The Four Fold Practice

There are some teachings that have impacted me a lot in the last 20 years. That have become foundational for not only what stirs on the surface, but what churns at a molten, magma level. One of these for me, that I find myself returning to lately as I work with core teams, is “The Four Fold Practice” that grew among us in the Art of Hosting community of practitioners.

When I have introduced The Four Fold Practice at workshops, often I’ve referenced it as a curriculum that should be covered over at least two years. Each of its practices, its folds, are worth significant attention, learning, and dwelling with. And, as it is named, it is “practice.” It isn’t something you acquire and then are done (though I suppose this could be more true if thinking at the mastery level of 10,000 hours of practice when it becomes you). It is something you continue to do. And develop. And evolve. And stretch with. Just like cardio-fitness isn’t a one time, or a one week thing either.

Why I’m appreciating this model with core teams is that I’m trying to encourage from the onset the aspect of taking a journey together. Not just a meeting. Not just a series of planning sessions. Not just a single car-ride. It is journey. With unknowns, uncertainties, fears, excitements, questions to linger with, water to draw, food to prepare, and adaptations all along the way.

Here’s the folds in the practice:

Be Present — Showing up is the work. It sounds a bit silly to say such a basic thing. Yet, contemporary society demands much from most of us, doesn’t it. Multi-tasking is a norm (and even a shame if unable to keep up). I know of few people who aren’t required to do twice the work in half the time and with half of the resources. How the globalization pattern of incessantly seeking growth will evolve (or implode) in society is for another day of writing. Suffice it say that there are demands on all of us. And it gives rise, increasingly so, to an ability to practice focus, clarity of purpose, and stillness — both personally and corporally with a group.

Participate — Showing up from a practice of presence (perfection isn’t required), makes a big difference in participation. It’s not passive listening just waiting for the damn meeting to end. It’s not loaded-for-bear confrontation to bully one’s talking points. Presence changes the way that any of us are able to participate in gatherings. Adding in just a bit more ability to listen to what others say, to be curious about each other and ourselves and the many choices of how we approach our task at hand — this matters, right. In my work with The Circle Way, there are three practices that are always encouraged that I find guide participation. Speak with intention. Listen with attention. Tend to the well-being of the group. It’s part of the nuancing of participation, key reminders for all of us.

Host — To participate in society (and communities, and families, and teams) means that you will have your share of stepping in to host. To convene. To create containers so that many people can be in their learning together. Or their imagination. Or their grief. As some of my colleagues have said, “Hosting conversations is both more and less than facilitating. It is an act of leadership and means taking responsibility for creating and holding the ‘container’ in which a group of people can do their best work together.” Hosting does imply some of the basics — a time, a place, chairs, sometimes food. It’s not, however, about passing time. I often think of it as a practice of “activating and animating a composite being.” I think of it as waking up the “we” that is present and yet so illusive, though many of our cultural traditions point us at best to expect, “a collection of me’s.”

Co-Create — This one is the zinger to me. You can see from the above diagram the references to learning, and the evolution from “becoming a learner” to a “community of learners” to a “community that learns.” All of these are important. However, the community that learns, that holds as core identity the practices and habits of paying attention, amplifying curiosity, gathering to listen well together, unleashing creative energy to experiment together, trusting and supporting amidst unavoidable unknowns, uncertainties, and complexities — now that’s something to write home about. Co-creation, that deliberateness — it’s the gold of the journey, scaled. It’s the thing you look back to in 20 years and recognize, that’s when we changed, essentially so, who we were.

Here’s to core teams willing to take the journey. I’m glad to be involved with such good people, committed to holding each other from one point of the journey to the next.



Tacoma Art of Participatory Leadership Starts Today

There will be 40ish of us gathered today. The first of three days at Pacific Lutheran University. People from many walks of life and leadership. Project managers, community organizers, government officials, educators, health care administrators. With varied interests and needs — to convene, to change the way meetings happen, to look at broader vision, to build support, to address conflict and challenge. The story I tell myself is that we are all hungry for better, more simple, and more imaginative ways of being together for the benefit of ourselves, our teams, our families, our communities, our jurisdictions. People care. It’s just that sometimes that caring gets lost in habituated systems and psyches that no longer serve as they used to.

Here’s the description from our event website — the context that acknowledges most of us are working in times of rapid change and high complexity.

Ready, go!

We all want to work better together. Yes, in rapid change. Yes, in high complexity.
This year’s Art of Participatory Leadership builds on a tradition of trainings in the region from the last several years. It is an intensive 3-day experience at which you will practice a set of simple yet powerful approaches for designing and hosting powerful conversations and meetings that change how you change. It is an effective way of harnessing the collective wisdom and self-organizing capacity of groups — most of us know that people give their energy and lend their resources to what matters most to them, in both work and life.

How Does The Art of Participatory Leadership Help You?
Better decision-making, more efficient and effective capacity building, and greater ability to quickly respond to opportunity, challenge and change. People get empowered and learn how to guide meetings to more desirable and supported outcomes.

Who’s In From the Region?
Regionally, in the US Pacific Northwest and Cascadia Bioregion, we are bringing together leaders from community, government, and business, social entrepreneurs, next generation leaders from many dedicated networks and efforts – building capacity in our communities and organizations to address the challenges of these times. See Partners for a list of organizations committed to brining this training to their networks and region.

What Will I Learn?
Lots. We work with collaborative methods, including The Circle Way, World Café, Open Space Technology, ProAction Café, storytelling and more. You will learn about mental models that underlay methods to more deeply enhance not only what you know, but what you will create as you grow your leadership.

Mental Model Shift

There was a bit of a conversation happening last week on the Art of Hosting list serve. It’s a global group of practitioners connected by a few things that include a medium (list serve), some shared purpose (applied participative leadership practice), and a desire to learn together (from just beginning to multiple years of experience). It’s a comforting kind of list to me — definitely disturbs any thoughts of being alone. And it’s a wise group of people. People know stuff and are willing to share.

The conversation last week that caught my attention was on mental models. One person named a workshop that she was creating. She asked for examples of mental models. One participant, Lori from California (whom I don’t know) offered these five gems, each of which I relate to. I love her clarity of “from this to that.” I also love some of her invocation of entrepreneurial spirit.

  • I have to do it all myself ~ I have lots of support around me
  • I have to work for a company ~ I can be successful as a contractor/freelancer
  • If others don’t value me, I have no value ~ When I value myself with confidence others are drawn to me
  • The government (or organization, etc.) should solve that ~ I can do something to create a solution or improvement
  • I have no power in the situation ~ I always have power in the way I perceive, my attitude, and my choices – where I choose to focus.
 Just a bit of conversation. And some good wisdom.