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Rules, Tension, and Harmony

By Eliza Shah

Ask anyone who is a gamer.  The rules make the game.  There is no game without the rules.  It is within the rules that all the fun of the game happens.  For some, it is bending the rules that is the most fun of all.  In large organizations, even in smaller ones, rules and protocols uphold the collective effort and make a weight bearing structure that can progress toward goals.  Rules can become obsolete though, and then they can become more of a holdup to progress.  Curtis Scott of Lyft urges the regular close examination of protocols and agreements. Some propel the collective effort but many increase friction and rigidity in organisations.  

As a Lifter,  sooner or later you will think,  “There must be a better way!”  This is a natural outcome of a sensitivity to tensions and a tuned awareness of the tensions created by opposition and conflict of interests.  This is why Lifters are great innovators.  Their imagination is alive and awake at a whole new level.   When we think of reasons why we become disengaged in our work in companies,  even as citizens, it is often due to the rigid and constrictive nature of rules that cannot or have not been examined and formally revised to fit the reality of practice in the field or on the front line.  If we simply start to disregard rules, apathy follows quickly.  The rules make the game.    

Rules that are not working well are an entrypoint to enhancing engagement.  Lifters are driven to lift.  Lifters seek to influence the well being of those around them and their enterprise.  Management that is rigidly bound to protocols imposed from the top down risks losing worker engagement and creativity.  If Lifters are empowered to engage with protocols, test them in practice (and in theory), revise and make the necessary tunings and repairs, we uplevel our engagement and commitment to accomplish shared goals.  We Lift our company, our coworkers and our shared purpose.  Rules, when tuned and taut can be a mechanism for Lifting.  The practice of repairing rules, protocols and procedures formally is a key Lifter action.    

In the practice of Activating Diversity, the tension of two ideas that seem to be exclusive and opposite can, with respect, be used to Lift our understanding, to pop us up into a whole new level of coordinated action.  Here, in the practice of Rules, Roles, Rigidity and Resilience we learn that the same tuning that we practiced in Listen Up! and the intersectionality and diversity that we learned to activate in Show Up! come together to create a powerful catapult-like mechanism that can propel our organizations fast and far in the positive direction of our Purpose.

There is an age old relationship between friction and harmony.  The word harmony originated in the craft of woodworking.   Shipbuilders mastered certain laws of tension in order to utilize opposing forces as a means of joining wooden elements of the ships.  In this sense, Harmony is about more than pretty sounds.  Harmony includes and reconciles opposition, friction, spaciousness and upliftment.   Through their treatment of Rules, Agreements, Procedures and Protocols, Lifters spark persistent harmonic cooperation, on purpose.     


              Rules make the difference

Spreading                                       Friction

Making and revising rules so that they work well can become a lifelong endeavor.  It can take a season or years.  Each accomplishment reveals new levels of actions that can be taken to move determinedly in the direction of purpose.   

In the Act up! mindshift, awareness that we cultivate in Serve up!, attunement that we refine in Listen Up! And the creativity from Show up!, work together to completely upend defiance.  There are times when rules get bent, even broken.  The Act up! Mindshift causes Lifters to engage with these defiant moments to transcend shame and blame and become fruitful, conscientious objectors.  The natural response in a Lifter to the impulse towards defiance is to engage, take responsibility and act to uplift towards purpose.  Lifter leadership requires that the tension of defiant moments is not broken, denied or repressed.   The intact tension when acknowledged becomes an integral part of the propulsion mechanism that uplifts.

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