Faster Alone, Further Together

Lesley: Well, one of the greatest gifts that I have had as the change activist for 30 plus years is that I’ve had the opportunity to work with amazing people. And at the very top of my list is our guest today Tim Merry. Tim is known as Tim Joe. Thousands of people that has worked across this globe in governments, in small sectors and private businesses, you name it, and you just have to say “Tim” and everybody knows who you’re talking about. He is probably the most charismatic facilitator of change I’ve ever encountered. And I have to say that I usually wait with bated breath at the end of a complex series of days of tough decision making in Bergs for Tim’s spoken word summary that wraps it all up. So, Tim Merry who heads up the gang called “Change ahead”, I’m not going to wax more on the brilliance of your career because you’re going to show us and the questions and answers that are going to come next. So Tim Merry, Is there a difference between how men and women lead?

Tim: You know, I walk my kids up to the bus stop today to drop them off to go to school, and I knew I was going to talk to you. So I was walking back and my son Eli is like piling down the hill a 100 miles an hour. When I was thinking about that question and the honest answer is like I don’t know, I don’t know. But I was trying to think about what I did know that didn’t want to like any interview within the first two minutes. So I was like, what do I know? What do I know, what do I feel like I know on this topic that could at least keep up the conversation between you and I, or be helpful to the conversation you and the station you’re inviting. And I think one of the things that I know is that I worked with a lot of women, like a majority of people who are stepping up to do this type work with me are women. And also the majority of people who are inviting the kind of work I do whether it’s within community, within organizations across whole systems are women, like I am pretty consistently seeing that some of the most courageous leaders right now are women within system. So I don’t know if that’s about whether they are different or not but that’s a real pattern for me. So if I look at something like the finance innovation in the United Kingdom, which is an effort to transform the UK finance system in face of its complete loss of public trust and um… You know, that was tied up by the worldwide life fund and the institute for chartered accounts…I was one of the top 50 radical change projects as listed by the guardian, right? That’s three young women who kicked it off.

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Lesley: So this is fascinating, let’s just go into the nature of the work, because I think that the nature of it is what’s calling women. So let’s just poke it, what is this work? How do you describe it?

Tim: Yeah. Essentially what we’re dealing with right now and regardless of sector… So right, I’ve just come off last weekend working in the forestry industry in Nova Scotia…newspaper industry doing work around the US education system, and everyone’s experiencing similar circumstance if you like. And so, there’s increase obviously… and everyone’s talking about there’s increasing uncertainty. So we’re dealing with information saturation, we’re dealing with an increasing rapid phase of change, and we’re dealing with levels of diversity that people have never had to deal with before. We’re dealing it with uncertainty and our financial markets and our financial world, we’re dealing with uncertainty with our uh…are you still there?

Lesley: Yeah I’m still here.

Tim: Yeah. And we’re dealing with social unrest. I mean the kind of like social unrest we’re experiencing right now is enormous as well, and whether that the movement of people, whether that the England being on fire. You, it wasn’t that long ago that cities across England were burning, whether we’re looking at what’s going on the United States. And so for me, the idea that within that kind of world or that kind of circumstance, one person or a small group of people can make decisions that benefit large numbers or even effective and strategic is completely ludicrous, right? So what we’re dealing is a fundamental stage in leadership style from one of our command or control and centralized leadership, who are types of leadership that demands with more participatory that is fundamentally more engagement based that is rooted in the belief that the quality of our relationships are going to impact the quality of results we’re going to tip together. And so that’s fundamental…

Lesley: So let’s just talk about those three young women that sparked, and I mean you’ve met hundreds of these types of women. What are the specific qualities that you see in them that allow them to become this change agents?

Tim: Yeah. Well I think there’s some couple of things, right? And so there’s something about…like they’re not afraid to see reality for what it is. This would be true, you know. When I’m doing some work within major government departments here in Nova Scotia, and the senior level leaders who are inviting me are women. They’re not afraid to actually see reality for what it is, right?

Lesley: What do you think is it about women that allow that to happen that could be able to face that reality for what it is?

