Going Beyond Words

Beyond WordsAs children, our mothers had a tone in their voice – one which we understood when she called our name.  Good or bad, we knew what she meant – no explanation needed.

In much of our life, we take this sense – to know beyond what we see and hear – for granted.  It just happens.  We feel the connection with another person behind their smile.  We effortlessly change lanes when we sense a car coming over before it does.  When a friend tells us that everything is fine, we know whether they’re telling us the truth or not.

Intuitively, we know this sense is part of our life – one of the many things that makes us uniquely human.  And yet, somewhere along the way, we learn differently.  Sensing morphs into thinking and analyzing.

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imagesI learned a long time ago, that when I’m presented with a choice between 2 options, I need to look carefully.  More often than not, situations and choices are not as simple as they first appear.  The options function as a clue to see that there’s more than what meets the eye.

What would it look like to consciously re-integrate our sense to go beyond the words into our trained abilities to think, analyze and draw conclusions?

First, it’s relevant.  The fast pace of information, technology and the media increasingly captures the attention of our physical senses.  And, in the business world, we’ve expertly honed our data gathering and decision making skills to support thoughtful, analytical conclusions.

Re-integrating our intuitive sense to go beyond these mechanisms would enliven our ability to relate to others, to get to the root of what’s going on, behind the words.  In fact, researchers at MIT recently released a study about the effectiveness of teams.  Their conclusion was that women engage their intuitive sense to identify issues behind the words.  As a result, teams with more women are more effective getting the job done.

Second, it’s practical.  For example, many of my friends take great pride in having a “sense of direction” only to discover that when their phone and GPS aren’t working, they have to scramble to reboot the connection to their internal guide.

Third, it’s effective – though, as I learned first hand, a bit uncomfortable at first.  We all have stories about who, what when, how – I’ll share one of mine.

In my first, full-fledged healthcare-technology entrepreneurial position, I was VP of Sales and Customer support – the place where the rubber meets the road in young companies – no customers, no revenue, no business.  On this particular day, the CEO joined me for an important prospect visit to a large health insurance company.

After the meeting was done and we were walking to the car, the CEO gave his assessment “That was a great meeting!  We’ll have a new customer soon.”  I started to laugh – I thought he was joking, “You’ve got to be kidding, that was terrible!”  With barely a breath, came his intense reply that started something like “That’s crazy..they said this and that… the right people were in the room….”

Somewhere in the midst of his litany, I realized I had not verbalized the cues I picked up behind the words.  So, I explained why I drew my conclusion. “We didn’t have their attention – they were polite, but not all that interested.  Their body language and side glances across the table were not encouraging.”  And then I concluded  “We did our best with all of this, but they weren’t buying, don’t quite know why, but they weren’t.”

Two perspectives.  Two sources of information.  Two different conclusions.  We could’ve argued all day about who was right and he could’ve pulled the CEO trump card.  But we were curious about what would happen next and what we could learn.  So, we created an experiment.  With a detailed plan on what we would do for next-steps and follow-up, we’d track the prospect’s responses and what happened.  Though our plan and actions were intense, the result was not –  there was no response.  None.

UnknownAlthough this prospect didn’t become a client, many did because of that day.  We, as a company, learned how to have a conversation about the dynamics within situations.  We developed a rapport with each other to discuss both the facts and what we sensed behind the words.   We didn’t always agree, but we got better at understanding what was really going on, the problems that needed to be solved, and how to work well with the people who made decisions about our technology.

The result of integrating our mindful and intuitive approaches?  We had great track-record of closing business after the verbal “yes”.  And, once a customer came on, they stayed.

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It makes sense to use all of our senses – the factual, the actions, the words and all that’s behind them.  Yes, it takes practice; along with a sense of curiosity and adventure to get through the sticky, uncomfortable spots, but that’s how we learn, everything.

Thanks for reading!


If you’re curious and want to learn more, here’s a few sources that are a good start.

If you’re interested strengthening the channel to your intuitive senses, there’s a number of ways to get started.

