Five of us from three countries were gathered around the breakfast table. It was the last day of the Transformational Presence Leadership in Action course (TPLA) in the Netherlands, and we were the early risers. Sharing some of our recent learnings, one participant told about being let go from the leadership position she had held within her company.
“There were three of us – three women – who were let go. It was actually completely fine for me, because I was very ready for something new – for a new path in my professional life. Yet I was curious about why the three of us in particular were chosen.”
Reflecting on the qualities of each of the three women and what they had in common, she recognized that, together, they had been a strong creative and innovative force in their division of the company. The new leadership team at the top of the company had a different vision than the previous leaders, and the three women were not in alignment with the new vision.
She continued, “We were also the ‘troublemakers!’ We were the creative rebels. Yet we were also the caretakers of the spirit and culture within our division. We cared a lot about our people, and we stood up for them. As it turns out, we now realize that we were actually the ‘glue’ that was holding the whole division together. Within a few months after we were gone, the whole division collapsed.”
The “glue.” What a simple, clear, and critically important concept. “Glue” is what holds things together. With an object, it’s literally the sticky substance that binds one piece to another. In our lives, on the other hand, the “glue” is the stuff that binds together our families, our friendships, and our intimate relationships. It’s the energetic connection that holds people together in companies, organizations, societies, and countries. The question is: What is it?
The “glue” that initially brings people together might be a belief in what they are doing together. Or it might be a set of values, or a shared experience. Or maybe it’s a strong attraction or admiration that they can’t explain. It’s just there.
However, as time goes on, the project, mission, values, or attraction alone will not be enough. The glue that comes out of a tube and holds an object together eventually dries out and needs to be renewed. And so it is in our relationships, in our families, in our communities, and in our companies. When we don’t pay attention to the “glue” – when we don’t take care of what holds us together – over time, it will begin to dry out and crack. And things will start to break apart.
I often define Transformational Presence with the metaphor of “tending the garden.” It’s about taking care of the culture or environment within which we live and work.
More recently, I’ve described it as “taking care of the Ma.” Ma is a Japanese concept referring to the energetic space within a situation, a project, a relationship, a group or a room. It’s about the quality of the energy that is in the space between people, between people and a situation, between one situation and another, between one group and another group, between us and the environment, or between cultures. Ma refers to the quality of energy of any space, physical or non-physical. And that includes the quality of energy within ourselves.
What is the “glue” that holds your life together? What is the “glue” within your company, your team, your organization, or your community? And where is the “glue” asking for attention?
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