It was similar to what I felt when I lived with Tibetan refugees for three months, in a small room, back in 1981; or with the Haitians, between 1984 and 1986. There are layers and layers of insight that take years to understand when entering a new environment.

Studying with Paula, I understood about issues of cross cultural sensitivity. Unlike my entry into other cultures where I felt insecure, to Paula we brought “New Eyes Wisdom.” Like children, we could see from a place that she might overlook.

I tell this same thing to new people I hire, like Matt. He is about to turn 17. He is handling a major part of our internet strategy upon which a much of our entire marketing strategy depends I have him full time for the summer, though he started working for us when he was entering his junior year of high school.

“You have what I call, “New Eyes Wisdom,” I told him. “You will see things that I never notice. Ways we might be able to change things. I want to know what you think.”

I always listen to what he has to say. He has skills and abilities that I do not have, from MySpace to Excel Spread sheets.

Honoring New Eyes Wisdom, honoring Matt’s view, is a way of honoring the next generation’s concerns and keeping one’s own learning process going. For Paula, our questions helped to bring the wisdom forward, the seeds in the pots to sprout and grow. For me, it is a matter of our company’s survival. I’m pushing fifty and this next generation is on a different train.

With Paula, as we learned together, I began to see how she had a type of leadership that is remarkably different from how most business people lead - a type of leadership which is core to a circle-based business approach. She would sit in a circle with us, as an equal.

If you want to begin to start applying circle to your company, this is a very basic step, but one that may take courage. Eliminate the rectangular and square tables and sit in a circle. Just doing that changes the dynamic of a conversation.

The circle has been used as a form to facilitate conversation in community for thousands of years. It is something we deeply and intuitively understand. Just being in a circle says we all have something to share. We all hold part of the arc. No one is above or below anyone else when they sit in a circle.

In the circle, Paula would listen to all the voices, allowing us to explore and learn in our own way. Then, she would really think about the history of her people that she kept with her, and try to find some kind of corollary in this “data base” that would apply to our situation. Since the history contained essential human experiences, this was not hard for her to do. Then she would make a decision.

We were going to put on a conference which has this material–or we were going to cover clan organization in the afternoon.  She often taught the same thing over and over again, based on what was needed. But listening to her there was always something new because my perspective was changing, the deeper I went into the material.

I was intrigued by her leadership style. She was not above us or below us. She was with us in a circle, equal as a learner.

She called this approach, leading from behind. It involved gathering consensus, listening, and calling out what was real. This method empowered everyone. It was elixir to our souls. Our voices were heard and honored and often woven into a beautiful tapestry.

It was not that she went in without an agenda. In the conferences we held, she always had a plan. But in the moment, when we sat in a circle, she would listen to all of us and be ready to change her plan. It was musical and harmonious, John Coltrane on a riff, A Love Supreme from a Native American perspective.

How do I lead from behind in my company?

First, it involves seeing everyone who works for me as part of a circle. We are also a tribe of a sort. I do not have Paula’s data base, but I do have my humanity, from which springs a personal and deep concern for each of my employees. I want our company to support rich and fulfilling lives. I want their experience with our business to be full of learning. I want their tasks to be challenging, and ultimately, empowering.

Wait a minute. My employees call me “the boss.” “You’re the boss,” they say. How can I lead from behind when the structures of business are geared toward my leading from the top?

Now, I am in a clash of two world views. They work for me, right? I can sell the business off tomorrow if I so choose. Strip mine it and say, buy by. I make more money than they do (although not that much more—our highest salaried person makes less than two times our lowest salaried person.) But you get the point.

Most people would view this as a position of power, but for me I see it as kind of sacred trust. It is one thing to get up on the high wire.
It is entirely different to stay there and lean into the mystery of that next step.

Let’s get down to the bottom line, the straight and narrow… We are the boss. The boss leads from on top. We are at the top of the Reflective Image’s hierarchical structure, mustering all our resources, including human labor, toward the direction we dictate, which benefits, ultimately, us.

I call this the triangle approach, though more accurately it is the pyramidal approach. The triangles connect at the top where the hierarchy gathers the benefit of all the labor of those below.

So once a year, my wife and I meet with a consultant who has been at the top of a sixty million dollar company. We hammer out “strategic objectives.” Then we make a list of action items with dates as to when they will be accomplished. After that, we look at the resources that we can muster to accomplish the “big ideas.”