Tim: Hmm I wonder.

Lesley: I wonder…one of the things that I have thought about is that as a mother I have to face some stuff about my children that I needed to sea head on, face on. And I think somehow in that way of living, in that role that we play there is no opportunity to make things up. You have to see it for what it is so you can be the kind of leader in the family or wherever it is that you are operating.

Tim: Yeah and I think that’s true, and I think that’s also true for men. You know, it’s definitely my experience of having kids is the…it brought me face to face of who I am, you know, the best and the worst of me and has forced me to go do my own work. Rather it’s like finding a coach or going into therapy to deal with my own childhood so I can create different conditions for my kids as I raise them, right? Well I think, you know, I know that’s true and certainly for some friends of mine as well, when I come on the phone these days with my mate, so I’ve known since I was eight. You know, a university we’re talking about how men deal with the pressure, right? …I can’t deal with my own stuff, there’s no way I’m creating the healthy conditions for my kids, you know? So I feel like that’s there for men too, but I do feel like we’ve got…in general, the societies I’ve lived in are more prejudiced against the success of women and they’ve been against the success of men. And so I think there’s something about living an environment that, you know, any social justice practitioner or I think I would say this living an environment which is inherently prejudiced against you, that forces you to see reality more freely. I think, you know, you have to develop…when you’re feeling constant prejudice against you; you have to develop an analysis that helps you understand it. And so I think that’s a piece of it.

Lesley: Brilliantly said. And so I think that’s hugely a piece of it. A think that definitely in my own experience, it was that fight of why is this happening. And I say that today, Tim, and it’s 2015 and I’ve been at this since 1971. So, this fight is really a very formidable element to my career, to the career that you’re experiencing. What is it about the women that are calling you in that gives them that energetic ability to see for what it is, but to be able to sustain action and to mobilize against what is already a wall that is sitting in front of them?

Tim: Yeah. …That part was fascinated for me about this whole thing is that like breaking the silence is completely insufficient, right? So, like, it’s important, it’s an essential condition for getting any kind of change done but it’s completely insufficient to actually get results. Like, we can all sit around and have fantastic conversation as we see a bigger picture and then reality and absolutely nothing can happen as a result, whether that’s in an industry looking at the clocks… I’ve been doing a lot working at a newspaper industry; everybody knows what’s going on. It doesn’t mean people are actually beginning to reorganize themselves differently to come out with some kind of response, you know. So I think there’s something about we just talked about that ability to see reality to have an analysis, right? And then there’s something else which is like… You know, I’m not sure there’s a really good explanation for this stuff, but there’s some kind of like inherent compulsion within some people to be like “That’s enough I’m done.” Like it’s almost…I don’t use this word often because I feel like it gets used a lot in a really flakey way, it feels like it’s a calling. There’s something where people see reality clearly, and there’s something within them that like cannot help but react. It’s like, you know… And I really trust that kind of in a clarity actually more than I trust someone having a really good theory or someone having a good idea. There’s just some kind of place where your willpower just takes over. And I consistently see in the women I’m working with and in the men that call me up. There just seems to be more women than men doing hit, having that level of clarity of will where they’re stepping up and moving into action. I think that’s a piece of it. I absolutely think it’s related to prejudice and oppression actually, I really do. I think I don’t come quite figure that out, and I think I’m trying to figure out in my own life that someone who grew up…and I grew up in a context of views and oppression, both I am familiar and also in my schooling. And that’s massively inform the type of work that I choose to do in the world. It’s given me an analysis and understanding, and I felt the experience that’s driven me to do the type of work I want to do in the world. Like I want to see a more fair, just, equitable society where power and wealth are distributed more fairly. It’s crystal clear, right? But that’s because of the experiences that I grew up with. Well I’m not a woman but I can only imagine that that must be part of the majority of women’s experience of growing up in the world. When you look at the number of figures around rape and abuse of women, you know, it doesn’t matter what country you’re looking at, I mean, the figures are scary. In England alone it’s something like one in three women are going to have an experience some level of traumatic abuse from a man. And so, I just can’t help feel that is going to that kind of those kind of experiences are going to give people a sense of will and a sense of strength to take action that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Lesley: So, you know, what I find really interesting about the women that are calling you is that there are also senior in the organization, and yet they’re willing to risk what they’ve achieved to crack open another level of change. What is it about them that’ll…I mean, this to me is a fascinating thing for many years. I watched women reach positions of power and then simply sustain behaviors of the men around them so that they could keep secure in their job. And yet we’re seeing these women coming forward, and say, “I’m going to use where I am to open up another type of conversation.”

