Siraj Sirajuddin: SAFe SPCT, Trusted Advisor, and Co-founder of Temenos+Agility.
Forward Thinking Workplaces is a global narrative that's uncovering exciting new perspectives to help you succeed and be a forward-thinking leader and workplace in the 21st century.
Check out our upcoming Events page or visit billfox.co to learn more. Get weekly updates with exciting new perspectives and questions you need to succeed in the 21st century by subscribing or becoming a member here.
How can we create workplaces where every voice matters, everyone thrives and finds meaning, and change and innovation happen naturally?
Siraj: We can create this type of workplace when we allow whole people to show up as their full selves. This requires establishing spaces where transparency, vulnerability, and authenticity exist and can be freely expressed. These conditions create a space where the past is no longer a blocker, and the future is co-created as a compelling, shared vision. This is what we call the Temenos Effect.
The first step is supplication, which allows us to prepare a space for the change to occur by coming to it with humility and humbleness. Supplication creates a sacred container or sheltered space where people can search, quest, journey, examine, and re-examine safely together.
It’s a question of starting with sensing, naming it, and then responding to the collective naming of what is available.
The next step is to sense what’s in the container and map the influences. Influence mapping helps us understand what people really want and uncovers all the factors that have brought this group together. The maps help us assign archetypes that help us discover what is genuinely wanting to emerge in the container. With archetypes identified, we now have everything needed to name hypotheses.
Once you’ve seen it, it’s not enough to just see it. You have to name it, but not in a definite way. For example, one hypothesis I have had about many change agents is that they always have two strategies. They have one strategy for success and another one for self-sabotage.
Next, we map these two hypotheses to an archetype that has existed since the dawn of civilization. In this case, we would assign an archetype of Prometheus. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a hero figure who gifted humanity with fire, who had one strategy for success and another one for self-sabotage. He wanted these two strategies to come together. That’s what I observe in change agents.
The response is in the form of let’s talk about this or set up an experiment. Once we confirm what’s really happening, we do the work and exit when we are done with supplication.
In summary, these are the gentle steps to create the Temenos Effect. Start with supplication and humility. Sense what is available in the form of archetypes. Name it in a hypothesis format. Then respond with experimentation and testing to see what’s really happening. Then exit with supplication.
What does it take to get an employee’s full attention and best performance?
Siraj: Many people would say that’s leadership, but I would say it’s more education and coaching for everyone, not just the leaders. It is sensitizing people to what everybody wants and providing them with tools and advanced thinking styles. Then go from asking people to do to inviting people to join.
Wanting that kind of situation for themselves and being dissatisfied with anything less than an all-inclusive space at work is what I would say is required.
What do people really lack and long for at work?
Limerence refers to a higher level of transcendence and connection in daily life that makes the ordinary extraordinary.
Siraj: The first word that comes to my mind is limerence. Author and NY Times columnist David Brooks said that the human mind hungers for limerence.
It’s all about bringing more connection and humanity to society. I think that’s the longing.
The gap is the preparedness and readiness of people to bridge the gap between the present and the aspiration. That’s where I think people like us and the books you are reading and writing come into play, which is creating the capacity to enable people to get what they want. This is especially in terms of their aspirations for a space that’s equal for everyone and a real democracy where everyone can participate.
What’s the most important question leaders should ask employees?
Siraj: I’m not sure if this is the most important, but I think it’s the most useful from where I stand. I observe many situations in which I’m asking, how can I be helpful to you in the pursuit of your vision?
I’d like to see leaders ask that question more frequently. One of the unique advantages that leaders have is to be of service to people who are looking for a small helping hand or maybe a big helping hand to get where they want to go. The employment relationship and leadership are a channel to that journey.
What is the most important question employees should ask leaders?
Siraj: I think it’s the same question, how can I be helpful to you in the pursuit of your vision? In any relationship, we’re trying to help each of us go one step forward on our journey. For example, Bill, what I can do for you to help you go to the next level? And what you can do for me (which is what you’re doing right now) is ask questions that I can ponder to go into the next step of my journey. That’s what we can do for each other.
What is the most important question we should ask ourselves?
Siraj: The question I’m asking myself as much as possible is, am I in the right place? Am I doing the right thing? Is this going to help me move forward? I’m questioning my presence and entire being in the moment.
What was it like to be interviewed by Jack Canfield?
Siraj: First, I would say Jack Canfield is a very generous human being. He opened up his house and spent a lot of time getting to know me before doing the interview. I shared the Temenos Effect with him in the form of some of the poems that I’ve written. I remember we talked about the poem Pioneer Soulmate, which is about the people who go first. The people who step into the unknown and befriend it.
We also talked about the many similarities between the Temenos Effect and Chicken Soup for the Soul. For me, Chicken Soup for the Soul provides some of the most simplistic yet profound ways of expressing the Temenos Effect. I felt that there was a tremendous amount of synergy in our ways of expressing what all of us are here to do collectively.