This approach has been critical to our success as a company, but I generally leave the meeting feeling disoriented and confused—which is exactly what I pay him to do for me. I want him to push up against my idealistic views hard to see if they stand up.

Now I see how I have entered the business world with New Eyes Wisdom, trying, through my own idealism, to create something that does not fragment economy and ecology. Now that I am in two worlds, how do I reconcile these two worlds?

I’ve had to understand how these two approaches can work together.

In the extreme, one of the concerns with what my consultant teaches, the pyramidal approach, is that it turns the people who work for me into a commodity. This is against my core belief. It is a personal violation of my heart.

But there are other issues, as well. My naming top down view with its strategic objectives leaves me open to not grasping the complexity of the business environment which is based on thousands of relationships. Not paying attention to one of these relationships can sink a business.

Moreover, merely controlling and manipulating people for our own benefit, or the benefit of shareholders who are only interested in money, creates a chronic disenfranchisement in our business world.

A Harris Pole measuring the “execution quotient” of 2.5 million people, commissioned by Franklin Covey, had these key findings:

* About a third of workers say they have a clear understanding of what their companies are trying to achieve.
* Only one in ten feel energized and committed to their company’s goals.
* About one half feel their jobs allow them to apply all that they have to give.
* One third says they work in a win-win atmosphere.
* Three in five don’t trust their employer to keep commitments to their employees.

Our consultant is all about leading from the top. My heart lies in leading from behind. How do I bring these things together?

A few months ago, I raised this issue in a conversation with my Apache teacher, my current mentor. She has been meeting with me since 1989.

“As the owner of the company, how can I work with these two approaches;  the circle and the triangle? How do they come together?” I asked.

“In a circle-based business, the pyramid is used as a tool of the circle,” she told me.

This helped me. Now, it seems obvious. The circle comes first. What does that mean? This gets back to my original definition:

“A circle based business is rooted in relationships that are nurtured by fair and equitable exchange. Every person inside and outside of the business is viewed as equal in their humanity.”

I have to be able to listen, understand and provide for the circle of our company. Then, from that, decisions have to be made that are truly in the best interest of the whole circle, and the circle with which we have exchange.

But let’s start with the company circle first and see what that might look like on the ground when I have a strategic objective that has to be implemented. In other words, I have to lead. This requires a mustering of resources and changing of personnel responsibilities. It may also require asking people to do what they do not want to do.

The critical issue, to me, is that my job is to justify and provide sound reasoning for decisions to everyone in my circle. I have to have a buy in; otherwise, I will be disenfranchising my employees and creating a disconnect between their work and their core beliefs. This is a huge responsibility. I cannot just tell people what to do randomly. I have to earn their respect for my decision. This involves a great deal of transparency and even vulnerability.

So, a circle-based leadership model must out of necessity, have a lot of communication and disclosure of strategic long and short term goals. My job is to bring everyone along with me as much as I can.  Sometime this is easy. I have full support from my administrative staff during my recent initiative which has involved re-branding our image around our core values. This has involved shifting major tasks among several people.

Yet sometimes, we have had resistance. One example of this was our wedding ring initiative. Since we fabricate in metal, it is extremely difficult to make rings with our Celtic designs that actually connect seamlessly. Most other companies work using waxes and computer programs.

I explained how critical our wedding ring line would be to our company. Our ring line, two years ago, was anemic. There is a huge demand for rings I told our in house jewelers. We need this product for our company to survive. Yet there was definitely resistance from them when Helen introduced about a hundred new ring designs that she came up with in about a month last May. But from our point of view, their trade involves pushing their skills up to new levels.

We do not want to lose our jewelers. It takes a year for us to train a highly skilled jeweler into the basics of our line. I suspect that our last jeweler who left about a year ago did so because he did not want to make our rings, which are extremely difficult to fabricate. He was burned out, which happens, and he would have probably left anyway. But the rings were the tipping point.

In the macro sense, all these approaches add up to either yea or nay. How do we know, on the whole, whether we have a real buy in from our employees? Well, one sure test is to leave the company for four to seven weeks and see what happens. Helen and I have done this every March since 2000. Coming back, we find a day or so of work on our desk.

If we were leading from on top, in some kind of pyramidal structure, our employees would always be looking to us for guidance. Their values would be extrinsic to their work life, so they would need rules and scripts. Yet day to day relationships are too complex to deal with like machines. I want them to find their heart and express that. So when my employees ask me what to do, my response is almost always the same: “What do you think we should do?”

