Connecting the Dots on Agile, Org Culture, Personal Growth & Temenos

A friend of mine asked me what is going on with all this touchy-feely people and personal growth stuff – “What’s it got to do with Agile?” My answer: everything! So this post ties together: Agile, High-Performance Culture with People skills and Temenos Workshop among others.

Here is my current roadmap of focus areas related to rebooting organizational culture:

Culture Reboot Roadmap


The arrows indicate support. For example, People Skills such as communication models lead to Relational Flow where people trust one another and are emotional supportive. This in turn leads to or supports High Performance Culture.

High Performance Culture is the Goal, but Need to Focus Elsewhere

My goal is to help organizations develop high performance culture through the creation of environments where people can bring their best every day. We can see there are a variety of things to focus on that will lead to support this goal.

Let’s take meditation as an example. There is no direct connection to high performance culture – it’s indirect. But in my experience it is 100% relevant and salient for bringing about a sequence of changes that support the goal. So, we need to focus on the things that will lead to a great culture and the ensuing results. Of course, there are many routes and practices – so nothing is mandatory: meditation works for me, but you may have an alternate route to personal growth.

This is not an exhaustive map of all the elements that lead to High Performance Culture – for sure there are lot’s of things we could add. My purpose in creating and sharing this is to create a call to action to focus on these or related elements so that we can really help organizations succeed.

Examples of Posts on these Topics

My hope is that you are curious about some of these content areas, so I will share some of my blog posts for further reading.

What is High-Performance Culture?

Relational Flow

People Skills

Personal Growth

Organizational Transformation

Agile Transformation

Transformational Leadership

Temenos Workshop

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Temenos: Containers for Growing Relationships

“If we’re serious about exploring the world around us, we have to explore the world within us.” – Ken Robinson

(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz – Temenos Series)

The Temenos container provides a powerful mental model for understanding and improving relationships with others.

Often we do not consider the larger context of the situations we are in. When we explicitly look beyond the specifics of a conversation or interaction to the relationship itself, we may more easily achieve relational flow.

We use the term container to talk about the underlying fabric of our relationship with another person. The same notion can be used to understand groups we are part of as well as our relationship with ourselves.

Consider the diagram below illustrating how containers may be used. For example, we may wish to imagine our vision for the relationship, the baggage of our history or the roles we play.

Temenos Container


Roles We Play

Dave Snowden has frequently pointed out that one specific dimension of the complexity of human systems is our ability to change roles (containers) from one second to the other. For example, when my wife calls me at work my role changes from colleague to husband. One set of beliefs, principles and values is replaced with another, potentially conflicting one.

Each role we play applies to a specific context. We share most of these contexts with other beings. A container is the Temenos term to talk about these specific contexts. Within these containers we evolve the different roles we play in life.

When we consciously examine our containers we can evolve the roles we play. Or evolve ourselves so that we behave the same across containers – to our true authentic self.

What is a Temenos?

Temenos is a Greek word for a transformational container, such as a separate piece of land dedicated to a king or god. It is a contained space of spiritual importance. With Temenos we hold all our containers as a sacred enabler to connection and relation with other human beings.

The focus of this post is on the use of the container in the context of a relationship with another person and with ourself. The creation of a transformational Temenos container and how to leverage symbols of transformation will be the subject of another post.
Containers In Our Lives
In the history of our lives, these containers are formed: shared spaces for ourselves or others, each of which defines a unique identity (the role we play), unique habits we acquire, and adds specific emotional baggage to the load we carry around in our lives.

We spend our lives in different containers. Each of them helps us to grow and be more of ourselves. For every container, we have needs that we want fulfilled and expectations we feel obliged to fulfill. Every time those needs are not met (or we think we don’t fulfill the needs) we are hurt: we think we fail the container or the container fails us. Some examplesy of such containers:

  • Our self. This is the most important and challenging container for each of us.
  • The family we grow up in.
  • The friends we make, and lose, over the years.
  • Teams we join, and leave, workplaces, clients…
  • People who die.
  • Relationships we start, and finish.
  • Our children, the mutual unconditional love that challenges us and makes us whole.

All of these relationships, the roles we play in these and how they affect us can be framed as containers:

  • Containers we join (some deliberately, some by chance)—born into a family
  • Containers we leave (or that leave us)—divorce, death
  • Containers we enter—coming home from work
  • Containers we exit—leaving home for work

Olaf’s Story

When I created my first influence map and reflected on the containers which have been important in my life, I noticed I had unconsciously (though still deliberately) removed roles from my portfolio. For example, the relationship to my parents had transformed into a mutual friendship on eye level; same with my brother. I had effectively stopped acting as a son, and brother. Don’t get me wrong: we didn’t break up, the relationship became closer. Its quality had changed, and I noticed that not playing these roles gave me ease. So I thought: why not continue deliberately in that direction? How many roles do I want to and do I need to play? I haven’t found a definite answer yet. And I’ll stop being an employee soon, which is a step on this path.

