Open-2Whether it is through yoga, reading, music, sports or meditation, the benefits of focusing your attention have become widespread and accepted. I have shy-ed away from the word ‘consciousness’ for a long time, because I see it being over-used and ill understood. It is a big topic: who pretends to know how our consciousness functions? I don’t.

In a recent presentation Otto Scharmer (ILA, 2014) used two simple definitions that resonated with me: Consciousness being the “ability to pay attention to your attention” and the combination of three things: an open mind, an open heart and an open will. He continued to pose an interesting question: “How do we pay attention to our collective attention?” Asking this question brings us right to the heart of the leadership domain. If you want to mobilise people to achieve a certain goal, you need to know first where the attention of your people goes. Common sense, uncommon practice.

Recently I had a conversation with a board member who realized that strategy activation is his development area: Great forward thinker, good communication skills, intelligent strategy worked up in 50 slides, but dense and difficult to understand even for his direct reports let alone the rest of the organization. Even though he is a good communicator, it does not mean that he uses these skills to involve others in the strategy building process. It brings it right back to the notion that strategy is not only an intellectual exercise, but also an emotional process. In fact there is more and more evidence that an open heart and open will, enable the mind to be open enough to digest any kind of strategy. In many cases this means very practically that people need to be actively involved in the strategy process in order to understand it and translate it to their roles and the roles of their people. Therefore communication as in explaining the strategy to people is not good enough. “We have told them in various roadshows, videos and all sorts of meetings” the board member says slightly frustrated: “what else do we need to do?”

“Generative listening, where you are holding the space for new possibility to emerge”, Scharmer would say. I explained in more practical words that he needs to ensure workshops are organised where professional relationships are deepened (open heart, open will) and where the strategy is interpreted and translated into action (open mind). “What is my role there”, he said. Listen and ensure they stay within the broad strategic parameters as you have set them. “How do I do both at the same time?” he wondered. “That is the art of leadership” I responded and I wondered for myself as well.