Creative monastery in the business world

Are you looking for ways to make your business relevant and effective? Are traditional business models and workplace protocol weighing you and your employees down? I can help. Let’s work together to set goals for your business that express your creativity, give you a competitive edge and build a systems environment. Your company will become integrated in community both inside and outside the office. Your business will be an important part of the “global village” (McLuhan, 1964) (Eisenberg, Goodall, and Trethewey, 2013, p. 98).

In the vein of the work of Peter Senge (1990), you’ll take the time to develop a learning organization that takes a holistic, personal approach to create flexible mental models enabling your team to be innovative through a shared vision (Eisenberg et al. 2013).

There are three keys ways we’ll use creativity for innovation to make your business stand out:

  1. You’ll build a team of brand ambassadors who will integrate the philosophy of your company into greater community, building a web reaching out into your city and in the global village.
  2. You’ll create a vital community within your company that interacts productively and enthusiastically within, as well as outside your environment to create an organized open system (Eisenberg, et al., 2013). Beginning with self-reflection (Eisenberg et al., 2013) and personality studies, you’ll reach a place where information and innovation will flow throughout the interdependent departments of your workplace, community and digital media resources.
  3. You’ll create measurable goals for expanding your business using a life coaching model for attaining them while employing creativity and innovation. You will not get stuck in a box. After all, goals are dreams with deadlines (Hill, 2017) Your process for growth will be organic, flowing in and out of your company’s structure in a relationship of giving and receiving.

According to social psychologist Karl Weick (1979), nothing is as effective as making sense of the uncertainties in the environments that affect your business than organizing through interaction (Eisenberg, et al., 2013). Let’s get started. I’ll work with your team on learning about themselves using the Enneagram personality system (Kale, 2003). Once your team understands how they interact with each other, they’ll take that knowledge to build brand ambassadors, quietly integrating your name into the community. This work will include staying current on best social media practices, engaging the community in conversation (Honeybook, 2017). Finally you’ll learn how to ask questions – in the community and by coaching your team so they can coach each other into building and implementing a creative and effective shared vision that can change the world.


Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2013). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (7th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 

Honeybook. (2017, September 07). 3 Tips for Creating Engaging Instagram Content. Retrieved September 29, 2017, from

Kale, S. H., & Shrivastava, S. (2003). The enneagram system for enhancing workplace spirituality. The Journal of Management Development, 22(4), 308-328. Retrieved from

Napoleon Hill Quotes. (n.d.). Retrieved September 29, 2017, from

HR in the monastery

Although the Human Resources organizational management movement didn’t exist in the Middle Ages, I like to think that the seeds of it were alive in some ways in monastic life – everyone motivated to work toward a common goal, the bringing of the Kingdom of God to earth; everyone cared for, nurtured in community, and encouraged to do work that fit their talents. The true Human Resources model relies on satisfying relationships, appreciation, collaboration and the ability to self-actualize within an organization (Eisenberg, Goodall & Threthewey, 2013). Today’s HR departments should be able to help an organization fulfill such an ethos of quality, collaborative community.

I don’t believe today’s HR practices live out the ideologies of the Human Resources Approach of 1960s and 70s America. The employees at our state university, for example, must abide by state-directed HR policies, which have become legalistic. In such a large institution, their purpose is to make hiring and firing guidelines clear and to provide support for employees and the institution when there are disputes. HR at the university is charged with oversight of compliance of policies. Their job, primarily, is to protect the university.

What HR does for the university is often contradictory to allowing the hiring of the best talent. A candidate who is smart, innovative and has years of experience in the work world is denied a job at the university for not having the right degree, or falling short on years of experience in higher education (even if just by months). Someone with the right master’s degree with the minimum number of years of experience in higher education can get a job in a department in which they have no experience because they fit the bill. That person may be inexperienced in say, the work of the registrar’s office, could even be unmotivated or lack emotional intelligence. But they fit the requirements on paper.

