Reflections on a Survey

It’s November 6, 2020, and as of 2:54pm we haven’t finished counting all the votes, and we still don’t know who has been elected president of the US.

Today I received a request from a European Unification Church member for a survey I’d worked on 7 years ago, and I’ve been looking through it again after all this time, only too happy to be diverted from the intense political situation going on. The survey asked only 2 questions: What inspires you about the Unification Church Sunday service, and what would you change if you could? These two questions get straight to the heart of the issue, and make it easy to gather people’s thoughts without putting them through a lengthy questionnaire. Three things strike me today as I revisit the results: the importance of small groups, making a contribution, and weathering times of transition. Let me elaborate.

I belong to a small group of women who have been going through the 12 steps of ACA (Adult Children of Alcoholic or Dysfunctional Families) together for the past 2+ years. There were 4 of us to start, now we are three.

Being part of a weekly small group dedicated to spiritual growth has been an important source of support and comfort to me. We are not all at the same stage of growth, or on the same side politically, nor do we all share a common faith. One of us is a Catholic turned Jew, one a Christian, one an agnostic, and I call myself a ‘seeker’ without any religious affiliation. One of us is a Trump supporter, two of us not. We come together week after week and share our experience, strength, and hope with each other without needing to judge or be polarized by our various forms of belief or disbelief. We all agree that life is for learning, as Joni Mitchell once said in a song.

Small groups work. They create intimacy and an opportunity to share safely when the participants all agree they are there to learn, not to proselytize, or to ‘educate.’

Making a contribution was a very important takeaway from the survey work for me. People tend to think the leader is responsible for making changes and seeing to it that everything works. But the responses showed that contribution makes people feel more ownership, connects them together, and multiplies creative energy.

One of my favorite responses summed it up: “There wasn’t much I liked about Sunday service at all. This inspired me to get involved and help develop a music ministry. That has developed into collaboration with the pastor to make the service more embracing, enchanting and inspiring.”  I happened to find myself in Bridgeport, CT a few years later attending the service that person had been a part of, and I saw the result he had talked about. The musical part of the program was alive, involved many different age groups, and touched the entire congregation.

In my case, I’ve been conscious ever since of being more proactive when I want to see change, rather than just adding an ineffective voice of complaint. That one response changed my participation in my own service in Belgium, and has remained as a way of life for me going forward. I joined the board of the co-op where I live when I felt my input would be beneficial to the building, and this year I joined Vote Forward and wrote 100 letters to voters in Texas and Florida encouraging them to get out and vote. Being active in the democratic process has helped me stay calm and focused, and sleep well at night.

We are currently in a time of transition. I am writing now a day later and the election results have come in. Joe Biden is our 46th president. I am celebrating along with many of us for whom these past 4 years have been filled with a sense of loss and disbelief. Grief over a way of life we felt we knew disappearing. However, there are 70 million people who are not celebrating with me, and I know how they feel. I suffered the same loss in 2016. Going forward none of us can fall back into a complacent life. So much has changed. Democracy takes work, and transition times challenge us to rethink and recreate ourselves and our institutions. When enough people lean in together, a tipping point is reached and change becomes inevitable.

I don’t know what our future democracy will look like, but I hope we don’t squander it, and that we learn to honor our differences with more civility and empathy. Learning to talk to each other when we disagree on just about everything is a good place to start. I am encouraged and moved by Dave Chappelle’s reminder to be a ‘humble winner,’ and by his ‘kindness conspiracy’ message on SNL. “It’s random acts of kindness for Black people. Do something nice for a Black person just because they’re Black, and you’ve got to make sure they don’t deserve it… they can’t deserve it, the same way all these years they did terrible things to Black people just because they’re Black and they didn’t deserve it.”

I’m feeling inspired.

Thank you for Asking!

This is not a new survey. It’s been 3 1/2 years since I completed a survey of Unificationist Sunday Services as they are experienced by various members around the world. It was my first research project. I was inspired by the qualitative research of Brene Brown (The Power of Vulnerability), and dealing with a lagging interest in attending a service 90 minutes from home. I was also frustrated that my experience and that of my husband wasn’t part of the conversation. I wanted to find out what others had to say.