Leading from behind has empowered them to run the company without us, which frees me up to have enough time to focus on the growth of the company rather than just its day to day operations.

With Paula, the basis for leading from behind was a set of values based on her deep understanding and concern for the well being of all of us. She held a space where we all had a voice. She empowered us to find our own way in the processes and teachings, and encouraged a diverse understanding which she too learned. She held the circle. From the people in that circle, she created movement.

Similarly, my wife and I hold the circle of the business. The core of the circle is our profound respect and gratefulness toward all who work for us. Our task is to assure, to the best of our ability, that everyone is supported. All voices are honored. From that place, we are able to move toward objectives that are dictated to us by market opportunities. From that place, we can respect and honor everyone who does business with us.

The triangle becomes a tool of the circle. The circle-based business practices within the company are reflected in how we treat our customer base. From this, if we are true, our customer base will grow and support our circle.

Sounds easy enough, right? Not by a long shot. What are you ideas about bringing circle into business?

Discussion Area - Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Start uga_insert_html_once: head, Footer hooked: HTML inserted: Location is HEAD Start uga_get_option: footer_hooked uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: footer_hooked () Inserting HTML since footer is not hooked End uga_insert_html Ending uga_wp_head_track: Start uga_filter:

My Iroquois teacher Paula Underwood, held ten thousand years of stories and history in her head. She called them her “data base.” The stories were the life lessons of a small group of people that valued learning above all else. The stories were in pots in her head, literally. Her father had planted seeds timed to sprout in the last part of her life. I was there when they came up through her poetic voice.

Before she died, I was a fortunate member of a small group who became certified trainers in her “Learningway” approach. We sat in many circles together over a ten year period. Sometimes we met in conference centers and other times she rented a house and gathered us together. It was like summer camp for adults, only better. We played, joked around and cried together.

Teaching us, one of the first things she pointed out is that, we were children in her culture. We knew nothing of her perspective.

With Paula, however, she told us our perspective as children was valuable because learning was her prime concern. I could relate to her example. It was similar to what I felt when I lived with Tibetan refugees for three months, in a small room, back in 1981; or with the Haitians, between 1984 and 1986. There are layers and layers of insight that take years to understand when entering a new environment.

Studying with Paula, I understood about issues of cross cultural sensitivity. Unlike my entry into other cultures where I felt insecure, to Paula we brought “New Eyes Wisdom.” Like children, we could see from a place that she might overlook.

I tell this same thing to new people I hire, like Matt. He is about to turn 17. He is handling a major part of our internet strategy upon which a much of our entire marketing strategy depends I have him full time for the summer, though he started working for us when he was entering his junior year of high school.

“You have what I call, “New Eyes Wisdom,” I told him. “You will see things that I never notice. Ways we might be able to change things. I want to know what you think.”

I always listen to what he has to say. He has skills and abilities that I do not have, from MySpace to Excel Spread sheets.

Honoring New Eyes Wisdom, honoring Matt’s view, is a way of honoring the next generation’s concerns and keeping one’s own learning process going. For Paula, our questions helped to bring the wisdom forward, the seeds in the pots to sprout and grow. For me, it is a matter of our company’s survival. I’m pushing fifty and this next generation is on a different train.

With Paula, as we learned together, I began to see how she had a type of leadership that is remarkably different from how most business people lead - a type of leadership which is core to a circle-based business approach. She would sit in a circle with us, as an equal.

If you want to begin to start applying circle to your company, this is a very basic step, but one that may take courage. Eliminate the rectangular and square tables and sit in a circle. Just doing that changes the dynamic of a conversation.

The circle has been used as a form to facilitate conversation in community for thousands of years. It is something we deeply and intuitively understand. Just being in a circle says we all have something to share. We all hold part of the arc. No one is above or below anyone else when they sit in a circle.

In the circle, Paula would listen to all the voices, allowing us to explore and learn in our own way. Then, she would really think about the history of her people that she kept with her, and try to find some kind of corollary in this “data base” that would apply to our situation. Since the history contained essential human experiences, this was not hard for her to do. Then she would make a decision.

We were going to put on a conference which has this material–or we were going to cover clan organization in the afternoon.  She often taught the same thing over and over again, based on what was needed. But listening to her there was always something new because my perspective was changing, the deeper I went into the material.

