Every once and a while a dream knocks me back into reality. I was setting up to run a meeting, the second in a series of three for a client. This meeting was going to work a lot like the first, but I forgot to print off my version of the agenda, the one with all the notes I have about what I need to say. I lost the plot. So I decided to wing it and start the meeting.
It wasn’t working. I got the group to start with a check in, a simple question to hear a bit about how people are showing up for the meeting and give them a chance to ‘arrive’, even though I hadn’t yet arrived. I lost control. People were speaking when it wasn’t their turn. They were speaking over top of each other. They were misbehaving, not necessarily because they were being naughty but because I was not paying attention.
I kept looking for the papers that documented the purpose of our work. They were stuck to the wall somewhere, but since I wasn’t there to set up I had no idea if they were even in the room! I tried again to set them up with a talking piece – a big soft soccer ball – and that didn’t work either. It ended up under a women’s t-shirt so she’d look pregnant, with them shouting out, “Where’s the ball? Where’s the ball?”
I gave up.
I’d lost control.
Lesson #1 – Prepare. In this case, print off my version of the agenda, and whatever other materials I will need ahead of time.
Lesson #2 – Show up to set up. Getting there silly early never causes harm. It just means I will be calm and ready for all the other things that will show up in the gathering.
Lesson #3 – Give myself time. To host well, lots of things need to be tended to, including me! Am I in a rush? Panicky? I need to make sure I have plenty of space (in time and otherwise) to prepare myself mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Lesson #4 – Circles are round for a reason. In my dream the circle was kidney shaped. I was at one end and couldn’t see everyone. When I did speak, people who couldn’t see me didn’t listen. Which made it hard for others to listen.
Lesson #5 – Have my circle kit handy. This includes a bell, or something to make a noise that signals a pause, or when, as host, I need their attention. At one point in the dream, a fellow said something profound. With tears in his eyes, he articulated how felt heard like he’d never felt heard before. I told them about the role of bells in a circle and they were thrilled. But since I didn’t have my bells, we couldn’t do it. (My circle kit also includes a couple of talking pieces).
Lesson #6 – Notice when it’s time to be explicit. Be ready to move out of stealth mode with the courage to tell folks explicitly about circle: what it is, what it does, how it works, the results we’ll get. It may be that I am more afraid than they are!