40 - Seven Essential

The 7 Marks of Metanoia… that Lead to Culture Change

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Organizational programs, techniques, and consistent strategic priorities are helpful when you need to create meaningful cultural change, but there is one essential ingredient – a personal change of heart and mind called metanoia. Metanoia is the rising tide that lifts all boats.

Most of us can look back and note times in life when our ideas and corresponding actions seemed to shift from one trajectory to another. The religious term “conversion” represents such a change, but there are others such as “falling in love” or the adoption of a cause through personal crisis or simple curiosity.

Why Metanoia is Must for Creating Culture Change

Whenever a person experiences a paradigm shift to a different level of reality, Metanoia is what occurred. It is what has happened when I literally, “put away childish things,” like treating my spouse in a certain way based on the way I saw my parents behave with one another, or treating my colleagues and employees as I might have treated others in the schoolyard.

As so many companies have lately discovered, real change must come from within. The promise of a rebranding effort may inspire people outside the company. But if the company’s board, leaders, and employees carry on the corrosive personal conduct or exploitive manufacturing process of the “old way”, and do not live the change of heart the new brand suggests, the company is almost guaranteed to be worse off than before it rebranded!

Tolerance for such self-serving dishonesty from corporate citadels is at an all-time low, and the backlash when it is discovered usually reaches crisis state in a timeframe of hours, not months or years. When such debacles occur, PR spin and cover operations to rehab tarnished brands are no longer a viable means of recovery, because popular opinion favors the authentic.

Today, it is imperative that companies actually are what they say they are and do what they say they do. This is where metanoia becomes crucial in business practice.

Metanoia is the gateway to the hallowed grounds of corporate integrity.

Metanoia: “A rising tide that lifts all boats”

Some years ago, I became convinced that the profit-only model we assume as bedrock business practice is actually compromising the present and future stability of not just our companies and livelihoods, but the planet itself. Furthermore, I began to think that business was capable of far more “good” than I had seen it deliver, and even dared to imagine that I might have a role (perhaps only a small one) to play in encouraging such outcomes. And quickly, I began to seek more impact for and contribution to others through my profitable consulting business, and my commitment to pure revenue growth shifted and became part of a much greater purpose. It was a paradigm shift – a game changer – and has produced some very meaningful outcomes, among which is my writing on this subject of “Telosity”.

All change begins, by definition, with the non-conformity of one or a few. This requires unusual courage – not of fearlessness, but of conviction. The accumulated impact of a change of heart in one person after another gradually begins to raise the standards for “normal” behaviour, like a rising tide that lifts all boats.

Recently, in examination of this phenomenon in my own life and that of others, I have looked and discovered more about the anatomy of this kind of change of heart – this metanoia ­–and how it is the central means for a business organization to bring its telos to life.

While metanoia is difficult to describe, the phenomenon and its effects can be summed up in this statement: metanoia has occurred when something (1) boundless and unexpected, (2) beyond reason and (3) mysteriously compelling sparks (4) non-conformity borne of conviction, a deeper (5) connection to others, and (6) deeper knowledge of our own story and identitytoward (7) broadened horizons or a new world.

Allow me to unpack the change of heart and mind, which is:

  1. Boundless and Unexpected: When we are drawn beyond our previously understood limits, outside of our comfort zone and into an unexpected domain to embrace a cause or new reality that is simply larger, often much, much larger than we are, we become part of something larger and that “something” often yields a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
  2. Beyond Reason: While our minds are often rigorously engaged in reason and thought may dominate the discovery of our new point of view after the metanoia, the experience itself always transcends mere reason and is often intensely, deeply personal. It is not simply that we change our minds or even that they are persuaded to change, but rather that we are ourselves changed.
  3. Mysteriously Compelling: Like the forest fire that creates its own wind, an experience of metanoia brings with it an energy that lifts us beyond the mere contingencies of our own resources. We find ourselves caught up in something more powerful than any force of will we might generate. Metanoia produces momentum greater than even our own desires, momentum that mysteriously propels our shift in attitude or action.For that change of heart and mind – the metanoia – to be proved real, action must result, which often includes:
  4. Non-conformity Borne of Conviction: The simple phrase, “a change of heart and mind,” implies the fact that acting on metanoia always involves some kind of rejection of the status quo. For those who have experienced metanoia, to keep acting the same way they did before the change of heart and mind becomes intolerable, even impossible. This is usually an outwardly noticeable aspect of metanoia, as it may involve a change in physical factors such as priorities for action, relationships, or even whole career trajectories. Such non-conformity arises from deep-seated conviction, but it does not result from a lack of fear. At a much deeper and even sub-conscious level, metanoia may involve the rejection of long-ingrained patterns of thought, habit, or action due to things like childhood experiences, adaptation to environments, or response to our own suffering.
  5. Connection to Others: Through metanoia we are inevitably drawn into deeper relationships with others. We often speak of “joining” a movement – something we cannot manufacture alone. Through metanoia we discover connections to others that deny the myth of our isolated self and bind us in a shared unity not tosomething else, but to someone
  6. Deeper Knowledge of our own Story and Identity: We may consider ourselves to be “self-made”; we are not. Rather, our self emerges from the complexities of our unique narrative. Metanoia draws us to a better understanding of our own narrative. For that reason it is both desirable and fear-inducing, because the personal awareness and consequences that usually result often lie beyond our control.
  7. Broadened Horizons or a New World: As metanoia opens us to broader horizons than those of our own creation and previous understanding, we discover opportunities and paths that were unexpected or even un-imagined. We are opened to new possibilities through which our identity and capabilities are enlarged perhaps even beyond our wildest dreams. We find ourselves in a “bigger world”, compelled to work toward a vision we have been granted of a “better world”. With such enlargement of vision comes an invitation to bring more of ourselves than we may have even known existed with full commitment to a task or role we could not have imagined.

We have all experienced metanoia at one time or another. Many of us may be able to reflect on our stories and locate with ease those remarkable and pivotal moments in our lives when “everything changed”, when we felt almost as if we had become “a different person” – experiences which altered the path of our narrative in fundamental and profoundly influential ways. Often, metanoia can draw us onto a journey into life in all its fullness and through which we will become more fully ourselves.

A few real-life examples of (what appear to us) the effects of metanoia may help unpack this idea further:

  • A highly proficient CEO abandons the only success measures his business has ever known and reconstructs a resource-intensive multinational company to set it on a path toward neutral environmental impact. Read up on Ray Anderson.
  • A successful young star in the banking industry hops off the corporate ladder to pursue things more meaningful to her than designing and selling credit cards.
  • A world leader who ascended to the stratosphere of democracy leaves politics to become an advocate and chief spokesman in support of the controversial issue of climate change, a subject that had been of interest since college, and that had been a longtime focus of his personal and legislative agenda. Search for Al Gore.
  • A veteran employee goes out of her way to spend time after work mentoring a young new hire struggling to find her way within the team and company.
  • A Harvard educated doctor leaves the comforts of home, a stable job, and the community he grew up in to serve people and promote better medical care in impoverished areas around the world. Read about Dr. Paul Farmer.
  • An HR manager leads and stakes her reputation on a new sustainability initiative that goes well beyond just reducing raw materials usage. A change of heart and mind led the way.
  • An economist and aspiring businessman denies conventional wisdom and lends his own money to impoverished entrepreneurs in Bangladesh, soon revolutionizing banking and poverty reduction efforts worldwide. Look up Muhammed Yunus.

If you start looking for it, you’ll recognize that metanoia and its effects are everywhere. How has metanoia shaped you and your organization? How might it…?

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