PMA Consulting, LLC

Leadership Organizations Exemplify Collaboration

I attended a powerful community-building session on March 31 called “Creating Collaborative Communities” featuring Peter Block, the author of several books focused on consulting and the private sector.  More recently, his book Community: The Structure of Belonging received positive reviews for its practical methods to restore our communities by “reweaving” the social fabric and creating a future in which we would all like to be a part.

Block made many great observations about the nonprofit community during the day, and commented on the irony and challenge the sector has because it is defined by what it is not.  “It is called the Not for Profit Sector,” he noted.   “What other sectors do you know that are defined by what they are not?!?!  We should define ourselves as the Public Benefit Sector.”

The session allowed Block to demonstrate some of the key conversations that he believes must occur in any organization to allow truly transformative leadership to occur.  Rather than focus on numeric results which seldom tell the whole story, Block defines organizational leadership as “the ability to create an alternative future distinct from the past” and he believes true leaders achieve this alternative future one conversation – or meeting – at a time.  Within your organization, he suggests creating more opportunities for small groups to meet within the larger group settings, even if it is just for a portion of the meeting.  When these small group opportunities occur, he suggests three rules of thumb which encourage more active participation:

1. Individuals should seek a small group with people they know they the least
2. It is important to let people choose their own small group
3. Don’t sit behind tables – sit in small circles with knees 9 inches apart

The workshop allowed for this kind of small group dynamic, and it was quickly apparent what Block wanted to accomplish.  You could not “hide” in this kind of discussion, and full participation and diversity of opinion was much more evident than in a typical staff meeting-type discussion. 

Perhaps the best example of the session’s collaborative spirit was the fact that four prominent leadership organizations, who are in some ways competitors, recognized that building community is something everyone needs to embrace.  Kudos to the Wildacres Leadership InitiativeAmerican Leadership Forum, Leadership Charlotte and the Leadership Development Initiative for walking the talk of collaboration.