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Season’s meetings: organising our work to the rhythm of life

rhythm of life diagram Half-circle stamp style image with 'Greenheart for greener futures' caption
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Earth’s Natural Cycles

For thousands of years, humans marked the passage of time solely by reference to Earth’s natural cycles. Stonehenge was built, possibly as a colossal (and very heavy) calendar, by people with an intimate connection to the land: farmers, herders and pastoralists. Regardless of its intended purpose, “the changing seasons would have been of immense significance to them, both practically – the seasons dictated what they could grow and when – and also probably spiritually.” (English Heritage)

If Stonehenge is a calendar, it is an early example of the connection between two concepts of time that appear frequently in the New Testament: chronos (chronological – ‘tick-tock’ – time) and kairos (the ‘right’ or ‘appropriate’ time, for example, the time to harvest).

Since industrialisation introduced timetables, shift-work and the concept of exchanging human time for money, chronoshas almost entirely taken over and I think that’s a shame. Speaking personally, I have always struggled with the idea of the classic 9 – 5 (or whatever equivalent expectation prevails in your work culture). I’m a morning person, at my most productive between 7am – 11am and pretty much useless after 5pm or 6pm. Certainly by 9pm my productive brain has shutdown. OK, full disclosure: I’m also pretty bad just after lunch when my body is telling me to close my eyes and catch a few Zs.

Two insights on the Summer Solstice

  1. We need to regain our mastery of chronological time: yes, we need it for scheduling (meetings, travel etc). But do we need it to tell us when to work? I don’t think so. Does it serve us or do we serve it?
  2. We can, and should, reconnect to ‘kairological’ time – or at least the concept it represents. Let me explain…

Early on in my regenerative leadership journey, a school of thought that promotes the idea of the organisation as a living system not a machine, I was introduced to the ‘rhythm of life’. It’s fairly simple: neither personal nor organisational development are linear, they twist and turn according to the many variable dynamics to which they are subject. Just like in living systems.

rhythm of life diagram

Rhythm of Life

In nature, spring is the time of emergence; summer is a season of steady growth and activity ahead of the gathering-in and re-planning of autumn. Finally, winter is the time nature lets go of life, allowing rest and hibernation through the most challenging conditions and in preparation for the year ahead.

We can apply this pattern, as a bio-inspired version of the classic ‘plan-do-review’ cycle, to almost any situation; personal or organisation.

At Greenheart Consulting, where our organisational thinking is fuelled by nature, we choose to let it inform (amongst other things) our quarterly seasonal ‘gatherings’, the four times a year our otherwise fully remote team comes together for emergent discussion and togetherness.

We have just held our summer gathering, amidst the ox-eye daisies and flowering grasses of Devon. Spring did, and usually does, feel unsettling for us as we acclimatise to new patterns. This year was particularly strange as the market around us was attuning to yet more uncertainty. But by summer we were in flow so could take the opportunity to check in with some deeper internal questions. Not with the intention of reinventing ourselves midway through the year, but so we can course correct in the context of ‘full speed’ activity and growth.

Next up: our autumn gathering when we will start to review the lessons the year has taught and begin a reflective process that leads into planning and budgeting for 2024. Once we’ve met for a final time in the winter, we allow ourselves 2 weeks’ total rest and reset by closing the virtual office over the Winter Solstice.

We are following the same pattern with our learning and development structure, more on which on a future occasion.

It really works: people like having a rhythm or context for pivotal points in the year and while we don’t, of course, expect our business to run exactly the same way each year, it gives us a cadence that is strangely familiar and therefore easy to adopt.

I’m grateful that we live in a temperate country where the seasons are marked. This is because it reminds me that life doesn’t take place at one speed; we cannot be ‘always on’. In fact, as much as I love spring and summer, I also embrace the winter, even with its connotations of death and letting go.

“There is much wisdom to gain from these dark nights of the soul if we dare be with these phases of life and not rush on to the next spring without adequate reflection and renewal…the more conscious we learn to become of our own rhythms and cycles of psychological growth and renewal, the more effective, compassionate and authentic we can become as leaders.”

Taken from: “Regenerative Leadership: the DNA of life-affirming 21st century organisations” by Giles Hutchins and Laura Storm.

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