A Tealier 2022?

Where is the teal movement in early 2022? 

What kind of momentum are we bringing into this young year when it comes to more soulful, self-managed, holistic, purpose-driven organizations–and an elevated human consciousness overall? 

I see a mixed picture. But a hopeful one. 

Let’s start with the global crisis that is unfolding at this moment: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war is a violent, oppressive tragedy. And yet it also has sparked some of the most inspiring acts of courage and global solidarity in a generation. 

The resistance of the Ukrainian people and their president have galvanized support from across the world. Military and humanitarian aid is pouring into Ukraine, and nations are responding to Russia in ways that have surprised many observers. The Ukraine-related sanctions have involved financial and commercial measures to punish Putin that also will pinch the pocketbooks of people in Europe, the United States and other nations.

“The British public have always been willing to make [sacrifices] to defend democracy on our continent and we will again,” said UK Labour leader Keir Starmer.

The flow of events has been breathtaking and hard to fathom. But Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin captured the way the world’s response to a known, brutal dictator reflects an awakening–and the prospect of a more enlightened worldview.

“It’s as if we woke up from a slumber not to a dystopian nightmare where selfishness, indifference and moral obtuseness dominate but to an energized atmosphere where collective decency, seriousness and sacrifice can flower,” Rubin wrote. “Long overdue self-reflection and readjustment in our politics have arrived.”

Much of the momentum can be attributed to the inspiring leadership of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Besides showing courage by staying in his country amid the Russian attack, he has demonstrated a more mature, teal-y masculinity in contrast to the macho, stoic, cynical posture of Putin.

In particular, Zelensky melted the hearts of jaded European officials by making an appeal for aid in the first days of fighting. His plea during a video call–in which he noted they may never see him alive again–triggered the serious sanctions and intense financial squeeze Russia now faces.

“It was extremely, extremely emotional,” said a European official briefed on the call. “He was essentially saying: ‘Look, we are here dying for European ideals.’”

In other words, it was critical for Zelensky to be willing to ask for help–rather than pretend he and his country are a self-sufficient, invincible island.

What are these developments if not signs that the holism, the harmony and the peace envisaged in teal may be taking root? 

Given the scale of the suffering and death already apparent in the Ukraine invasion, it would be a shame if we didn’t gain wisdom from this conflict. Perhaps, even, a greater commitment to nonviolence.

Teal shoots elsewhere

The geopolitical realm isn’t the only place where the teal tea leaves are complex but compelling.

It seems to me that multiple other crises of the past two years are prompting positive progress–at the individual, organizational and societal levels.

To be sure, there are dark trends. People are stressed. On January 1 of this year, the American Psychological Association reported that “burnout and stress are at all-time highs across professions,” with 79% of American employees having experienced work-related stress recently. 

Meanwhile there are some discouraging signs that selfishness and disinformation remain strong in the United States at least. And parallel developments can be found in our companies

But there also are silver linings to the stormy times. 

Old paradigms and assumptions governing how we work, how we can live together, are crumbling. Millions are people are quitting the rat race and seeking new answers. 

Much of my own attention over the past two years has been on evolving our views of manhood from an outdated, unhealthy, dangerous “confined” masculinity toward a “liberating” alternative that frees men and everyone around them to live fuller lives at home, at work, at play and in the world.

There’s plenty of room for growth in this arena. But I’ve also seen encouraging signs that more and more men–and women–are willing to embrace a fuller, more holistic version of manhood. One example is the way men in the ski resort industry are saying “f*ck the tough guy show.

Another is the “Men of Teal” group I co-founded with my friend Jim Young. Jim, a coach who’s writing a book about men’s shame, burnout and intimacy, tells the uplifting story of the group here

The Men of Teal helped me navigate challenges this past year. In particular, the fellas in the group were part of my support network when I experienced a heart attack and then an anxiety attack last summer. That health scare deepened my own commitment to a tealier masculinity. I was prompted to take my own medicine and lean into what Jim and I call “arrow-and-circle” manhood

Teal around the world

And for humanity as a whole, as painful as these past few years have been, they also offer the possibility that we can birth a new way. They have signaled that we can work in more human, dignified, holistic, purpose-driven ways, and forge a future that is life-giving.

This vision of work was often laughed at as unrealistic, as hopelessly idealistic, a few short years ago.

But today the teal movement is far from hopelessly idealistic. It is idealistic, yes. But it is increasingly practical as well, as more and more organizations experiment with self-management, holism and evolving purpose.

Many of these promising experiments are captured in the new book co-created by teal advocates, Adventures in Reinventing Work – Tales of Pioneers from Around the World.

Or consider the upcoming Teal Around the World virtual conference later this week. This will be just the third annual worldwide gathering of people interested in the next stage of human development in organizations. But last year’s event attracted more than 1,100 registrants–an attendance milestone that many conferences struggle to achieve. And organizers hope to see at least that many this week. 

Another source of hope is the momentum seen in sister movements such as agile, conscious capitalism, for-benefit corporations, and stakeholder capitalism.

And if zooming out to the societal level, I again see promise. People today are hungry for positive, human relationships. A recent study by consulting firm McKinsey & Co. found that the top reasons people are leaving jobs include:

  • Not having caring and trusting teammates
  • Not experiencing a sense of belonging
  • Not feeling valued by their manager
  • Not feeling valued by the organization.

McKinsey also found that two-thirds of US-based employees said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life.

And the Ukraine crisis may be spurring more soul-searching and changing worldviews. A recent poll found that two-thirds of Americans support economic sanctions on Russia, and about half support them even if it means higher energy costs.

The “ugly,” isolated American mindset may be giving way to a more becoming, global one.

Summing up

To be sure, not everything is teal-tinged rainbows and highly conscious unicorns in this moment.

But we’re making progress. 

I invite us to celebrate the teal-y momentum. 

And let’s recommit this year to learning, to growing, and to evolving ourselves, our organizations and our world.