I was intrigued by her leadership style. She was not above us or below us. She was with us in a circle, equal as a learner.

She called this approach, leading from behind. It involved gathering consensus, listening, and calling out what was real. This method empowered everyone. It was elixir to our souls. Our voices were heard and honored and often woven into a beautiful tapestry.

It was not that she went in without an agenda. In the conferences we held, she always had a plan. But in the moment, when we sat in a circle, she would listen to all of us and be ready to change her plan. It was musical and harmonious, John Coltrane on a riff, A Love Supreme from a Native American perspective.

How do I lead from behind in my company?

First, it involves seeing everyone who works for me as part of a circle. We are also a tribe of a sort. I do not have Paula’s data base, but I do have my humanity, from which springs a personal and deep concern for each of my employees. I want our company to support rich and fulfilling lives. I want their experience with our business to be full of learning. I want their tasks to be challenging, and ultimately, empowering.

Wait a minute. My employees call me “the boss.” “You’re the boss,” they say. How can I lead from behind when the structures of business are geared toward my leading from the top?

Now, I am in a clash of two world views. They work for me, right? I can sell the business off tomorrow if I so choose. Strip mine it and say, buy by. I make more money than they do (although not that much more—our highest salaried person makes less than two times our lowest salaried person.) But you get the point.

Most people would view this as a position of power, but for me I see it as kind of sacred trust. It is one thing to get up on the high wire.
It is entirely different to stay there and lean into the mystery of that next step.

Let’s get down to the bottom line, the straight and narrow… We are the boss. The boss leads from on top. We are at the top of the Reflective Image’s hierarchical structure, mustering all our resources, including human labor, toward the direction we dictate, which benefits, ultimately, us.

I call this the triangle approach, though more accurately it is the pyramidal approach. The triangles connect at the top where the hierarchy gathers the benefit of all the labor of those below.

So once a year, my wife and I meet with a consultant who has been at the top of a sixty million dollar company. We hammer out “strategic objectives.” Then we make a list of action items with dates as to when they will be accomplished. After that, we look at the resources that we can muster to accomplish the “big ideas.”

This approach has been critical to our success as a company, but I generally leave the meeting feeling disoriented and confused—which is exactly what I pay him to do for me. I want him to push up against my idealistic views hard to see if they stand up.

Now I see how I have entered the business world with New Eyes Wisdom, trying, through my own idealism, to create something that does not fragment economy and ecology. Now that I am in two worlds, how do I reconcile these two worlds?

I’ve had to understand how these two approaches can work together.

In the extreme, one of the concerns with what my consultant teaches, the pyramidal approach, is that it turns the people who work for me into a commodity. This is against my core belief. It is a personal violation of my heart.

But there are other issues, as well. My naming top down view with its strategic objectives leaves me open to not grasping the complexity of the business environment which is based on thousands of relationships. Not paying attention to one of these relationships can sink a business.

Moreover, merely controlling and manipulating people for our own benefit, or the benefit of shareholders who are only interested in money, creates a chronic disenfranchisement in our business world.

A Harris Pole measuring the “execution quotient” of 2.5 million people, commissioned by Franklin Covey, had these key findings:

* About a third of workers say they have a clear understanding of what their companies are trying to achieve.
* Only one in ten feel energized and committed to their company’s goals.
* About one half feel their jobs allow them to apply all that they have to give.
* One third says they work in a win-win atmosphere.
* Three in five don’t trust their employer to keep commitments to their employees.

Our consultant is all about leading from the top. My heart lies in leading from behind. How do I bring these things together?

A few months ago, I raised this issue in a conversation with my Apache teacher, my current mentor. She has been meeting with me since 1989.

“As the owner of the company, how can I work with these two approaches;  the circle and the triangle? How do they come together?” I asked.

“In a circle-based business, the pyramid is used as a tool of the circle,” she told me.

This helped me. Now, it seems obvious. The circle comes first. What does that mean? This gets back to my original definition:

“A circle based business is rooted in relationships that are nurtured by fair and equitable exchange. Every person inside and outside of the business is viewed as equal in their humanity.”

I have to be able to listen, understand and provide for the circle of our company. Then, from that, decisions have to be made that are truly in the best interest of the whole circle, and the circle with which we have exchange.

But let’s start with the company circle first and see what that might look like on the ground when I have a strategic objective that has to be implemented. In other words, I have to lead. This requires a mustering of resources and changing of personnel responsibilities. It may also require asking people to do what they do not want to do.