It seems that today’s HR often lacks attention to the “human” side of “human” resources. There isn’t balance between creativity and constraint in this field. Furthermore, state jobs don’t pay well. That is a big enough inhibitor to managers’ ability to hire the best. Do they really need more such restrictions placed upon them regarding hiring those who can serve their offices most effectively? What suggestions would you have for improving HR departments ability to enhance the “human?”


Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2013). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (7th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 

The bishop’s mitre

Today’s American organizational landscape is arguable still very much a top-down model. From large corporations, to factories, to government structure and hierarchical churches, the pyramid-like shape of the bishop’s mitre first the classical management style of many organizations. Although the entrepreneurialism of the 21st century allows many to be self-employed, self-employment today often falls under a classical management style. Companies, such as Uber, allow people the freedom to work when they want to, but offer few rewards to keep morale high.

Classical management does still have a viable place in today’s organizations. Goals that require a tightly run ship, such as professional kitchens, military engagements, and volunteer efforts like those currently deployed to provide disaster relief and rescue in the wake of two major hurricanes, thrive on a strict flow-chart of top-down leadership and willing participants (employees or volunteers).

The Episcopal Church relies on a hierarchical structure that is descended from the Catholic Church. The beginnings of the Anglican Church (The Episcopal Church being a later branch-off from it) first lie in King Henry VIII’s declaring himself, instead of the Pope, the head of the Church. One ruler, in essence, was exchanged for another. Over the centuries, The Anglican Church has maintained the hierarchical structure of its origins.

The Episcopal Church, on the other hand is set up in a somewhat democratic model. The rules that govern the Church are set up in the Episcopal Church Canons. General Convention meets every three years to make any needed changes to the Constitution or the Canons, to hold elections for office and to pass resolutions.

On the local level, the rector (head priest) heads the parish who rules in concurrence with a parish vestry.The parish is with the jurisdiction of a diocese which is supervised by an elected bishop. The General Convention is made up of representatives sent from the diocese. Priests serve under bishops and are subject to the canons (laws) of the Church, the discernment of the bishop and the local canons of the executive council of the diocese (geographic grouping) in which they are serving.

The Episcopal Church government is composed of two branches – the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. Unlike representatives in the U.S. Government, the bishops and deputies are called to vote their according to their consciences and not necessarily according to the will of the people.

The Catholic model, from the Middle Ages, mimics the scientific management theory of Frederick Winslow Taylor in its efforts to control the behavior and actions of the people via the moral order (Eisenberg, Goodall & Tretheway, 2013, p.68). The Anglican model relies on Henri Fayol’s centralization of decision making and respect for authority, the authority being the monarch (Eisenberg, et al., 2013, p. 72). The Episcopal Church at its best embodies the best aspects of Max Weber’s (Eisenberg, et al., 2013, p.75) bureaucratic model, following set governance but embracing enchantment and mystery. At its worst, the machine is used to further the goals of those in power within a parish, a diocese or The Episcopal Church head offices. I would argue that the administrative side of offices within The Episcopal Church uses a classical management style that is in conflict with the spiritual ethos of the Church itself.

Classical management in offices within The Episcopal Church keeps the machine running in an organized way, maintains and orderly and transparent, safe house. It also has the potential to block passion, spirit, and squash the creativity of the individual wishing to achieve a calling and self-actualization within the Church. Church staff cannot be considered as less than or not needing to achieve self-actualization. Because church members in The Episcopal Church are part of the discussion of the ongoing life of the church, so should staff be. Good management within parishes assures the vitality of a congregation using a participative model of self-discovery of God’s call in one’s life.

Former Home Depot CEO Bob Nardelli revitalized the company with strict militaristic-style management. This method is not workable for Church employees. The Episcopal Church ideally balances creativity and constraint, using its legislation and canons as guard rails while allowing for the creativity and passion of its people and clergy. How can the administrative offices honor the aspects of classical management that give it structure while not ignoring the human resources and relational aspects that give it life?