Engrossed thoroughly as I was in reading the responses as they came in, the work pulled me through a tough winter in Belgium, and helped me tap into a passion I’ve had all my life: giving voice to the silent or the unheard.  Grassroots stories from the field always catch my interest. All told, I logged in over 600 hours, spanning a period of 3 months. The people who responded had something to say and were glad to be asked.

The finished survey was sent out to everyone who had participated, and then published on the Applied Unificationism blog, but that was as far as it went. This week, I went back for the first time, and realized it might be time to make the website public. For anyone out there who’s interested or involved in similar research,  I hope it is edifying and finds fertile soil in your garden as well.


Habitudes 1

 Habitudes for CommunicatorsImages that Form Leadership Habits and Attitudesby Tim Elmore

I came upon this book serendipitously. Have you ever had an experience that matches exactly with something you read about the day before? Jean will be giving a talk in a few weeks, and he was wondering how to prepare~ then this book just fell into our laps. I’m inspired because we have also just started a small group and I’m looking for things to inspire our discussion and help us create genuine relationships with each other.

The following is an excerpt from the first IMAGE given by Tim Elmore. The book is wonderfully designed to be not only inspiring, but easily applicable~ guidelines are given to assess yourself and your personal authentic speaker/communicator skills.



When a communicator provides a window for people to see into his/her life, listeners receive a mirror to see their own. Speakers need to identify with the people they are addressing. Steve Jobs told 3 stories about his life, taking less than 15 minutes to deliver one of the most memorable commencement speeches ever given at Stanford University (2005).

When speakers hold a window up to their soul (their humanity) listeners identify with them and become engaged with their story. Because the communicator is secure enough to pull back the curtain on their own life, everyone feels safe to lean in and examine their own.

Effective speakers identify with the people who are listening. They may tell a story about themselves; they might reveal a fear, a hope or a weakness they possess. Through the raw act of being transparent, they attract listeners to identify with them. A great example is Brandon Stanton’s wildly successful blog, Humans of New York.

The windows and mirrors idea is about becoming transparent. Being authentic and revealing. We practice going beyond the sterile transmittal of information. It reminds us that what people really long for ~ what is magnetic to most audiences~ is genuine spirit.

People are looking for a communicator more than a public speaker.

Talk it over:

  1. Is it difficult for you to open up and become vulnerable in front of an audience? Why?
  2. How much weakness to share? How transparent should one be with an audience?John Maxwell suggests that speakers should be real to the point that the audience doesn’t begin to feel sorry for them. Do you have an experience of a speaker going overboard and losing your interest or respect?
  3. When have you seen a communicator become authentic and win over a crowd?

Assess Yourself

Dr. Martin Seligman says that the critical determinant of success in life is resilience in the face of adversity. Awareness, contemplation and a sense of humor are your best friends in attempting to learn from difficult experiences and make sense of them for listeners. Evaluate your personal communication using the following criteria on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being weak and 10 being strong.

1. I am keenly aware of my own flaws and weaknesses. _____

2. I reflect on lessons I can learn from difficult experiences. _____

3. I maintain a sense of humor and can laugh at myself. _____

4. I am emotionally secure enough to share my flaws/weaknesses. _____

5. I’m generally good at sharing stories from my life, even failures. _____

6. I can sense if my listeners need more transparency as I speak. _____



One rule works in most social settings: people will only become as vulnerable as their leader. We must be willing to reveal the kind of information that we’d ask of another person. Telling people your background, your likes and dislikes, and your fears and hopes is part of the give and take of genuine conversation. It’s how we get to know people. This week, practice this habitude in conversations and in any speeches, talks or sermons you deliver. Develop two strong personal anecdotes and insert them into your comments to others. Take a risk and open up about your humanity. Then, meet in a community and discuss how it influenced others to be transparent as well.


Collaborating for a Change: Applying Himmelman’s Approach                           

Source: Arthur T. Himmelman, Collaborating for a Change

 -Networking- Information exchange, Minimal time, low levels of trust, no turf sharing; No mutual sharing of resources

 -Coordinating-Information exchange and activities to achieve a common purpose, Moderate time and trust, no turf sharing, make services user friendly; None or minimal resource sharing

 -Cooperating-All of coordinating plus resource, Substantial time, high trust, high access to each other’s turf; Moderate to extensive resource sharing. Some sharing of risks, responsibilities and rewards.

