Three Principles, The Circle Way

Later today I’ll be teaching a short segment for The Circle Way, An Online Class to Introduce and Nuance The Components Wheel, a four-week class that I cohost with Amanda Fenton. We’ve had an overall plan for this class each of the five times we’ve offered it in the last three years. I like it that, in addition to our plan, Amanda and I bring ourselves bring forward our current learnings, nuancing, and questions. Today’s short segment that I offer will be on Three Principles: Rotate Leadership, Responsibility is Shared, and Reliance is on Wholeness. Three R’s.

A few teasers:

Rotate Leadership

  • Imagery: “more hands make light work”
  • Connected Principle: “people support what they create”
  • Nuance: “not about just being nice; it’s about contributing to the health of a system”
  • When Absent: “lots of pressure for the regular leader; can unintentionally reinforce a hierarchy; missed opportunity for inclusion”
  • When Present: “shared contributions; builds kindness; builds attentiveness”
  • A Practice: “rotate the roles of host, guardian, scribe so that more people can build and offer their leadership”

Responsibility is Shared

  • Imagery: “when cleaning the kitchen, until all of us are done, none of us are done”
  • Connected Principle: “who we are together is different and more than who we are alone”
  • Nuance: “helps create the ‘us of us'”
  • When Absent: “unintended detachment, distractedness, fragmentation”
  • When Present: “ownership, attentiveness, integration”
  • A Practice: “pay attention as if you were leading the next part, needing to integrate with what has already happened”

Reliance on Wholeness

  • Imagery: “sometimes the truth depends on a walk around the lake”
  • Connected Principle: “I don’t know, but we do”
  • Nuance: “circle creates a composite being, not just a sum of the participants”
  • When Absent: “circle comes off more mechanical”
  • When Present: “more likely to experience an emergence of awareness”
  • A Practice: “pass a piece to invite what people are noticing is arising from the circle now”

Circle remains at the root of so much group work and facilitation. In the story I tell myself, circle helps restore the ability to turn to one another, so that we might find connection, learning, and practice in the “us of us.” 


Systems Thinking — A Few Key Shifts in Emphasis, Part 1

Photo Credit, Margaret Wheatley

For many years, many of us have been learning to see and work with systems as groups. Many of us have been learning, or re-learning, systems thinking. Many of us have been challenging ourselves to an imagination of seeing more of the whole. Many of us have been wrestling our ways through interrupting deeply engrained societal and organizational patterns of dissect, divide, predict, command, and control.

Oy! That’s quite a sentence, these interruptions that so many of us support — no wonder it can be a bit tiring.

Lately, I’ve been revisiting some materials I have that help make some basic yet clear points of differentiation in systems thinking. These are all about shifts in emphasis that help stir us into, what I would suggest is more fruitful ways of thinking and practicing. I’m grateful to Meg Wheatley and Myron Rogers for feeding and developing such thought.

  1. From Parts to Whole — Yup, this is the basic point. Can we come to see the team (or the organization, or community, or family) as an entity itself. I’m particularly grateful for learning The Circle Way over the years with this emphasis. So many times I’ve felt that when we begin to speak into a center, depositing our insight and wonder, we are forming not just a collection of parts, but an entity in which “parts” begin to make less sense. We seem to source from something more than any of us as individuals.
  2. From Objects to Relationships — I love this emphasis because it moves us away from being “thing-oriented” to being “relationship-oriented.” In a recent conversation with a good friend and colleague we were talking about the primary purpose of some work we were doing / teaching together. We both affirmed together that we were trying help ourselves and others engage in a relationship with the material. It’s not a one time thing. It’s an ongoing curiosity. That’s around material and content. This emphasis, however, applies deeply to people in relationship also (don’t forget the whole above). It feels, increasingly, that in times of complexity, that’s when we need more relationship, not less. When we need even more to be alert to our slippery sliding back to the comfort of thinking “things.”

Well, there’s a start. More later this week.