Eisenberg, E.M., Goodall, H.L., Jr., & Trethewey, A. (2013). Organizational communication: Balancing creativity and constraint (7th Edition). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 

“Renovating Home Depot.”, Bloomberg, 6 Mar. 2006, Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

“Episcopal Church Structure and Organization.” Episcopal Church, 23 Dec. 2016, Accessed 10 Sept. 2017.

Can’t see the mountain for the trees

Today I am posting a link to my final paper presentation for the course Communicating Mindfully. In it, I use the theory of distance in interpersonal relationship as a tool for relational success in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The paper focuses on the conflict between Elizabeth Bennet and Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Lady Catherine can’t see the glorious and beautiful mountain that is Elizabeth Bennet for focusing too much on Elizabeth’s personal life, her social status, and the misbehavior of her family – the trees. Had she employed proper, healthy distance from the beginning of her relationship with Elizabeth, things might have turned out differently. Maybe there’s still time. If Elizabeth marries Mr. Darcy, she will be equal to Lady Catherine if not greater. There is a chance for them to begin again as aunt and niece. I hope you enjoy!

The dialectical way of life

I see today’s “monk without a monastery,” or “monk in the world,” as a champion of dialogue and discernment, who builds community and healing. As I continue my education, it will be my responsibility to take steps to increase my communication ethics literacy for the benefit of my workplace, my family and the world.

Communication ethics literacy is defined as that which “identifies the good in the interplay of self and Other and the particular historical moment, attending to what is protected and promoted” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 231).

One step I know I can take to increase my literacy is to apply this concept to everyday life in the historical moment of postmodernity. I believe that to a certain extent I already do, being a proponent of the work of Carl Jung in the context of dream work and shadow work, as well as a student of theological reflection. These practices bridge the private and the public spheres and connect them with faith, Scripture and culture. The interplay between self and “Other” is critical in these two practices, where there is really no such thing as “Other,” where every part of a situation is part of one’s self. When we can recognize the “Other” as part of ourselves, we begin to live in a world based in wholeness.Wholeness doesn’t mean perfect agreement, unanimity, or blind faith. Wholeness is exactly what it sounds like – a completeness. It arises out of the dialectical process of the tension of opposites leading to synthesis and progress.

So in my daily life, I can pay more attention to the things that trouble me and those that bother me. I must stand firmly in what I believe within myself while opening myself to listening to others. I must be willing to learn from what I hear. I believe that I’m pretty good at listening, being open and being willing to learn. The problem for me then arises standing my ground. I am sometimes too willing to see all points of view as valid, not that they aren’t valid to the people expressing them, but they can’t all be valid as my point of view. They can only inform my point of view with my cooperation in wanting to learn and grow in relationship with my fellow human beings.

The events of Charlottesville, VA last week are a perfect example of a place in this historical moment where I can stop, listen and discern. I have to be willing to see the side of the neo-nazis, understanding why they believe what they believe, while embracing the opposite opinion myself. If I am not able to engage in dialogue, for example, with those whose values are so different from mine, then we will remain in separate pockets of humanity, not communicating ethically and not building community. The likely result of such a situation is violence.

When human beings can stand in such different territory, whether due to upbringing, genetics, personality, culture or conditioning, we realize we have a common ground  – we are human. If the beliefs of the “Other” can be so completely opposite to mine, then we owe each other to listen to each other, to find out how we can be humans on the same planet with such wildly different ethical views. If we can connect on the level of our humanity, perhaps we can begin to understand each other. My greatest hope is that little bit of understanding can lead to relationship and love, not violence or indignant disagreement.

In the end, I will stand, after much discernment and learning, for what I believe to be the right thing for me to do and the right things for me to believe. This doesn’t mean I will reject my fellow man, but hopefully means I can begin to make progress in cultivating a communication ethic in the world around me that fosters love and compassion.


