A Second Day Among Three

We continue today. Great Facilitation: An Art of Hosting Intensive.

Growing on the the play, creativity, and experience from Day 1.

Recentering in the big story, for me which I often name as growing kindness, consciousness, and and ability to be in more flow with life itself. It has everything to do with our work, teams, families, communities.

Also recentering in the story that is learning and connection, with tools, methodologies, experience, and frameworks.

Today’s Design

  • Welcome & Context
  • Connection & Presencing (Pairs)
  • Self Selected Group Learning (Knowledge Camp)
  • Break
  • Whole Group Deepening (Circle)
  • Lunch (90 minutes)
  • Self-Organized Working and Learning Groups (Open Space)
  • Check-Out
  • Social Evening Together

A Day to deepen connection and field of learning. Among three. that further weaves us into three integrated days of humans wanting to learn, do good, find more of our way.

What, How, Who

One of the most common reference points I hear in working with groups is the desire to give full and immediate attention to the “what.” This is the “doing” part. It’s the church that wants to create in two hours it’s next five year strategy. It’s the university that wants to grow its prominence. It’s the non-profit that wants to host a community awareness event. “What” is the implementation part. It’s so often perceived as the accomplishment part. It’s noble. It’s needed.

One of the most common interjections that I offer to the “what” conversation is the equally important focus of the “how.” It’s not just “what” we do, but “how” we do it that matters a bunch. People get the need to be smart. They even get, kind of, being smart together. But it’s less common to get the orientation that is “how” groups work together. This is process stuff, not just content. It’s leaning in to questions together. It’s seeking shared wisdom through listening and telling stories. It’s slowing down. It’s going deeper. It’s deliberate use of participative methodologies to create encounters of learning and connection. The “how” is for many, a revolutionary step.

With a few colleagues, lately we’ve been talking a bunch about not just the what and the how, but also the “who.” This is focus on the individuals in relation to the group. It’s a focus on the inner world, not just the outer. It’s maturing thought and emotions. This is the kind of language that tips into what some perceive as therapy and counseling. Fair enough. However, the “who” is mostly being honest enough to go another layer deeper into the sense-making that goes on within, that then shapes the what and the “how of how is going.” This has some neuroscience to it. It’s got a pile of self-awareness in it.

What. How. Who.

I recently enjoyed reading Larry Dressler’s book, Standing In The Fire. I think I met Larry once, briefly. He’s connected somewhat into the Art of Hosting body of work. His writing is thoughtful, invoking in this book, the metaphor of tending fires, as much on the inside as on the outside. It’s the clarity, calm, and courage part from his subtitle. Larry tells the story of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire in Montana, a raging blaze that was overtaking fire-fighters. Vast forests were consumed in that fire. People died in that fire. However, some people didn’t by taking an unusual chance. Burning a patch to lay down in, so that the forest fire, moving as fast as 30 miles per hour, would “jump” over the firefighters. It worked.

Larry invites a narrative that many of us are invoking — being smarter together. And being transformed by fires of contemporary life and leadership. I liked what he shared about “what” so often being associated with knowledge. Yes, knowledge matters, but it isn’t enough on it’s own. The “how” is associated with skills. I’d suggest that the practices and methods of participative leadership and engagement are really important skills. It matters to know circle. It matters to be able to host an open space format. The third area of “who” connects to self-awareness, which of course, is on-going. Without self awareness, the “how” and the “what” are too devoid of context. It makes a difference. It’s the ability to know one’s own relationship with grief in order to host others in their processing of grief. It’s being able to encourage a group to dwell in its fear, to find the medicine, because you are in your own process of relating to fear.

I love the awareness that comes with attention to “who.” It’s so much in the work that Kinde Nebeker and I convene around The Inner and Outer of Evolutionary Leadership. It’s so much in the Humaning retreat space that Quanita Roberson and I offer, QT, to get to more of the foundation layers. It’s so much in the work of circle and other participative forms that helps us dance the space between the interior and the exterior.

What. How. Who.
Knowledge. Skills. Self-Awareness.

It’s so much the conversation, expanded, that groups are needing, and I believe, looking for.



The Circle Way — University of North Texas

Enjoyed teaching and hosting The Circle Way today with Caitlin Frost, Chris Corrigan. It’s part of three days of participative leadership.

The colored papers are statements of things that these senior leaders (Deans, Assistant Deans, Provost, Department Chairs, Faculty) are proud of at the university. It was a harvest from a check-in process to start our first day together.

Lots of good stuff spoken.

Lots of good energy shared.

Common Denominator

I’ve been thinking a lot about math lately. Oh, oh!

When I was a kid, I loved math. In Elementary School it was always my favorite subject. In part, because I was good at it. My family played a lot of cards which meant that I was often adding cards and numbers. A bunch of cribbage and friendly poker. In Junior High School I loved my math teacher, Mr. Mercer. He was the teacher that everyone thought was hard. Or weird. Again, I thrived to move beyond addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division into more involved algebra and geometry. Fun again. It was High School and University calculus that killed me. Math became not so much fun, but that’s when my life and life circumstances had me searching for more of an interior quality — psychology became my thing.

Remember the concept of “common denominator?” It’s a particularly important concept when adding fractions. The denominator is the number below the line in a fraction. It’s the number that identifies how many total parts there are. In “1/4” the four is the denominator, signaling that that whole is divided into four equal parts.

When adding fractions, an intermediary step is needed if the denominators don’t match. That step is to find a common denominator, and as I was taught, the lowest common denominator. “1/4” + “3/8” is an example. The lowest common denominator here is “8.” So to add the two with different denominators requires converting “1/4” into an expression of “eighths.” Multiply the denominator by 2 and then the numerator (the number above the line in the fraction) by the same. This gives you “2/8” which is equal numerically to “1/4.”

Yup, that’s math. So…

In this simple math, I’ve been remembering that there is always a common denominator. Not sometimes. Always. It may not seem so obvious as “1/4 + 3/8.” For example, “1/3” + “8/17” is a bit more complicated, but that common denominator is still there. In this case “3 x 17,” or “51.” Thus, the intermediary step so that these two fractions can talk to each other is to convert them to an expression with a denominator of “51.”

“1/3” is “17/51.”

“8/17” is “24/51.”

Add them together and you get “32/51.”

Enough math. On to psychology and, one of the domains that psychology lead me, to hosting participatory process and leadership.

My suggestion is that there is always a way to find a common denominator in people. Even when it seems like there is not. The common denominator is found in the interaction. It’s found by bringing two or more together. Even when it seems impossible. The common denominator is no longer a number. It becomes more of an energy of together. Of going together for a purpose.

I want to believe that in our utter humanness together, there is always common denominator. There is people who care about their community. There is respect for life. There is commitment to beauty. Or love. Or joy. Or play. Or excellence. Or imagination. Or creativity. The act of coming together helps us to find that. In respectful listening. In thoughtful sharing. In asking questions. In witnessing stories. In speaking honestly. In suspending certainty. In willingness to be surprised.

I’ve been thinking a lot, and hoping a lot, about math lately, and this simple awareness of common that feels very important to pay attention to.