Michael’s Story

One example of using the container model to improve a relationship is with my younger son, Sean. When I considered the whole of our relationship, I could see that I was failing him in providing attention to him as an individual (rather than as part of my pack of three kids). Once I had taken stock of the current situation and our history, I was able to create a vision for how I wanted our relationship to be. For this container, what I want is for me to really see him and for him to know that I really see the special, unique person he is. Our relationship has improved. And that for me is the whole point of containers: an opportunity to reflect and create a different path for ourselves.

Origins of Temenos

Michael-Siraj-OlafTemenos is a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences such as Buddhist, Islamic, Jesuit and Hindu spirituality, mythology and Jungian psychology. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor.


Upcoming Workshops

Ping us if you are interested.

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Create Authentic Connections with Influence Maps

(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz – Temenos Series)

In the course of our lives, we all encounter events that shape us, allow us to change and grow, that have made us who we are. We don’t tend to acknowledge or appreciate these events, and we rarely share them. Understanding our own path, reflecting how we became who we are, which influences determined what we value and what we want, is a powerful source of personal growth. We better understand our own unique identity, our relationships with others and the related emotional baggage to the load we carry around in our lives.

Influence Maps is the module in a Temenos lab that allows you to reflect, visualise (map) and articulate your personal history, and share it with the group—as detailed and deep as you choose to. Like every Temenos module, Influence Maps works on its own, too.

Influence Maps

Influence Maps (the key/main part of a Temenos lab) are used in group workshops to:

  1. Create deep personal learning and growth,
  2. Connect with other participants and develop a deep level of trust,
  3. Allow ourselves to be seen and accepted as human beings,
  4. Create the opportunity for participants to heal one another’s emotional wounds.

An influence map is a visual depiction of the influences in our lives that have led to us becoming the person we are.

The diagram below shows the main elements of Influence Maps and how the Tememos container serves as a safe and caring environment.

Influence Map Infographic

Influence Maps help you understand and appreciate your past. This will hurt as you share past trauma, and makes you ready to be healed.

The healing and personal growth results are emergent from the container we collectively create. A high-quality container will lead to a myriad of opportunities.

Don’t mistake the Temenos’ healing effect with therapy. While we all have our unique history and individual and specific things we did and had happen to us, the strategies we use to deal with them tend to show common patterns. Many people who lose a dear person, for example, go through a stage of denial. Through sharing our history we create resonance with others who’ve been employing similar strategies.

“People heal from their pain when they have an authentic connection with another human being.”

Marshall Rosenberg

Example Influence Maps

Before we explain the workshop setup and mechanics, here are some example influence maps.

Michael explaining his Influence Map

Michael presenting his Influence Map

Olaf explaining his Influence Map

Olaf presenting his Influence Map

As influence maps are a creative expression of one’s identity, there is no one “right” way to do them.

Workshop Setup

Trust. Safety. Caring. These are the properties that participants are asked to create and nurture in a Temenos. The role of the facilitator is to work with participants to have these properties rapidly emerge. For example, supporting and encouraging vulnerability so that we can speak about the issues that shame us and hold us from our potential.

From our experience, the group size should not exceed 6-8 voluntary participants who are interested in personal growth.

Workshop Mechanics

The first exercise in a Temenos lab (and the one taking up most of the time) is drawing and sharing of Influence Maps. The process is very simple:

  1. Introspect: Through a guided meditation with music, we ask you to reflect on your life. Use your timeline to guide your memories. Imagine a trusted friend asked you: What do I need to know about you that will help me understand who you really are? Ask yourself: What about me do I not dare to tell anyone? How much of that might I be willing to share to understand myself better?
  2. Visualise: Each participant uses a large flipchart paper and creates their life’s story with an eye towards defining moments and key influences. Many people find it useful to draw a timeline, but any expression of your deepest self will work. It’s not about the drawing, it’s about the story you tell.
  3. Articulate: Participants take turns telling their stories through their influence map. Before any person shares their story, another participant will set the stage for her, to initialise the Temenos: “Sit down, slow down, breathe, and focus on the whole person who will present herself.” Then share your story with the group. The group will help you understand yourself better: You mentioned <…>. Could you slow that down for us? How did that make you feel?
  4. As a member of the group (or a facilitator): Observe for patterns. Participants are able to help each other learn and heal in two ways. When we are similar in a trait, we can see ourselves better through the other person. One person struggling with a loss will be able to help another: “If you can forgive yourself for doing <…>, I can forgive myself for doing <…>”.  An example from a recent Temenos: “If you can forgive yourself for being an average parent and making mistakes, then I can forgive myself for doing the same.” When we are dissimilar, we can see what is missing in ourselves or help others see what they may be missing.

At least two people in the group should know how to ask open (coaching) questions.

The Influence Maps add depth to the Temenos. Without them you will still identify improvement options, and have less probability for moments of true transformation.

Healing Conversations in Buddhism

Thich Nhat Hanh  has this to say:

Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.


