Guest blog by Don Campbell, HMI Certified Educator
Today I want to talk about effective meetings. I am sure we have all experienced successful meetings and some that were not so successful. Wouldn’t it be great to know how to conduct a successful meeting? I want to share some tools that have helped me to conduct successful meetings. I hope these tools will benefit you.
In the early years of Holistic Management, I was introduced to the concept of using a circle and a talking stick. Traditionally most meetings start around a table or with a leader at the front and people behind tables. We break with this tradition. We begin our meeting with our chairs in a tight circle, we are all facing each other. There is nothing in the center of the circle. Sitting like this changes the energy flow in the room. Each person becomes more open and more willing to listen and to share. A circle makes us all equal.
For clarity I will write this as if I am leading the meeting. I open the circle by introducing myself: “I am Don Campbell. I am holding the talking stick (any object you can pass around the circle).”
I explain that who ever has the stick is to talk. The rest of us are to listen. I usually point out that we have two ears and one mouth. Perhaps we are to listen twice as much as we talk. I encourage people to share when it is their turn. I recognize that some people find this exercise difficult. I invite people to share what they want. I point out that the more you share the more you will benefit.
I then share some of my experiences both as a Certified Educator and as a rancher. My sharing sets the tone for being honest and vulnerable. I keep things light.
I have five statements posted on the wall. The statements are to help people get started. These statements can be changed to fit your situation. The statement given here were used during an Holistic Management course.
1. I am (your name). Stating your name is important (even if everyone knows you); it brings your presence into the room.
2. I am thinking.
3. I am feeling. Asking a thinking and a feeling question activates both your left and right brain. It increases learning.
4. I would like to learn.
Note: I record these points on a flip chart. Towards the end of the course, we review and make sure we have covered all the points.
5. Please share something about yourself.
When a person is done sharing, I thank them by name. I let the circle go as long as people want. Some circles take much longer than others. I never worry about the time. A circle is an investment in creating a save environment. Time spent here will pay dividends down the road.
I have had excellent results using a circle and a talking stick. When people feel safe and listened to, it is amazing what they will share. A circle makes us all equal. A circle promotes learning and sharing.
I want to share a couple of circles that really stood out for me. The first one was where a husband and wife came to the course together. The wife was obviously dealing with some challenges. When we stared our first circle she sat outside the circle near her husband. I invited her to join, she declined. I carried on and never invited her to join again. On the last day as we were starting our closing circle the lady brought her chair and joined the circle.
Another time we were meeting with three management clubs at once. The circle was long and very personal. One young woman shared some thoughts on the difficulties of working with her in-laws. Another couple shared about some marriage challenges. When the circle was done and we were moving to the other side of the room one of the people came up to me and said, “Thank you for creating a safe environment.”
A circle and a talking stick can be used in many different settings. It is a great tool for a management club. It can be used for a business, a family, inter-generational transfer or even two individuals looking to strengthen their relationship.
I encourage you to try using a circle and a talking stick. It may feel uncomfortable but that is a good thing. Remember you need to get out of your comfort zone to grow. We all need to grow to create a better future.
Don, [email protected]