Those Darn Spider Webs – Leading Through Web Elimination

spider Web

My wife and I are at the lake.  We enjoy the lake and find it quite relaxing.  As a matter of fact we have a place that we get away to on a regular basis.  Like most lake places – it has a nemesis – spider webs.  We are constantly swatting down or walking into spider webs.  I don’t know what it is about the lake climate but spiders proliferate here.

While having coffee this morning I asked my wife what she felt was important to do today.  She said – “spider webs.”  “There are too many spider webs around here.  We’ve got to get rid of them.”

Remembering a story, she quickly continued.  “Oh,” she said, “spider webs remind me of a story I recently heard.”  She said that she recently read a devotional passage about a pastor who continued to have a parishioner asking for prayer.  The parishioner wanted the pastor to pray for help with the “spider webs” of their life.  I’ll let you create your own analogies to the visual.  Soon the parishioner returned to the pastor with the same request – pray for me – pray that I am able to cope with the “spider webs.”  Not too much later, the parishioner returned again with the same request.  The pastor was getting a little fed up with the redundant request but then had an epiphany.  Upon the parishioner’s next visit (and request) the pastor advised – “Rather than focusing on the ‘webs’ maybe our prayers should be on the discovery and elimination of the ‘spiders’ that are causing these webs.”

As my wife shared that story I had my own epiphany.  In my work I notice a lot of focus on “web” elimination.  The amount of time, energy and resources that go into grumbling about the current number of webs is quite significant in my opinion.  Often the assumption is that the webs are the center of the issue.  Just throw a little money at them or ignore them and maybe they will go away.

Like the parishioner in the story – I wonder if our preoccupation with the webs around us can often have us unproductively engrossed with the byproducts and not the causes of the issues that entangle us.

But why?  Why would we allow ourselves to be so preoccupied with something that isn’t the source of our problem?

Here are a few thoughts…

  • Dealing with spiders is different work.  We know how to deal with webs – but spiders?
  • Taking down webs gives us immediate satisfaction – “Look what we did!”
  • Spiders can be elusive.   They are often not readily visible.  Therefore, they do not present as the pressing issue.  As a result – we just focus on the webs.
  • Spiders are scary.  Nobody wants to tangle with a spider.  Just leave them alone and maybe they’ll go away.

So – if the webs of our organizations, communities and lives are caused by the spiders – and all (and more) of the things mentioned above are keeping us from the work of eliminating spiders – what are we to do?

Some thoughts:

  • Get more curious. What’s the spider behind this reoccurring web?  What’s my work in dealing with it?
  • Confront your fears. What’s the worst that could happen?  Nobody wants to get bitten.  So – how do I take the needed precautions – but not shy away from dealing with the spider?
  • No matter how good you think you are at web elimination – get fed up with it.  Until we declare web elimination as unproductive it’s very hard to get motivated to take on the spiders.
  • Stop declaring the webs as the enemy. They are merely clues as to where the spider is.  Let them help you.
  • Finally – ask yourself – am I the spider? Is it possible that I’m part of the problem?  What’s needed for me to change my web making ways?

As much as I’d like to end this post with a pretty message to let you know that everything is going to be okay – I’m not.  Webs can be extremely menacing and seductive.  The work of changing our focus will take real work and potentially a new worldview.  But if we will do that work not only will the webs take a holiday – but so will the spiders.

Developing Minds – My Organizations Work?


I’m reading a book – An Everyone Culture*.

It’s impacting me.

In short, this book spells out (what I interpret to be) the science behind what makes adaptive leadership work so valuable.  It’s extra intriguing to me because this is the type of leadership that I seek to teach and coach in my work with Fisher Coaching.

The path this book takes is to look at real companies and say –

“Look at what they are doing” (i.e. adaptive work).


Why would they be doing such a crazy thing?

They’re doing it because research shows that the developmental transformation and capacity building of any individual (which is what adaptive leadership principles invite us to do) actually produces a more profitable employee and company.

And, in addition, it tends to create environments where individuals feel valued.

And – as a result – these maturing, more profitable employees tend to want to stay.

Imagine that.

Imagine having a company – your company – full of individuals that were not only growing in their mental capacity – to think with a bigger perspective for the good of themselves and the company – but they want to stay!

Now let’s be honest.

The shift of world view (physical, mental, emotional, financial, etc.) required to put a culture like this in place is HUGE.  It is a very different paradigm than what tends to drive most of our present day organizations.

This book calls the companies that do this work DDO’s – Deliberately Developmental Organizations.

Unfortunately, these organizations can appear like the Matrix to onlookers.

The book offers an example…

“…a common thread that distinguishes them (DDOs) from ordinary organizations:  DDOs continuously stir things up, troubling the waters; ordinary organizations continuously try to calm things down,  instituting repeatable routines.” 

Adaptive Leadership invites participants into a work that challenges them to view uncertainty and conflict NOT as the enemy but as a platform from which greater – more profitable progress can be the result.

Sound crazy?

Keep reading…

“An ordinary organization may not even know it is doing it, but at bottom, it is trying to minimize a certain kind of disturbance.  It wants threats to certainty, predictability, routine, control, and connection to be as few as possible so that the work can get done without unnecessary emotional noise and distraction.  A DDO, in contrast, strange though it may sound, value disturbances and is designed to preserve them at an optimal level – not overwhelmingly high, but never down to zero. 

Does this mean that the DDO is a sadistic home for lovers of emotional drama and alarm?  After all, who in her right mind would purposely create such a setting, not to mention prefer it?  The answer is that…

…such a design is optimal for exactly one thing:  developmental transformation.

And it is favored by those who regard as precious the opportunity to learn and grow.”

Developmental transformation?


Should that be the work of any organization?

We’re just trying to crank out product here.

Am I right?

Why can’t people just do their job?


Now what?


* Robert Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey.  An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization.   Harvard Business Press, 2016), 83.