Levels of Participation

Levels of Participation is one of the principles that I discovered in my work developing Inquiry Method. In the years I have been teaching it, it has become a mainstay of what I call Inquiry Management. The Levels of Participation are a framework for understanding how people work together; they explain how people behave in relationships, the context that they participate in, and the leadership they receive. By understanding this framework we can have an impact on our own success and growth, we can influence the success and growth of our organization and we can learn to lead and be led to greater success, and ultimately satisfaction, engagement and happiness in our work.

Inquiry Method™ is the foundation on which I have built all that I have learned and discovered. I have found that it is also something that can be learned by others to have a profound impact on their ability to lead and mentor others. At the root Inquiry Method™ is simply the capacity to come to any conversation or inner challenge with openness, curiosity, and questions rather than answers. Though this may seem simple and easy, I have found that it is much more difficult that one might think. Particularly in business, but also elsewhere, we are taught to have the answers. In fact for most of our education we were given answers and required to memorize them and repeat them for tests and exams. Most of us have continued in this pattern in our professional and personal lives.

The problem is that in having the answers we stop learning and growing.

Click here for my eCourse where you will be taught the fundamentals of Levels of Participation, Inquiry Management and Inquiry Leadership.

Planning: Executing your Vision, Strategy and Tactics

In all aspects of our lives, planning is an integral part. Planning exercises are important in group settings, such as a couple, family, or for a business, and are equally crucial, individually. The objective of this blog is to help you recognize the power and meaning that can be created through the intention of planning.

The first element of planning is creating your vision. To create your vision, project a period into the future; for example, imagine yourself in one, five, or ten years. What do you want your future to look like? One beautiful application of this step is as a couple. Let’s say you are fifty, jointly creating a vision of what life will be in twenty years, when you are seventy. It is such a powerful process because as you create this beautiful vision together, you both become bonded and equally participating towards fulfilling this joint vision, which in turn creates beauty in the relationship. This visioning process can also be conducted in the context of a business. Or, you can create your own personal vision to motivate and inspire yourself to shape your dreams.

In support of vision, the next level of consideration is strategy. Strategy is the creation of the larger picture- specifically, what are some of the broad topics we would need to accomplish our vision? In the example of planning for when we turn seventy, we may intend to retire to Costa Rica and live in a beach house. In order to achieve this goal, we must make sure that our finances are in a certain shape, define how we would like to be with respect to our health, and describe what we need to do in our relationship to develop wonderful communication and intimacy. Just as we often do in a business or individually, we would define strategic objectives and goals to help us achieve our future vision.

The third level is tactics. Tactics are the day-to-day things that I need to start developing and acting on to fulfill my strategy. For example, planning a meeting to develop a financial plan with my financial advisor, creating a benchmark for required salary, scheduling couples counseling to develop our communication, or learning Spanish. Whatever we need to do to manifest our desired outcome.

In summary, there are three levels:

Vision: where we are, or I am, going.

Strategy: what major things have to get accomplished to get the results.

Tactics: what day-to-day activities are needed to fulfill our strategy.

Create a document with your vision, strategy and tactics and lay out a plan for yourself.

The next blog will talk about how to go deeper with creating that vision, and in view of creating your legacy.

Talk to you next week.



Conflict Into Collaboration

We all ultimately want the same things.

This is where the power of Inquiry Method is revealed.

When I talk to people in a corporation, or in a couple, or to individual clients and I start to ask the question of what is it that you really want, eventually we all end up at the same place. We all want to feel love, fulfillment, and happiness. This is what it all boils down to even though it may not look like it on the surface of things. This is why using inquiry is so important – it reveals the underlying truth.

It is in the details that we get conflicted.  What, how, when, where, why…

The conflict persists because we forget what we really want and start attaching to the details as if that is what is important.

In a conflict with your spouse about spending so much time at work, is the issue really about spending time at work?  No, it is about something else… Most likely it is about wanting to feel closer or to feel more love in the relationship.  If the love and the intimacy are there, then the issue about time goes away.

In an argument between employees about how to do things, how to do it is probably not the issue…it may be about recognition and success.  If we can create a situation where everyone feels like they are being supported in being successful, then the argument goes away, and we naturally begin to feel like working together on solutions.

