2/15 – Will the Next Buddha be a Sangha? Responding to the Call to Influence the Future of Collaboration

Rebecca Ejo Colwell

Rebecca Ejo Colwell

Colwell photo

Rebecca Ejo Colwell

For several years my koan has been:  How do we close the gap between the human condition and our human potential?

I first started to grapple with questions around how to catalyze and support collaboration for change while working in community development early in my career in the 1980s, in two Canadian cities, Toronto and Halifax.

I worked with people in communities who desperately wanted a good life for their families; a way out of poverty, unemployment, drugs, crime, poor health and ghettoization.

Yet despite the fact that we had some great successes, I had trouble reconciling why, when we want something so badly, and what we want makes such good sense in service of collective good, we still have such difficulty getting the players involved to collectively commit to action. I was tormented by the way small-mindedness and bureaucratic process impeded social development.

Fast forward to today and like so many concerned global citizens, I am astounded by the complexity of the challenges we face as a species. Whether it’s climate issues, poverty, hunger, health services, or economic transparency, it’s clear that the emergence of lasting solutions hinges upon our collective creativity and our ability to leverage the power of more networked intelligence.

Anyone who’s had experiences like mine will probably agree: Heroic leadership resident in a select few is insufficient to resolve conflicts, to solve complex problems, and to generate the necessary commitment and cooperation to make change at all levels of social structures and across the multiplicity of sectors, domains, roles and worldviews.

The complexity we face is simply too great for a handful of individuals to manage—and the inherent cooperation required for effective solutions means that the keys to success are no longer held by a few decision makers.

But of course, the devil’s in the details. What does it mean to leverage our collective intelligence, and what prepares the way for an emergent future of greater cooperation?

Three decades after rather naively jumping into facilitating multi-stakeholder social initiatives and complex inter-sectoral innovations, my commitment is to do everything in my power to grow the authentic, facilitative capacities that the future is calling for.

My focus on collaboration comes from the recognition that the way we work together and influence each other is the leading frontier of human development. That we influence each other is obvious—but how we can best influence each other in service of creating a better world is less clear.

What I do see clearly is that we want to light each other up. No matter what sector we’re in or issue we’re passionate about, we want to inspire, support and catalyze—and feel the same in return. The developmental shift I think we’re hungry for is a greater ability to attune to the patterns of wholeness and emergence. We need to be able to hold perspectives bigger than the personal and more expansive than our own lifetime. We need to be able to recognize the indicators of emergent shifts and participate creatively with change as an evolutionary force.

Because the world needs more people with the capacity to elicit and access collective intelligence, that means that we as individuals need to increase our capacity to work in collaboration with others—and in cooperation with a worldview that appreciates the essential nature of reality as an ever-changing, ever-evolving process.

I believe we need to grow a critical mass of people, including leaders and followers, participants and influencers, who can facilitate authentic engagement that improve the effectiveness and enjoyment of working together.

So all of this is for me a way of saying “if the next Buddha is a Sangha [Thich Nhat Hanh, 1994.], then facilitative leaders will be its convenors.” In my estimation, facilitative skills are the skillful means most needed for our times.

In this article I would like to explore this notion of “facilitative skill” both as it pertains to leadership (facilitative leaders) and as it pertains to each and every one of us—as facilitative influencers. I will share how I’ve come to understand the role of facilitative leadership and influence, how I am defining facilitative influence thus far, and the vision I am co-developing with my collaborators at Ten Directions [i] to create 200 Facilitative Leaders in the next 10 years. You’ll hear me speak about facilitative leadership and influence from multiple perspectives—looking both at the role of participants-as-influencers and the role of formal facilitators and leaders—and this is intentional. My aim is to blur a few lines and question some assumptions that we commonly have about leadership, facilitation, participation and where influence lies because I believe that in order for “the next Buddha to be the sangha,” each of us needs to step into a more conscious holding of our own influence and facilitative potential.

And for that, we need rich and transformative developmental learning opportunities that will refine who we are as instruments in service of our collective becoming—and I’ll share with you how I am engaging this challenge on my path.

To assist readers with terminology, I’ve added a Glossary of key terms at the end of the article.

Let’s Start at the Beginning. What does it feel like to experience skilled Facilitative Leadership as a participant?