Arnett, R. C., Fritz, J. M., & Bell, L. M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles: Sage Publications

Responsiveness in the hospital community

The night I checked into the hospital to have my first child, I was cared for by a doctor I had never met. She was new to the OB/Gyn practice where I was a patient and I had never had an office visit with her. My optimism at the thought of having my child had led me to expect that when my time came, I would have one of the doctors I knew and by whom I would feel comforted.

Needless to say, I didn’t get what I expected. I had created a birth plan, a trend in 21st-century baby-having. I had expected that I might be able to have my son naturally and that I would be a part of the journey. The new doctor could barely contain her contempt at my having a birth plan. She probably saw me for what I was, someone who was going to need a C-section. Her responsiveness to me was negative and not directed in a relational way nurtured by compassion and companionship. We were not in a loop of mutual giving and receiving. Our communication was not dialogical except to the extent that she was thwarted by my birth plan.

L0000392 Woodcut: physician at patient’s bedside.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

Each time she said, “Well, if you didn’t have a birth plan, we’d be doing this…” it hurt my feelings and belittled me. Interestingly, the situation caused me to stand up for myself a bit, something that can be difficult for me. The birth plan gave me some power and set a boundary. I explained to the doctor that I wasn’t married to the birth plan, I just wanted to be part of the experience, I wanted to be in on the decisions and not just a body lying there at the mercy of the hospital. I wanted so much for it to be dialogical, that we would learn from each other and make the best decisions together. But dialogical negotiation was not in the cards. We negotiated a bit as I had to give permission for my birth plan to be tossed in the trash, one layer at a time.

After 30 hours of trying various methods to encourage my son to come, my optimism had to turn to hope, a deeper sense of well-being outside my expectations. In one crystalized historical moment suspended over several days, I had to live in survival mode, think about what was best for my baby and give up my expectations and plans for what my experience in the hospital would be like. Something in me knew that we would come out on the other side, and that was what mattered. And if we failed to make it out alive, I had tried my best to make the right decisions.

Fortunately for me and my son, I was not worried about him. I felt intuitively that he was fine, not in danger, and that we just had to get him here. When they finally rolled me down the hall to surgery, I was so desperately tired, thirsty and especially, hungry, that I didn’t know whether I had the strength to keep going. I became a body lying there waiting to have my baby “removed.” Recognizing that I felt in dire straits I remember thinking, “I’m going to have to process this when it’s over.” I had never had to cope in extreme survival mode before.

On the whole, I received good scientific care, but almost none of the responsive communicative actions from the hospital staff – doctors, nurses, lactation consultants and more – were particularly helpful or comforting. I still remember one nurse telling me that she Jokingly threatened my newborn that if he didn’t stop crying he would have to get his foot poked (as they do to check stats in babies) again! I was horrified. I didn’t have an experience of appropriate attentiveness. The staff did not seem to judge what would be the most caring response for me at any time. It was all a practical, scientific undertaking, based on the agenda of the various staff members: The doctor knew that she knew best, that baby nurse didn’t want to be bothered my son’s crying and the lactation consultant couldn’t stand the thought of any other method than breast feeding because she’d nursed seven children of her own.

Ironically, in the end, my “new” doctor ended up being such a good surgeon that I chose to have her deliver my second son in a planned C-section. When I was under what I would consider her will, our relationship was more cordial and she was more responsive to me as a person. I was also able to participate by learning more about C-sections and what to expect.

To close I must say that in other situations with my family, at this same hospital, we have received the most caring attentiveness I could imagine. We have been extremely blessed. Such contrasting experiences have shown me the importance of communication ethics in health care. We are all partners in these journeys, encouraging and nurturing each to health no matter the physical outcome. To miss the opportunity to encounter the other and work together through situations requiring care, is to miss a critical part on the human journey.


The community of Church memory and how things change

In Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference, the authors discuss the theory developed by Robert Bellah that organization are holders of a “community of memory” (Arnett, Fritz, and Bell, 2009). No organization or individual exists in a vacuum, especially not the Church. The Christian Church has a long history of tradition, or holding the community of memory, providing generation after generation a container in which to describe, define and understand their faith. This faith container also provides guidelines for how one lives in the world.

