Metanoa Integrators (Strategy, Culture, Change and Leadership)

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The Leaders Soul

I use the word ‘Soul’ intentionally to counterbalance the neurobiological determinism assailing organisations. I am not harking back to a bygone age clutching at commandment stone or pontificating from the pulpit, for even these emblems have withered when exposed to the light. Neither do I wish to link the word to a New Age mantra or the rich and deep traditions of the East.

I use it here as a means to connect with what is deeply significant to each one of us within organisations, it is a field, energy, force whatever else you may choose to call it that permeates our deeper dreams and desires, it resides within each of us though it is elusive and indescribable. No physicist, scientist, professor or neuroscientist has located it. It can’t be seen or touched, it is neither in the brain, the heart or the gut, yet it exerts a powerful influence.

Though it can’t be seen or touched, each one of us has felt it, however its not the same type of everyday feeling that you would ascribe to the senses, it resides much deeper and subtly below awareness and within awareness at the same time.

All of us have it and its potency and vitality ebbs and flows. You witness it in others - In people that lift your spirit, offer you wise counsel, support you unconditionally and challenge you to be your best. You are exposed to their humanity, their strengths, their concerns, their tribulations and their hopes. You see it in teams and organisations when they are infused with vision, purpose and passion.

We connect more profoundly with ’Soul’ when we allow our senses to grow still and enable a process of flow.

I have found the verse on Self-Knowledge from ‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran a powerful enabler. I invite you to watch my short two-minute video on Youtube.

A verse on Self-Knowledge from 'The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran. Recited by Eugene Fernandez and accompanied by his photography.

Dr Eugene Fernandez has over 25 years experience in consulting, coaching and facilitation, spanning various industries and sectors globally.

DOOR to Reflection


Eugene Fernandez

Managers and Leaders are critical agents in helping to challenge people’s view of the world by encouraging deeper thinking and reflective processes within the organisation.
The DOOR framework emerged as a result of helping managers and leaders to think and reflect on what they do and can lead to deep learning and generative change when utilised with Action Learning.

‘DOOR’ is used as a mnemonic, and also metaphorically and literally as a means to ‘open’ doorways to understanding. This article was written whilst on a family holiday in Fiji. It was an opportunity to use my holiday journey as a metaphor to illustrate and elaborate on the framework.

The ‘D’ in DOOR stands for ‘Design’, the first ‘O’ stands for ‘Operate’, the second ‘O” stands for ‘Observe’ and the ‘R” stands for “Reflect”. This then forms the first iterative cycle.

At its elementary level the ‘DO’ stands for ‘doing’. Like most Leaders, I am immersed well in truly in the Doing paradigm. For me ‘doing’ is at a most robotic and unconscious level. The ‘OR’ stands for ‘or else’ and includes divergent thinking, creativity, play, questioning, challenging, meta reflection and being present in the moment.

The open Door of the 737 aircraft was an invitation to leave behind the treadmill of Doing. Stepping inside I was met with a sun-blessed cheery face and a warm ‘Bula’ (Hello) which I followed with ‘Vinaka’ which means thank you. Those of you that have been to Fiji know that this is an invitation to slow down and to take on board what the Fijians call ‘Fiji Time’ – essentially chill out and go with the flow. A Fijian bitter (beer) eased me as I settled back into the seat and reflected on the year that was.

I have found that ‘Observation’ is usually a good place to start with the DOOR cycle. We are so busy bombarded with action that we rarely get the time to stand back and observe.

As a Leadership Consultant, I design processes to help busy executives to understand more about themselves. I’m also a conduit in enabling deeper more reflective processes to emerge, thereby helping to transform the lives of many leaders. I did this for over a decade,(Fernandez 1997) though found that whilst I enabled this for others, I rarely engaged with these processes myself. My Doctoral journey changed this through addressing the question – “How can I as a leader (add facilitator and consultant to this) shift my focus from Action to Deep Reflection?”

