Boundary Spanners Connect at the Center

Recently I posted what follows on LinkedIn. Because it reached a different community of followers, I’m reposting the substance here for the benefit of WordPress followers.

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Several LinkedIn experiences sparked this blog. Here’s the initial back and forth:

Me to John K. Dunston: I’m writing a LinkedIn blog that speaks about the importance of “‘boundary spanning.” I’d like to mention your name as a great example. Am asking your permission to do so.

John K. Dunston to Me: I’m flattered that you would consider me an example. What is your idea and why am I a good example?

Me back to John: Basically, your profile and answer to my question are a great example of how love of wisdom (the definition of philosophy) is surely linked to your success at work. Also, coming full circle in an infinite loop, your work — surely done with love and keen intelligence — has been a great wisdom teacher. This is the short story. Do you agree?

John back to Me: I concur and would be honored to participate.

The story behind our connection is this. When John originally initiated contact a few months ago, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I accepted his invitation. But I was baffled as to why a Master Plumber/Project Manager would seek out an Author of books on Human Survival, Einstein and the Positive Paradigm of Change.

So I asked, and got back this humbling response:

“I’m a student of positive change and having an impact in life. I have studied the masters from Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, John Maxwell, John Kotter, Viktor Frankl, etc. Your profile seemed interesting. I hope I have answered your question. I have also studied Dr. Einstein.”

Though there’s no quick way to recognize it from his profile, John has balanced technical and leadership responsibilities with philosophy to become a master of not only plumbing but of life as well. His profile does show the broad range of abilities that are the mark of an interdisciplinary boundary spanner.

His competencies span a wide range from project estimation and scheduling to construction code compliance, from material ordering and installation to direct supervision of journeymen and apprentice plumbers. And much more.

I can relate. I started as a musician, but. as described in I’m a Boundary Spanner. Are You? , technical skills weren’t enough.

“As a musician, I wasn’t satisfied with training limited to violin technique. I wanted to know everything about everything that goes into music from every point of view.

“I wanted to know about the physics of sound vibration and the science of violin making. I needed to know about the history behind composers’ biographies, the literature they read, about psychology and the religions that inspired their music. Eventually, my search included kinesiology and yoga, the fundamental disciplines of movement and breath- awareness practiced by musicians in India.

“Traditional schools didn’t help much in this quest.”

It seemed to me that the benefits of specializing, taken to extreme, have opposite and equal drawbacks. This narrow approach to expert-education has an isolating, “divide and conquer” effect. The right hand has no idea of (or interest in) what the left hand is doing. Nor does the right brain coordinate optimally with the left.

Personally, I was fascinated by human nature. I didn’t major in psychology, however, because research-oriented departments didn’t seem relevant. History, literature and philosophy better satisfied my curiosity. Applications to leadership issues were an inevitable extension.

But when I recently sought to reach outside the “author” box on LinkedIn to connect with like-minded therapists and leadership coaches to share the value of my ideas, I found that the shoe was now on the other foot (so to speak). Just as I initially couldn’t compute a person with John’s background having much in common with my work, some didn’t appreciate my invitations. In fact, I found myself blocked!

This experience reinforced key ideas which I’d like to share with LinkedIn colleagues. First, it’s critically important to cross disciplinary lines to become fully competent in the many aspects that impinge on any particular profession. Second, in balance, “well-rounded” success depends on moving increasingly inwards through the levels of the Positive Paradigm Wheel associated with emotional intelligence and intuition to the eternal silent core called “conscience.”

We urgently need to restore an approach to education, especially leadership training, that enables social and physical scientists as well as business and government leaders to first link the multi-faceted aspects of everyday experience and second, balance the outer rim of their Life Wheels with the deeper, full-spectrum levels of emotional-spiritual self-awareness, linking these levels in an mutually reinforcing, infinite loop of intuition, passionate aspiration, intelligent planning and effective action.

Positive Paradigm of Change

No matter where we start on the surface rim, the deeper we dig into the mysteries of any profession (whether in the arts and sciences or business-government-military leadership), the closer we come to our common core — the eternal center which everyone everywhere shares in common. Connection with that center is the foundation of authentic communication and viable community building. Lacking it, we remain, as most of us find ourselves today – disconnected and in a world of hurt.

—————-

P.S. In fairness, I should add the “happy ending” to this story. Yesterday, when I asked Victoria Ipri, a savvy and generous LinkedIn expert, if there was anything I could do about being blocked, she advised that I could contact customer service. If I promised to do better, they would lift their restriction. I contacted, promised, and the restriction was lifted. She’s one of the good guys!

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