After a coaching session with a client the other day, I noticed a pattern that has shown up in many other areas of my life that I thought would be useful to explore with you and other group leaders.
Without sharing details, the first half of the session was a meandering affair with the sharing of many bits of information including recent experiences, reactions and feelings. While I could have facilitated a more goal-oriented focus, I felt it was important to just listen and let the natural expression proceed.
Mid-way through the session, a question bubbled up that then led us into a new depth where many of the previous ideas shared wove effortlessly and obviously into a beautiful tapestry. A weaving together that concluded with what appeared to be a significant breakthrough for her–a new relationship with and experience of a struggle that has ensued for nearly 30 years. I doubt we would have reached that new level of perspective if we had rushed after some pre-meditated result.
With so much pressure for quick results these days, we often find ourselves skimming across the surface of complex and confusing issues. If we take a brief look into the history of complex problems and their solutions, confusing by their very nature, we find that if we’re willing to wade into and be with that confusion long enough, more resilient solutions tend to emerge.
Pushing for clarity too early often yields superficial results
While this might be a good place to offer an example of a complex business problem solved by diving deeper into the sea of uncertainty, I’m instead going to share a more personal, physical, metaphorical example, as I often like to do.
The Patio. Many years ago, I decided to take on the task of building a rock patio in my back yard. The area of the patio was about 15 foot square and I had decided to use a collection of natural slate harvested from a riverbed somewhere. The stone I acquired came in beautiful varied earth tones, as well as extreme variations in shapes, sizes, and thickness.
Creating context. I had seen my father do something similar as a child and thought it would be a cinch. I started by creating a cement footing to define the perimeter of the patio, leveled and compacted the surface, and covered it in a layer of sand. Then I set about positioning the stones so that the space between them would average a half inch or so.
Apparent lack of progress. Everyday when I came home from work, I’d spend an hour or two in the backyard working on this patio. What I soon discovered was that it was going to take a very long time to do. Trying to fit these randomly sized stones in a way that would work would be like completing a puzzle using pieces from a dozen different boxes! Almost every time I faced this project, I felt like I was simply fumbling for the first 45 minutes or so.
Emergence of a new and beautiful truth. But then something interesting would start to happen. The pieces would begin to find their places. I know this sounds strange but it seems like the most appropriate way to describe the process. It’s as if my body/mind would have to familiarize itself with the shape of the available pieces and the configuration of the space long enough for it become obvious what should go where and in what order. I finished the patio and it was a beautiful piece of work!
How might you apply, or have you applied these insights to your current life or work situation? Please share your questions, feedback, or experience in the comments section below.
Leave a Reply