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Unity is where you look for it

“People commonly presume unity to be a positive value.

But they are typically thinking of unity as something to be “worked toward”. “Working toward” is not what I am talking about. I am talking about prior unity. I am talking about people entering into a dialogue that is based on the working-presumption of prior unity, and non-separateness, and … global indivisibility…”

Adi Da

from the book “Not-Two Is Peace”

In times of crisis it seems natural to come together and share  our feelings,what we know and even our resources.  As a case in point, the Pike River Mine tragedy has created an upswell of support within and outside of Greymouth.

When the environment entails the less urgent Business As Usual, differences and factions can readily appear.  Recently, I had the privilege of facilitating a group of 20 employees from the same department within an organisation.  The ostensible goal of the facilitated workshop was to become a team.  Although they were under the same department name, these folk didn’t know each other very well as people.  One of the preparatory exercises for the workshop was for each participant to speak on ‘when I’m at my best what I am doing,’ ‘one thing that I’d like the group to know about me that they wouldn’t already know.’  These ‘speeches’ were paced across the day and interspersed with other more concrete activities.

Although this exercise was initially approached with a yawn, as people took their turn to answer these two questions, a contemplative silence grew, as well as an intrinsic appreciation for each person.  Each time a person gave their ‘speech’ you could hear a pin drop, their colleagues became very present with blackberries and iphones remaining ‘off.’  Common topic themes for the speeches were the importance of family and friends, the presence of an informal mentor when they were growing up, and of the impact that significant others had on their lives.

By being part of a safe and uninterrupted environment where people made the time and space to share their experiences, they realised how much they had in common.  This ‘commonness’ then paved the way for the more courageous conversations around handover points and service level agreements.  By the time people got to these things in the conversation, they had already created a tone of listening, reflection and the uncovering and discovering of common solutions.  Solutions that were arrived at incredibly efficiently and effectively.

Organisations typically spend considerable sums of money on tools to understand our differences as people.  It certainly is important to understand our differences so that we can leverage from them.  Firstly though we need to understand what we have in common. From a depth of unity that they uncover, people are sustained through the ups and downs of both corporate and community life.  Next time when you hear people competing for air time, put the question, ‘so, what do we have in common?’  The silence may be deafening.

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