BOOK CLUB: Chapter 5 – Mind the Gap {Cultivating Change and Closing the Disengagement Divide}

May 2, 2017

We’re all aware of the signs around London saying “Mind the Gap”. She uses this phrase in the chapter to illustrate the idea of embracing our own vulnerability and cultivating shame resilience, paying attention to the space between where we’re standing and where we want to go.

She goes into the differences of Strategy vs. Culture. Think of Strategy as “the game plan” and Culture as “the way we do things around here.” She found that in most cases, culture trumps strategy. “I think everyone agrees in theory that “who we are” is at least as important as “what we want to achieve.”

To get a sense of what your Culture is, try asking yourself these questions about a group or organization you are a part of (family, work, church, etc)

  1. What behaviors are rewarded? Punished?
  2. Where and how are people actually spending their resources (time, money, attention)?
  3. What rules and expectations are followed, enforced, and ignored?
  4. Do people feel safe and supported talking about how they feel and asking for what they need?
  5. What are the sacred cows? Who is most likely to tip them? who stands the cows back up?
  6. What stories are legend and what values do they convey?
  7. What happens when someone fails, disappoints, or makes a mistake?
  8. How is vulnerability (uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure) perceived?
  9. How prevalent are shame and blame and how are they showing up?
  10.  Whats the collective tolerance for discomfort? Is there a high premium put on comfort?

She explains that the power of these questions is their ability to shed light on the darkest areas of our lives; disconnection, disengagement, and our struggle for worthiness. 

We may have to get real honest with ourselves and discover if we’re walking the talk. Is how we’re actually living, feeling, behaving, and thinking, going to get us to where we want to be. In order to develop transformation strategies, we have to hold our aspirational values up against our practiced values.

Touching on disengagement for a bit. In the research she has found disengagement to be the underlying issue in families, schools, communities, and organizations, and it takes many forms. We disengage to protect ourselves from vulnerability, shame, and feeling lost and without purpose. Pulling out our phones in a social situation to avoid an “awkward” conversation is a form of disengagement. She also gives examples in politics, and religious settings. She asks this questions:

“We don’t intentionally create cultures in our families, schools, communities, and organizations that fuel disengagement and disconnection, so how does it happen? Where’s the gap?” — The gap starts here: We can’t give people what we don’t have. Who we are matters immeasurably more than what we know or who we want to be.”

I don’t know about you, but I could totally relate to the Aspirational values Vs. Practiced values she talked about. When we have a goal or vision to be a certain way, but our actions and practices aren’t going to get us there. Relating this to health and fitness, we may have the aspirational value to be active and in shape to hike around with our kids and grandkids, but our practiced values may be passing up your gym time to watch a show, or always taking the elevator instead of the stairs. Or we may really want to lose weight, but we just keep buying that tub of ice-cream at the store 🙂 Simple examples but you get the idea.

When our values are aligned, our results will be much greater! We are much more successful in reaching our aspirations. We must mind the gap, pay attention to the space between where we’re actually standing and where we want to be. Minding the gap is a daring strategy. It requires both an embrace of our own vulnerability and cultivation of shame resilience. 

At some point in our lives, we will all be called to show up as leaders, whether its in our homes as a parent, or as an educator in our work space, or in other groups we’re involved with, and most likely it will be in new and uncomfortable ways.

“We don’t have to be perfect, just engaged and committed to aligning values with action.”

To prepare you for next weeks discussion on Chapter 6, review these questions on your own:

  1. How does the culture of “never enough” affect our schools, organizations, and families?
  2. How do we recognize and combat shame at work, school, and home?
  3. What does minding the gap and daring greatly look like in schools, organizations, and families?

We’ll see you next week as we discuss Chapter 6 – Disruptive Engagement: Daring to rehumanize education and work.

Please leave any comments and questions below!