© Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
16. December 2021

2021 – What stays with me?

Dear Eva, one year ago you celebrated the 11th anniversary of Human Facts and we sat down for 11 questions. It is such a pleasure that twelve months later I have the chance to interview you again and, continuing our series, ask you 11 + 1 questions. This year I would love to focus on what stayed with you from 2021? What were your challenges, what were your lessons? And above all, what hopes do you have for 2022 – a year that you often describe as a year of 2-getherness. Let’s dive straight into this interview with the first question.

1. Overall, looking back at 2021, what will stay with you?

I will remember 2021 certainly as a year of intense emotions - meaning literally “in-tension”. As much as the challenges of the continued pandemic hit us in very different ways, it provoked different emotional reactions: Some started to fight against what they were concerned about losing, some were excited for the new avenues of opportunities, others felt helpless and found themselves in sorrow, frustration, or even in burn-out or depression.

It reflects the wide and polarizing spectrum of how we as humans react in situations we perceive as fearful or at least unfamiliar. And I guess we all found ourselves – including myself – not only in one of these states, but somehow on a constant roller-coaster of different emotional ambivalent, at some stage even conflicting, sensations. That’s why I certainly will remember this year as a year that had been very intense on an energetic level.

2. What was the biggest challenge in 2021?

Finding a way to stay energetically in inner balance and stability, despite a continued vulnerable and ambiguous societal surrounding. This was a struggle not only for politicians or managers, but as well for us as individuals, with our family and friends, in our community, company, or organization. At Human Facts, it meant for us first and foremost, to help our clients respect, bridge and unify this polarity of emotional energies in their organizations: the known and unknown, doubting and hoping, passion and exhaustion, seeking and letting go, optimism and pessimism, visions and realities, joy and despair, motivation and frustration.

3. What has 2021 taught you?

In shifting times a sense of togetherness matters most. I learned in 2021 how much a sense of belonging matters in such transformative times where clear direction and orientation is missing - for teams, companies and organizations, but as well for us as individuals. A feeling of belonging and inclusiveness allows us to stay resilient and energizes us to keep open to change and find confidence in new ways to respond to it.

But the most important lesson from 2021 was: We cannot take a trusting sense of togetherness for granted. Not in our society, in teams, and even not among longstanding partnerships. In times of trouble and under uncertainty and fear, the first thing that gets disrupted is trust. Trust in ourselves, others, management, society and particularly in the future. To retain, maintain and engage in activities of mutual trust is critical - it’s not done with simply communicating about trust, it's about embodying it.

Particularly this year showed me that trust is not a status, that once established we are done with it forever. Trust is rather a fragile reciprocal energy among and between people that needs conscious and continuous care and attention. Trust is like a physical muscle, it provides us only with growing energy when we put it in motion and allow times for consciously nourishing and recharging it. And it’s exactly this trust muscle that makes an organization resilient, which means that it can absorb external shocks better and find ways to quickly adapt.

4. What was the most helpful question you came across in 2021?

“If a challenge happened for a higher purpose, what would that purpose be?” Or in other words:

What is the gift you take away from having faced this challenge this year?

5. What were the most inspiring insights you took away from 2021?

Many! And that’s certainly one inspiring insight in itself: How much I still can learn – even at age 50… :) I am happy to outline the 3 that are still present in my mind right now:

1. The book “Humankind” by Rutger Bregman, which I discussed together with your wonderful colleague Kelsi in a blogpost this year. Bregman lays out historic evidence, that - despite the public tendency to picture our species as evil - most people are, most of the time, good and have good intentions. Kindness is in our nature and a particular strength of our species. So, it’s not idealistic to believe in our goodness, it’s reasonable. This message fueled me enormously with hope and confidence in the infinite possibilities of collective intelligence of shared humanity, particularly in times of crisis.

2. What you focus on grows stronger. If we focus on problems or fear that’s what will grow and eat up our attention. Alternatively, we can focus on solutions and a room of possibilities will open up and grow. And we are always in a moment of making this choice. I personally realized how much less exhausting and time consuming it is to choose the solution focus.