Even though we’re all experienced in “working together” with other people, most of us still struggle at one point or another in the process of collaborating. And even when a collaboration does seem to be functioning OK, it’s common to be confounded by what makes or breaks it—let alone, what elevates it to another level.

I started to become attuned to the higher possibilities for collaborative engagement because I was fortunate enough to be exposed to challenging contexts where truly sophisticated facilitative influence was at work. These were collaborations with multiple stakeholders who had diverse and competing interests, commitments, identities and value systems; uneven power and privilege; different experiences with convincing narratives about “reality” and “how things work”; and divergent visions about how to make change and even of what the starting point was.

This level of complexity was navigated by both formal leaders and dedicated contributors. What they shared was a higher and wider vantage point and the ability to apply their facilitative influence in ways that encouraged the softening of boundaries, the transformation of polarities, and greater willingness (and hope) for co-creative approaches. I observed, coached and collaborated with facilitative leaders who opened their stakeholders’ eyes to a bigger horizon, to new ways to being and doing, to skillfully setting new contexts and capacities for more free and empowered approaches to collaboration.

As a result, I learned that there is a type of collaborative experience that is qualitatively “beyond” good, functional working together. In these higher-order collaborative cultures, the experience is characterized by a “flex-flow” quality, both for participants and for facilitative leaders. Here’s what I experienced firsthand:

When I’m in a flex-flow group, I experience a lot of creative movement and dynamic energy—yet it’s not chaos. I notice a high degree of clarity and precision, yet it’s not rigidity. The balance between structure and spontaneity, individual and collective, interior and exterior is alive and flowing.

When I’m a participant in this type of experience, right away I start to notice that I am nourished (not depleted) by the collaboration. It’s literally giving me energy, not requiring me to provide my energy to keep it going.

What I notice next is that I gain a palpable sense of care. Because the context privileges care and well-being for all members, I in turn open to the invitation to care authentically about my fellow collaborators, about their unique contributions and their depth.

I feel more at ease and liberated to make a wider range of contributions. I can think, reflect, test, question, dialogue, explore and play. My interiority is online and authentically available—without being a drag on efficiency and execution.

As I feel received and deeply listened to, more of my unique self is available to me and I’m supported to come into greater authenticity and depth with others around me.

Alongside the care, I also encounter a healthy and invigorating sense of challenge. We are here to support each other, and in that intention, we are here to grow each other. The flavor of care is dynamic: it includes being with what is, and striving for what is becoming.

In a “flex-flow” collaborative culture like this, I’m scaffolded to notice my own development. I wake up to the many ways that I am growing, and I can see others growing. As I am satisfied and stretched, disappointed, fulfilled and provoked, I become more capable. My individual capabilities are elevated by the emergent capabilities of the team and of the whole.

In this context of care, challenge, depth and authenticity, I am inspired, creative and open to spontaneously participate with the novel and emergent. In fact, it begins to seem as though the new and emergent is participating through me, and coming to life through the liberated space of collaborative engagement that has been fostered.

This is my first-person understanding of “higher order” collaborative experience—and hopefully you can tell why the term “flex-flow” has emerged as a descriptor for these kinds of groups and cultures.

Building on this participant experience, I’d like to now turn to looking at the individuals that help create and shape these group experiences—the leaders and influencers who are literally “making easy” these new forms of collaboration.

Facilitative Leadership or Masterful Facilitation—Is there a difference?

Is there a difference between facilitative leadership and masterful facilitation? Yes, and no.

First let me begin by explaining that in my view, whether we talk about facilitative leaders or masterful facilitators, we’re really talking about the same type of capability or attributes.

Though the facilitator may not be the formal “leader” of a team or group, they act as an instrument in service of greater and higher collective capability, which is absolutely a form of leadership. Likewise, though the facilitative leader may not be in the formal role of facilitator, their courage, authenticity, depth and skill positively impacts the quality of group coherence and collaboration—which is absolutely a form of facilitation.

In my experience, facilitative leaders are like tuning forks for collective intelligence—which I contrast to the image of a “brick layer” who is concerned with setting down the rules and structural boundaries of group process. A lot of skilled facilitators and leaders orient as the latter, and though there is value there, it isn’t really my area of interest.