Each of us is given a window, a slice of an opening into viewing the larger container. We’re all looking at the same picture but from different angles. That gives us a unique experience that David Brooks calls limerence. We try to articulate what we saw, but we struggle and fail. I call that articulation conundrum because we are not able to actually express what we see. In the words of Carl Jung, it’s numinous.
You’ve written a book called The Soulmate: the Poetry Book of Temenos. Why did you write it and what’s it about?
Siraj: I had a window into what’s more significant than us, and through that window, two things came to me. One was a stunning array of fantastic and dynamic visuals. I would use the word numinous to describe them because I’m unable to use words because they were so profound. So I converted those images into paintings and included them in the book. The second thing that came to me was the words, which I shared as poetry in the book.
The Soulmate is about the experience I had looking through this window into the numinous. It’s a container for the images and words that came to me. One of the poems is called Pioneer Soulmate, and it’s about the visuals and words of people who go first. The people who are the pioneers. The explorers and adventurers. That would be the basis of my book.
Download a free copy of The Soulmate here.
One concept I found fascinating in your work was the archetype of the Wounded Healer. What is a Wounded Healer?
Siraj: The Wounded Healer gives a lot of richness to my work. I started this interview by sharing that I don’t know what is available in a situation that I encounter. I try to map that situation and discover what is available. When I start mapping, I use a technique called influence mapping.
The more you pay attention, the more we become humble, and the more becomes available and revealed to us.
Some things are superficial, and some things are deep. Then some things are deeper than the deep. It’s sort of like layers of showing. The more you pay attention, the more we become humble, and the more becomes available and revealed to us.
As I’ve been going through this journey for the last decade and a half, I started with several initial superficial symbols and then went deeper into it. I found that at the deepest level are patterns called archetypes — basic Instincts of us as a collective population of what wants to emerge.
Among the various patterns on archetypes, the one that seems to be the most unifying among everyone is the Wounded Healer. The Wounded Healer is a change agent like you or me who is repeating nature. The best example I can give you is to take an ancient and a modern one.
An ancient example would be an archetype called Prometheus. Prometheus is a Greek mythic figure who is also called a Titan, which is half man and half God. He steals fire from Zeus to benefit human beings and give them the power of fire. In return, he is imprisoned by Zeus on an island chained to a rock where a bird comes and eats his liver every day.
We say an archetype like that is a Wounded Healer because he goes through a lot of suffering, and the suffering is channeled into the powers of healing.
A more modern example would be the Nobel Prize winner Malala from Pakistan. She was shot, and she’s come out of that wounding to become quite an amazing healer for all of us. A young girl focused on her education, personal transformation, and global transformation. Those are the two examples that I can offer you in terms of what I call a Wounded Healer.
What question is at the heart of the Temenos Effect?
Siraj: I think it’s the first question that you asked in this interview, which is how can we create a space of equal opportunity for everyone that embodies humility? It’s also a question of starting with sensing what is available, naming it, and then responding to the collective naming of what is available.
This whole sequence is what I call the Temenos Effect. It starts with the attitude of humility, which enables you to be a good sensor and co-sensor. It gives you the ability to name what collectively wants to emerge, and then it gives you the ability to respond. That whole sequence is the heart of the process of the Temenos Effect.
How has the Temenos Effect changed you and what have you learned from it?
Siraj: I would say the effects have been profound, and it’s continuously affecting me. I’m going through it as we speak, and it’s about learning to be more useful in every situation. It’s learning to be more impactful in every case and learning to make others more impactful and valuable in every situation. It’s learning to be present and be more present in every situation.
I think it’s changed me tremendously from where I started to where I am now. I continuously look back at myself from the future. I try to see how the young person who was struggling is always figuring out new ways of coping with the situation. I try to go in the future and look at me from where I am now to see how I am coping with everything that’s happening now. I look at what I can do better to be a better human being and respond to this situation. I think it’s just fascinating right now to go through this process and to live life with so much happening at the same time.
You refer to walking ahead of yourself in your work. What do you mean by that?
First, it’s in the present looking backward. In the future, its future looking to the present.
Siraj: The first thing I’d started doing was looking back at myself. I realized there was a young man who was a human being struggling to cope with what’s going on. And then figuring out how to manage, cope, survive and thrive in the situation.
So then I asked, why not apply this concept to the future? So looking from the future looking into the present, I started asking myself the same question that I’ve been talking about with you, am I in the right place? What am I doing? Am I fully present? Am I listening to everyone here? What can I do to be a better human being?
What do you think are the key takeaways you’d like readers to get from your book?
Siraj: It’s a book of art and poetry, and there are spaces in between for people to draw and write their own experiences. I want to inspire people to visualize their own experiences of profound conversations and to give voice to the words that come to them.
I think it’s pretty simple. I’ve represented what came to me, and I’m looking to see others who are in a similar situation who are expressing visually and verbally what they saw. It’s a book to witness.