If we use Inquiry Method when conflicts occur to discover what everybody wants on the deepest level we can find our common ground with one another, we can find what I call the “Want for Us,” the shared want that brings us together.  Core wants show up as fulfillment, success, happiness, joy, fun, ease, inclusion, and ultimately love.

When we all realize that we want the same thing the energy changes, and we start working in parallel to create that situation we all want.  It is in this way that we transform conflict into collaboration.  That transformation and the ability to inspire it in others will change all your relationships.

A Simple Formula

Learning to mentor the people who work for you is the most important skill as a leader. Your mentoring can make an immense impact on productivity as well as a myriad of other benefits.

Sometimes when I teach the aspect of Inquiry Management where leaders and management take up to 1 hour each week for mentoring each of their direct reports they often wonder where they will find the time. The hardest leap to understand is how to spend time on mentoring when there are so many things to do.

Here is a formula that might help you see it in a different way.

Let’s assume that mentoring works and that by applying it you get a 10% improvement in productivity (I predict more) with the direct reports you are mentoring.

Let’s also assume that you have six direct reports and that they work 40 hours a week.

At 1 hour a week mentoring for each, this will take you 6 hours.

The combined work hours of your six direct reports are 240 hours each week.

With a 10% increase in productivity from mentoring, you will see a minimum weekly increase of an extra 24 hours from your reports. 240 hours x 10% = 24 hours.

So for your six hours, you get 24 hours of increased productivity, a 4:1 return on your investment that will continue to grow. For each person, you mentor you get back 4 hours of productivity.

By establishing a system of Inquiry Management in your organization, you are creating a system of in-house mentoring with significant and far-reaching benefits. Increased productivity is only the tip of the iceberg. Other advantages include accountability, esprit de corps, talent retention, personal and organizational well-being, increased insight into the activities of your company, the establishment of a system that prepares your company for growth, advancing leadership, employee satisfaction, and the great joy of inspiring others to achieve their wants and excellence.

Every moment you spend developing productivity gives your time tremendous leverage. Learn to empower your team.

Shared Vision

In applying Inquiry Leadership and Management to corporations I am not offering a system to overlay or replace what you are already doing. This process is an inquiry into how we can more effectively work together.

Inquiry Method suggests that to gain a collective process and success we have to work for something larger than ourselves, this does not mean that we need to be working to save the world necessarily, but at least we must be able to gain the perspective that we are committed to each others success and well being, that the environment in which we work matters and that by sharing a common vision we will all benefit; we must be able to play well together.

The outcomes of pursuing a shared vision are not only limited to profitability; they also include individual and group well being, health, enjoyment, the sense of contribution, skillful means, deeper meaning, commitment, support, and success.

It is our job individually and collectively to inquire into how we can be more effective, abundant and enjoy our lives more.


Accountability is what happens when someone owns the outcome of an event.  Business owners have inherent accountability, they don’t need to find or accept it, it is their company and money on the line, and the market creates an inherent accountability.

The challenge is how to create accountability in non-owners?  The key is to develop a culture where each person is connected to their own success and where they can make a direct connection between their performance, their personal success, and the corporate success.

The best way to do this is to show personal concern for employees’ professional well-being and success.  As the owner or leader, it is important to know your team’s ambitions and desires and to show them that there are direct opportunities to have what they want.  You can demonstrate this clearly by creating a direct relationship between their performance and successes. For example, if you are aware and have looked into what their ambitions are and have shown them that these can be achieved by doing their job well, now they have tied their success to the success of the company and now they are the owner of their own dreams and inherently accountable to themselves.  By regularly reviewing and showing your interest in their success you reinforce this connection and their accountability.

Ultimately, this process of creating accountability requires that you pay attention. Your attention and direct connection with the people who work for you are your accountability and inherently creates accountability in them. Retaining your accountability and demonstrating it through regular observation and interaction is a vital part of this process.  Your accountability as a leader cannot be replaced, it is your most important activity, “what is measured grows.” If you don’t directly observe what is happening with your people, your success and their success will suffer.  Observation cannot be replaced, we all perform better when we know what we do will be measured and seen; done right this observation is experienced as support.

There is little difference between being this kind of leader and the mentoring and coaching that I do. I call it Inquiry Management when we create an environment of growth and accountability that serves individual and corporate well-being.  Become the kind of leader who inspires, not requires, accountability.

