All facilitation work happens within containers and those containers are separated from the rest of the world by thresholds. When you enter a meeting, you are removing yourself from the world and entering into a space where specific work is being done. It’s no exaggeration to say that this is almost a ritual experience, especially if the work you are doing involves creating intangible outcomes such as team building, good relations, conflict resolution or community.
Good participatory meetings have the characteristics of the Four Fold Practice within them: people are present and hosted with good process. They participate and co-create. In order to do this, participants need to make a conscious step over a threshold into the container.
Thresholds are as old as humanity. The boundary between in and out is ancient. Being welcomed into a home, a family, a structure or a group comes with ritual behaviours to let you know that you have left one world behind and entered into another.
In meetings, these thresholds are multiple and nested. My friend Christie Diamond once said “the conversation begins long before the meeting starts, and continues long after the meeting is over.” That has rung true for the thousands of conversations I have hosted and participated in over my life. And on reflection, I can trace a series of threshold that are crossed as we enter into and leave a conversational space. At each step, my “yes” becomes more solid and my commitment to the work becomes more important and concrete. See if this scheme makes sense:
- Invitation is noticed
- Engage with the call, connect it to my own needs
- Making time and space to engage (committing my resources)
- Physically moving to the space
- Arriving in the field of work
- Entering the physical space
- BEGINNING THE WORK
- PARTICIPATING IN SUB-CONTAINERS WITHIN THE MEETING
- FINISHING THE WORK
- Leaving the space
- Exiting the field of work
- Returning home
- Reorganizing resources to support the change
- Re-engaging with the world
- Working from a changed stance
Each one of these crossings happens whether you are coming into someting as mundane as a staff meeting or something as important as attending your own wedding. Often time facilitators pay attention only to numbers 7-9 and many times 7 and 9 are given short shrift.
I’m curious to hear about your own experiences of crossing thresholds for important meetings.