Facilitative leaders create conditions where participants are enlivened and engaged, brought to the edge of their learning, and transformed through participation with emergence. They invite and elicit the authentic experience of each person, while attentively and wisely weaving a coherent tapestry from the diverse individual strands.

Facilitative leaders open up dramatically different experiences for themselves and participants by liberating authentic engagement and inviting new collaborative depth and span—whether it’s a conversation, a meeting, an event, a coaching session, or a retreat.

Now, while it’s true that being in the role of a formal leader or facilitator can increase or focus the impact we have on a group, when it comes to the way we work together, the quality of group engagement is not solely determined by our leaders or facilitators. It’s something we can all influence.

The notion of facilitative influence is how I describe our individual capacity to impact and transform where we collectively think, work, play and develop.

What I like about the phrase “facilitative influence” is that it doesn’t call to mind limiting assumptions we have about either leadership or facilitation. It’s more diffuse. Influence is both vertical, lateral, and asymmetrical. It lives and thrives within the fabric of our relationships, and it is available to anyone.

As a facilitative influencer, I can take a perspective on what’s happening from an open awareness that isn’t constrained by my personal perspective. I am able to feel what’s happening in an embodied way, and I can discern patterns in the group process and leverage the way I contribute strategically to improve the process for everyone.

Facilitative influence is crucial for anyone who cares about shaping our world for the better. Even when a leader or facilitator isn’t optimally influencing the group, participants with facilitative depth can and do positively shift the quality of collaborative engagement.

Yes, I think we ought to be concerned with cultivating facilitative leadership and in my work, I am. But in my experience, our interest in leadership is situated inside of a broader interest in influence—which is not relegated to the realm of formal leadership alone.

For me and for those I work with, valuing both facilitative leadership and facilitative influence re-frames our leverage points for change. Holding influence as a core interest, our inquiry shifts from “leadership development” to: How can we support individuals to develop their capability to be instruments of facilitative influence?

Taking it one step further: Why Facilitative Leaders and Influencers are the hidden asset inside of organizations

Facilitative leaders and influencers are the hidden asset inside of organizations because their influence frees up other people to become more self authoring and generative influencers in the organization. In other words, facilitative leaders are self-replicating—over time, they are generative of more facilitative leaders.

But more on this idea of self-generativity in just a moment.

For now, here’s a quick vignette to illustrate how facilitative leadership impacts organizational outcomes.

In the early 2000s, I was retained to lead a cross-border merger integration project for a major utility. This was an extremely challenging and emotionally intense experience for the employees, for the new management team, and for the merger integration teams who now had functional responsibilities for aspects of the ‘new’ smaller and leaner post-merger organization.

In the new post-merger culture, there was a strong preference for learning in teams, and working collectively was valued.

The mandate we were given was to create a new, higher-performing culture using an empowerment framework that relied on more engaged and facilitative approaches to getting work done. One of our key areas of focus was to help people learn how to use more reflective processes and bring team learning into the organization.

As the integration process unfolded, what we saw was a complete bifurcation in the performance spectrum. One of the key differentiators was the degree of facilitative influence of the team or department leader and their willingness and capacity to engage others.  Some teams were entrenched in the old culture, and old leadership style and found it very difficult to get traction.

The groups who had higher engagement and a facilitative approach enjoyed quite different results. While they were slower to get into task performance, and slower to start, they out shone the other teams. For example, they were open to dig into the difficult emotions present in the post-merger and downsizing environment, and transformed what employees cared about into new commitments and interests in collectively pursuing better practices.

In these more engaged, participative teams, innovative and creative suggestions started to flow, and people took on side projects to tackle old barriers to getting things done. Employee survey results pointed to higher satisfaction and morale, and performance benchmarks turned around and targets started to be exceeded. The more capable facilitative team leaders did so well that they started getting cherry picked out of those teams to go lead other initiatives in the organization.

The story above illustrates, even in a relatively low-tech industrial setting, one of the core outcomes of facilitative leadership and influence: the emergence of self-generativity.

A team of people is a system, and in that system, the leader or facilitator’s role is to catalyze activity—much like a spark of ignition that gets an engine running.