The lens that was externally focused was now firmly focused on me and the internal frame. Interestingly the old adage, ‘We teach what we most need to learn’, was true in my case. It helped me to see that what I encouraged in others, I needed to embody and emulate for myself. 

As Managers and Leaders we influence people and processes at different levels. Our whole persona is integrally linked to the processes that we enable. We influence and are also influenced by every interaction with others - in many ways our role becomes one of co-enabling and co-creating processes with people. The old science model of the distant disconnected observer and expert plying their trade to others has had its day in the sun (Hawking & Mlodinow 2010; Kaku 2009; Laszlo 2008).

If I was to enable deep change for others then I needed to observe and recognise my own mental models and filters that constructed my view of reality. I needed to work at growing and developing further as a person. Pragmatically speaking - as a Facilitator and Leader - through self-observation I needed to understand what my own mental models and filters of the world are. How do these models and filters reinforce my view of the world? What is the breadth and depth of my worldview? What are the deeper metaphors and stories that inform my world-view? How accommodative of others world-views am I? Observation is essential as it provides the data for Reflection.

Breathing with excitement I snorkeled at the edge of a reef en-route to stepping ashore for a barbecue lunch at a secluded Sandy Cay. I reflected momentarily on a Sufi quote I often use in my programs. ‘Deep in the Sea are riches beyond compare but if you seek safety it is on the shore’. By Shiraz. The person’s name not the wine, though I did indulge in a glass at the Cay!

To keep the metaphor going, there are many species of reflection, some allow you to explore the shore, close to the surface and others enable the exploration of the depths.

Like the coral reef, there are layers of interrelated, symbiotic connections; rich, colorful and imbued with meaning and purpose.

Time for ‘Reflection’ is scant in our busy lives. Even when we do reflect, our primary means is to reflect in the middle of action or briefly on action. This surface level process reflects back the world that you know - much like the shallow pool of water at the Cay that reflected my face and the blue sky in the background. In business, ‘Review’ is compensated for ‘Reflection’ and even this is done in a cursory fashion.

Also, review - like the ‘post implementation review’ within project management frameworks - sits comfortably within established business practices. It rarely challenges the status quo or the deeper underlying issues. In this context review and surface level reflection are single loop, incremental and fragmented from the context. Deep reflection on the other hand is the vital ingredient that incubates and illuminates new ideas. Deep reflection challenges current mental models or world-views and can change the game altogether. It is uncomfortable, creates dissonance and without it we are likely to achieve no more than trivial change. (Fernandez 2008; Fernandez 2009)

Deep reflection does not occur by happenstance. Given the pace and demands of life it needs to be designed, fostered and embedded systemically in organisations. Deep reflection involves the individual as both the subject and object of reflection. Also, group/team reflection sessions are a powerful enabler of high performance. Critical skills in dialogue, inquiry, advocacy and empathic
listening help in developing openness, trust and camaraderie. (Issacs 1999)

Observation and reflection are linked to our world-views and the Meta models we hold in our head. Leaders with myopic self centered world-views who are non-reflexive impact disproportionately on the lives of individuals.

Our Observations and Reflections provide the data and critical thinking that helps us in designing something new. Design incorporates a creative forward-looking process. It can be, intentional and unintentional, planned and emergent. Design plays a key part in transforming our lives and in developing solutions that go beyond what we currently do and know. Leaders, who spend time designing and planning for the future, intentionally create better outcomes. Recent research on the brain (Carr 2010; Fine 2007; Levine 2002; Siegel 2007) also highlights the critical need to engage the forebrain in designing and creating the future. If we don’t, this part atrophies and we get locked into the daily grind.

Some time ago, I facilitated a leadership program for the Ratus (chiefs of Fiji). There were significant insights and learnings for me and I valued the cross-cultural immersion. For my children, this was a holiday where I wanted them to have a similarly immersive cultural experience apart from the orchestrated one at our resort.