 -Collaborating-All of cooperating plus enhancing the capacity of another to achieve a common purpose; Extensive time, very high trust, reciprocal capacity enhancements; Full sharing of resources, risks, responsibilities and rewards 

Additional Resources

-David Chrislip and Carl E. Larson: Collaborative Leadership

-WilliamIsaacs: DialogicLeadership

-James Kouzes and Barry Posner: The Leadership Challenge

-ArthurT.Himmelman: CollaborationforaChange

-JohnKesler: CivilDiscourse

-PeterSenge: TheFifthDiscipline

-JohnGardner: OnLeadership

-Ronald Heifetz: Leadership Without Easy Answers

 Margaret O. Schmelzer, MS, RN State Health Plan Director Director of Public Health Nursing and Health Policy Division of Public Health Wisconsin Department of Health Services Madison, Wisconsin  May 2013


Thank You!



Five Levels of Discourse in Building Healthy Communities

(Adapted) Primary source: John T. Kesler, Healthy Communities and Civil Discourse


1. Influence and even control decisions by individuals, institutions, and interest groups. Used to getting what they want due to power, money and influence (e.g., government, powerful industries, Wall Street).

 2. Here we take responsibility for respecting other’s rights if we are to enjoy our own. Gets us no further than balancing and accommodating interests. Doesn’t lead us to maximizing personal or community health. This can result in confrontations and win-lose outcomes (e.g., dispute resolution, such as mediation, arbitration).

 3. Calls for a higher cognitive and moral awareness and a deep sense of empathy. Works well with homogeneous ethnic and socioeconomic groups (town meetings). Focus is on responsibility and ownership / accountability. Here priorities, policies, plans are developed consistent with values conducive to personal and community flourishing. By participating, people begin to own it and work together (e.g., healthy communities initiatives, HW2020).

 4. Includes voices not usually heard. Level 3 is good but insufficient as it’s too easy to be satisfied with priorities and may not consider the entire community. Address fairness, social justice, universal respect and public policy. Look beyond the issues and solutions that arise out of discourse / dialogue. Finding commonalities can bridge deep cultural differences, and can yield policy implications that are broader than the scope of the initiating community (e.g., housing, homelessness, education).

 5. Extends concern for justice and fairness for each individual without giving up principles of fairness and social justice. Reflects The Golden Rule. Provides the opportunity to promote the highest traditions of a caring and nurturing society (e.g., voting, civil rights, human rights).













From Healthiest Wisconsin 2020: Everyone Living Better, Longer


Slide Show:



“People want to be engaged in civic life. They want their views heard, understood and considered. They want to know that their involvement will make a difference, and that the public, not governments or special interest groups, defines the public interest.” Chrislip and Larson, Collaborative Leadership,

Collaborative Leadership, What is it? Taking a leadership role in a coalition, organization, or enterprise where:

• Everyone is on an equal footing.

• Participants work together to solve a problem, create something new, or run an organization / initiative.

• The leader relies on the group to work with both content and substance.

• The leader promotes and safeguards the process 


-Inspire commitment and action

-Use collaborative problem-solving and decision-making

-It’s an open process with no set end-point when it begins

-The end-point is worked out by the group – that’s collaboration.

-Lead as a peer problem solver

-Build broad-based involvement

-Sustain hope and participation



-More involvement in implementation

-Trust building

-Eliminate turf issues

-Access to more and better information / ideas

-Increased opportunity for results

-Generates new leaders

-Empowers collective action at the community and  organizational levels

-Offers a fundamental “change for the better” in the ways communities and organizations operate


This is consistent with John Kesler’s vision of inclusive, consensus-oriented civil discourse. This strongly aligns with the concepts of the “healthy communities” movement. John Kesler, Healthy Communities and Civil Discourse, 2000


-Time consuming

-Demands an ability to face conflict directly

-Need to overcome resistance to the whole idea of collaborative leadership

-Some may accuse the leader of not doing his/her job

-Some prefer authority figures making decisions or telling them “what to do”

-Some people may be used to authoritarian approaches

• Discomfort with uncertainty

• Old notions of the leader as “hero”


WHEN NOT TO USE ITCollaborative leadership may not work well in:

– Command-and-control environments (military combat, epidemic control)