Tim: So, I think there’s two things going on here for me. So, one is the kind of cadre and generation of young women who calling things in, who’ve actually been successful on a whole completely different set of principles than women who have the generation ahead of them. So then the situation where they’ve got into position through like playing the men’s game, you know, and they have to sustain that to keep their authority. They’ve actually been successful to playing a far more relational type of, you know, practicing a far more relational type of leadership because that’s the kind of world that we’re operating in. So they built their success on that, and so I think there’s something different there. If I look at the…and start to finance that in UK or all three of those women have been successful through their ability to lead in a fundamentally different way but get results that way.

Lesley: So how did they get started?

Tim: There’s other folks who are like more entrenched but they’ve got…I’m looking at senior leaders within government that’s more about the fact that “Oh my gosh we’re here.” And it’s just becoming really clear that the dominant pattern of leadership in my organizational system isn’t working, in fact it’s creating a crisis. And so, it’s more like circumstance forces your hand, right? I have to do something different here or I’m going to leave a legacy that I’m not proud of, and that seems to be also a driver.

Lesley: I think that legacy piece is hug, I mean, that’s what calls me in many different ways. But, you know, I’m interested in how these young women gets started, what gets them going? Is there other small initiative that they start with? Do they jump into the pool in the deep end? I mean, for young women listening right now, how can she get started in reaching this calling and moving into these networks and relationships?

Tim: And so, I think about like there’s a few brilliant young women entrepreneurs, I’ve had a chance to work with here in Nova Scotia. I think about some of like Margarita, who started graphic facilitation graphic recording company– Greatspace.ca. Everybody should go check it out, she’s amazing. And she works all over the North American and Europe sometimes now as well, and she kicks off three years ago. I never forget like sitting on mom and dad’s farmers to stand the road for me. I remember get sitting on the hillside with a…we just sat down and she was speaking about like how completely terrifying it was to go start this company and not know where to get She’s got a two young kids. And I was like, “I’ve just got a job. Do you want to come and help me on that job?” And then she came to help me on that job. And so, there was something about like where I was at in my career, it was just slightly few steps ahead. So I was able to give her a platform with it to build a confidence and now I struggle to perform… There’s time available and the calendars are coming work with me, you know. And so, there’s something about like I think there is something about…like obviously there’s enormous courage with anyone starting a business. And I think there’s also something about looking around for, you know, “Where is the platform which I can launch them? Who are the people who are willing to give me some level of platform that I can experiment in, I can develop my capacity?” I can almost like cultivate my business, and my brand and my strength within a container but then I can shed. And I think it what’s remarkable for me is how quickly the women I see entrepreneur and shed the container like it doesn’t actually create much. I think you need something and I know I needed it, as a man I needed that. Like, I had, you know, three or four mentors really early in my career, who literally just like took me of places. And then I got to do amazing work where I began to…I didn’t learn how to do it them but they’re creating the conditions for me to find my own work, and I think that’s an important phase.

Lesley: So, looking around in the nature of your relationships, you can start to see who’s out there that has that platform. But if you don’t see anybody in that network that you’ve created, how do you go find them? How do you go find those people that will take you in and create that type of container to launch your new idea?