Whilst waiting in the foyer the valet, David, enquired about our trip, I briefly provided the highlights and commented that I was also hiring a car so my children could see the real Fiji. He open-heartedly invited us to his house for dinner in a village amongst small sugar cane plantations. We took up the offer, exchanged phone numbers and agreed to meet at the car park of a local supermarket in town and then follow him in our car.
We decided to bring a bottle of Australian wine along with an envelope containing money as our gift. With David in tow we also bought some nibbles and chocolates for his son plus a couple of bottles of Fiji bitter. David had two bags of ice, apologising that they had no light or fridge due to a recent cyclone. He asked us to follow him. I was glad that I had hired a large all terrain vehicle with plenty of clearance at the bottom as we had to take a longer route through boggy tracks due to the bridge being damaged by the cyclone.

We left the highway and entered a dirt road, after some time David left his car at a friends place and hopped in our car. He did this so that he could come back with us for the more dangerous part of the ride. It started to rain, the terrain was boggy and hilly, we forded two bridges, and one made of timber had my hair on edge. My rather limited driving in boggy terrain skills was also tested. A little later the rain had cleared and we entered lush green countryside. Farmers waved at us as we passed. David commented that due to the hilly terrain and the high cost of fuel most work was done by ox and spade. The mixed community (Fijian and Indian) helped each other out during the cutting season and for other communal activities.

We arrived at a small house tucked away amongst giant Neem, Mango and Tamarind trees. There were herbs vegetables and flowers around it and chickens and goats in separate pens. The house was clean and tidy; food was cooked in an annex kitchen that was fired with timber and charcoal. Water was drawn from a boar, though the pump was not working due to the electrical wires coming down. Dinner was served in the courtyard, as the house was too hot. We had a feast of crab and fish that David and his extended family had caught the day previously on his day off from work. He stated that we were lucky as the full moon meant fleshier and plump crabs.
We explored a range of issues including about the environment and global warming and the impact on his community. He commented that he was paid $3.90 per hour, as was most of the service staff at the resort. He said that this was not sustainable and equitable given the amount the resort charged their guests. His income was supplemented by what they grew.

For example he bartered some herbs for the lettuce in our salad. David and his wife saved $20 a fortnight for the education of their son. We discussed the traits and strengths that their son was already demonstrating and we talked about their aspirations. David and his wife had hope for a better future for their son. They were realistic, optimistic and intentionally and purposefully made plans for a brighter future.My children were privy to all that was said and done during this time. We had a great conversation on the trip back about our experiences, about the deeper pervading issues in society, about the future and its potentiality. I also had an opportunity to look up at the night sky; it appeared like every star was visible and twinkled.

The story captures many aspects of the design and planning process. My intention for a deeper cultural experience meets the warmhearted opportunity offered by David. We are all designers of our life, making choices along the way that create and bring to life a future drawn from many other possible futures (Inayatullah 2008). Awareness of this is critical for if we are not willing to actively engage in this design, then we may be unconscious of the influences around us and have a future imposed on us. 

‘Operate’ is the final frame of DOOR and many of us are very good at this. In fact our whole life is engineered for this to occur; our very cortical architecture primes us for pattern and predictability. Neuroscience recognizes that this pattern making approximates 96% of what we do and this is mainly unconscious. The 4% is working memory and our window to consciousness. The DOOR’s iterative process enables us to meaningfully and intentionally work with the 4% and to understand the patterns and processes that drive us. The beauty is that when you deeply think and reflect your ‘Doing’ also becomes more present. I was present and enjoyed my time with David and was alive to the journey. I had trust in the future that was unfolding around us.

We are constantly experiencing something through our senses. It is when we place this ‘DOing’ through the filter of Observation and Reflection that we add meaning to it. Meaning which is individualised, constructed and context bound, gains significance and power through a process of Dialogue with others. Managers and Leaders who are reflexive practitioners can with their whole being
‘Be the Change they want to see in the World’.

