“What if suffering could be eliminated at work just by treating each other like adults?”
After spending almost 25 years in Senior Leadership positions with giants like IBM, Vodafone and British Petroleum, Susan Basterfield walked away from it all. Again and again, she saw good ideas stifled while the “privileged few told everyone what to do.” Humans could make independent decisions in the outside world. Why then, she wondered, were they forced to lose agency and autonomy when they walked through the office door? She had built her career under a cloud of assumptions about hierarchy that suddenly didn’t make sense. “I started to see workplaces as factories where the goal was to extract as much as possible from employees for the benefit of the shareholders.”
“A hypothesis was forming: What if suffering could be eliminated at work just by treating each other like adults?”
So began the second season of Susan’s career. She joined Enspiral, a collective that supports and “sprouts companies that want to organize differently.” (www.enspiral.com) She also co-founded Greaterthan with the mission to “make self-management and participatory governance in organizations a new normal by spreading culture, knowledge and practices.” (www.greaterthan.works)
Susan now spends her days taking open-minded leaders and their employees on a journey of discovery to establish a new way of working. Liberating Structures, a collection of 33 microstructures created by Henri Lipmanowicz and Keith McCandless are integral when collaborating with clients to flatten the traditional hierarchy and are a great first step to changing the way your team works together. (www.liberatingstructures.com)
“Liberating Structures create an even-participation scaffold.”
These powerful tools will help you structure your next meeting to foster participation and engagement with the task at hand. Having trouble breaking through with a team member? There are structures to help reimagine the relationship and take it to the next level. These processes have been honed to create a space where participation is encouraged and creativity is valued. “Liberating Structures do not assume that any one way of being and working in groups is better than any other,” says Susan. “They create a framework where employees can work to solve problems together.” What does this look like when you step into a meeting environment?
This is just one of the many Liberating Structures and a go-to when Susan wants to create a safe, creative space for a group. It allows the group to come to a decision about an agenda or priority list. The name is catchy and the process is simple
All sit quietly and reflect on what they think the priority should be for one minute.
The room splits into pairs and spend two minutes discussing in a personal way and listening actively to the other person’s list. Ideas are shared and everyone is given an equal chance to speak.
Two pairs merge to make groups of four and share again, starting to look for patterns and similarities.
The groups of four are each given equal opportunity to share with the entire room and then the priorities are set based on what surfaces.
And just like that, everyone in the room has been afforded a space to freely express their ideas and to be heard.
“Liberating Structures are super practical.”
Could you apply 1–2–4-All to your next meeting? How would it change the mood in the room? And if everyone left the meeting feeling important and validated, how would it change the way they spend the rest of their day? “Its hard for people to believe that good ideas are not attached to tenure or position,” Susan says.
1–2–4-All is just one of 33 different tools you can add to your leadership or facilitation toolkit. Liberating Structures provide a blueprint for leaders to invite everyone’s ideas equally and work collaboratively with their entire team, regardless of title or seniority.
“The workplace becomes a place you can grow intentionally as a human. Where you can do meaningful and significant work.”
When employees feel their opinion really matters, they become engaged and walk through their office doors with a sense of fun, adventure and creativity. Yes, you really can be happy at work. Imagine the untapped creative potential of your team, just waiting to be set free!
Join Susan, Brent and Astrid Pruitt for Liberating Structures Immersive Training October 21–22, 2019 in Toronto.
In this fast-paced 2-day workshop you will be introduced to many of the Liberating Structures in an active “see one, do one, teach one, do another one” method of learning. You will leave the workshop with an arsenal of new tools and a multitude of ideas on how to apply to your work the very next day. “I guarantee leaders will be able to use two or three instantly in their next meeting or idea generation,” Susan promises. With just two days of immersive training you can change the course of how your company relates and set the foundation for a braver, more open way of working together. One where employees feel empowered to take responsibility for their own development and the success of your organization. “We can create work places where everybody is invited and welcome to participate equally.”
Register before September 25th and take advantage of special early bird pricing.
To find out more about the event or to register, visit: https://tiny.cc/hnt8az. To inquire about bringing your team and benefitting from group prices, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Written by: Susan Wakefield