If that leader or facilitator is facilitative, their catalyzing influence will intentionally liberate each individual’s inherent capabilities and enhance the group’s self-reflective capability. This will happen through a combination of skilled facilitative interventions and the quality of the facilitative leader’s own presence, awareness, and depth. As a result of their facilitative leadership, the team will do more than perform—it will begin to drive the process of its own continual development or performance acceleration.

As participants in the team increase in reflective awareness, their capacity to work with more depth and complexity grows. The team generates its ongoing momentum fueled by the enjoyable efficacy of the way its members are working together.

In turn, the team’s learning and development nourishes the facilitative leader, liberating them from serving as the catalyst for activity and inviting them into more complex and creative participation in the team’s activity.

When this happens, the team has become Self-Generating.

Self-generating teams and organizations feel alive. In addition to individual responsiveness, the team as a whole is oriented to learning and development as a driving principle of what it means to work together. As a result, they display greater fluidity in response to the unknown, they are more agile, leverage creativity, and are fundamentally more enjoyable and fulfilling cultures to be a part of.

Now when there are participants in the team who also demonstrate facilitative influence, the team’s self-generativity is magnified and accelerated. Together, facilitative leaders and facilitative influencers form the stuff of which innovative, agile, creative collaborative teams are made.

Our “Sangha” Vision: 200 Facilitative Leaders in 5 Years

Studying the traits and capabilities of facilitative leaders and influencers has been a source of inspiration along my own path of personal evolution.  For close to 30 years I have oriented to supporting organizations and leaders to integrate greater facilitative awareness and skills inside of their organizational or team initiatives.

Yet in the last 10 years, fueled by my vows as a lay monk in the Soto Zen School, I reached a place where my koan “How do we close the gap between the human condition and our human potential?” offered me an answer. I recognized that I feel called to magnify the teachings of the pioneers who inspire me by creating more elegant and sustainable pathways for facilitative leaders to develop themselves. My calling is to help leaders develop the skillful means needed to engage the complex challenges of our world with wisdom, creativity, and compassion.

I founded the training and development company Ten Directions to meet this call in the world: to create integrative developmental pathways that enable facilitative leaders and influencers to work with more consciousness and depth.

Ten Directions’ programs serve people who want to transform conflict, culture and systems—and by extension, change the world.  We serve curious and dedicated individuals who want to bring more compassion and authenticity to their initiatives, organizations, cultures and communities. And our approach is grounded in the recognition that it’s only through inner evolution that we get outer revolution.

Our developmental orientation focuses on cultivating more mature self-authorship and self-transformation while nurturing the capability to handle cultural complexity and sensitively engage the subtleties of human interaction.

At the core of our work is a vision to certify 200 Facilitative Leaders in the next 5 years. And though the intention is clear, the design process for this kind of endeavor is complex!

Our design challenge is: how do we grow facilitative leaders and influencers?

As we’ve been engaging this challenge over the last 3 years, we’ve been immersed in cycles of observation, inquiry, enactment and reflection. At this stage, we’re now able to observe patterns in our process of designing leadership for the future.

Some of the clearest examples that illustrate our emergent design process come from the development of our premier program pathway, Integral Facilitator® which I co-founded with Integral teacher and masterful facilitator Diane Musho Hamilton in 2012.

Diane is a generous, dedicated and gifted Integral pioneer, and she epitomizes a facilitative leader and Integral Facilitator®.  From our first prototypes of an introductory program, Next Stage Facilitation™ in 2011, Diane and I moved quickly to launch our nine-month competency-based Integral Facilitator® Certificate Program in 2014.

So, without further ado, here are the fundamental 4 phases of our design process, which we employ in the design and delivery of our developmental pathway for facilitative leaders and influencers.

Step 1. Experience and describe the exemplars

In our experience, one of the exemplars of facilitative mastery familiar to many in the Integral world is Diane Musho Hamilton.  After first meeting Diane at an integral leadership retreat in 2007, I spent years avidly immersing myself in her recorded videos and talks, attending retreats, and being mentored.

Diane is well known for her capacity to work with grace and ease in a number of especially challenging or advanced application areas that are the leading edge requirements for the more transformative collaborations the world desperately needs: transforming individual and collective shadow; thriving through conflict; working with diversity and complexity; and driving efficiency, direction and outcomes.