The critical issue, to me, is that my job is to justify and provide sound reasoning for decisions to everyone in my circle. I have to have a buy in; otherwise, I will be disenfranchising my employees and creating a disconnect between their work and their core beliefs. This is a huge responsibility. I cannot just tell people what to do randomly. I have to earn their respect for my decision. This involves a great deal of transparency and even vulnerability.

So, a circle-based leadership model must out of necessity, have a lot of communication and disclosure of strategic long and short term goals. My job is to bring everyone along with me as much as I can.  Sometime this is easy. I have full support from my administrative staff during my recent initiative which has involved re-branding our image around our core values. This has involved shifting major tasks among several people.

Yet sometimes, we have had resistance. One example of this was our wedding ring initiative. Since we fabricate in metal, it is extremely difficult to make rings with our Celtic designs that actually connect seamlessly. Most other companies work using waxes and computer programs.

I explained how critical our wedding ring line would be to our company. Our ring line, two years ago, was anemic. There is a huge demand for rings I told our in house jewelers. We need this product for our company to survive. Yet there was definitely resistance from them when Helen introduced about a hundred new ring designs that she came up with in about a month last May. But from our point of view, their trade involves pushing their skills up to new levels.

We do not want to lose our jewelers. It takes a year for us to train a highly skilled jeweler into the basics of our line. I suspect that our last jeweler who left about a year ago did so because he did not want to make our rings, which are extremely difficult to fabricate. He was burned out, which happens, and he would have probably left anyway. But the rings were the tipping point.

In the macro sense, all these approaches add up to either yea or nay. How do we know, on the whole, whether we have a real buy in from our employees? Well, one sure test is to leave the company for four to seven weeks and see what happens. Helen and I have done this every March since 2000. Coming back, we find a day or so of work on our desk.

If we were leading from on top, in some kind of pyramidal structure, our employees would always be looking to us for guidance. Their values would be extrinsic to their work life, so they would need rules and scripts. Yet day to day relationships are too complex to deal with like machines. I want them to find their heart and express that. So when my employees ask me what to do, my response is almost always the same: “What do you think we should do?”

Leading from behind has empowered them to run the company without us, which frees me up to have enough time to focus on the growth of the company rather than just its day to day operations.

With Paula, the basis for leading from behind was a set of values based on her deep understanding and concern for the well being of all of us. She held a space where we all had a voice. She empowered us to find our own way in the processes and teachings, and encouraged a diverse understanding which she too learned. She held the circle. From the people in that circle, she created movement.

Similarly, my wife and I hold the circle of the business. The core of the circle is our profound respect and gratefulness toward all who work for us. Our task is to assure, to the best of our ability, that everyone is supported. All voices are honored. From that place, we are able to move toward objectives that are dictated to us by market opportunities. From that place, we can respect and honor everyone who does business with us.

The triangle becomes a tool of the circle. The circle-based business practices within the company are reflected in how we treat our customer base. From this, if we are true, our customer base will grow and support our circle.

Sounds easy enough, right? Not by a long shot. What are you ideas about bringing circle into business?

Start uga_in_feed Ending uga_in_feed: Start uga_track_user Start uga_get_option: ignore_users uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: ignore_users (1) Start uga_get_option: max_user_level uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: max_user_level (8) Tracking user with level Ending uga_track_user: 1 Calling preg_replace_callback: ]*?)href\s*=\s*['"](.*?)['"]([^>]*)>(.*?) Start uga_preg_callback: Array Get tracker for full url Start uga_track_full_url: www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A347 Start uga_is_url_internal: www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A347 Start uga_get_option: internal_domains uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: internal_domains (www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com) Checking hostname www.circlemanifesto.com Checking hostname circlemanifesto.com Ending uga_is_url_internal: Get tracker for external URL Start uga_track_external_url: www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A347 Start uga_get_option: track_ext_links uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: track_ext_links (1) Tracking external links enabled Start uga_get_option: prefix_ext_links uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: prefix_ext_links (/outgoing/) Ending uga_track_external_url: www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A347 Ending uga_track_full_url: /outgoing/www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A347 Adding onclick attribute for /outgoing/www.ipl.org/div/natam/bin/browse.pl/A347 Ending uga_preg_callback: Paula Underwood, Start uga_preg_callback: Array Get tracker for full url Start uga_track_full_url: www.circlemanifesto.com/?p=68 Start uga_is_url_internal: www.circlemanifesto.com/?p=68 Start uga_get_option: internal_domains uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: internal_domains (www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com) Checking hostname www.circlemanifesto.com Match found, url is internal Checking hostname circlemanifesto.com Ending uga_is_url_internal: 1 Get tracker for internal URL Start uga_track_internal_url: www.circlemanifesto.com/?p=68, Start uga_get_option: track_files uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: track_files (1) Tracking files enabled Removed query params from url: www.circlemanifesto.com/ Start uga_get_option: track_extensions uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: track_extensions (gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc) Checking file extension gif Checking file extension jpg Checking file extension jpeg Checking file extension bmp Checking file extension png Checking file extension pdf Checking file extension mp3 Checking file extension wav Checking file extension phps Checking file extension zip Checking file extension gz Checking file extension tar Checking file extension rar Checking file extension jar Checking file extension exe Checking file extension pps Checking file extension ppt Checking file extension xls Checking file extension doc Ending uga_track_internal_url: Ending uga_track_full_url: Ending uga_preg_callback: relationships Ending uga_filter:

