A few years ago, I was lucky enough to co-create with Stephanie Paterson, a partner at law firm Ramsey Paterson LLP, on an approach for self-guiding organizations through a set of regenerative reflections that aid the organization in becoming future-fit. Recently I was prompted to revisit and update these.

A summary of the approach is detailed here – if you would like to receive more on this, and also related workbooks, please sign up below for the newsletter which contains links to relevant downloads and material.

My suggestion is that you diarize half an hour – either alone or with your team – to reflect on one section each day. This will deepen your practice towards regenerative thinking and leadership almost effortlessly.

Five initial areas of reflection

The questions provided in the sections below offer a framework for reflection – what we call a ‘Reflection Practice’ that can act as a catalyst for:

1) intentional self-reflection,

2) dialogue with others,

3) planning organisational change.

You might wish to think of this Reflection Practice as a three-step flow: 1st take some time out to pause and reflect on these questions, seeing what comes up for you, 2nd share the Reflection Practice with others and dialogue together, and see what themes emerge, 3rd start to hone-in on areas for potential change that can help your organisation adapt and evolve toward a more regenerative and developmental culture.

REFLECTION SESSION 1: PURPOSE

Often we come to think of profit as a prime-mover, but it’s not. The purpose of the business is its ‘reason for being’. Think of profit as the air we breathe – we need it to exist, yet breathing is not our reason for being. Likewise for the organisation, it has a purpose beyond hitting the numbers, a reason for being that galvanises and coheres the organisation amid volatile fast-moving climates.

→ What is the driving purpose of the organisation?

→ How does this purpose contribute to the flourishing of life (i.e. make a positive difference to people and planet)?

→ Was it this current purpose that inspired the creation of the organisation at the outset? If not, what inspired its creation?

→ Do you have a sense that the organisation has lost sight of the founding purpose over time? Or has the organisation’s purpose strengthened/evolved over time, if so how?

→ Have there been any key events or periods of transformation that have affected the organisation’s purpose? What are these and what was their impact?

→ How far does the organisation’s purpose influence:

o its culture and everyday behaviours?

o governance?

o internal processes and procedures?

o interactions with external stakeholder? (existing and potential customers, suppliers, partners, investors?)

→ Are suppliers/external partners chosen in terms of how they relate with the organisational purpose?

→ Is there a tension between being true to the driving purpose and being profitable? If so, how is this tension held by different members of the leadership team, the board and (if different to the board) owners?

→ How clear is everyone within the organisation on its purpose? Do you sense that this purpose inspired them to join the organisation and continues to inspire their commitment to the organisation?

→ Are there any regular activities to engage teams across the organisation (and stakeholders beyond) in understanding the organisation’s purpose?

→ Within the organisation, how do you ensure that the organisation’s purpose is meaningful to teams and to individual roles?

→ How far do you involve everyone across the organisation in breathing life into the purpose (and ensuring its continuing influence)?

REFLECTION SESSION 2: CULTURE AND VALUES

If the purpose is your organisation’s ‘why’, think of its culture & values as the ‘way’ – the way people behave while delivering the purpose. Values and culture guide the organisation and its people as they go about their business day to day.

→ Does your organisation have defined values? If so, were they defined by the founder/board/the leadership or co-created as a reflection of the true character of the organisation as a whole?

→ How would you describe the values and behaviours of the organisation in your own words? Is this very different to the defined values?

→ How far do the organisation’s values influence:

o its culture and everyday behaviours?

o internal processes and procedures?

o interactions with external stakeholder? (existing and potential customers, suppliers, partners, investors?)

→ How deeply do people across the organisation understand the organisational values and what these mean to them on a day to day basis? Are any efforts made to understand individuals’ values and how these may be connected to the organisational values?

→ Are there any regular activities to engage teams across the organisation (and stakeholders beyond) in breathing life into the values?

→ Is there a tension between what happens in reality and any defined organisational values and external public relations messaging of organisational culture? If so, how is this tension held across the organisation? Are people comfortable to call out behaviours, decisions, processes which don’t align with the values? If the purpose is your organisation’s ‘why’, think of its culture & values as the ‘way’ – the way people behave while delivering the purpose. Values and culture guide the organisation and its people as they go about their business day to day. Questions for reflection – where are you on your regenerative journey?

→ How do values and culture differentiate across geographies? How does any differentiation and localisation inter-relate with global organisational culture (if applicable)?

→ What is morale like in the organisation? How do you know? How do retention levels compare with similar organisations? Are there pockets of higher turn-over or lower morale, and of higher morale? Why is this? How is this related to, for example, leadership, employee engagement, team spirit and personal development?

