An Orientation to Circle Check-In + A Key Circle Skill

Recently I was cohosting a group of 24 participants in an all-day online gathering. Our design for the day included a check-in. Of course. I often say that the first job is to say hello and to get ourselves into the room. Whether a room of face to face gathering of chairs in a circle, or of people gathered round tables, or of a virtual room of rectangles on a screen.

This check-in for this group of 24 was whole group, each person speaking for a bit. I invited the 45 second version. Framed with invitation to speak to two bits, knowing that in 45 seconds, these are just headlines. But let’s be clear, much can be spoken in a headline if spoken with sincerity and authenticity. And, it’s a bunch better to speak a headline than just plowing forward robotically. One, a bit of how they are doing. Two, a bit of sharing anything that they feel they need to speak so as to come a bit more present to this gathering and not distracted by other gatherings or meetings or todo lists.

Words were spoken. Images were shared. Some contained to 45 seconds. Others not.

As part of who I am, I can’t not pay attention to the meta story of a deeper why. Why check-in? What is really going on? What is the deeper why? The deeper invitation? And, as often happens for me, I found myself discovering yet another orientation to check-in and a key skill.

  1. The harvest of a check-in circle is so often the reaquainting with an ecosystem with itself. We say hello, not just as a courtesy. Not just as a kindness. Both of those things matter in groups as non-finish line practices. We say hello, not just because we haven’t seen each other for a while. As a circle practitioner of 20+ years now, I’ve come to see this check-in as what makes visible and active and authenticated, the reality of this scale of ecosystem, connected and intertwined, reflecting light, even if just for the day or the moment. Reaquainting with ecosystem that is us, connects us to more than just a meeting. It connect us to some of the deeper why of being together as the organism that we are, not just the organization that we are.
  2. There is medicine, or gifts if you prefer, in the check-in. Sometimes it is spoken simply and with a bit of surprise — “it’s really good to hear how you all are doing.” That language is code of course, that includes an often unspoken part, “it’s really good to share how I am doing; it’s really good to show up more wholly or more humanely with each other.” The medicine could be called emergence. Or just good noticing. It’s when what becomes available in the group reacquainting is different and more than in any of the individuals doing their thing.
  3. This is the key circle skill. It is to be both moved by what is occurring in the circle, and, then being able to pivot with that energy to another focus pertinent to the group. In basketball, when I think of “pivot” it is one foot anchored on the floor while the other foot and the rest of the body are able to move direction. For us, in this particular design for this day with this group of 24, the pivot was to then turn attention to personal leadership practices and to specific leadership initiatives. Anchored, connected, yet able to move — in circle. Yup, very key skill.

I remain glad to be a student in circle. A noticer. A practitioner. A host. A meta-story noticer — I think this is what a lot of us are doing, to be of service in these times, in many reaquainting ecosystems.

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