August 28, 2013
By Michael Kline
Since the discovery of fire, humans have gathered in circles around the fire to tell stories, share ideas and solve problems. Today, our work circles have morphed into long rectangular tables and the fire has moved to one end, known as the PowerPoint presentation. Various members of the circle no longer tell stories. Instead, one
speaker, who wields the remote control of the presentation slides, tells the story. Not surprisingly, most people think meetings are a waste of time. At home, the situation is often worse, partly because it is more important and partly because it should be under our own control to do better. At home, our circle gathering at mealtime is often lost to fast food on the go and eating at different times, with no time for sharing, caring or engaging in real communication. Do these things matter? If so, how do we fix it?
In the work environment, employees are looking for more meaning. Employers are seeking engagement from/with their employees. Their actions demand compliance, but seldom, if ever, promote engagement. Is this topic about motivation? Daniel Pink, in his book Drive, teaches us what science knows that business does not. Science knows that intrinsic motivation is more powerful than extrinsic motivation. Business thinks we are motivated exclusively by
dollar incentives. Science knows that once minimal financial needs are met, money is not an effective motivational tool for most people.
Far more important, is being part of something important, making a contribution that matters, having positive relationships and feeling engaged. Think about the best boss you ever had. Chances are, that boss made you feel
great about yourself and brought out the best in you. When you do your best work, I bet you were lost in the work, and did not notice the time passing or other distractions. We call that being in “flow”.Flow cannot be bought with the
promise of a bonus. Positive relationships, engagement (flow), a sense of meaning and achievement happens
when we turn off the PowerPoint and put the fire back into the center of our circle. (We use a candle as a reminder of the metaphor). It happens when we face each other and we have a different kind of conversation. It happens when we all tell our story with intention and we all listen to one another with attention. I must sound like I just got back from a hippie retreat where we all sat around a circle and sang Kumbaya. I did, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is wondering what is wrong with his or her business or family. The biggest real-life challenge to this concept is time
and the biggest reward is anything you want.
All this takes time. So we risk productivity and we slow down. When we slow down and have this experience, we learn from one another. We make it safe for quiet people to speak and share their otherwise hidden wisdom. We identify real problems and solve them, instead of rushing judgments and covering up symptoms. We build trust. When we have trust, we make decisions faster and with more confidence. With trust, everything moves faster and costs less. In low-trust environments, everything moves more slowly and costs go up.
Steven Covey, in Predictable Results in Unpredictable Times, calls this “moving at the speed of trust”. When we slow
down, and invest in the painfully slow, but hugely rewarding process of listening to and valuing one another, we actually are speeding things up.
The reward comes in the form of building a team that cares. Actually, we are building a tribe, who lives to come to the circle around the fire and share and care, and contribute their ideas and solve the group’s problems and commit to the collective future and who asks for what they need and who give what they can. We have the power to create such an amazing existence.
I found my inspiration for returning to this seemingly basic, yet complex and ancient idea of gathering and communicating, from the book The Circle Way, a Leader in Every Chair by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea. I just returned from The Circle Practicum, a five-day intensive retreat (www.peerspirit.com) with the authors and a group of business people, teachers, legal professionals, ministers and dreamers who were so inspirational, I can’t wait to share more with you. Stay tuned, or contact me for details.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.