In Presence, one of the core pieces of clarifying purpose and moving to action is basing your work in deep seeing and sensing skills. I have been experimenting with various strategies to deepen seeing and find the core truths that form powerful purposes and visions. This is the first of a few posts on this topic. It recapitulates a story I posted last week to the OSLIST about working in Open Space with a client and friend of mine, and sometime commenter on this blog.
Last week Dave facilitated his first open space (he did great) and this gave us an opportunity to talk deeply about what it was like to manage from a position of “holding space.” We did a little exercise together once the groups were meeting. I asked him to look very hard at what he was seeing in the room and tell me what he saw. I wrote down the list as he noticed things: the groups are all engaged, there is lots of space in the room and only some of it is being used, there is activity at the edges and emptiness in the middle, people are using technology that is appropriate to the task and so on.
I asked him to step outside the room and tell me what he saw. From outside he said that it was hard to tell what was going on. When he got right inside, sitting in with a group, he was interested in how engaged they were and how there didn’t seem to be a world outside of the conversation.
I asked him how he felt and he talked about the struggle with control he was having as a facilitator, identifying where it hurt, where his buttons were being pushed. He noticed that his role was very different from the one he occupies at work where he is supposed to be in charge of the process. Most profoundly he noticed that, although
his organization back home was known as “an authority” the actual authority in the room lay with the participants.
At the end of this 30 minute exercise in seeing and sensing, I gave him the list of the 40 or so things he had noticed and wrote at the top “A vision for my organization in ten years.” He immediately recognized that what we were seeing in this small 3 hour OST event was exactly the kind of organization he wanted to being working towards. He recognized his role in the vision too, and realized that the emotions he was feeling holding space were those he was blocking by exerting a little more control at work. We talked about the list a little more and discovered some questions that we could ask his stakeholders back home, questions that would propel the system forward to an evolving, emergent Open Space.
I’m beginning to use this technique to coach sponsors and clients into noticing what is truly working in the system around them. By helping to guide their experience of really seeing an OST event, questions arise that propel thinking towards manifesting the feel and spirit of the event in the institutional setting later on.