– Rigorous approaches to ascertaining scientific evidence / scientific approaches

 WHEN TO USE IT:  Collaborative leadership works well:

– When the timing is right

– When problems are serious / complex

– Where there are a number of stakeholders with varied interests / perspectives

– When other attempts at solutions have not worked

– When an issue affects a whole organization or large portion of a community

– When inclusiveness and empowerment are goals from the beginning


Thought to Consider“The strategies and approaches we take may not be the ultimate solutions to today’s problems but they must be an improved evolving expression of an ideal.” Adapted from How Your Child Is Smart, Donna Marcova, page 31

 Creative Tension– Tension here does not mean anxiety or stress or emotional tension.

– It’s a force when we acknowledge our vision is at odds with current reality.

– When we feel the vision is too high, we naturally ask to lower the vision.

– We lower the vision when we fear failure (including personal failure). We are tempted to quit.

– We should do the opposite – elevate current reality instead of lowering the vision – keep our visions high. Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline


Balancing Advocacy / Inquiry

-Advocacy can cut off inquiry; most importantly, it can cut off learning.

-Without inquiry, advocacy begets more advocacy and positions become hardened. There’s no forward movement. Creates escalation of problems.

-Inquiry (asking questions) such as: – “What leads you to that position?” – “Can you illustrate your point for me?”

-What questions might you ask to foster inquiry? Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline


-When we balance inquiry and advocacy, we create opportunities for dialogue.

-Remember: dialogue is generative. It creates new knowledge; Knowledge stimulates learning by people and by stakeholders.

Suggested reading: Dialogic Leadership – William Isaacs, Vol.10, No. 1, Systems Thinker

Peter Senge and William Isaacs, combined sources


Characteristics / Traits of Collaborative Leaders

-Trusted and respected

-Relate to people easily

-Good facilitators


-Nurture new and emerging leaders

-Safeguard the process

-Motivated to find solutions to real problems

-Focus on what’s best for the group, the organization or the community as a whole

-Focus on broad rather than narrow-interest issues


Effective Collaborative Leaders – Five practices:

1. Lead the process

2. Understand the context in the given situation

3. Motivate

4. Be flexible and persistent

5. Set aside one’s ego


Collaborative Leadership Practice #1: Establish, maintain and safeguard the collaborative process. Help the group to:

       -Set norms

       -Assure everyone gets heard, Encourage and model inclusiveness

       -Foster real connections between people

  -Mediate conflicts / disputes

– Create mechanisms to solicit ideas

– Maintain collaborative problem solving / decisions

– Push the group toward effectiveness

– Choose doable projects first, to build confidence and demonstrate group success


Collaborative Leadership Practice #2: Know the leadership context:

–The community or organization

–The nature of the problem


Collaborative Leadership Practice #3: Motivate, motivate, motivate

–Be upbeat even when things look bleak

-Keep the group focused on the future –

-Keep focused on the bigger picture

-Identify and celebrate small successes

-Guard against discouragement and burn-out


Collaborative Leadership Practice #4: Be flexible, yet be unyielding

–         Be flexible:

•         Try new ideas including ideas from unusual or unlikely sources

•         Change course as the situation demands

•         Let go of something that isn’t working

•         Create opportunities for more participation


–         Be unyielding:

•         Protect the integrity of an open, collaborative process

•         Practice inclusiveness

•         Keep the group on track

•         Advocate for the best interests of the group as a whole


Collaborative Leadership Practice #5: Check your ego at the door

-Let go of your own ego

-Forget about being a “hero” or taking credit

-Contribute to problem-solving as a member

-Accept the decisions of the group

 Aligning Problem Type and Leadership Approaches:

1. Directive leader – role as expert- Solves the problem; gives instructions

2. Dual leader – role as directive and coach- Solicits group involvement; asks for input; encourages; meet people’s needs; may bring in an expert. Leader may ultimately make the decision.

3. Collaborative leader- Listens; praise; asks for input; gives feedback; facilitates and encourages confidence and motivation; creates learning through dialogue by balancing inquiry and advocacy.

 Closing Remarks: “Leaders know some of the most critically important tasks require lateral leadership, boundary crossing leadership involving groups over whom one has little control. They must exercise leader-like influence beyond the system over which they preside. They must do what they can to lead without authority.” John Gardner, On Leadership