Corporate Self

As I have been working with companies I have become aware of a dynamic within each of us I call Corporate Self.  This is the awareness that we are not just one person but also many people inside us.  Of course at the core there is only one-self, one witness, but our egoic-self is made up of many different identities, agendas, roles, images, and shames.

I have had some exceptional breakthroughs with clients by working with these identities as I would with a management team in a major company.

Within your diversity of selves you can find that some of them lead, some follow, some hide out, some only come out when you have a few glasses of wine, some resent that they are not attended to, some are empowered, some are not.

I have developed a process to separate out these different identities and to reassign, repurpose their energies.  They always want the best for you but as you change they get stuck in their comfortable roles.  Just like when there is major corporate change some people will get resistant because they were comfortable in their old roles, they are not disloyal they just don’t know how to support the new framework.

As you change and grow, comfortable roles and patterns are hard to break and by dialoguing with them you can make huge breakthroughs and re-patternings.

A common example among the people I work with who have been very successful, is that through drive, discipline or force of will they have succeeded.  This aspect of them has been highly rewarded and affirmed.  They have come to me because some aspect of their lives is not working or they are drained, burned out, or simply ready for a more balanced or meaningful life.  They know this but their mind keeps driving and pushing them, it’s hard to get off the hamster wheel.

Once we can identify this aspect of self (maybe we call it “the driver” or “motivation”, what do you call it?), we can then talk to it, ask what it wants for me; talk to it about how it has supported us, thank it; we can ask it if its current approach is still working; ask if it would be ready for a promotion or different duties.  Each inquiry like this comes up with different insights and awareness and so far in doing this work with people and companies, we have been able to see a new possibility and make a big shift in perception and behavior 100% of the time.

Often times the part of us that is driving or pushing for our financial accomplishments, success, being a good parent, etc., is one of our most developed parts. This part of us does not have to be fired (we don’t want to throw out our best executive), it just needs to be repurposed or promoted.

What if the part of you that has helped you be successful was promoted to the position of looking out for your whole well being, including your health, relationships, family, budget, savings, friendships, business, etc.?  Now the part of you that has driven your success is promoted to looking out for your whole well-being. As with any new role they will have to get used to the new position, the new responsibility but you may quickly find that they are good at it.

Now that the most successful part of you is in charge of balance and well being of the corporate you they may make some choices that effect the amount of energy put into money and external success (you may find that this actually accelerates your success) but your well being will be accelerated.  Can this part of you develop the discernment to determine what is best for the whole you?

If you are having trouble wanting well-being over success and money, that would be a good thing for you to inquire into; why is success more important to you than your well being?  What is the difference?

Inquiry Leadership: Esprit de Corps

I was writing an information sheet for speaking to business groups and I wanted to share some of what I wrote:

The first question I ask of a business client is:  If you pull up to the parking lot of your business and sit in your car and wait, do you feel any resistance to walking in the door?  What do you resist?  How would you have to set up your work and your business so that you were looking forward to walking in the door?

In this talk I support you in clarifying and manifesting your values throughout your organization.

“Our work becomes more meaningful and impactful on those we come in contact with as we connect with and create environments that express our deepest values.  Through this process we amplify a sense of esprit de corps, a sense of shared purpose and meaning which creates great companies.  Esprit de corps inspires customers and employees; companies that have it experience brand loyalty, employee retention, heroic efforts and contribution”.

This program is an interactive inquiry into your deepest motivations and inspiration; great for a renewal of excitement and engagement in your business.


You will walk away with clarity and written values, you will have inquiry tools and a better understanding of other group members to enhance future meetings and specific and practical esprit de corps enhancing actions to implement immediately.

How do you inspire and feel inspired?  What is the nature of great leadership?  How can you feel like what you do matters?  Why does success follow authentic leadership?

  • We will look into what motivates and inspires commitment and loyalty to a cause, company, or organization.
  • A unique concept called “Levels of Participation” will be unforgettable as a guide to inspiring your organization and customers.  From this you will understand how each person contributes and meet them at their level and inspire individuals to “level up”.
  • You will be able to specifically identify the nature of the esprit de corps of your organization and walk away with a new awareness and specific intentions toward what will inspire you and those you lead.

Inquiry Leadership inspires brand loyalty, perception of value and a sense of partnership in customers.  Employees not only feel more connected with the organization but because they clearly understand the intent of leadership can act in greater alignment with corporate objectives with less management.  Most important however is how our work as leaders becomes more fulfilling and meaningful.  Success follows effective leadership.

