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    • Article 1: VITALITY AND ORGANIZATIONAL HEALTH
    • Article 2: AN INTEGRAL PHILOSOPHY OF ORGANIZATIONS
    • Article 3: WHAT I’VE LEARNED ABOUT GROUP WORK



    Article 3: WHAT IíVE LEARNED ABOUT GROUP WORK
    by
    Howard Schechter

      Techniques and tools are not the key elements in effective group work and organizational consulting. Techniques and tools are helps, but most important are the deep, underlying attitudes which organize one's life and work. The qualities of acceptance, love, non-attachment to outcome, and authenticity are the most important elements a group leader can bring to the work.
         

      The key ingredient is acceptance; acceptance of the client just as s/he is. Unchanged. Respecting the truth within each which has led to this place in the present moment; this creates the necessary conditions for change to occur. When I accept someone, I, too, am accepted. When the group accepts me the opportunity for doing great things is present
         

      There are deep roots which must be tapped to nourish and allow the quality of acceptance to bloom: a loving attitude toward one's Self and the client, and an attitude of non-attachment to the outcome of the work. To be accepting I must be loving. No matter how different the client is from me, how different the values, how I look at work and organizations, it is still possible to extend love to the spark of divinity at his/her Center. It is to their Center, from my Center, that I try to connect with my clients.
          

      Sometimes when I am working with a group, and not feeling good about it I look around the circle at each member, one by one, and silently reaffirm a loving connection with each. This shifts my energy and the energy in the group to a new and more productive level.
         

      Non-attachment to the results of one's work with the group is essential. If I am attached to the outcome - attached to the notion that the group must change in a certain direction, that the organization must become more effective, that the people must cooperate and communicate effectively - then I am not in a space of accepting and loving. I am only accepting partially and loving partially. The love is conditioned; I will love if they do what I want them to do. And worse, my attachment to a fixed out come puts a weight and strain on me as the group leader. I can feel it when I carry the group and it feels debilitating at many levels. It reduces my flexibility, slows me, and ultimately minimizes my ability to help.
          

      The group will move with me or without me. Like water in a stream it will continue to flow. My image of successful group and organizational work is a vision of the client as a branch moving in a stream. The branch flows along until it gets hung up in a tangle. My job as an organizational consultant and group worker is to step into the stream and work with the branch until it is free, allowing it to continue on its course. The purpose of our tools of intervention is to facilitate sculpting the organization in a way that allows it to re-enter the stream more focused and dynamic.
          

      Letting go of the struggle to make a group behave in a certain way opens me to the voice of my intuitive guidance. Intuition is the voice of the Center. It is the Tool behind the tools. It provides stability and direction in the stormy seas of emotion and intellect. Intervening from intuition Insures that we are connecting with the client from a place of mutual interest because the intervention will emerge from a source common to the client and us.
          

      All this implies authenticity in the group leader. To be truly one's Self. To align one's actions with who we really are. We spend so much energy impersonating the image we have of the kind of person who is competent and trustworthy and OK; an image we have constructed with the help of our parents, teachers, bosses, articles we've mad, and all the other societal instruments of right and wrong, good and bad. It feels safer to copy the image than to listen to who we are and act from there.
          

      Impersonating the image of what we think a group leader should be, rather than being the group leader we are, is dangerous; it leaves us unable to protect ourselves fully. Safety comes from strength, and strength comes from the fit between who we are and what we do. We are far better at being ourselves than at imitating others. When who we are and what we do are in alignment we are the strongest, most powerful group leader we can be. We are able to take care of ourselves and provide safety for others.
       

      In practice, authenticity means being one's Self first, and following rules, maps, and models second. In this approach the tools of intervention are in service of what is real for the group and the group leader in the moment. When it feels right to give a comforting word, give a comforting word. When it feels right to challenge, challenge. When it feels right to touch, touch. And when it feels right to withdraw, do it. Because "it feels right" is the signal that we are in alignment within ourselves, a merging of who we are and what we are doing. If we act from there we are authentic. If we are authentic, the group will move constructively forward.
          

      I see three metaphors for the group leader: group leader as Learner, group leader as Guide, and group leader as Scout. The Learner permits freshness and openness - Beginners Mind. The Guide allows me to bring the knowledge I have gained through previous journeys with organizations and groups to the aid of this group. And the Scout reminds me that there is always new territory to explore and that to remain fresh it is important to go beyond the edges of what is familiar into the uncharted and Unknown.
          

      Working as Scout means combining acceptance and risk-taking. To be respectful I must meet the group where they are. The skillfulness then lies in sensing their boundaries and mine around the familiar. The courage lies in moving beyond the boundaries into the unfamiliar territory of whatís next. Then, if sensing the new territory to be unsafe, leading the way back.
          

      The group leaders main work is Self work. Developing one's awareness of the authentic Self and learning to behave in ways that manifest it; that is the true work or the group leader. The most useful preparation before sitting with a group is concentration on the qualities of acceptance, love, and non-attachment to outcome; then visualizing oneself manifesting these qualities with the group. When feeling uncertain during these group sessions, instead of forcing, it is best to wait, be quiet, and listen for the voice of intuition. The next move will be appropriate and skillful.


  • This article is a reprint of the article as it appeared in
    The Organizational Transformation Connection,
    Volume XII, Number 2, May 1989 

    Contents of this page are Copyright 1997 by Howard Schechter

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