Inspiring, Healing, Present. Michael’s presence facilitates the creation of a strong container to support making the connection from the heart, not the mind. The influence map is a powerful tool for building connection.” – An Agile Coach

Moving, Revealing, Balancing. I found that deep connections to other human beings can be found and made a lot more often than I expected. A safe space was created and held all the way through it.” – Melanie Meinen

Origins of Temenos

Michael-Siraj-OlafTemenos is a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences such as Buddhist, Islamic, Jesuit and Hindu spirituality, mythology and Jungian psychology. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor.


Upcoming Workshops

Ping us if you are interested.

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Temenos – A Workshop for Healing, Connection and Relational Flow

(Joint post with Olaf Lewitz)

What is Temenos?

Temenos is also the name of a special kind of experiential laboratory (usually delivered as a weekend lab) that Siraj Sirajuddin has created over many years integrating diverse influences. He’s been using these labs to support lean and agile transformations in his practice as an Organisational Transformation Mentor.

In a broader sense, Temenos is also a philosophy and mindset.

In brief, deep bonds, trust and healing result from exploring each other’s personal history (how we became who we are) and visions (who we want to be). We use the conceptual model of a container to help us perceive and understand our relationship with ourself and other, so that we can consciously let go of emotional baggage and create strategies that serve our and others’ needs in an exercise we call Clean Slate.

Temenos is a Greek word for a transformational container, such as a cut off piece of land dedicated to a king or god. It is a contained space of spiritual importance. For us Temenos, means a place where we can be our authentic selves.

Temenos Posts

This is the start of a series of multiple blog posts that Olaf Lewitz and I will publish over the following weeks with the help of Siraj and other Temenos practitioners.

Temenos Outcomes and Mechanics

The diagram below is intended to be a sketch rather than a definitive guide of the why, how, and what of Temenos.  A key objective of Tememos is to get people into a state of relational flow where they are aligned and don’t keep bumping up against people’s wounds and challenges. The bottom items (what) are the actual activities that are conducted in a Temenos.

Temenos In a Nutshell

Healing ourselves using authentic connections

  • Influence Maps – sharing what our influences are

Growing strong containers

  • Clean Slate – getting rid of baggage
  • Containers – how we create safety and opportunities for transformation

Building Authentic Connection through Sharing Perceptions and Appreciations

  • Temenos Feedback – how we help people see their better selves
  • Update Strategy – how we deliberately modify our relationships with others

Alignment of Personal and Shared Visions

  • Who do I want to be? Where do I want to be?
  • Where do we want to be?

Why Temenos?

Through Lean/Agile and other approaches it has become clear that high-performing environments (containers) live on a foundation of trust, safety and respect. Temenos lab is an experience centered around fostering the relationships between beings. This is helpful for people who work together as a team. In particular it was designed to help leadership teams go first in the transformation of their organisations.

Why Attend Temenos?

Attending a Temenos lab can serve multiple purposes. Without limiting your options, I’m listing a few common intentions that participants had in attending a Temenos lab or organising one. Siraj hosts monthly labs at Kayser Ridge in West Virgina, about 2h drive from Dulles airport (Washington DC). We’re planning to organise Temenos labs in Europe later this year. Ping us if you’re interested!

Temenos for Your Personal Growth

The endless curiosity and passion we’re born with gets dampened when we meet the limits of the context we grow up in. This can hurt, and deviate us from our path of growth. Attending a Temenos can help you clarify for yourself what you want, who you are, who you can and want to be, and help you devise a strategy for your success.

Temenos for Your Team

A team’s effectiveness and performance is strongly correlated with its members’ ability to articulate what they think and feel, say what they want and help each other achieving it. Attending a Temenos lab together gives you this option, and may lead you to create a shared vision.

Temenos for Your Leadership Team

The leadership team of an organisation is a special kind of team, as the product you co-create and grow is your organisation. Communication habits and behavioural styles within this team give an example to all people in your organisation. Achieving a clean slate and shared vision in the leadership team, nurturing your ability to create and sustain authentic connections to other beings, will greatly improve your effectiveness in helping your organisation achieve its goals.


“The Temenos session at Play4Agile 2013 with Olaf Lewitz and Michael Sahota helped me to see more of my person and talents and my intuition which helps me in my work. I got enriched by opening my inner self in the deep process in this secure container. I had the impression that I entered a room where we all are in connection and help us to see ourselves with all our aspects. The process allowed and invited me through getting in resonance to the stories of other people to heal my wounds and to see that I’m not alone. Now, I have a better understanding how it feels that we are all connected.” – Christine Neidhardt, Coach, Nürnberg

“The Temenons workshop gave me a lot of new insights to recognize who I am and what made me the person I am today. It connects different experiences in my life with strengths & weaknesses of my character and the environments (containers) I live in and grew up to a whole picture. A picture of different colours, structures and signs of beauty and ugliness. A picture that shows me who I am and that I can be what and who I am.” – A Scrum Master

Explanation by Siraj Sirajuddin

Inventor Siraj Sirajuddin explains the Temenos from a Jungian perspective

Further Writing by Others

More people participating in Temenos labs have been publishing their experience:

(if you know of or have written a blog post about a Temenos lab experience, please ping me so that I can complete this list.)

Upcoming Workshops

Ping us if you are interested.


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