Tealy Tension: Living in Multiple Worlds at Once

I love teal. And it can be painful. 

One of the hardest things I find as a teal devotee is existing in multiple worlds at once. There’s the world of teal, where I’m drawn to soulfulness, wholeness, shared power and evolving purpose. 

And there are the worlds of orange and green thinking, where some of my clients live. These folks are focused on achievement, on winning. They talk about diversity, equity and inclusion–often for the sake of a better bottom line. 

To make a living, I straddle these different worldviews. And sometimes it seems like the worlds drift too far apart. I feel like I’m doing the splits a little too intensely. 

A recent ouchy experience had to do with drafting a presentation for a client. For one slide, I chose a set of mason jars with increasing numbers of coins to convey the concept of improving business performance. Next to that image, I put a photo of a smiling, content customer–an actual customer of the client. 

I felt pretty good about the slide. But my client didn’t. 

The images were “tired”–not modern or exciting enough, in his view. 

At first I chafed against his criticism. 

It struck me that I was offering the calmness, authenticity and meditative feel of hands in a mudra–and he wanted jazz hands.

And in this moment, the gap between worlds felt painfully wide. Part of me wanted to step off the orange-green side altogether.

But then I took some deep breaths. And I realized I could make this stretch work. 

I realized I was being unkind with the jazz-hands jab. And color-blind. Unconsciousness about consciousness levels. 

Of course low-key, quiet images would not be a great fit for leaders in an orange-green, performance-focused organization.

It also struck me that my irritation and judgy-ness ran counter to one of the defining features of a teal worldview: honoring other worldviews rather than feeling superior to them. After all, integral human development theory argues that a teal mindset incorporates each of the mindsets leading up to it. 

And truly, I respect and admire the client seeking a more dynamic slide deck. He is helping his organization move from a largely shareholder mindset to a more stakeholder mindset. He’s helping his organization elevate its consciousness.

Supporting him, in other words, is a great opportunity for me as a teal advocate. 

So I’m working on reframing the strain I experience at times working with non-tealies. Can I look at it as something other than straddling worlds that can feel painfully far apart? What about seeing this work as reaching down to lower levels on a grand spiral of awareness? As helping those in amber or orange or green progress up the circular ramp?  

Can I recognize and respect challenges that folks operating in orange and green wrestle with, even as I try to nudge their thinking toward a more global, holistic perspective?

Can I see the discomfort I sometimes feel as part of wider work to “hospice the old and midwife the new,” as a number of writers have put it? 

“Hospicing” and “midwifing” generally involve pain. But they result in the sacred, miraculous events of death and birth. And what is more pressing today than ending the era of mechanistic, earth-destroying institutions and nurturing a new age of soulful, life-giving organizations?

Put another way, with so much at stake, what’s a little discomfort to me when working with orange-green clients? I can tame my ego and absorb the occasional blows to it. I can roll with the occasional rework I must do. 

I can learn to love the tealy tension of living in multiple worlds at once.