This is a beautiful Principle from my favorite book, Reinventing Organizations* by Frederic Laloux. This Principle can be a powerful ways to set up psychological safety and invite diversity into a space. It complements Principles such as the Perimeter, the Time Out of Time, and Taking Time to Sharpen the Saw, all of which frame the event as a place to have extraordinary conversations.
Begin by drawing a face.
Share the following: “Not many of us show up to events like these as our whole selves. Here’s what I mean by that. If you think about your identity, there is the face you show to the outside world and the face you keep to yourself. We all do this. Let’s label these two halves your ego, which is the face you show to the world, and your deeper self, which is the face you keep to yourself.”
Write DEEPER SELF and EGO on two opposite sides of the face.
“Now, through life and experience, we’ve been trained to keep our deeper selves hidden from the world. To only show our ego.”
Use a large marker to black out the DEEPER SELF side of the face.
“The ego is what we show, and it’s only half of who we are. And we have different sides of our ego: a masculine and a feminine side.”
Write MASCULINE and FEMININE on the top and bottom of the EGO side of the face.
“Of these two, most of our society, and certainly most of our business environments, favor the masculine side.”
Black out the FEMININE half.
“And you can further divide the masculine side. There is the emotional part, which is driven by feelings. There is the intuitive part, driven by gut reaction and flashes of unconscious insight. There is the spiritual side, driven by core beliefs and deep-seated values. And there is the rational side, driven by data, proofs, and logic.”
“Of these four parts, which would you say the business world places the highest value on?”
Groups unanimously choose the Rational.
Black out the other three parts.
“So here’s what we’re left with. Human beings are complex, with many sides to their personality and identity. But they’re forced to show themselves through a peephole. Because life, experiences, corporate culture, or a belief about what’s ‘professional’ has taught them to hold back on who they really are. To hide their whole selves. To hold back on what they believe, and to only say what’s safe.
“If we truly value diversity and if we are truly inclusive of others, then we would encourage each other to show up as their whole selves. That means sharing unsafe opinions. Showing our emotion. Expressing our beliefs that are deeply rooted, especially the beliefs others disagree with. And welcoming and embracing all of the above from others. Not in a destructive or harmful way, but in a way that brings unique insight into the conversation.
“Now, there’s probably a lot of reasons you wouldn’t want to show up as your whole self. And most of the time, that’s true. But, since we’ve invested in this time and space to be here, I’d like to request that you show up as your whole self.”
Follow this Principle by inviting participants to share: “What other Principles would we need in order to make this a safe space to show up as your whole selves?” Capture those Principles.
*Reinventing Organizations looks at organizational culture through a lens of evolution, beginning with the caveman and progress through the structures of churches, military, corporations, associations, and finally exploring the holistic organization at length. It is a cookbook of practices that can guide groups to operate from a place of wholeness, self-management, and evolutionary purpose.
As facilitators, we can use these practices to move our clients towards inclusion and alignment. I highly recommend it to any facilitator.