3. Practicing gratefulness for the small and invisible things in life. I guess one of the positive things that the pandemic gifted us with is to evoke gratefulness for all things we all too often took for granted. Particularly the small and invisible things in life, such as health, friendship, trust, our infrastructure, as much as little things, like a touch, a hug, a smile, laughter… I realized how elevated I started to feel when consciously noticing what I am grateful for.

6. What was the greatest highlight of 2021? What were the moments that inspired you most?

Creating touchless togetherness. It was our greatest highlight to realize that it was possible to create with our clients a sense of trusting togetherness in their organizations - even in “touchless” virtual settings. No matter if it was 30, 40, 70 or 100 people. It was amazing to experience how the feelings and energy of human bonds and connectivity radiate independent of time and space. Whether or not we can create a sense of belonging among a collective of people, has nothing to do with whether we meet physically or virtually.

It has to do with our conscious ability and sensitivity to listen to each other, to be open to seeing things from a different perspective and gifting others with our full attention. Neither does a physical meeting guarantee, nor does a virtual meeting limit this from happening. It might involve, however, stretching and developing our sensitivity for the invisible bonds a little further. And that might stretch some people out of their comfort zone and explain why they might prefer physical meetings (and sometimes even use this limiting belief as an excuse).

Clearly, there is nothing more inspiring than a physical gathering. But I have recognized that our technology offers as well some important advantages: the possibility to hear the rather quiet voices as well as to use the unique possibility to support our trust muscle even more frequently and with lower CO2-impact than flying around the globe.

7. What has shaken you most in 2021?

How acting from a space of fear can shut our most unique human gifts down: presence, openness and compassion.

From a place of fear, we end up building walls of protection around us that divide us. From a space of hope for a common desirable future, we are able to unify and bridge our different perspectives.

That’s why I think there is an urgency right now to bring Nelson’s Mandela’s words alive in 2022: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” It’s not about neglecting difficulties and concerns. Fears are an important alerting system. It’s about escorting them to the backseat, and not letting them in the front seat driving the car.
That’s why I am grateful for everybody – and particularly every responsible, visible political authority and journalist - who role models staying in a zone of possibility and hope and constructive dialogue, instead of instead of dividing us.

8. What are you most grateful for in 2021?

The trust I was able to receive and to share. For me, true partnership brings the best out of you, even - and particularly if - you are at your worst. That means even when you feel energetically short, not heard, maybe even destructive or passive-aggressive, a high-quality partnership helps you to uplift yourself to embody your “best-partner-me”, which shows itself through full presence, openness, compassion, offering yourself to something bigger than your own interests. In this sense, I am very grateful for all my wonderful friends, colleagues, partnering clients and business partners - such as you, Lena - who kept spreading and trusting graciously best-partnering-energy, allowing us to swing always back to the energies of care, compassion and creativity, particularly when we felt exhausted, impatient or imbalanced.

9. What was born that wants to grow in 2022?

Tapping new collaborative and partnering possibilities. I observed that we mainly think and practice only equity-based partnerships in business. What possibilities would open up if we were able to partner in other formats, too? Without “buying” and owning a team, a company, an equity? Imagine, what becomes possible if we were masters in bridge-building, multi-disciplined innovation, public-private partnering and self-organized governances?

I think the next big thing in management and leadership is partnering leadership, lateral, shared, collaborative – however you would like to name it. How to live it, how to structure it, how to govern it. It’s obvious that the big challenges of our times will only be solved if we manage to partner in collectives easier, faster, and in more trusting ways. Trust and high-quality connectivity you can’t buy or command, you can only inspire. That’s our weak point at the moment. And after decades of being infused by competitive management ideas, it’s pretty clear that our know-how of handling competitiveness is much larger than how to handle partnerships.

We are at the beginning of a partnering management paradigm. That’s why we at Human Facts feel a call to bring more open programs about partnering leadership to everybody who wants to tap its magic and possibilities. I keep my fingers crossed that we can start to launch these programs in 2022!

