Written by Valerie Daniel
No where are the benefits of relatefulness practices more tangible and impactful than in the workplace. Training with Relateful Co and engaging in our practices, is a cutting-edge and highly effective way for leaders and their teams to develop greater emotional intelligence, more honest and productive communication and higher developmental capacity (the ability to respond creatively and with agility to unexpected challenges).
Relatefulness can unlock unprecedented potential for your organization, shaping a corporate culture that is ready to face the future with resilience and innovation.
The theoretical research around the effectiveness (and dire need) of these practices in business comes from the fields of adult developmental psychology (Harvard’s Robert Kegan, Bill Torbert, Suzanne Cook-Greuter, Jane Loevinger, etc), interpersonal neurobiology (Daniel J. Seigel), mindfulness and emotional awareness (Brené Brown, Kristin Neff, Carol Dweck, Daniel Goleman, Angela Duckworth, Ellen Langer), the psychology of decision making and bias (Kahneman and Tversky) and to some extent systems theorists (MIT Sloan’s Peter Senge, Bertalanffy, Meadows).
The practical research on the effectiveness of these practices has come from applying them over the past decade, with thousands of people in hundreds of organizations, quite literally across the globe.
What the work looks like
The work we do with organizations is almost entirely bespoke; that said it often falls into a few categories:
- 1 to 3 day workshops
- 8 week series of weekly 2 hour online sessions
- Full scale evolutionary culture implementation—3-4 training days spread across six-nine months, personal coaching for a dozen team members, and biweekly team coaching.
We also provide:
- Executive / Leadership Team Coaching
- Level Up ⬆️ Executive
Example of a recent one day retreat
Following is a rough outline of a recent one day retreat—what practices we did, what we were building in the process, as well as some background references on why relational presence practices are so powerful and important in leadership development.
Schedule: 10a - 6p, with a 1hr break for lunch @ 1p.
Price: $2500 for one facilitator. We can add more for a higher faculty:learner ratio if your budget is higher.
Program: While we warmed up with and wove in some skill-building exercises in pairs, the core was two practices: “Focus” and “Flow”. In all of the practices, we preference speaking to (and listening to) what we’re experiencing in the present moment. We seek to speak truthfully and with compassion which means we don’t forget that others are impacted by what we say and that we care that they are impacted.
In a Focus session, we’ll spend ~30 min, as a group, focusing our attention on one team member, speaking from our present moment awareness of the person instead of historical references we might have about that person. We often say that this person will become “the object of our meditation”. We seek to know what it’s like to be them, to see the world through their eyes, and also to inquire in ourselves and share what it’s like to be with them. We will do a Focus session with each team member, sprinkling the sessions throughout the day. (*) While we highly encourage everyone to participate, if someone is uncomfortable, they may opt out of being the object of the group’s focus. It is a powerful—and often transformative—experience to have everyone’s attention and awareness focused on you, without needing anything from you other than for you to be you.
This Focus practice is a powerful way of building self-awareness (a combination of how we see ourselves, experience ourselves and how others see and experience us). This is also a compelling way to strengthen your forum’s effectiveness. It is a strikingly different way of being with each other, even for members who’ve known each other for several years.
Some other standard benefits of the Focus Session practice:
- Improving giving and receiving feedback in a way that actually can be heard and integrated, even when it’s extremely confronting
- Maintaining leadership focus and buy-in during emotionally intense and chaotic group scenarios
- Seeing blindspots
- An increased understanding of people’s unique strengths and limitations, and how these impact teamwork
There’s also a counterintuitive principle of growth that you really have to experience for it to make any sense, but quickly becomes apparent in Focus sessions: the more we’re able to accept and be with things as they are, the more quickly they evolve and improve. You can’t change what you don’t own.
In Flow sessions, the team will sit in a roughly circular shape where we can all see each other. We’ll probably do 2-3 Flow sessions during the day. Length is variable, depending on the significance of what we’re in, schedule, etc. I’ll start the session with some words of context that arise in the moment, inviting us, as a group, into the moment-to-moment experience of being with what’s here, individually and collectively. It is much like the Focus session, based in awareness, noticing what’s happening, what you’re curious about in yourself and/or others… speaking to what’s here. The difference is that the attention moves around according to where the group’s attention is drawn. Here, each member takes responsibility for leading themselves; being in contact with the group; and listening for and noticing what’s alive for the group… some sense of the “we” of the team.
Flow sessions are a perfect place to lean into your edge. This practice will challenge assumptions that most other containers won’t touch. As a result, you’ll see how you can navigate VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) with greater equanimity and effectiveness. They often lead to Flow states (hence the name), and train rare leadership capacities such as:
- Allowing emergence, not control, that stays aligned with broad values.
- Adapting and creating conditions for creativity and self-management.
- Foster disequilibrium to allow for innovation.
- Integrate polarities, listen amidst action, promote harmonious societal development.
- Reframe, hold a mirror up to transformation.
- Being comfortable with uncertainty
- Profound acceptance that allows for powerful engagement.
Flow sessions challenge our assumptions about how we should interact by removing the strong structure of rules typically found in groups. This allows for a greater attunement to the present configuration of people, feelings, beliefs, and awareness. However, participants must be willing to face intensity, chaos and willingness to inquire into both internal and external pressures to behave a certain way. For our purposes, I can adjust the level of intensity when participants speak up about their experiencing overwhelm or flooding, and zoom in on that moment as a key place of learning and development.
More on the Research
I want to be straightforward: relatefulness is a relatively new concept in leadership training, and there is not yet a large body of research on it specifically. However, as I mentioned the principles and techniques used in relatefulness training are backed by research in related fields, such as interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence, and positive psychology. In addition to the wealth of first-hand testimony over the past eleven years of leading this ecology of practices, we draw a lot of inspiration on the research into “adult development,” sometimes referred to as which emphasizes the importance of evolving not just what we learn (“horizontal development”), but how we make sense of learning at all, and therefore how we learn (“vertical development”).
This research on vertical development has shown that leaders with higher developmental capacity or action logic tend to perform better in complex and uncertain environments , have more power and influence in the workplace, and are more successful in transforming their organizations and the world. Relatefulness practices can help to develop this capacity by training leaders to respond creatively and with agility to unexpected challenges.
What sets being relateful apart is (1) its emphasis on relating, and (2) its focus on transforming the way we transform ourselves. By consistently taking in-the-moment, subjective and intersubjective experiences and placing them in conversations as objects, we gain psychological space, new choices, build critical self-reflective capacity, and increase interpersonal and emotional intelligence. Traditional leadership training programs may teach skills that could be outdated in a few years, but Relatefulness aims to evolve the sense of self to do, be, and think from higher levels of complexity, so you’re always adapting.
 “With vertical [adult] development, leaders perform better across a host of mission-critical domains: • Think strategically • Think systemically • Think contextually • Decision-making • Lead transformational change • Inspire vision • Build relationships • Collaborate • Create innovative solutions • Tolerate ambiguity • Resolve conflicts • Develop themselves and others • Facilitate learning • Reframe challenges • Seek out feedback” From Barrett Brown’s The Future Of Leadership For Conscious Capitalism, Benay, Phyllis. (1997); Bushe, G. R., & Gibbs, B. W. (1990); Eigel, K. M. (1998); Eigel, K. M., & Kuhnert, K. W. (2005); Kegan, R., & Lahey, L. (2010); Lewis, P., Forsythe, G. B., Sweeney, P., Bartone, P., Bullis, C., & Snook, S. (2005).
 “80 percent of upper level management have higher levels of mental development. And, 80 percent of junior managers have junior levels of mental development.“ From The 80/80 Principle by Robert McNamara: http://www.robmcnamara.com/XResources/Satellite.T.pdf
 Seven Transformations of Leadership by David Rooke and William R. Torbert, Harvard Business Review 2005. http://hbr.org/2005/04/seven-transformations-of-leadership/ar/1
 Some of the most progressive companies in the world are doing this, and are becoming incredibly successful because of it. See An Everyone Culture and Making Business Personal by Robert Kegan, Lisa Lahey, Andy Fleming, and Matthew Miller, Harvard Business Review, April 2014. http://hbr.org/2014/04/making-business-personal/ar/1 and Laloux, Frederic, Reinventing Organizations. Nelson Parker; 1 edition (February 20, 2014).
What could your organization be with a more conscious team?
"These experiences cause my universe to expand and be richer. I know more of myself when I see another who sees me and offers me a mirror to see myself."
"Being relateful is being with what's present in me, what's present in you, and what is here between us right now. It's a presence practice and an invitation to be with everything that arises, including any resistance to just that."
"Level Up literally changed my life."
“What blew me away the most about it is how… it inevitably goes into every part of my life.”
"I’ve really matured as a person and have met tons of highly conscious-minded people!"
"I can’t remember a time in my life where I’ve been in such a challenging learning environment while being supported and cheered on along the way."
"...A paradigm that has shifted my entire life and the way I communicate and move through the world. It is a practice that I wish everyone would have."
"Being relateful is one of the most valuable and impactful emotional practices I've encountered. When I started in 2015, it seemed to be a possible solution to many of my social bottlenecks as a person with Asperger's Syndrome. Within a couple of months, I had a couple dozen skills and abilities that I did not have prior."
"Dying and birthing at a very high frequency. Embodied awakening in the context of a collective."
"This to me is a profound tool for introspection and personal development… and also a precious and beautiful practice in being awake to every moment.... and surrendering… and aliveness.... and more!"
"It’s a playground for embodied learning. A place to walk towards my deepest fears in good company, to take ownership for my shadows, and come into healthy relationship with everything, within and without. It’s a wondrous adventure, bringing me into deep humility and awe on a regular basis. It’s life condensed. It’s what i've been longing for, for a long time, and what I want to share with as many people as I can."
"I practice being more fully myself. I see myself more fully. I let what's arising in me be more fully okay, be it, allow it, share it… what's happening in me, what responses and reactions I'm having. I see and seek what I'm wanting, needing, yearning for. I see how my experience of the world shifts when I orient on my connection with specific people, with the whole group, when I orient on myself and my experience."
"I LOVE getting to immerse with people from all over the world. And them still in their all over the world-ness."
"A way of being my truest self, a way of deeply connecting to people, to life, to love. This teaches me and reminds me of my surrender to what is."
"At the simplest level, it is a meditation practice where the focus of my attention is on my experience of me, my expression of me, my experience of us, my expression of us, and my experience of you."
"A relational meditation where we get closer to who we really are in compassionate connection with self and others. It is a space where I am becoming kinder while learning to flex relational norms (i.e. becoming less "nice"). It is a process where the life that wants to be lived in each of us can find room to breathe and unfurl."
"A life practice, to become more present, more here, to develop my capacity to love and live fully, to share and co-create reality, make the unconscious conscious, find my essence and connect to the essence in others, and to embrace and appreciate the humanness in us all. And that is to me a practice of healing."