My close association with Diane afforded me numerous opportunities to experience firsthand the complex and sophisticated suite of attributes that comprise masterful facilitative leadership. So far, what I have learned is:

Facilitative leaders work with what is already available in the group—information, energy, perspectives, emotions, conflict, desire—in service of the whole and the group’s intention. S(he) legitimizes people’s contributions, light-handedly ensuring their ideas and inputs fit and become accepted in the group efforts.

Facilitative leaders weave together participants’ experience of being and becoming. S(he) situates the group process in a container big enough to hold everyone, including his/herself, and the ongoing creative process.

Providing a balance of challenge and support, the facilitative leader encourages more authentic expression. S(he) liberates the group’s conscious capacity to participate with emergence and increases the intersubjective capacity to bring forward innovation and creativity with precision and ease.

The facilitative leader makes reality ‘as it is’ more transparent and visible to the group. In an integrative move, s(he) includes considerations that help create a deep understanding of the context, complex structures, energetics, emotions, shadow, stakeholders and the cultural dynamics at play.

The facilitative leader draws attention to the existence of polarities such as coherence and incoherence. Enabling groups to transcend polarities and experience a synthesis and unity of the dualisms, s(he) transforms thinking to a higher vantage point—making available new insights into the relationships between what had previously seemed to be in opposition.

Facilitative leaders energetically increase the level and quality of participation and engagement. S(he) cuts off distractions from the intention of the collaboration, manages power plays, and shifts group states to enhance meaning, productivity and enjoyment.

Facilitative Leaders develop the enduring capacity, both of individuals and of the collective that enhances future group engagement.  S(he) transforms a preoccupation with individual skill development, to group learning, to liberating collective capacities from the network of relationships that hold the group.

Step 2. Unpack the competencies that give rise to the mastery

With a more fully elaborated understanding of what comprises the level of mastery we are interested in cultivating, we then start to assimilate our observations into patterns and models, building out the description of the embodiment of mastery beyond the personal characteristics of any one exemplar.

The patterns that emerge reveal connections that begin to point to discrete, interrelated capabilities. The aggregated patterns form an initial model of the demonstrated competencies that our developmental pathway is designed to support.

In creating a developmental pathway that underpins the competencies we’re seeking to cultivate, we ask questions like:

  • What practices, awareness, skill, or experience support the development of this (each) competency?
  • What domains of knowledge or key ideas and principles are essential?
  • What application areas demand higher levels of execution?
  • What does the competency look like in its early emergent stages, vs. its later masterful stages, and in between?
  • What are the prerequisite skills for the full emergence of the competency?  What is the optimal sequencing of the prerequisite skills?
  • What related capabilities support the competency to emerge?

Our Example: a working model of competencies

In the case of Integral Facilitator®, one very significant insight emerged related to the competencies.

An Integral Facilitator’s way of being—expressed through their integrated bodymind—is as important as the injunctions or actions they take.

Another way of saying this is that a certain ‘way of being’, including a particular level of maturity, psychological power and a higher state of consciousness, is required so that a facilitative leader may adequately demonstrate the competencies and be effective in the challenging application areas.

We have grouped these capabilities into a profile of the “self as instrument.”  Without this “self as instrument,” the more advanced capacities and nuanced contributions of an Integral Facilitator® just aren’t available.

For example, the core capacities of Integral Facilitator® mastery include:

  • Being fully with what is happening.
  • Supporting optimal group functioning and ability to flex flow.
  • Being creative in service of the group’s intention.

In order to develop these core capacities a facilitative leader (the “self as instrument”) requires a self who:

  • has stable open awareness,
  • inhabits and can maintain fully embodied presence,
  • can sense and navigate subtle group energetics,
  • has refined relational and emotional intelligence,
  • has 4th and 5th order perspective taking, and
  • is self-generating in their growth.

As a result of these discoveries, we realized our developmental approach, recruitment, and learning experiences needed to include scaffolds and supports for vertical development and state training.

Step 3. Build a developmental pathway

In the domain of facilitative leadership and influence, we are especially interested in the transformations of self-authoring to self-transforming minds. This means that our developmental pathway is oriented to support that particular transition.

We design integrated learning experiences that cultivate the skills, practices, knowledge and awarenesses that we are iteratively identifying and refining through our experience of facilitative leadership.