My Iroquois teacher Paula Underwood, held ten thousand years of stories and history in her head. She called them her “data base.” The stories were the life lessons of a small group of people that valued learning above all else. The stories were in pots in her head, literally. Her father had planted seeds timed to sprout in the last part of her life. I was there when they came up through her poetic voice.

Before she died, I was a fortunate member of a small group who became certified trainers in her “Learningway” approach. We sat in many circles together over a ten year period. Sometimes we met in conference centers and other times she rented a house and gathered us together. It was like summer camp for adults, only better. We played, joked around and cried together.

Teaching us, one of the first things she pointed out is that, we were children in her culture. We knew nothing of her perspective.

With Paula, however, she told us our perspective as children was valuable because learning was her prime concern. I could relate to her example. It was similar to what I felt when I lived with Tibetan refugees for three months, in a small room, back in 1981; or with the Haitians, between 1984 and 1986. There are layers and layers of insight that take years to understand when entering a new environment.

Studying with Paula, I understood about issues of cross cultural sensitivity. Unlike my entry into other cultures where I felt insecure, to Paula we brought “New Eyes Wisdom.” Like children, we could see from a place that she might overlook.

I tell this same thing to new people I hire, like Matt. He is about to turn 17. He is handling a major part of our internet strategy upon which a much of our entire marketing strategy depends I have him full time for the summer, though he started working for us when he was entering his junior year of high school.

“You have what I call, “New Eyes Wisdom,” I told him. “You will see things that I never notice. Ways we might be able to change things. I want to know what you think.”

I always listen to what he has to say. He has skills and abilities that I do not have, from MySpace to Excel Spread sheets.

Honoring New Eyes Wisdom, honoring Matt’s view, is a way of honoring the next generation’s concerns and keeping one’s own learning process going. For Paula, our questions helped to bring the wisdom forward, the seeds in the pots to sprout and grow. For me, it is a matter of our company’s survival. I’m pushing fifty and this next generation is on a different train.

With Paula, as we learned together, I began to see how she had a type of leadership that is remarkably different from how most business people lead - a type of leadership which is core to a circle-based business approach. She would sit in a circle with us, as an equal.

If you want to begin to start applying circle to your company, this is a very basic step, but one that may take courage. Eliminate the rectangular and square tables and sit in a circle. Just doing that changes the dynamic of a conversation.

The circle has been used as a form to facilitate conversation in community for thousands of years. It is something we deeply and intuitively understand. Just being in a circle says we all have something to share. We all hold part of the arc. No one is above or below anyone else when they sit in a circle.

In the circle, Paula would listen to all the voices, allowing us to explore and learn in our own way. Then, she would really think about the history of her people that she kept with her, and try to find some kind of corollary in this “data base” that would apply to our situation. Since the history contained essential human experiences, this was not hard for her to do. Then she would make a decision.

We were going to put on a conference which has this material–or we were going to cover clan organization in the afternoon.  She often taught the same thing over and over again, based on what was needed. But listening to her there was always something new because my perspective was changing, the deeper I went into the material.

I was intrigued by her leadership style. She was not above us or below us. She was with us in a circle, equal as a learner.