10.  What are your hopes and wishes for 2022?

My biggest wish is that we find the courage to choose more often to act more from a space of hope than of fear, as Nelson Mandela once said. Because our fears divide us. Our hopes unify us. In our hope for a common and better future we can find a shared space to meet beyond right or wrong. It’s the space where we can unlock the unlimited power of collective human transformational strengths that let walls fall or turn them into bridges. And this is what I believe this world needs most now: Bridging energies between geographical separations, different know-how, ideas, perspectives, traditional and new ways, generations, cultures, history, values, etc. Where we can build bridges, we are able to reconnect both our minds and hearts.

Bridging our minds will result in the rise of innovative co-creative new solutions that literally create gateways over obstacles. When bridging our hearts we energetically feel safe, understood, motivated, trusting and a sense belonging. This will result in a raise of our humanity.

Only if we are able to bridge both our mind and hearts, we can uplift a feeling of human unity that let us grow beyond our individual limits and interests towards a higher purpose to make this world a better place.

So, I wish that we build as many bridges wherever we can in 2022! Revitalizing the unique human power of uplifting “2”getherness.

11.  What can you recommend: how can we best build bridges?

Well, this answer is not an easy one as this door has a rather complex lock to open. But my short answer would be: Stay in frequent dialogue, not only in one-to-ones but particularly as well in collectives. And for this purpose today’s technology – if used with a human-centered approach – is really a wonderful blessing! Dialogues, in contrast to debates, live from the ability to approach each other with an open mind and heart, curiosity and compassion for the perspective of others. Only on this ground we can fully use the intelligence of the collective and innovate co-creative solutions.

However, to engage in a dialogue needs an atmosphere of psychological safety. This is particularly not given in a fearful energetic field. In my experience, to bridge polarizing energies and build this ground of psychological safety, we need to embed the following parts:

1. Allow to give the feelings present a voice, in a respectful but orchestrated way. Not in the form of generalized judgements, such as “This is completely frustrating”, but rather as an observation of an ongoing energetic flow, e.g. “Parts of me feel frustrated right now.” By this conscious act of voicing, you release instead of suppress present feelings.

2. Ask for what are you currently most grateful? What win, gift or accomplishment do you find worth celebrating? Maybe as well a future wish? Or even a challenge? No matter if it’s a large thing, like winning a client, the recovery of a partner, or a small one, like a compliment or smile you received, or time you took to make a phone call to a friend. By that you find yourself back in the empowering energy of your resources, strengths and hope. This is where you start shifting your energy from a rather frustrating problem-centered debate towards an empowering solution-centered collective thinking, moving from victimhood to victorhood and suddenly seeing multiple possibilities, not limitations. This is the space where magic miracles can happen. This is the space of shared humanity.

And actually, you can bridge with these steps as well the polarizing energies in yourself. In times I feel disempowered, frustrated or exhausted, I engage in these two steps to beam myself into a different energy. If cultivated as a routine or practice it can become a source of resilience for yourself, your families, teams or organizations that creates a fruitful ground for energizing spaces of hope and humanity.

11 + 1.  And finally, what quote or question will accompany you into 2022?

The quote of Marianne Willamson: “I cannot live from a space of fear and expect great love. I cannot be narrow-minded and expect the world open-up to me. I cannot experience my full potential unless I am willing to take risks.”

This quote reminds me that every change we wish for in this world starts in our own mind and hearts. It inspires me to ask myself more frequently in 2022: “How can I embody most of the time being a hopeful and helpful steward of bridging energies - for myself, for others and among others?”

Dear Eva, another year – another interview. And we have already reached the end of it. Thank you for sharing with all of us such helpful lessons, for seeing the light in everything that happens and for inspiring us with hope and courage. Let’s conclude the interview with the same mantra as last year, as it is as valid and actual as ever: onwards together. Thank you Eva.

Magdalena Rungaldier
MAp Boutique Consultancy
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