By Judi Neal, Ph.D., Founder, Edgewalkers International
This is the third in our series about the five Archetypes of Change – Edgewalkers, Flamekeepers, Hearthtenders, Placeholders and Guardians. Today we focus on Hearthtenders.
We all have a complicated relationship with change in our lives and our work. Sometimes change is welcome and embraced because it makes things better. Sometimes we resist change because we fear it will make things worse. Sometimes we are the initiator of change and other times external factors impose change upon us. Sometimes we take the long view of change, such as “What will my life be like when I retire?” and other times we take an “in-the-moment” short-term view, such as “I wish people would stop interrupting me right now when I’m trying to get this report done.”
The third archetype of change is the Hearthtender and they tend to take a short-term view of change and will embrace it if it makes their work more efficient. In organizations, families or faith communities, the Hearthtender orientation towards change is to value getting the day-to-day work of the system completed in an efficient way. Their primary orientation is towards being of service. They love to keep things running smoothly, and in an organization, they see their team or unit as “family.” The Hearthtender naturally is attracted to the idea of continuous, small incremental change and often has creative ideas about how to improve workflow and processes. However, they do not tend to think strategically and long-term. They tend to be focused on details and it is easy for them to get caught up in the weeds or to be overwhelmed by long to-do lists.
Our research shows that in most organizations, the Hearthtender Archetype is the predominant Archetype of Change, and is absolutely necessary for the not only the routine of daily operation but also for the support of transitions from one organizational state to another.
In the U.S. we are in the midst of a major transition. We have just had a very unhealthy, toxic Edgewalker president leave office. He pushed the boundaries of democratic norms of decency, ethics, and service until they broke. He went over the edge. Our new President, Joe Biden, will need to amplify his Hearthtender Archetype in order to clean up the mess left by his predecessor and to handle all the short-term crises that were intentionally left behind. Biden will need his Hearthtender quality of compassion for others, for seeing unity (“family”) where others see conflict, and he’ll need the quality of a healer as he helps to heal a wounded nation. As he focuses on the short-term, which is necessary in the middle of a crisis, he will also need to draw upon his Hearthtender skill of being able to multitask, the skill of being able handle many issues at once, the skill of attention to detail in policy-making and decision-making, and the skill of streamlining systems and processes to make them more efficient.
All of us have the capability to tap into any of the five Archetypes of Change even if one of them is more comfortably our go-to place. When and where are you a Hearthtender? Think about the parts of your life or work that are going smoothly, that run like a well-oiled machine. Oiling that machine is Hearthtender work. Think about the parts of your life or work where you truly feel you are being of service, where you make a difference. My husband Ellis Ralph is a beekeeper and this time of year (winter in the Northern Hemisphere) is time to feed the bees sugar water to make sure they get through the cold season until they can forage for themselves. That’s Hearthtender work. Think about the parts of your life where you bring people together to celebrate or to create a sense of team, community or family. That is the heart-work of a Hearthtender.
I also encourage you to think about the Hearthtenders in your world who support you. Hearthtenders thrive on knowing their work made a difference, and I encourage you to show them your quiet gratitude.