Tradition is a beautiful thing. It connects us to the millennia of people who have come before us, seeking God in the mystery of life. However, the people who have come before us have expressed their faith within the Christian Church differently over the centuries. This is what we call living tradition. Living tradition is in place when the community of memory holds the what, the good, what is important, while translating it for current times. Translating for the current culture is not always easy, as we know. Different groups within organizations, especially in the Church, have different notions of the good that the organization is protecting. Different groups within the same organization back different communities of memory.

What happens when these differences arise as a people struggle to stay together in times of change or cultural development? Often there is a “rhetorical interruption” (Arnett, et. al, 2009). One of the most recent in my Church, The Episcopal Church, has been the concern over what to do about same-sex marriage. What began decades ago as a forward-looking discussion became an absolute interruption when legislation was place before the General Convention of The Episcopal Church in 2012 providing resources for a ceremony called a same-sex blessing to be performed provisionally in the Church (same-sex marriage itself was not yet on the table, just the blessing of a marriage) (Archives of The Episcopal Church, Resolution 2012-A049).

For some, this was a total culture shock. I liken it to intercultural communication ethics where differences and similarities among cultures are studied, as well as the content of those cultures and the effects of that content on persons within and across different cultures (Arnett, et. al, 2009). The community of memory for many in the Church viewed marriage as a sacrament between a man and a woman. Others viewed this movement as being part of the living tradition, one that was adapting to our times. These were very different cultural traditions quickly forced into the same worship space.

This shift created a rhetorical interruption in the life of the Church. The answer, at least in my diocese (a geographical groups of churches in a hierarchical church), was to be dialogical, to attempt “learning” (Arnett, et. al, 2009). A task force of people who stood in a variety of positions on the matter was formed, as equally divided into two communities of memory as possible – roughly those for and those against – those who saw same-sex marriage as completely counter to the culture of the Church and those who saw it as tradition along a continuum.

The group met, studied, discussed theology, prayed together and most of all, stayed together. Out of this task force came a paper on the theology of marriage in the Church and on same-sex (at the time) blessings. The result was the development of a process where churches could apply to perform same-sex blessings only after offering the same dialogical model first in their congregations. It was required that they offer meetings and discussion and that the vestry (governing body of a congregation) at the end of the discussion process, vote on whether their congregation would apply to perform the blessings.

Many congregations, under one diocese, had the opportunity to stay in community in the midst of disagreement and to be a part of the evolving community of memory. It worked. The churches in my diocese stayed together and the people within the churches stayed together. We are still together. Some folks, of course, left when the Church took a direction that they couldn’t reconcile with their notion of the community of memory, but on the whole, we are whole.

In 2015 at the time of the General Convention of The Episcopal Church (held every three years), same-sex marriage was made legal in most states in the U.S. and about a week later, the Church approved that same-sex marriages could be performed in churches (General Convention of The Episcopal Church, Resolution 2015-A054). Whole dioceses and congregations within dioceses still have choice, but the new living tradition of the Church is that it has taken a stance on same-sex marriage, engaging in a significant cultural shift.

There are still many who disagree with the stance The Episcopal Church has taken. I would recommend, as described above, the ethical communication behaviors of dialogue and sharing stories. Getting to know the people who live in your community allows for learning and an opening of the heart. Don’t shut yourself off to those in your family who you love who disagree. “Meeting another culture is a journey into difference” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 163). When we do that, we know who we are and what we stand for in a compassionate and loving way.


Arnett, R. C., Fritz, J. M., & Bell, L. M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

General Convention, Journal of the General Convention of…The Episcopal Church, Salt Lake City, 2015 (New York: General Convention, 2015), pp. 778-781.

Home. (n.d.). Retrieved August 06, 2017, from