Leaping into a Future Narrative
I feel that there is an assumption that we can create a totally new future as leaders of organisations or of ourselves. Often I am asked to facilitate a process where companies can 'vision' a future and start to develop the story of how it will be; however I never agree to work at developing a future narrative without first exploring the present one and the past one. (Of which there are often many versions.)
To ask people to leap with you into a future without first acknowledging the present, is potentially damaging. You cannot spring into anything without something to spring from - that is the present. It provides you with something to push against to gain momentum and impetus. However it can provide an uneven surface, with rocks and fissures that can trip you up and of which the people around you are very aware. They will have tripped over them and fallen into them many times. Before asking people to follow you, it is vital to ensure that these uneven footings are acknowledged and dealt with and in order to do that, you need to uncover the root causes of them and those causes often lie in past events.
It could have been a hostile take-over in a company, it could be an abusive childhood with a child in your class or with a patient in your consultancy session. Unless these are known, the present cannot be dealt with and the future cannot be trusted.
We know that stories provide us with meaning, (see the website.) Our brain architecture is designed for stories and if we develop systems that promote the use of them and the use of personal metaphor within our work, people can feel safe and also witnessed. There is an authenticity of experience created.
I have been lucky enough to develop and work with these processes over many years and have seen the true sharing that can take place within large organisations and with individual people. However I have also witnessed this process being undervalued and ignored by leaders who are fearful of the potency and power of peoples responses and vulnerabilities.
This is my point of discomfort as a facilitator and consultant, it sits like a jagged rock somewhere between my chest and throat. I am called in to lead a process, I witness peoples courageous vulnerability and see them stepping forward, hopeful for change and trusting that they will be heard and witnessed. Usually that is the end of my work, the rest is up to the Leaders. They now need to work with the stories and issues that have been shared, not all of which will have been positive. I can do nothing more than trust they will. Occasionally I hear that they have not and I am left with a feeling of discomfort.
I realise though that I need to trust the process and the people who took part. I have received thousands (quite literally) of messages after these sessions from individuals stating they felt empowered and more aware of themselves as narrators of their own fate. What an honour to receive these and what a loss to those who do not see them.