I recently caught up with FEBI Certified Coach, Nika Quirk, to talk about her recent academic work and what’s next now that she is Dr. Quirk.
Tell me about your doctoral research?
My curiosity about what supports collaboration to emerge in a group of people lies at the heart of my doctoral inquiry. For the last 25 years, I’ve worked as a corporate director, a program and project manager, and as a coach for entrepreneurs, while simultaneously integrating the improvisational methodology of InterPlay into my daily life and work. As you know, InterPlay and the FEBI have some common roots in looking at life performance from a body-based perspective. This juxtaposition of experience made me intrigued by how ease-filled the connection and collaboration typically was in improvisational contexts and what a struggle it was to create and maintain really successful partnerships and teams in the workplace. I brought these questions into my transdisciplinary work at California Institute of Integral Studies. My research explored my theory that the emergence of collaboration is sparked by creating a social space for ongoing leadership team development that provides the time for increasing bonds of mutuality (the formation of “We”). In this space, the group inquires into their own collaborative group performance as well as their organizational progress towards the vision and current objectives through an ongoing cycle of action, reflection, and group dialog utilizing extended ways of knowing such as storytelling, movement and visual art making. This builds the capacity to imagine and think together, and optimally over time to build and benefit from synergy.
The relevance and timeliness of my doctoral research is grounded in our “new normal”, the increasing complexity and uncertainty of our lives on this planet. With others, I believe that the 21st Century is an era of Great Change for humanity and we are called to retool the unsustainable aspects of modern civilization, and personally evolve as well. To be the highly adaptable and resilient people who can co-create a life-sustaining society and ride the waves of change, we need to re-engage with our intuitive, relational and artful intelligence, becoming whole-brain, embodied thinkers and actors. These themes are surfacing in diverse domains such as brain science, theories of developing sustainability, and new perspectives on leadership that is more shared, relational and learning-oriented.
What is next for you?
Well, Anthony, my life is overlapping endings and beginnings right now. My degree is being formally conferred and my dissertation published in the next two months. (“Open Yet Unbroken” will be an open access publication downloadable through Google Scholar). Simultaneously, I’ve begun co-designing and managing a new research project for Women’s Initiative for Self-Employment here in the San Francisco Bay Area with funding provided by the Fetzer Institute. Essentially, we’re inquiring into what happens when people in a workplace engage with experiences of love and forgiveness, their own and others. What is the ripple effect in their leadership, their work, and in the organization’s culture? It’s a very rich opportunity.
I’m networking and interviewing to find academic opportunities as a mentor and/or faculty, preferably in a Green MBA program or a leadership program focused on transformative and sustainable development. Continuing my doctoral research is very important to me and I have a few ideas about projects for 2013 that will extend the inquiry into different populations and contexts.
And I’m expanding my coaching practice beyond the individual entrepreneurs I’ve mainly been working with to focus on developing business collectives, partnerships and organizational teams in business or non-profit sectors.
What benefit do you bring to collectives, partnerships and teams? Who are your clients?
Think of any popular band, orchestra or dance troupe that you think are amazing performers. This type of ensemble performance is what I aim to bring to people working and leading together in groups. From the audience view, it looks so easy, seamless, flowing, harmonic. That fluid ensemble performance hangs on a solid framework of trust, play, practice and intimate knowledge of each other’s competencies and capacities that takes an investment of time, energy and talent to construct. For these groups, perfection of ensemble expression is the goal. When we hold the same kind of priority in other workplaces and are willing to make that kind of investment, we can achieve the efficiency, elegance, creativity and sustainability in performance.
In working with business partnerships, entrepreneur problem-solving groups, and the non-profit team I did my doctoral research with, I find there are several aspects of this work. I believe in the leadership potential in everyone. Like individuals, I believe duos and groups are unique entities who are enhanced by facilitation of their own self-organizing process. I assist their discovery and development through using the FEBI individual and team profiles, and inquiry and dialog activities. Ideally, these group inquiry sessions are occurring several times a week. Remember, the goal is to learn to imagine, think and act together. We gather data about key questions, such as those below, and reflect on the results of actions that arise from these questions.
- What is our shared imagined vision and our ideal outcomes?
- What brings us together and what separates us?
- For the group – Who are We? Who do We need to become?
- For the individual – What are my multiple possibilities for contribution in this group? What are my learning edges?
- What are the current and next priorities for action? How do We best deploy our resources to succeed?
I also help them to design the kind of social space they require to maintain a culture of collaboration for their group. This is often a challenge in larger organizations. Eventually, the partnership or group has put a collaborative practice into place that works for them, and they consult with me as needed.
Recent business coaching clients include partners in a permaculture landscape architecture firm and a video production company. Now that my academic work is completed, I’m looking for a few collectives or teams who want to take their collaborative performance to the next level.