→ Are personal awareness and wellbeing activities (such as mindfulness, nature connection or exercise) embraced as conducive to personal and organisational vitality       

REFLECTION SESSION 3: DECISION MAKING

The day-to-day decision-making processes and protocols greatly influence both the tactical and strategic vitality of the organisation.

→ How would you describe decision making – on a scale of 1 being dictatorial ‘parent-child’ topdown through to 10 being self-managing ‘adult-adult’ networked teams making decisions locally without hierarchical approval?

→ Is there a tension between top down decisions and more distributed collective decision making? How is this tension held in the business? Is there any rationale behind the different approaches or is it dependent on the individual personalities of leaders?

→ How far are different people across the organisation given a voice in decision making processes? Is their voice encouraging, welcomed and embraced? Are there any systems in place to ensure that diverse perspectives are fed into decision making processes or is it dependent on the preferences of individual leaders?

→ Are people given the space to challenge leaders’ ideas/decisions and to be genuinely heard? Do they feel safe to do so? How do you know?

→ Have you experienced any differences in the quality of decisions and engagement of those affected where decisions are made in a more distributed (less ‘top-down’) way? Or at least where those affected have been given a genuine voice before decisions are made?

REFLECTION SESSION 4: INTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS & TENSION TRANSFORMATION

The organisation is made up of complex processes of human relating. The capacity to work with tensions and transform mis-understandings or differences into creative potential, helps the organisation continuously learn, adapt and evolve.

Questions for reflection – where are you on your regenerative journey?

→ Do people openly engage in authentic and meaningful conversations about their feelings, intuitions/instincts, passions and tensions? Are they encouraged to do so/given space to do so? → Is such openness/vulnerability modelled by leaders?

→ Are people encouraged to – and feel safe to – provide ad hoc informal feedback? Is this in all directions (between team members, leader to teams, teams to leaders?)

→ Is conflict always perceived as negative or are tensions sometimes perceived as healthy in terms of growth and learning? How are people supported to approach conflict in a constructive way?

→ What % of people are experienced in any of the following: giving and receiving feedback, dialogue, active or deep listening, non-violent communication, restorative practice and coaching conversations?

→ Are there team away days and/or nature immersions? How often and how are they facilitated?

→ Across the organisation, are there any brewing tensions just under-the-surface? How do you know – is this sensed or heard?

→ Is ‘positive news’ encouraged through the sharing of positive stories and the rewarding/recognition of sharing, assisting and being appreciative of others’ contributions? → Are there activities for people at the personal and collective level to learn to be more self-aware of egotistic behaviours, unconscious (or conscious) biases, personal limitations or masks, and how to get beyond these?

→ If tensions/conflict becomes destructive or damaging, how is this resolved?

REFLECTION SESSION 5: LEADERSHIP MINDSET

→ How do leaders perceive growth for the organisation? What about transformation, innovation, reconfiguration and renewal?

→ How is power distributed across the organisation?

→ What proportion of the leadership team would you say view the organisation as a living, evolving entity and what proportion perceive it as a machine?

→ How self aware are the organisation’s leaders of their influence on the culture and values of the organisation? The way we show up as leaders has a great effect on those around us and the overall vitality of the living organisation. Ways of leading that are incongruent with the organisation’s values and ethos can undermine trust and disempower people, greatly affecting organisational future-fitness.

Questions for reflection – where are you on your regenerative journey?

→ How far and how consistently do leaders model regenerative behaviours and ways of being, to enable others to thrive? Where there are inconsistencies, are these through conscious or unconscious choices? For example:

• To what extent do leaders truly listen to others? How far do they encourage the views of others?

• To what extent do leaders model creating space – for rest, thinking, creativity etc?

• How far do the leaders reflect the purpose and values of the organisation in their day to day interactions and in their decisions?

• How far do leaders practise self-awareness, taking time to reflect and sense if their behaviours and mindset are supporting or damaging a regenerative approach?

• How far do leaders practise patience in their approach, in their decision making and reactions, embracing natural ebbs and flows?

• Do all leaders welcome 360-degreee feedback and actively seek out feedback from those around them?

• Do some leaders have an understanding of systems-thinking and the interconnected nature of social, economic and ecological challenges at both local and global levels?

→ To what extent do leaders invest in their own personal growth as leaders, taking time to become more self-aware and better understand how to model regenerative behaviours and ways of being

For more on coaching with Giles, visit his website here.

You can also sign up to his newsletter here.

There is a special one-off immersion with Giles at Springwood Farm on 19th September 2024 see here for more details.

Giles Hutchins is leadership coach and author of five books on Regenerative Leadership, and Business Inspired by Nature.  His latest book and podcast series Leading by Nature can be found here.

Leading by Nature is THE handbook for conscious leadership. A must-read for every business leader who genuinely cares about the future of humanity.’   Jayn Sterland, CEO of Weleda UK