  • A meditation, contemplation, prayer practice is a great way to quiet the mind and begin developing a relationship with your inner senses.  It’s easy to start.  In a quiet moment, pay attention to your breath.  In and out.  Over time, let it expand beyond a few breaths, into minutes.
  • If you already have an exercise routine, consider switching the news and talk channels on your iPod to music that puts you in touch with your movement.  Then, watch your breath, feel the muscles and bones in your body move as you do.
  • One of my favorites is to re-acquaint myself with the non-mindful books on my bookshelves.  They draw my attention to the world I know by feeling and sensing.  Sometimes, it’s a fun book – on cats; other times Rumi.  Sometimes it’s an art book or a nature book; other times it’s a contemplative author.  If books aren’t your thing, go to the web.  There are fabulous websites to tickle our inner senses.

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Fusion Advisors’ Blog Library

Thank you for being interested in Fusion Advisors’ blog!  If you’d like to see and perhaps read earlier blogs, they are available on my website… Fusionadvisors.com.  But…. while you’re here, why go there?  Here is a summary of the blogs with a link to the full posts.  Enjoy!!!

Thanks for reading!


DSC_0104 - Version 2Seeding the Fall Garden

Fall is wonderfully busy with teaching at Georgia Tech….. The foundation of my leadership and entrepreneurship classes is awareness. Awareness:  acquiring knowledge and learning tools to understand new perspectives about ourselves and organizations. Awareness:  consciously  integrating the new material……Read more…

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diving1Diving into History

History fascinates me. Not necessarily the kind I got in school, where we memorized facts, figures, and outcomes; but the history that shares stories about people, cultures, and time. This version helps me understand the “why and how” of life that came before, through which I can develop a deeper understanding of the world in which we live….Read more…

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DSC_0244Expanding into New Ideas

I thought it would be of interest to dive into books that got me thinking – either because of what they said or how they said it. The first book that popped into my mind often finds its way into my conversations and teaching – The Starfish and the Spider. ..with a thought-provoking subtitle “The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations”….Read more…

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imagesNavigating Paradox

Last week on Facebook, I smiled at the posting of a Monopoly card.  It read…Get Out of PARADOX Free……“The bearer of this card is entitled to hold 2 or more conflicting beliefs at any given time.”….…..It got me thinking….More often than not, even seemingly simple questions create conflicting answers, each with their own train of thought..  Read more…

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IMG_0430Where the Rubber Meets the Road – Part 2

In the last few blogs, we’ve looked at life inside organizations – and specifically, where the “Personal” view (you) meets the “Not-Personal” view (the organization).  Yes, our job is “Personal”.  And, when all is going well, “Personal” works just fine. But, when decisions impact us adversely, “Personal” doesn’t feel so good. That’s okay too. The feeling prompts awareness and the question, “Now what?”, opens our attention to create next steps.  Read more….

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IMG_0441 - Version 2Where the Rubber Meets the Road – It’s our Life

“Know thyself” ….. Inscribed on the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.  Most commonly ascribed to Plato and found in the teachings of 11 ancient Greek sages.    Let’s see how  how this might inform our understanding of the organizational Personal and Not-Personal conversation.   Read More….

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DSC_0474 - Version 2The Secret Ingredient

I learned a long time ago that it’s one thing to do something well – and it’s totally different to teach  someone else to do it.   When we’re learning and expanding a skill, our creativity and focus are on what we’re doing, how we’re doing it and the results. Teaching, our creativity and focus are on interpreting what we already know how to do, and building content for others to learn and integrate the material.    Read more..

