#HorizontalLeadership: The Secret Magical Potion of Listening and Time with Samantha Slade

It’s hard to function from a place of care and collaboration when everyone is under pressure. The complexity of different perspectives, opinions, budgets, deliverables, and stresses create even more challenges. 

In this episode, Samantha shares about horizontal leadership and how listening plays a key role, along with managing time. She shares stories about how understanding a human being’s complexities help you deal with challenges in the workspace; creating an environment with a collaborative spirit. She also underscores the importance of light protocols which create a structure where teams can work in FLOW and deepwork together. They allow productivity to happen by efficiently utilizing time with collective effort. She also gets clear on the idea that people don’t necessarily need sympathy, consolation, or commentary; oftentimes, they just want to be seen and heard.

Samantha Slade is a collective entrepreneur, author, and participatory strategist.  She believes that the social practices of togetherness are the oil that creates flow in our businesses and communities. From decision making to creation, our collective intelligence, when channeled wisely, carries the potential for productivity, innovation, and a more equitable world. Samantha poured two decades of applied research within her company, with clients and sister companies around the world, into her book Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-hierarchical Organization One Practice at a Time.

Samantha is co-founder of her own horizontal company, Percolab, an international co-creation, and co-design firm. She and her colleagues are dedicated to pioneering culture-driven practices and operational tools for the future of work, learning, and governing. Business as commons is the theme of Samantha’s TedX. As Samantha puts it, organizations can and should be a microcosm of the world we want to live in.

“If we’re really going to have a future that works for all, it’s going to involve figuring out how to work together better, in ways that have both the care and the productivity. I really think we need to figure this out and the listening piece is key to that.” – Samantha Slade

Valuable Resource:

Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-Hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time: https://www.amazon.com/Going-Horizontal-Creating-Non-Hierarchical-Organization/dp/1523095261

Listen IN Notes:

01:43 – Samantha is talking about her book, ‘Going Horizontal.’ It’s a practical book of seven accessible, easy doorways of entry into functioning from a less hierarchical and more horizontal leadership mindset.

03:14 – Understanding the permission culture versus a proposal culture in organizations. It’s about starting to look at power from a perspective of abundance.

04:16 – How she started Perco Lab, a company that sets itself up as a lab to experiment with different ways of functioning.  

06:01 – Highlighting what the book focuses on: living together as human beings under different contexts. How should we show up as ourselves when we navigate the different contexts of life.

06:45 – Samantha shows how to transfer what we learning from one context into another. What you practice at home can be brought outside into your workspace.

07:42 – How real paradigm shift is meant to be challenging, acknowledging that deep learning hurts and it makes one uncomfortable.

08:59 – Looking at the idea of horizontal leadership. What is the root of the idea?

10:38 – Demonstrating leadership, not of command and control. A story of believing and trusting your people.  

12:08 – A possibility of adapting horizontal leadership throughout a company’s existence and being successful in it.

13:47 – How important is our capacity to listen in building a collaborative way of doing business? Samantha points to listening as a cornerstone.

15:42 – She describes a foundational protocol called ‘silent witnessing’. How silence and the quiet allows us to go into our deeper wisdom.

19:14 – Understanding the dilemma of something festering over time if someone doesn’t have the experience of being witnessed by others.  How two minutes of “letting it all out” clears what might be getting in the way and let’s everyone move forward from a negative, unspoken feeling.

20:26 – Horizontal leadership being about inclusion. What is the key piece about inclusion?

23:54 – The idea of listening being circular thinking. How to get things clear by doing away with Q&A grilling and just listening to each other’s perspectives.

27:31 – Samantha explaining further that element of confused inquiry, how to go about it by not jumping to solutions; but rather trusting in the collective intelligence of those around you.

29:05 – Maybe together, we can figure this out? The collective power of everyone figuring it out together and not just one person by themselves.

30:11 – Samantha shares the loaded questions she’s been asked about her experiences and best practices. She describes the four categories of questions asked in a meeting.

34:17 – The secret magic potion: Listening and time.

35:25 – What is a future that works for everyone? It is all about a listening game; to practice and play in a fun way.

37:45 -Reinforcing the skills of care, inquiry, and curiosity that makes us human with empathy and compassion. 

Key Takeaways:

“One of the things that are assumed or understood in the education world is that deep learning hurts. If it’s deep learning, it shouldn’t be comfortable and easy. Real paradigm-shifting is meant to be challenging.” – Samantha Slade

“It’s very natural for us to show up in equivalence as human beings. But as we get into the workplace, it seems that there is a lot of confusion around that, and we set up these hierarchical structures where we have to start asking permission to do something that would be completely natural.”  – Samantha Slade

“Startups, when they are small: everybody is chatting to everybody, making decisions together, being in a strong relationship together, because it is very easy to do in a smaller group. Once you pass a threshold of a certain number, you’re being invited into either functioning in a hierarchical way or a horizontal way, and people aren’t aware that they’ve actually come across an option space, and we just go into this default way of functioning hierarchically.”  – Samantha Slade

“In a moment of conflict and crisis, it wasn’t the moment to try and learn the capacity to listen well. It is something that we needed to have as a regular organizational practice so that when those moments of crisis arrive, we could deal with them in a way that still was fully horizontal and caring.”  – Samantha Slade

“If I have something to say, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I want to have a conversation that I want to have your words of sympathy, your commentary, offers of help…it’s not always that that’s appropriate. So sometimes if we can have a way of having everyone go around and just speak what’s alive for them and just let that hover in the center…it’s a way of having everyone feeling seen and heard, and staying in organizational efficiency.”  – Samantha Slade

“Nuancing: when do we need conversation? When do we just need some silent witnessing? Being able to nuance between those two is a fundamental skill that I think we need to have in our organizations.”  – Samantha Slade

“If a person begins to hear that others genuinely care about hearing their perspective, then with time, they will start sharing their perspective.”  – Samantha Slade

Notes/Mentions:

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Raquel Ark
Raquel Ark
I am a communicator, coach, facilitator devoted to sharing ideas, tools and resources that help you master the art of listening. Listening is the doorway to understanding, the bridge to connections and the foundation of trust.
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