Tim: Yeah. Again, you know, two things again… So, one is that if you can’t find them, you have to find yourself, right? And so, like, what’s your personal practice? What do you do to find your own center and find your own clarity in your life? If you don’t have something, get something, you know. And so for me, it’s like I run because like physically that’s important to me, like I need to get more body. I’ve got a meditation practice which I do; I like to do it every day. I don’t get to do it every day but it is regular, you know. And it just brings me into a different level of ease and comfort with who I am. It’s not about self-improvement, it’s about self-knowledge, you know. I just need to know who I am so I can live with myself. And then I talked to my wife like I’ve got someone who like I really trust and I really love, who I can be in conversation with a lot about all kinds of things. And like, those are the three kind of pillars in life that keep me saying in a lot of ways. And so, I think it’s like “If you can’t find somebody, you have to do things to find yourselves.” So what are you practicing? What are you doing every day that brings you home for who you are? Because for me that’s the source of any kind of success, just a source of any kind of success. And then other than that, I’d say, “Trust their serendipity and be awake.” Those people are passing through your life all the time, you know, and they’re often in most surprising places. So like, trust their serendipity, stay alert. You don’t have to go find them; life is giving them to you, so just make sure you notice.

Lesley: So, one of the things that I really want to reinforce. You said three pillars, in your case it was like physical exercise, meditation and a great relationship with your wife – a good friend. But, you know, the work that you’re doing on yourself leads me to one of the beliefs that I have which is that we’re magnets. And when our energies are clear, and they’re clean and they’re open, we bring those opportunities to us in ways that we could never possibly imagine. Our head can imagine it, our telephone directory can’t imagine it, it’s there in your field of magnetic force. And what you’re saying is, is that when you work on yourself this field opens. And as it opens there are so many things write in front of us that we don’t see until we awake.

Tim: Yeah absolutely. And there’s no question for me that a feeling of inclarity, which is not about having intellectual or conceptual certainty, right? I feel like those things get confused a lot. People think like being clear in your head, like the feeling of inclarity which actually enabled me to be in uncertainty in the world like the feeling of inclarity is something that is magnetic, right? It has a gravitational pull towards people that I want and work that I want. And every time I do that work, could you do it in a daily way? But I think there’s also a rhythm of doing it in a more dramatic way of like, where am I at? Who do I wanted to come? How do I want to be in this world? What’s the work that really matters to me? By doing that kind of clarity of self-reflection, I’ve consistently seen that change my work environment around me and change who the people I’m working with and not through strategic design. …it strategically designed my life, it’s just I’m really badly, you know. There’s a far better design are involved. I’m not Christian, I’m not talking about God though for some people that maybe that, but there’s definitely some stuff going on that’s completely beyond my understanding, right? And I have some inherent trust in that. I have some inherent trust that if I keep going back to my own clarity then I’m going to be on the right ark, if you like.

Lesley: Well, you’ve really opened sort of a conversation out and I’ve loved it, because it helped me understand how these new breed of women are arriving on the scene. And it goes back to the Margaret Mead quote, “It only takes a small group of people to change the world.” And what you’re saying is you’re seeing it in practice. You’re actually…it’s no longer a theory, it’s an actual even that’s producing actual results.

Tim: Yeah. And I know…I feel like this is such a cliché to say, but I feel like the women I’m working with have a greater tendency towards a relational type of leadership, you know. And that’s the type of leadership that’s needed in the world right now. We need to find ways to turn to each other and work together, because there’s no way one perspective can find solutions. We need to get multiple completing perspectives together so we can see a bigger picture we couldn’t see otherwise and make smart choices about what actions we take going forward. And that requires a fundamentally relational worldview, you know. And I think my experience is, is that the majority of women I work with have a natural tendency towards that, and the majority of men I work was done. Even in my relationship, just like, fellow who always have to have a project to work on together. I mean, I know this is just in Nova Scotia…it needs to be something withdrawing before we’re going to get down to it. And it’s not necessarily like that with a lot of my female friends or my female colleagues, there’s just a tendency towards a relational worldview. And I don’t know if that’s nature, I don’t know if that’s nurture but it’s certainly an experience to have.

