This past week was a tough one for me. My grandmother passed away, and there’s been an unshakable ache in my chest all week as I learn to move with the loss. I haven’t felt like doing much of anything, so I haven’t. Then, along comes my friend Bob Petruska, a consultant who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. He asked one of his own self-organizing groups to reflect on the benefits of the group, created a video of some of their responses, and sent it to me–a kind act that just wrote my blog for me this week–a week I REALLY needed help. What a guy. Thank you Bob. Here is his video…

Bob and I are also a self-organizing group. Bob found me several years ago, when I first started blogging, and reached out to say hello. We may live on opposite sides of the country, and do different work, but we were drawn together by a shared love of working as (and talking about) self-organizing work groups. We also both love Meg Wheatley. We’re also both stepping away from full-time work within large organizations to try something different for ourselves and our families. This conscious step away from what was normal work for us is scary, and I feel better knowing that Bob is out there taking similar tentative steps and leaps on his own path–someone I can commiserate with and ask a question of, as needed. We’re also very different. He’s an expert on a myriad of things I know relatively little about, including Lean and Six Sigma. Although we’ve yet to work together, we talk occasionally via email, via Skype, and via comments on this blog. Bob is kind, shows up to learn, and is open and generous–all things I aspire to myself. He even surprised me on my birthday last year with an iTunes gift card. That was cool.

How Bob and I are a self-organizing group…

  • Our group is more internally created than externally created. We allow ourselves to be drawn together by both our similarities (a comfort) and our differences (learning opportunities).
  • Our group is more emergent (appearing to arise spontaneously) than planned.
  • We are surprised and delighted to find ourselves friends today–a relationship that doesn’t end even when our work together does.

The community that Bob and I are part of…

The people highlighted in Bob’s video are a self-organizing group for him. For me, they have just become community members. They are people who took a leap of faith and decided to trust me, because they trust Bob. They allowed themselves to be videotaped public speaking–something they are learning to do together. Extraordinarily brave you are, people of Charlotte, North Carolina–public speaking scares me to death! Thanks to Bob, I now know that it’s ok to trust these brave people. Although they are technically strangers to me, I would open my front door to them, and welcome them in, without giving it a second thought today. Trusting strangers and allowing them to come close (emotionally local is my Seattle-researcher-nerd term for it). That’s community. And that’s the power of community.

Within self-organizing groups, I drop my individual fears long enough to see community that I couldn’t before see or imagine was even there. As community, we make new self-organizing groups possible. And we change ourselves and our world for the better.

Thank you brave people of Steele Creek Toastmasters. Your generosity is a gift to everyone reading this and a particular gift for me, who you helped during a time of mourning the loss of my dear grandma. I wish you long, happy lives free of the “ahs” and “ums” in your public speeches that you desire and full of laughter and forgiveness when they do sneak in.