Minding the Invisible: Downloads from My Tour with David Whyte — Part One


I recently had the pleasure of accompanying the celebrated poet, author, and organizational consultant David Whyte on one of his tours through the countryside of West Ireland to experience the magic, poetry, and wisdom of the ancient Celtic culture. The following is a series of posts that are inspired by my conversations and deep listening to this lineage holder of oral tradition.

One thing I’ve admired about David is how he has become one of the few poets who has crossed the bridge into the business landscape and brought his transformative conversations to the world of organizational development. He has consulted with Chanel and other top brands focusing on conversational leadership and getting at the core of what leadership teams are needing to discuss or identify what they are painfully avoiding.

As you may know, a lot of my own writing and attention has been on the role of intuition in the business space. And while David doesn’t often use the word intuition directly, he is constantly pointing to the power of this invisible conversation that’s going on all the time.

One of the areas he points to within conversational leadership is ‘minding the invisible.’ Whether you are in the middle of heated negotiations in your business, presenting your investment pitch to a group of angel investors, or leading an all-hands meeting, what is the conversation that wants to happen? What is not being said that needs to be paid attention to?

What are the eyes and body language of your audience telling you?

Are they riveted to their seats, anticipating your next words? Are they offended by what you are proposing? Are they bored and tuned-out and desperate to check their smartphones instead of listening to you?

Using your intuition in real-time as a speaker, trainer, salesman, manager, or leader is critical in ‘minding the invisible.’ This is a skillset that is underappreciated in the business space as too often we are using our strategic mind to define and forecast what’s next before we have a real opportunity to allow the conversation to ripen, with what wants to happen now.

So often in business negotiations, we don’t ‘mind the invisible,’ and instead focus on our agenda and mindset before we engage in dialogue. In fact, the only time I was ever fired for a job, before the manager called me into his office, I preempted the conversation by telling him my one fear was that he had already made up his mind about me without having a real dialogue first to hear my perspective. And while denying this, I could sense my words were useless as my fate was predetermined, which it was.

So, what does it mean in your company culture to mind the invisible? When you check your inner compass, what are the conversations that are not happening with your team? The ones you may be avoiding with your staff or customer?

What are the conversations that need to happen in your marketing messaging and brand strategy? How do you get out in-front and anticipate the conversations that are naturally arising, versus hope they disappear?

The companies that are winning in today’s climate, are the ones that embrace the invisible more than ever before. Whether it’s your company culture and atmosphere, ‘the way we do it here,’ how we communicate and being open to the larger conversations in our sphere of influence, are the companies that are thriving.

How are you listening to and trusting your intuition in what is wanting to happen next?