Kyle Mercer works with leaders who have discovered that they want a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.  Through connecting with deeper values his clients experience greater success and meaning that overflows into personal lives, health and well-being.

Maybe I Am Not Your Guy

I had a breakthrough recently. Now it seems so obvious that I can’t believe I haven’t made this clearer or expressed it more directly.

If you coach or work with me in any capacity, I am coming from the perspective that it is our primary duty, mission, purpose, objective, intent, focus, inspiration, path, etc., to grow ourselves and liberate our spirits from everything that holds us back from the most beautiful expression of who we are.  It is why we are here.

Until recently I didn’t know that everybody did not see it the same.

If you do work with me at some point, now you will know my most basic assumption:  That we all want to be liberated, express love, feel joyful, and share our deepest gifts.

If you are after something else, I am not your guy.


Freedom From….Freedom To….

From the broad perspective I see three adult stages of growth:

  1. Living through unconscious patterns (denial or resistance)
  2. Freedom From (pain, ego, and spirit are out of balance)
  3. Freedom To (truly and deeply “authoring” our lives)

Unconscious Patterns

Partly because we lack a rite-of-passage we begin our adult journey with all the patterns and coping mechanisms we receive from childhood, unique to each childhood situation. These habituated ways of being could include being good, should and shouldn’t, withdrawal, drive, shame, pain, ego, giving self away, control, masks, and on and on.

In this initial situation we may have brief glimpses of freedom or sense the possibility of freedom but the patterns just keep crashing in and returning us to an essentially shackled state. For me it was a struggle with depression, boredom, anxiety with occasional bursts for freedom that were manic and short-lived.

For others, drive, needing to succeed, winning approval and money may be the shackles that bind them. Some of you are bound by responsibility, should, shouldn’t, and the expectations of others. These unconscious patterns make us into puppets, as long as we are running them, we are at their mercy; we are asleep at the wheel.

For many people there is a crisis, a door opening to a new possibility. It may be divorce or an affair; for some a death of someone pivotal, like a parent. This can trigger seeking; many of you at this point found The Garden Company and came to your first Mountain Experience. The Mountain Experience is an awakening. Many traditions describe this waking up as if from a dream. Waking up can be scary and/or exhilarating.

Freedom From….

Waking up brings us to the beginning of the second stage, Freedom From…. In the Freedom From…. stage we start letting go of everything that is not us, beginning with emotional pain, we take ourselves back, we shed patterns and coping mechanisms; in this stage we may change friends, relationships, jobs, or possessions.

As we go deeper into this stage we discover and shed our identity and soften up on our ego, we become more fluid, flexible and spontaneous. As we shed our identity and ego we have less to protect, intimacy becomes easier and our relationships deeper. There are many struggles but at this point it keeps getting easier.

In the last stages of this process of shedding we discover our neediness and all of the ways we try to extract what we “need” from life. Slowly we become aware of how little we really need, life becomes more abundant and beautiful, we are more connected, serene and at ease.

Throughout the second stage being connected, serene and at ease seem to be the goal, the logical end point of Freedom From. At some point for me, this began to feel a little flat, like there was something more.

Freedom To….

I discovered that Freedom From ends in expansive acceptance, something that overlaps with and carries into Freedom To….

Freedom To…. is the phase where we begin to see our life as a work of art. Into that expansive space we begin to express ourselves, our passions. In many ways this is the hardest stage of all; to create, we have to be able and willing to step forward with our fears, risking what we hold most dear, risking rejection and humiliation.

Many spiritual traditions stop at expansive acceptance, melding into the void or god, transcendence. For me I believe that we are here for a reason, or perhaps more accurately, we have an opportunity to express our unique selves, our unique representation, some might say express god through us.

We can stop at transcendence and stay in that place of peace and Freedom From…., or we can take the next step, perhaps with the support of others to express our unique nature in some way. We all have an Inner-Knowing, something to say, to paint, to touch, to dance, to build, to create, to love, to enhance, to serve, to enjoy. We can access this passion through our emotions. This takes the greatest courage of all.

We are not ready until we are awake and have come most of the way through Freedom From…. Once we are ready and using the tools learned in Freedom From…. we can begin to build the exhilarating and challenging context to give us Freedom To….