We also view the embodied learning process as a fractal of the emergent competencies the learning program is designed to foster. In other words, we feel the process of the learning needs to match the quality of the outcome desired. We can’t nurture a complex multi-layered facilitative capability through delivering a monodimensional top-down learning program.

Our Example:  Integral Facilitator® is employing a multi-modal, integrative learning and practice process

Elements that support multi-modal learning include:

  • Live retreats
  • Online forum
  • Small group projects
  • Community calls
  • Coaching
  • Personal practice

Elements that bring together individual and collective dimensions include:

  • Group coaching
  • Daily practices
  • Written reflection
  • Live retreats
  • At-home learning

Elements that enable regular application & feedback include:

  • Live practice & feedback in the moment
  • Successive opportunities to practice and receive feedback
  • Community reflections
  • Developmental coaching

Elements that create opportunities for design thinking & prototyping include:

  • Applied learning in a new context (small group projects)
  • Testing application & reflecting
  • Sharing results with community of peers

Step 4. Iterate, dynamically steer, facilitate emergence…repeat

Our last design principle is really an orienting practice rather than a particular step we follow.

One of the most challenging aspects of offering conscious leadership learning experiences is that any preparation you do in advance has the potential to be outdated and irrelevant by the time the live learning experience happens.

It is impossible to completely pre-design a dynamic learning process ahead of time. However, when we bring our full availability and awareness to each moment, endless live learning experiences arise in our shared experience. This keeps us on our edge, anticipating and attending to what is arising from the field. What’s alive now in this moment is the most relevant and nuanced material we could hope for that offers space for the fullest expression of the depths and dimensions of collaboration.

Naturally, this places more demands on the capacity of the faculty to point out the meta-process, to make object for the group and learners what they are subject to, and to keep the learning process dynamic with frequent reviews and adjustments to meet the emergent needs of the group.

If we are intending to teach others how to work with emergence, and to be adaptable, it calls us to be prepared to iterate and adapt and be spontaneous in the room. Our process has to capture what we discover anew, and we have to be flexible enough, and not attached, if we are going to be able to discard what ceases to be helpful.

We use every opportunity to reflect a forward looking way of being, so that those who are engaged in the koan with us experience the higher self of Ten Directions—modelling who we want to be and become.

An Invitation

Recognizing that the way we work together and influence each other is the leading frontier, I return to the question: How is that we want to best influence each other in service of our collective aims and highest aspirations?

I believe we do it by recognizing that anyone and everyone is a vital influencer for the quality of collaborative engagement, and by explicitly creating opportunities for individuals and their collectives to grow.

We do it through applying a developmental perspective to our learning pathways, and by attending to the interface between our interior self-awareness and the freedom and creativity we have available to work with at any given moment.

We do it by coming together in guided practice, rich with both support and challenge, and exposing ourselves to opportunities to be fully seen, received, loved, and then pushed just beyond our comfortable resting state into a new way of being and doing.

Most of all, I believe that each act—a conversation, a group decision making process, a conflict resolved—offers the potential for a more awakened, liberated experience of ourselves and each other.

And in this potential I see the reflection of Thich Nhat Hanh’s now famous statement—that the next Buddha will be a sangha. The invitation to participate in convening this sangha is available to each of us, and the moment to begin is now.


Collective Intelligence – In this context, I am using collective intelligence to point to the shared intelligence which emerges from the synergy of the participants. It implies that the participants as well as the whole are enriched by what is shared and by what is co-created through the sharing process.

Facilitative Influence – This is the capacity to impact and transform where and how we collectively think, work, play and develop. When exercised, facilitative influence leverages contributions to improve the process for everyone.

Facilitative Leadership – This is the capacity for facilitative influence (above) in an individual playing a leadership role.

Flex-flow – This term is descriptive of a quality of group experience attained by explicitly attending to both individual and collective experience and working with naturally occurring energy and flows, such as energetic coherence.

Integral Facilitator ®  – This is a new discipline co-created by Diane Musho Hamilton and Rebecca Ejo Colwell, and a developmental training program which certifies learners as more masterful Integrally-informed vehicles of facilitative leadership and influence, with advanced proficiencies for working with complexity and depth in groups.

Fractal – This is a “part” which is self-similar to the whole, and the qualities are the same at any scale.

