I’ve just come to the awareness that for the past seven years I have been in the middle ground. Not the middle ground of compromise necessarily. Not the middle ground of being politically moderate or just being mediocre. I’ve been in the middle ground of transition from the ego to fullness of self, and from compromising my truth and who I am to living and being my truth.
The middle ground is a place of uncertainty, of subtle consistent change, of feeling at times like we don’t have a sense of our footing, of trying things that we think will work and finding that they don’t, or trying things that used to work and finding they no longer do. It’s a place where we begin to question everything—a place where we often consider abandoning the road we’re on and returning to the place we came from.
The middle ground often feels terrible and yucky, and also at times exhilarating and exciting. Sometimes we’re angry and frustrated. Other times we’re certain we’re on the right path. Sometimes we’re sad, sometimes we’re happy–with the connecting thread being that most of the time we feel uncertain.
Does this sound familiar?
I’ve also come to the awareness that the work of shifting organizational culture is much like stepping into the zone of the middle ground.
The way business is traditionally done is to leave culture to randomly develop without placing much of any focus on it. Culture work on the other hand, is a middle ground process because it goes against everything we’ve been taught from grade school to grad school and through our journey in the business world, to focus on the tangible elements such as compensation systems, distribution models, management structure, sales strategies, and the like.
Culture work is about the intangible elements such as employee happiness, the trust that teams have in their leadership and how empowered they feel, and how well we emotionally connect with clients and customers. In short, it comes down to what we authentically stand for that inspires people to want to be a part of our tribe.
Allowing culture to randomly develop by not focusing on it is risky because we are inviting an uncertain future. Culture work is about being willing to be in the uncomfortable middle ground so that we can come out the other side in such a way that leads us to a stunning future.
My seven years of being in the middle ground is coming to a close. I’m feeling this change because I’m moving into a fuller sense of self, unencumbered by the layers of insecurity that lies below ego. And it feels really good. It’s not that the journey is over, but just that I’ve moved through the middle ground to the other side. I’ve moved from uncertainty and doubt, to a kind of authentic confidence that enables me to walk, speak, and be more fully who I am in the world.
Shifting to the model of intentionally developing culture is all about entering into the middle ground. How long we stay there depends on how long it takes us to grow comfortable existing in the realm of the intangible. We need to learn to develop the “soft assets,” to go to the place that some people disapprovingly refer to as the “touchy feely.” It may not always feel comfortable, but once we reach the other side of the middle ground, we reach the fertile soil in which creativity meets knowhow and dreams become reality. It’s the place where the magic happens, where we find our truth and the courage to live it.
Tip of the Week
Take ten minutes to journal about this one question, “What am I uncomfortable about?” Journaling is a process of letting the hand flow and not thinking too much about what comes out. You’re not writing for anyone but yourself. If you don’t like what you’ve written when you’re done you can burn it. While you’re writing don’t judge what comes, just write what flows from the question of what you’re uncomfortable about in your life and work. When finished ask yourself, What am I in the middle ground about? How long have I been here? What will it take for me to make it to the other side? And, What do I have to gain by staying on this path?
I would love to hear in the comments what you are in the middle ground about and I’m sure others would benefit from hearing about your middle ground as well.