She called this approach, leading from behind. It involved gathering consensus, listening, and calling out what was real. This method empowered everyone. It was elixir to our souls. Our voices were heard and honored and often woven into a beautiful tapestry.

It was not that she went in without an agenda. In the conferences we held, she always had a plan. But in the moment, when we sat in a circle, she would listen to all of us and be ready to change her plan. It was musical and harmonious, John Coltrane on a riff, A Love Supreme from a Native American perspective.

How do I lead from behind in my company?

First, it involves seeing everyone who works for me as part of a circle. We are also a tribe of a sort. I do not have Paula’s data base, but I do have my humanity, from which springs a personal and deep concern for each of my employees. I want our company to support rich and fulfilling lives. I want their experience with our business to be full of learning. I want their tasks to be challenging, and ultimately, empowering.

Wait a minute. My employees call me “the boss.” “You’re the boss,” they say. How can I lead from behind when the structures of business are geared toward my leading from the top?

Now, I am in a clash of two world views. They work for me, right? I can sell the business off tomorrow if I so choose. Strip mine it and say, buy by. I make more money than they do (although not that much more—our highest salaried person makes less than two times our lowest salaried person.) But you get the point.

Most people would view this as a position of power, but for me I see it as kind of sacred trust. It is one thing to get up on the high wire.
It is entirely different to stay there and lean into the mystery of that next step.

Let’s get down to the bottom line, the straight and narrow… We are the boss. The boss leads from on top. We are at the top of the Reflective Image’s hierarchical structure, mustering all our resources, including human labor, toward the direction we dictate, which benefits, ultimately, us.

I call this the triangle approach, though more accurately it is the pyramidal approach. The triangles connect at the top where the hierarchy gathers the benefit of all the labor of those below.

So once a year, my wife and I meet with a consultant who has been at the top of a sixty million dollar company. We hammer out “strategic objectives.” Then we make a list of action items with dates as to when they will be accomplished. After that, we look at the resources that we can muster to accomplish the “big ideas.”

This approach has been critical to our success as a company, but I generally leave the meeting feeling disoriented and confused—which is exactly what I pay him to do for me. I want him to push up against my idealistic views hard to see if they stand up.

Now I see how I have entered the business world with New Eyes Wisdom, trying, through my own idealism, to create something that does not fragment economy and ecology. Now that I am in two worlds, how do I reconcile these two worlds?

I’ve had to understand how these two approaches can work together.

In the extreme, one of the concerns with what my consultant teaches, the pyramidal approach, is that it turns the people who work for me into a commodity. This is against my core belief. It is a personal violation of my heart.

But there are other issues, as well. My naming top down view with its strategic objectives leaves me open to not grasping the complexity of the business environment which is based on thousands of relationships. Not paying attention to one of these relationships can sink a business.

Moreover, merely controlling and manipulating people for our own benefit, or the benefit of shareholders who are only interested in money, creates a chronic disenfranchisement in our business world.

A Harris Pole measuring the “execution quotient” of 2.5 million people, commissioned by Franklin Covey, had these key findings:

* About a third of workers say they have a clear understanding of what their companies are trying to achieve.
* Only one in ten feel energized and committed to their company’s goals.
* About one half feel their jobs allow them to apply all that they have to give.
* One third says they work in a win-win atmosphere.
* Three in five don’t trust their employer to keep commitments to their employees.

Our consultant is all about leading from the top. My heart lies in leading from behind. How do I bring these things together?

A few months ago, I raised this issue in a conversation with my Apache teacher, my current mentor. She has been meeting with me since 1989.

“As the owner of the company, how can I work with these two approaches;  the circle and the triangle? How do they come together?” I asked.

“In a circle-based business, the pyramid is used as a tool of the circle,” she told me.

This helped me. Now, it seems obvious. The circle comes first. What does that mean? This gets back to my original definition:

“A circle based business is rooted in relationships that are nurtured by fair and equitable exchange. Every person inside and outside of the business is viewed as equal in their humanity.”

I have to be able to listen, understand and provide for the circle of our company. Then, from that, decisions have to be made that are truly in the best interest of the whole circle, and the circle with which we have exchange.

But let’s start with the company circle first and see what that might look like on the ground when I have a strategic objective that has to be implemented. In other words, I have to lead. This requires a mustering of resources and changing of personnel responsibilities. It may also require asking people to do what they do not want to do.

