The Poetics of Groups.
In a hurricane flurry, I recently returned from a week-long MEA Baja workshop beautifully led by Lori Schwanbeck. The topic for the week was Leadership During Times of Certainty, which, unfortunately, now seems even more relevant than ever.
While I lead groups regularly in my consulting work, I was constantly reminded during the MEA week that group facilitation is a delicate balance of encouraging discovery, unifying, and surrender.
While a group leader enters the room with their own ideas, I know from experience that complete control is an illusion. The role becomes one of aligning with the group, witnessing how it seeks to harmonize and express itself, and fostering a creative space where belonging, understanding, and ideas can flourish or falter.
The word “poem” means to make or compose. In many ways, a well-functioning group experience resembles a poem — a crafted creation. It is about enabling the group to compose its own narrative, delve into its collective creativity, and unearth its shared voice and identity.
Facilitation entails entering the room armed with structure and intention: an issue to explore, a thought-provoking question, or an anticipated direction for the conversation. Yet, I realize that half the people in the room are, at best, reluctant to be there, silently wondering whether they can trust the group and its leaders to hold a space for honest sharing.
Most group facilitators I know carry a silent hope that they can navigate these challenges, avoiding wasted time and ensuring that every valuable voice and insight finds its way to benefit the entire group.
When Trust Takes Root
At its essence, successful group facilitation relies on an economy of trust and an undercurrent of love that permeates the room. These words may not be explicitly spoken, but their presence is palpable. The participants bring their trust, even if it comes with a tinge of reluctance towards the group process. They show up, share their stories, and contribute to the unfolding narrative.
And this form of showing up is where the magic begins. When someone conjures the courage to speak the truth or says the unsayable in an open room, not knowing how the group might receive it, they offer silent permission for others to do the same. Our Forces of Nature cohort experienced this repeatedly during our week together.
Ultimately, the unspoken love and trust within these rooms serve as the kindling for unraveling the complexities of individual growth and the landscape of our own evolution.
Amidst the entangled busyness of day-to-day business, we find immense value in slowing down, pausing, and truly seeing what lies beneath the surface. By gaining this vantage point, we develop a clearer understanding of the organizational reality and can manage what we can now see. Through this deliberate presence and awareness, we can navigate the intricate tapestry of life, revealing its true essence and unlocking its transformative potential.
Why does this matter?
We live in a relational world, and our lives are dynamic and ever-changing. Group subtleties are made of multitudes of personalities, perspectives, and motivations. This is a good thing. Our personal (and professional) evolution can be accelerated when diverse passions and perspectives unite and work in harmony — so long as the group is on the same page and headed in the same relative direction with the right reasons in mind. This is where the work of great facilitation turns into fertile soil.
It matters because we’re here to make change happen. Regardless of where we are in our life or midlife journey, we’re here to make things better. Showing up fully is 90% of where success and growth happen. When we show up, speak up, speak out, and put in the effort, things change for the better.
From surfing to creating artwork to beekeeping, Steven Morris is an ever-curious brand and culture-building expert, author of "The Beautiful Business," and seeker who's served 3,000+ business leaders at more than 250 companies — discover more at: https://matterco.co/