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C Lazy U - Sarah - 2009 148 - Version 2Personal, Not-Personal – Part 2

Having written It’s Personal, the thought occurred to me – “This is not a “rocket science” conclusion. Of course business is personal.”  ….. Marketing gurus are aficionado’s at evoking an emotional response sufficient for us to dive into our wallet…….   Although the business-to-business (B2B) community presents Not-Personal by presenting ROI, people make the decisions.  Not-Personal – definitely. Personal – of course.  Read more…

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DSC_0487It’s Personal

How many times have you heard or even said in a business setting, “It’s not personal”?  Is this true?  Our life is personal – everything we do, think and feel comes through us, irrespective of how many others have done the same thing. This includes our work…… we are the ones doing it. We bring our energy, our personal energy, to every moment.  Read more…

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Action’s Ingredients

Actimagesion.  It’s easy to talk about and easy to describe –  “What” we’ve done….  “What’s” keeping us busy.  Nice and concrete.  Works great for planning, meetings, and status reports.

But as we know, only too well, “Action” doesn’t  suddenly appear.   Rather, it’s the result of all that has gone on before it, for example time, experience, practice.  And it is energized by what lies beneath:  desires, intentions, purpose, passion, commitment, courage, to name a few.

A child learns how to walk from the day they are born:  moving their bodies and developing coordination, powered by their  human desire to move, freely.   Likewise, a great soup, epic movies, disruptive innovations,  successful companies develop over time.  They  are initiated by imagining possibilities and are born into life with focused action.   Success emerges as the creators’ emotional fortitude moves them forward through the inevitable trials and errors.

Malcolm Gladwell’s, The Tipping Point, explores the range of dynamics behind “Action” by asking key questions.   How does it happen?  What goes before?  What can we see, not see?  His conclusion was that small things, seemingly unnoticeable events, create a threshold of critical mass when results  appear.   This is the Tipping Point.  His point?  Action + Trust = Results.

In his later book Outliers, Gladwell offered more detail on what it actually takes to move an idea into success.  It takes time and practice; in fact, he suggests, it takes 10,000 hours of practicing a specific task to be successful at it.    But, alas, just when you might think there is a quantitative path, he describes the importance of cultures, backgrounds,  and personal aptitudes.  His point here?  Lots of Action + Commitment + Conducive Environment = Results.

By now, you might be thinking “Okay, got it…. BUT… How does this work in the midst of organizational life where we plan, forecast, execute and report?  Where we don’t talk about “Trust”, where we believe we can push through unfriendly environments and where deadlines are not planned across 20 hours a week for 10 years, but in quarters?”

In fact, imagine you or your manager asking how long a project will take.  Would you wonder “Is the Tipping Point ready for success?”   Would you calculate whether you or your team are even close to chalking-up 10,000-Hours of competency?

Looking back through my experiences and others’, I have seen a flow between the doing of action and the leveraging of its energizing dynamics.  Here’s some starting thoughts.

Leveraging “Action”

  • Have a vision.  Power the vision with purpose and passion.  Begin.                                     Successful action asks us to access the full range of our capacity – our ability to vision and to act.  We don’t do just one or the other, we do both.  The business guru Stephen Covey puts it like this: “Begin with the end in mind.”  Lao Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher noted “The journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step.”
  • Be Focused and Curious.  Revise often.                                                                                                      Irrespective of our vision, we begin with where we are and what we know.  So, a determinate of success is watching where it takes us, determining if we are getting what we expected, and being willing to explore new approaches.  The actor, filmmaker Vin Diesel put it this way:  “… to fulfill your plans, you’ve gotta be resourceful to make sure you can do it.”
  •  Expect the unexpected.  Revel in the challenge.                                                                       What would it be like to bring our sense of adventure into our work life?    After all, Lao Tzu reminds us “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”   Note, there is no exemption clause for organizations that says “except at work when all will go according to plan and expectations.”  So, we might as well be adventurous.  Stuff is going to happen.  Be in the moment.  Do what needs to be done.  Keep your eye on the goal.
  • Einstein - countingTrust the Tipping Point and the 10,000-Hour Rule.  Action is important.  It’s how we create, implement, succeed.  It builds our capacity and competency.  We learn what works, what doesn’t.  We develop judgement and understanding of what it takes to get things done.  And, it moves us to the Tipping Point – the moment the soup is ready, the film is done, sales take off, the project is a success.

