Personal Integration Essentials for Consultants

People often ask me how I got into Organization Development Consulting. It is for me a God-given gift driven from a faith-based perspective. It is the fulfillment of my search for meaning and authenticity. It also happened in perfect timing when, at a young age, I wanted to go beyond my training in journalism and media to find the perfect fit between what one desires and what life has to offer.

I got introduced to the exciting discipline of Organization Development in 1972, when as a USAID fellow I attended in Battle Creek Seminar Center, Michigan—a workshop involving close to a 100 people from different nations. The intervention was all a social experiment—about getting involved in managing change, communications, and forming teams. I was impressed at how one’s personhood becomes a vital anchor to changing external circumstances and its central role to organization effectiveness.

Career Switch: From Media to OD

I was working in mass media then, having experienced in quick progression different roles and functions: feature writer, radio producer-announcer, television producer, head of regional operations. It was a creative and challenging work but, being a college student leader during the sixties (frequently termed as the third quarter storm), the idealist of change in me remained hungry for making the right type of contribution. Organization Development was the profession I wanted to pursue.

Personal Integration Test

Joining the consumer conglomerate that pioneered organization development in business was therefore a dream come true for me.  Many situations, surprising and unexpected, can test one’s personal integration. I remember one incident, when my organization development team spent a week doing diagnosis and preparation for a team-building workshop involving an IT functional team. 

The morning of the workshop, as I was about to board the bus to bring us to Tagaytay, I was introduced to someone who was to replace the former head of the group. Eagerly, I sat beside him, only to realize he did not believe in organization development and felt the team-building activity was a waste of resources. It was a dampener. I probed gently, asking questions and trying to understand where he was coming from. Then after much listening, I started to share the findings of our diagnosis and the design that we developed. He started nodding as if to say, he will give us a chance to prove ourselves.

The team building intervention was a success, and the manager became our promoter and sponsor with the other units. Remaining calm and personally integrated has converted our skeptic into a believer.

Managing the Negative Self

Some of the concepts, tools and processes I have found useful to help in self integration, I keep in my memory treasure chest. I remember studying in the United States and realizing that our respect for elders and the relatively high power distance gave me a certain timidity and shyness that prevented me from expressing my ideas. My dad would remind me that every person deserves respect and that we all have equal rights and should not be scared by appearances. He knew what he was talking about, having been a Fullbright Hayes scholar at the Ohio State University in the fifties. After all, everyone “sits on the porcelain chair every morning”, he casually said. He can never imaging how helpful that image was in moments when I felt inadequate and inferior.

Onion Concept of Self

The other image is of the onion concept of self. I can no longer recall the author. But the idea is when we are born, we are “good, true and beautiful,” so congruent of a person being made “in the image and likeness of God.” But life’s circumstances and our need for survival causes us to grow layers like an onion. Two more layers form, one is the negative self concept and the other the “positive yet phony self.” When I interact as an OD consultant, I imagine myself peeling the layers of the onion to arrive at my “genuine and authentic self.” Then emptying myself of my ego, I am more ready to receive and listen to the inputs of the client and discover what is the right intervention for the situation.

Transactional Analysis

The other concept that appeals to me is “transactional analysis,” popularized by Eric Berne. It is as cited in Wikipedia as a “popular psychology that one’s behavior and social relationships reflect an interchange between parental, adult, and childlike aspects of personality established in early life.” In crucial situations, the awareness of the particular role played and the ability to process one’s self becomes useful. It leads to enhanced mastery of oneself.

Some strategies from Thai Nguyen, an athlete can equally be useful for organization development consultants. One, become the best version of yourself that will spark change in others. Two, make peace with your past that allows you a more objective approach to the future. Three, challenge yourself. Four, keep a journal that will enhance awareness of your behaviors and thought patterns. Five, audit yourself as self mastery starts with self honesty.

In addition, may I suggest two vital strategies. One is to develop emotionally and intuitively through meditation and reflection. Two is to do a journal for thinking through each intervention experience. I support Aristotle when he proclaimed, “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

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