Field – In this context, we mean the “field” of awareness. Beyond our self- and group relational awareness, there is a larger formless field in which all form is arising. With more conscious approaches and greater awareness, we can participate with a larger field that includes more aspects of reality.

Vertical Development – This is the development of the individual through predictable developmental stages which progressively increases the capacity for meaning making. This is contrasted with horizontal skill development which can be transmitted by experts. We work with the adult developmental theory and work of preeminent developmental psychologist, author and scholar Dr. Robert Kegan, Harvard University School of Education.

Self-authorship – This is the stage in Dr. Kegan’s model of adult development where the adult acts and orients to relationships and the demands of the outside world based on their internal compass of beliefs, values and views.

Self-transformation – This is the stage in Dr. Kegan’s model where the adult can hold a larger perspective and understand their own beliefs, values and views as being limited and partial. Adults with self-transforming minds are able to transform their ideology so as to hold more complexity and ambiguity.

State training – In this context, I refer to training to develop more advanced states of consciousness. In our programs, state training is cultivated through meditation and exercises that refine meditative awareness in the domain of group work.


Beck, D. and Cowan, C. (2005). Spiral Dynamics, Mastering Values, Leadership and Change. UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hamilton, D. (2014). Everything is Workable, a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Hanh, T. (1994). “The Next Buddha May Be A Sangha” in Inquiring Mind, 10 (2), Spring.

Kegan, R. (1994). In over our heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Laloux, F. (2014). Reinventing Organizations. Brussels: Nelson Parker.

McNamara, R. (2013). The Elegant Self, a Radical Approach to Personal Evolution for Greater Influence in Life. Performance Integral.

Mindell, A. (2010).Process Mind: A Users Guide to Connecting With the Mind of God. Wheaton: Quest.

Scharmer, O. (2009). Theory U. Leading From the Future as it Emerges. San Francisco: Berret-Koehler.

Watkins, Dr. A. (2013). Coherence, The Secret Science of Brilliant Leadership. UK: Kogan Page.

Wilber, K. (2007). The Integral Vision. Boston: Shambhala Publications.


[i] Thank you Lauren Tenney for imbuing this article and all our Ten Directions collaborations with beauty and grace.

About the Author

Rebecca Ejo Colwell, MBA is Co-Founder of Integral Facilitator® and founder and CEO of Ten Directions®, where she creates and produces a growing network of premiere developmental training opportunities for leaders and experienced professionals.

She is a consultant and advisor to some of today’s most influential transformative thought leaders, authors, and teachers.

For over thirty years Rebecca has facilitated and inspired others to practice facilitative leadership, develop capacities for changing times, and meet a wide range of challenges.

Rebecca’s is grounded in her deep trust of what is, and a tenacious curiosity about what might be possible. As a certified Integral development coach, she offers this presence and perspective to leaders and teams.

Rebecca is an Integral Dharma Holder of Diane Musho Hamilton Sensei, and an ordained Zen monk in the White Plum Lineage of the Soto Zen School.

Rebecca lives with her husband Jim by the sea, in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada.         


  1. Charles Richards on February 19, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Perhaps we go “back” a little further and realize that there is nothing to fix? Consider the Buddha’s radical statement of truth – “There is nirvanic peace in things just as they are”. I would suggest we chew on that koan for a while. When we have internalized that, we might feel less internal “pressure” as facilitators. Then the koan – How do we close the gap between the human condition and our human potential? – might be answered from a higher perspective?

    • Rebecca Ejo Colwell on February 19, 2015 at 7:43 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts Charles. You point to a really important distinction. In training Integral facilitators we are definitely interested in helping individuals learn to orient from stable open awareness to be able to respond skillfully and not reactively (as in the “fixing” mode you mention), to what is in the moment. How we orient to the actual group experience – which can definitely manifest as shared anxiety, difficult emotions, disruptive behaviors – can be greatly informed by having presence and perspectives. The absolute and the relative are not separate, even as we meet the group and help them fulfill their intention.

      With appreciation for your interest, Rebecca

  2. Sylvie Daigle on March 2, 2015 at 4:48 pm

    Dear Rebecca,
    Thank you for this deep and insightful article. It made be understood at a deeper level the place and role of facilitators in today and tomorrow communities and in the world. It gave new meanings and perspectives to my commitments.

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