Thanks for Reading!



Change. We invite it in for the change we want and do our best to keep it at bay for what we don’t. Yet, change is a part of our lives – wanted or not, expected or not. So, if we can’t always arrange its appearance to meet our wishes, what do we do when we’re in the midst of it? Can we manage it? Predict its outcome?

Sometimes yes and other times no. You might first think that this quandary, with no clear answer, presents a problem; however it doesn’t. Rather the possibilities of “Yes” and “No” ask us to look deeper. Here, in the unseen dynamic layers of change, we discover new dimensions of understanding.

Change is like sailing into the wind.  It challenges us to understand what we have control over and what we don’t.

David Whyte in his book The Heart Aroused suggests that an underlying assumption of organizational life is that we are in control: that is, with sufficient process, standards and projections we can get where we want to go. We head into change the same way – analyzing where we are, where we want to go, and plotting our path forward – complete with plans and budgets.

Whether we’re setting sail on the ocean or in a business venture, its good to have a destination and a plan. But, it’s only the beginning. The question is: Are we ready for what shows up next?

Sailors know the winds are in charge. But for us in organizations, it’s easy to forget that others – customers, team, investors, community – are in charge. We move forward with our plans and then others decide how they will react, what they will do or not, and how long it takes. Will they follow our predicted path or find a new one?

A number of years ago, a new client came with a conundrum: 9 months before, they had carefully analyzed, planned, communicated, and embarked on a reorganization. Had the team been excited? Yes. Did the plan make sense? Yes. Did the team believe it was doable? Yes. Once in the new framework, were the individuals on the team able to shift their ways of doing business? No.

Having set sail for a new destination, the company found itself back where it started. It was time to think differently: they could control the processes, but the individuals were in charge of their personal response and behavior. Now what?

In the midst of change, we’re presented with the challenge of combining the reality of two opposing forces. On one hand we’re charged with managing and leading the process of change while continuing to deliver products, services and a profit. On the other hand, people are our primary resource of talent and expertise, and they bring their individual perspectives, attitudes, and needs about change with them.

The question is how might we flow between between the needed structures and the always present individualities? Here are some ideas to consider.

Build a great structure for the change to happen. Then, let it be flexible to flow with what happens next.

Analysis, plans, timelines, projections, communication ground the change. They let the team know their role, a course of action, what’s expected. It also alerts them to the reality that the unexpected will happen and it gives them a sense of direction for what to do when it does.

Understand the capabilities you need and think about who on the team can help.

The Myers Briggs framework is a great example of how to think about this. Every change process needs each of the 4 Myers Briggs types: individuals who can inspire the change, design it, run it, and do whatever is needed to do to serve it. Likewise, each member of the team has a preferred type that informs their approach to change. It’s a powerful asset when we augment the change process with the teams’ natural perspectives and strengths of their type.

Whatever the plan, create experience and access your emotional intelligence to see what’s working.

In organizations, we have the plan. We have what others tell us they are doing within the plan. And, we have what they are actual doing. Understanding what is working and not working across these 3 perspectives is key to the process. It will highlight results and what needs to be modified. It will strengthen clarity of communication across the team. And, it will uncover operational incongruities and resistance, conscious or not, so you can address them and move forward.

Whatever our plan and approach to change, perhaps most intense part is befriending it… accepting it… embracing it… wanted and unwanted. After all, change is life’s innate nature. Days pass and move into the next day. Rivers flow, water drops leaving each rock behind. Our body regenerates one cell at at time, bringing newness in each cycle.

So what might it look like for us to befriend change? Perhaps it’s being curious about life’s adventures – doing what we can and seeing what happens next. Perhaps it’s consciously allowing life to co-create with us, bringing it’s possibilities into the realm of our own. Or perhaps it’s simply reminding us to take a moment and see how far we’ve come and the impact we’ve had in life, in our organizations. Control and out of control – Structure and flow – All wrapped into one.

Thanks for reading!