The critical issue, to me, is that my job is to justify and provide sound reasoning for decisions to everyone in my circle. I have to have a buy in; otherwise, I will be disenfranchising my employees and creating a disconnect between their work and their core beliefs. This is a huge responsibility. I cannot just tell people what to do randomly. I have to earn their respect for my decision. This involves a great deal of transparency and even vulnerability.

So, a circle-based leadership model must out of necessity, have a lot of communication and disclosure of strategic long and short term goals. My job is to bring everyone along with me as much as I can.  Sometime this is easy. I have full support from my administrative staff during my recent initiative which has involved re-branding our image around our core values. This has involved shifting major tasks among several people.

Yet sometimes, we have had resistance. One example of this was our wedding ring initiative. Since we fabricate in metal, it is extremely difficult to make rings with our Celtic designs that actually connect seamlessly. Most other companies work using waxes and computer programs.

I explained how critical our wedding ring line would be to our company. Our ring line, two years ago, was anemic. There is a huge demand for rings I told our in house jewelers. We need this product for our company to survive. Yet there was definitely resistance from them when Helen introduced about a hundred new ring designs that she came up with in about a month last May. But from our point of view, their trade involves pushing their skills up to new levels.

We do not want to lose our jewelers. It takes a year for us to train a highly skilled jeweler into the basics of our line. I suspect that our last jeweler who left about a year ago did so because he did not want to make our rings, which are extremely difficult to fabricate. He was burned out, which happens, and he would have probably left anyway. But the rings were the tipping point.

In the macro sense, all these approaches add up to either yea or nay. How do we know, on the whole, whether we have a real buy in from our employees? Well, one sure test is to leave the company for four to seven weeks and see what happens. Helen and I have done this every March since 2000. Coming back, we find a day or so of work on our desk.

If we were leading from on top, in some kind of pyramidal structure, our employees would always be looking to us for guidance. Their values would be extrinsic to their work life, so they would need rules and scripts. Yet day to day relationships are too complex to deal with like machines. I want them to find their heart and express that. So when my employees ask me what to do, my response is almost always the same: “What do you think we should do?”

Leading from behind has empowered them to run the company without us, which frees me up to have enough time to focus on the growth of the company rather than just its day to day operations.

With Paula, the basis for leading from behind was a set of values based on her deep understanding and concern for the well being of all of us. She held a space where we all had a voice. She empowered us to find our own way in the processes and teachings, and encouraged a diverse understanding which she too learned. She held the circle. From the people in that circle, she created movement.

Similarly, my wife and I hold the circle of the business. The core of the circle is our profound respect and gratefulness toward all who work for us. Our task is to assure, to the best of our ability, that everyone is supported. All voices are honored. From that place, we are able to move toward objectives that are dictated to us by market opportunities. From that place, we can respect and honor everyone who does business with us.

The triangle becomes a tool of the circle. The circle-based business practices within the company are reflected in how we treat our customer base. From this, if we are true, our customer base will grow and support our circle.

Sounds easy enough, right? Not by a long shot. What are you ideas about bringing circle into business?

Start uga_shutdown Start uga_in_feed Ending uga_in_feed: Start uga_track_user Start uga_get_option: ignore_users uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: ignore_users (1) Start uga_get_option: max_user_level uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: max_user_level (8) Tracking user with level Ending uga_track_user: 1 Footer hook was not executed, but header hook did Start uga_get_option: footer_hooked uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: footer_hooked () Start uga_get_option: debug uga_options: array ( 'internal_domains' => 'www.circlemanifesto.com,circlemanifesto.com', 'account_id' => 'UA-8534005-1', 'enable_tracker' => true, 'track_adm_pages' => true, 'ignore_users' => true, 'max_user_level' => '8', 'footer_hooked' => false, 'filter_content' => true, 'filter_comments' => true, 'filter_comment_authors' => true, 'track_ext_links' => true, 'prefix_ext_links' => '/outgoing/', 'track_files' => true, 'prefix_file_links' => '/downloads/', 'track_extensions' => 'gif,jpg,jpeg,bmp,png,pdf,mp3,wav,phps,zip,gz,tar,rar,jar,exe,pps,ppt,xls,doc', 'track_mail_links' => true, 'prefix_mail_links' => '/mailto/', 'debug' => true, 'check_updates' => true, 'version_sent' => '1.6.0', 'advanced_config' => true, ) Ending uga_get_option: debug (1) -->