Lesley: And so, what that does is it builds a sense of trust. And when we can trust one another, then we can face the conflicts that we are currently experiencing. And I think you’re saying that these brave women call in what they know to be different from themselves. They’re not gathering the old girls club, and saying, “Let’s all beat this with the bush.” You know, it’s like, “No, it’s bring in the…diversity of thinking. Let’s turn it. Let’s see what it’s got to tell us about where we go next.”
Tim: Exactly. And not because it’s a good idea, but because it’s essential to get the work done, right? So that like removing the blinkers and seeing reality, seeing the work that’s getting done, and saying, “What are the relationships we need to form with all these different people to go get this work done?” And I think there’s also some ability to shed relationships when they’re not helpful anymore too. I felt really seen that like people move through different worldviews and move through different relationships, because the work at the center is pulling them forward, right? And they’re sustaining relationships around that. And I think there’s something about this relational worldview that allows you to stay in disagreement, you know. And I think that’s the trust piece… I think that you’re talking about is that when you’re fundamentally trying to invent something new is not about agreeing, it’s not about or being on the same page. It’s about staying together and disagreeing, staying together in un-comfort because that means you’re learning. And the more you learn, the more rapidly you’re able to innovate, right? But that requires the strength and resilience of relationship that if you’re purely result oriented you don’t think about…

Lesley: No. And you don’t know…you can’t see the value of it, and therefore you don’t make…

Tim: Yeah, yeah, the body and min…cause it the tyranny of the finish line.

Lesley: Well, you have on your website, you know, “Faster alone, further together.” And I think that’s just said so brilliantly. Well, you know, Tim, I think that you recreated the “Robin Hood and his merry men,” you know. “Robin Hood and his merry women” and that, you know, you are changing the world. I know that you change my world, and I know that I learned enormous amount in working with you. And I think a lot of that is the courage to stand in a group and say what you really feel. And for many of us that’s a hard thing to do, and yet it’s the only thing we can do if we’re going to move forward.

Tim: …I’ve never ever been in a situation where I haven’t been on from you. So I’m just grateful to have the chance to connect.

Lesley: Well, I want to say absolutely thank you from the bottom of my heart across the Atlantic Ocean to you and wish you all the best in this flurry of work that I know that you’re facing. Thanks Tim!

Tim: Thanks a lot, my friend.

Lesley: Well, I never leave time with that man without feeling totally inspired. I hope some of Time Merry’s magic got connected to you. You know, it made me think about that question as to why women may be able to see the current reality in more clarity and distinction than our male counterpart? It could be because we have not been the creators of that reality. We were not the power brokers that constructed it. And so as participants, but really as reactors, we see it for what it is. And that distance gives us the ability to see it in its rawness and in its nakedness. That’s just a thought. The other idea that Tim put forward is about how we allow our calling to emerge, we probably have more than one in our lifetime. But, if we’re not currently feeling like we’re being inspired by something greater than ourselves, it might mean that we need to do a couple of little things. One, it could be that we need to change our environment that could be a holiday, that could be a one-hour meditation, that could be sitting at your desk in the opposite side. It doesn’t matter as long as we put ourselves into a sense of unfamiliarity. And then we need to hang out with people that are different from us, people that we don’t know normally hang with. We could go to a different class, we could go to a different park, we could just do anything that puts us into a state where we are no longer in the familiar. And when we are there we have a chance to shift perspective. And when we shift perspective, elements within us gets shaken up, and inside there’s a tension that starts to find its way up to your voice. And before you know it your calling is coming out of you into a reality. Listen to it, it’s there. We need circumstances sometimes to help it come forward.

Well, that’s it for this week, thanks so much for listening. Please make sure that you get in touched with Tim and what he’s doing. You can find him on www.TimMerry – T-I-M-M-E-R-R-Y .com. Check out his blog “changes ahead” great ideas that might stimulate some of your thinking. Also you can tweet him @Tim_Merry -two words, @TimMerry – one word. And of course, check us out at facebook “women who lead radio show.” Give us your comments, don’t just like us, tell us what you’re thinking. Are we going down the right track? Are there questions you want answers? Are there topics you want us to go for? Tell them to us, this is an interactive forum. And you have to remember this is your show and I am your host – Lesley Southwick-Trask. See you next time, bye.

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