Carr, N. 2010, The Shallows - How the internet is changing the way we read, think and remember, Atlantic Books, London.
Fernandez, E. 1997, ‘The Value of Reflective Practice in the Process of Change’, Action Research thesis, International Management Centres-UK, Brisbane.
Fernandez, E. 2008, DOOR to Action Learning Metanoa, pp 1-3
Fernandez, E. 2009, 'DOOR to Deep Learning’, Deep Learning- Sources and Practices for Integral Leadership, eds P. Schrijnen, E. Leigh & S. Michiotis, Society For Organisational Learning, Lesbos Greece, pp. 59-62.
Fine, C. 2007, A Mind Of Its Own - How your brain distorts and deceives, Allen & Unwin Pty. Ltd, Sydney.
Hawking, S. & Mlodinow, L. 2010, The Grand Design, Bantam, New York.
Inayatullah, S. 2008, 'Six Pillars - Futures thinking for transforming ’, Foresight, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 4-21.
Issacs, W. 1999, Dialogue and the art of thinking together, Doubleday - Random House, New York.
Kaku, M. 2009, Physics of the Impossible, Penguin, London.
Langer, E. 1989, Mindfulness, Addison-Wesley, Woburn, MA.
Laszlo, E. 2008, Quantum Shift in the Global Brain- How the New scientific Reality Can Change Us and Our World, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont.
Levine, M. 2002, A Mind At A Time, Simon & Schuster, New York.
Rock, D. 2009, Your Brain at Work - Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long, HarperCollins, New York.
Siegel, D., J. 2007, The Mindful Brain: Reflecion and Attunement In The Cultivation Of well-Being, W.W. Norton & Company, London.

Dr Eugene Fernandez is the Managing Director of Metanoa and has over 25 years experience in consulting, coaching and facilitation, spanning various industries and sectors globally.

He has held senior roles in Organisational Consulting and Human Capital including roles as a Company Director and Program Director for Australia’s leading Business Schools, Melbourne Business School, Australian Graduate School of Management, Macquarie Graduate School of Management and the Australian Institute of Management. Over 5000 managers have participated in his interventions. More details on the DOOR model can be found at

Monkey Leader and Follower brains are different and Humans...


Eugene Fernandez

Neuroscience is discovering that the brains of leaders and followers are different and that they follow inherited tendencies towards leading and following.

All of the earth shattering assumptions were made by comparing scans done on 25 macaque monkeys. The study then extrapolated further by stating that ‘There is no reason to suspect that the correlations identified in the study would not apply to other primates, like apes and humans’.

Whilst this is Interesting, I would still call it ‘emerging’ research’. I use the word 'emerging’ to show that any 'bit’ of research based on neuroscience is a work in progress - particularly given the liberal assumptions and inferences the author draws from the research. Gives added weight to the term 'Monkeying around’ ha ha!

View the article at:

There is much to be learned from ‘Neuroscience’ though the danger lies in extracting bits of information and extrapolating from it as if it infers the whole. Much like the blind men and the elephant.

Many of these studies also draw on small sample sizes and confuse correlations (see word in bold italic above) with causes. Correlation is not causation i.e. just because there is a relationship between two or more things doesn’t mean that one necessarily causes the other. for e.g. police and accidents tend to be found together, does not mean that police are causing the accidents or sunflowers turning towards the sun does not cause the sun to move.

Neuroscientist Rafael Yuste, says there are about 100 billion neurons and up to 1,000 trillion neural connections in the brain – so studying them individually is like “understanding a television program by looking at a single pixel.”

Many Neuroscience advocates (particularly in the management consulting business and not the scientists) tend to place all that they see through their own reductionist lens and filters. They make pronouncements disregarding the weight of evidence and practice thats in front of them. It is as if the word neuroscience now suffices to grant new found credibility to all that falls within its orbit.

Moral - Put on your sceptical hat and bullsh*t filter. Ask for the source of the evidence and challenge the assumptions and conclusions drawn.

For a further critique, read the article ‘Neurons, you are Fired’

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