I was first drawn to Holacracy through a sense of frustration at repeated cycles of coming together with like-minded people who shared aspirations to transform culture in meaningful ways. Gradually, yet inexorably, I found myself becoming annoyed, paralyzed, or ultimately defeated by the limits of our collective capacity to manifest even a fraction of the noble aims that had initially magnetized our collaboration. Regardless of what was accomplished, it became increasingly painful to keep participating due to my dismay, disappointment, and disbelief at how interpersonal politics and painful meetings throttled the flow of effective action, and drained both my own human capital and that of my friends.
Again and again, I was stunned at the gap between personal development and organizational capacity. These failed experiments appeared in many different contexts of my life, and were extremely confusing, because each iteration involved people who already got along well as friends, shared similar worldviews and goals, and had the best of intentions. Not only did I personally live through many such upheavals, but as the wife of a well-known spiritual teacher who works with other well-known spiritual teachers, I also witnessed similar cycles play out in their lives—and I considered most of them much better equipped than I to weather these storms. Yet even they, the “most highly developed”, got swept away and even drowned at times in the familiar struggles over power, authority, and productivity.
I gradually developed a layer of cynicism to protect myself from the hurt, anger, and sadness I carried from these flawed attempts to organize in service of a higher purpose. How could so many wonderful people, with so much talent and so many skills, fail to break through this morass of politics and personality? I concluded that this phenomenon was just another manifestation of our flawed humanity, and of the disjunct between what we can envision and what we can manifest. I determined that my expectations were too high, and decided I needed to cultivate more patience, humility, and refine my interpersonal skills. I worried about having a bad case of “Boomeritis”—wanting everything to come immediately and easily without putting in the necessary effort over time. Though much of this may still be true about me, it still doesn’t take away the profoundly liberating alternative I’ve discovered through practicing Holacracy, and especially through becoming a partner of HolacracyOne.
Joining HolacracyOne has been utterly catalytic on all levels of my being. Playing politics is not necessary or useful in this system. Instead, I am expected to notice and process tensions I encounter—not to pretend they don’t exist or sweep them under the rug. There is no pressure for me to be like other people. I’m very different, and that’s valued. I don’t have to develop, but it’s happening. I don’t have to be perfect, but I’m improving. I’m clear how authority is held in the roles I fill, and where I need to interface with other roles and incorporate their input—and when I’m not, I bring that tension to Governance. Things get done around here, without drama, and with clarity and regenerative creativity.The esprit de corps is very positive and sustaining—not because we’re uniquely optimistic, but because the system in which we operate is healthy and liberates our energies to flow and function. I feel I’ve entered a healthy family structure—again, not because the “family members” (my other H1 partners) are particularly psychologically intact; like me, they are very human—but because our practice of Holacracy sources our interactions to arise in a clear space, free of baggage and politics.
In the neuroscience of human development, there’s a lot of interest these days in secure attachment. It’s something that children develop when they are raised in a family where they can express themselves, be heard, have appropriate limits set as they develop, and respect the space and limits of others. At HolacracyOne, I’m becoming securely organizationally attached. It’s a profoundly healing psychological as well as organizational experience. I feel more real, grounded, and incarnate. I feel inspired to focus and accomplish more than I ever have. I feel empowered to make decisions, and invited to get support around doing so. I feel totally lit up by the aim I am serving. I am in love, literally in love, with HolacracyOne as an entity, which I see growing day by day and responding admirably to the challenges it faces. I’m impassioned by the meeting processes, overwhelmed by the work, and blown away by the brilliance, compassion, clarity, humor, and equanimity that my H1 partners embody. I am exhausted and energized. It is a supreme paradox in which I am grateful to sit. I feel blessed beyond words.
And that’s still just the tip of the iceberg.
This blog post was originally published on August 20, 2012, at http://holacracy.org/blog/living-holacracy-the-tip-of-the-iceberg