Interview with Pat Fleming

Pat has been a mentor and advisor to business for about 40 years. He started as an accountant in the corporate world and by 30 years of age was doing really well but decided that the personal cost was too great to continue. He made some radical changes in his life: he de-camped with his young family from Dublinto Clonmel; started a vegetable garden; but struggled to find work that had meaning and would allow the work/ life balance he desired. He started working on enterprise support with small business owners. He now has worked with over 1,000 businesses and many social enterprises and community development initiatives. Since 2008 he has re-framed his purpose to focus his work on the deeper drivers within us all and the dynamics of what he calls the collective ‘we’ space. He is the owner of


Getting started on the road to sustainability:


Like for so many, it took a type of crisis to kickstart Pat to make changes. His early corporate career had high personal costs including a marriage breakdown and it eventually came to an end over a personal ethics dilemma in the Boardroom. He realised that this world was not about to change and would consume him as easily as it did others. “The corporate world can demand your body and mind and in the process you lose your heart and soul” he states.


This awakening of spirit was transformative for him and was also a maturation step. He describes himself as developmentally, being only a teenager by 30 years of age though his career was deemed a success. He found in his new life that he struggled with the lack of work (as he had previously with too much work) and the work/life balance was difficult to attain and retain. This balance “requires the ability to say NO to some offerings, even when in need” he remembers.


Some learnings along the way:


As one goes through the various changes of one’s career, intuition and the ability to pay attention to it, is very important. People are often afraid of losing a skill or ability by changing but he feels this is not quite accurate as really we transcends the skills and can call on them again when needed.


Pat uses the term ‘intention’ to refer to our inner purpose and he notes that when you open up to something it is uncanny how life responds and gives it back to you. Using clear intention and our honest intuition we can become adept at responding to what he terms the ‘out-of-the- blue’ agency – which is life’s unexpected offerings and opportunities


Don’t postpone your living – a lot of people believe that ‘I will get a life once I make some money’ or ‘once the kids have grown’. Pat feels strongly that living has to be done now and not in some future which may never arrive. We have to live when it is raining and not just when the sun shines.


Manage the fear (now) – we need to learn to do this or then the fear will manage us. The circumstances or opportunities for change may not get better than wherever we find ourselves so design your life now.


Enterprise :


Pat feels that the corporate model is demanding more and more of individuals thus causing stress whilst at the same time business and individuals are more open to recognising and dealing with stress. There are now some corporate models demonstrating how to reach for a work/life balance. He refers to companies such asPatagonia, Buurtzorg, Holocracy 1 and Sounds True who are all developing radical and more organic approaches to management.


For smaller businesses he believes the recession has ‘knocked the stuffing’ out of them. It has been pure survival mode since then with no time or space for alternative approaches. There is a greater awareness of environmental and social values but no room for practice or innovation in the drive to the bottom.


The social and community sector in which Pat now often works, is he feels being squeezed by the relentless drive for compliance, accountability and the ever dwindling funding purse. Despite good intentions these practices are making for fierce competition between them though their goals are the same. For example, there are 300 suicide awareness groups in the country, most of which are dipping into the same public purse and charitable donations.


What is to be done:


For Pat, the critical thing we need to learn is how to operate collectively, how to open up to the idea of the ‘commons’ and this will take practice and effort after so many years of individuation. Not only are we individuated in ourselves but also in our corporations, our community organisations and the public sector and government.


As a society we are still really only at a teenage stage of development and so we need a collective growing up in order to connect better and deal with the complex issues we face. This is where Pat believes that the Integral approaches and understanding offer real hope for development. Integral is an all embracing philosophy which focuses on the interior space within us all and also on the collective ‘interiors’ – which are the processes between us – both as individuals and organisations.


We need to consciously become aware of and deal with our patterns and conditionings and for each of us to ask ‘who is in charge of my life – me or my life’? Working with uncertainty and complexity is too difficult without recognising how our ‘monkey’ mind can rule us, jumping from idea to idea, with no grounding. This is where a practice such as mindfulness meditation is vital and can be so helpful.


Pat’s suggested further reading/listening:

The Legal Edition Show 6 Terry Mollner Part 2 Reinventing Organizations:

Transformation in Leadership, Part 1: A Developmental Study of WarrenBuffett

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