By | July 28, 2016

Imagine you have taken on a role in your company as a ‘nerd mentor’. Part of this role has you assisting coworkers in creating ‘employee resource groups’ where like-minded folks come together and either have fun, work toward a common goal or support some type of issue. So far, so good – right?

Now imagine you receive an email requesting, for all intents and purposes, a religious study group. I’ve puckered up a few times at work and this was one of them. The requestor and I met and I raised the request up to my contacts to check things out. The initial conversations turned into a series of discussions that climbed higher and higher in the organization.

One day, I received a message that the Diversity Leadership team needed to speak with me.  (Another pucker moment) Our conversations were very positive and the generic idea of a group that fostered unity and our connections with each other was supported. We spoke several times and since the existing policy clearly disallowed the practice of a religion, the originally conceived group wasn’t feasible. At that decision, I thought, “Oh well, that’s that” but our conversation turned toward another leadership goal for a different gathering. I was asked whether I’d be interested in putting together a group targeting the ‘Great Mysteries’ in life that looked at big questions humanity has grappled with throughout history related to the spirit and mystery of existence.

My mind reeled – how was that going to work?! I have a huge interest in philosophy and metaphysical matters that science has only started to broach in the last 20 or so years. I’ve tried to glean nuggets from wisdom traditions all across the world. I am, however, a weird renegade that doesn’t fit a mold and I’m delighted and comfortable with that fact. How was I going to convince a group of folks who may be on opposite ends of the spectrum with their knowledge and perspectives of wisdom traditions? How would we cooperatively join in conversation that by rights could be potentially explosive?

As there was no other way, I boldly jumped into the deep end of the pool. I referenced a source provided Diversity Leadership in the Tanenbaum organization (who incidentally has tackled a much larger scope for themselves). Their resources have many themes and referenced content that speaks to them from the wisdom traditions around the world & throughout a wide range of time. Starting with the Golden Rule jumped out at me for three specific reasons:
1. It would be a great thematic topic that spoke to treating others as you wish to be treated.
2. In the minds of many, the Golden Rule already has some attribution and would be an interesting idea to explore from the other traditions and just to explore on a secular level.
3. It was riding the line between ‘religion’ and secular philosophy. Because the practice of religion is out of bounds and certainly not discussed at work often, it would be a good test of our diligence in steering the conversations that might follow.

Around this time, another senior executive (who has delightfully become a friend) reached out and wanted to get involved. They had hosted similar group discussions in their personal time and were interested in bringing this open dialog to the company. The branding of the group was going to be an important component of this and “Faith Exploration” became the name, shortened to just “FX”. We pulled the materials together and lined up a date. Oh, and food. No event you want people to show up at should be held without food if you can help it.

It was an extraordinary event – we had 20-25 people attend from a wide range of perspectives. The desire to explore was palpable. The discussion strayed here and there as any such conversation is want to do but a simple redirection was all that was needed to bring people back. From the organizers, attendees and buzz after the event, it was a resounding success and people wanted more.

I think the thing to take from this was we removed the toxicity of specific religions and recollections of specific events or things. We spent ALL our time on what do you think drove people to this conclusion? How does this impact you in your work and life? Is it still important or valid today? The miniscule negative reactions were blunted by the extensive and ecstatic responses from nearly all the participants. It’s my hope that we can establish something extraordinary and spread the desire to know more about Love, Hope, Courage, Charity, Compassion, Forgiveness, Good Deeds, Respect, Looking Inward/Outward and other topics.

We set clear rules & guidelines that were fair, identified what was in and out of bounds and set our intentions in a purposeful way to let everyone know they were welcome and they could choose for themselves whether this was something they were open to welcoming into their mind. Excitement exists for the next meeting instead of dread – hope instead of horror and the deep intention to help others release their fears and misconceptions in exchange for an hour of exploration.

As we progress I’ll share more of our journey once time has logged the event – Namaste.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad