I recently read a wonderful book – The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. Truly it has been a long time since I underlined and wrote notes in the margins of a book, and I did this extensively for this book. Ellen Gelinas, a Glasser colleague recommended the book and she is a great resource for books. I was especially interested because it focusses on something central to all of Dr. Glasser’s work – relationship-ing. The author, Priya Parker, writes beautifully and personally, sharing story after story of her experiences of both successful and unsuccessful gatherings. As a presenter, trainer and fairly social person I wondered what I could learn from her. The answer: A Lot!
Whether it is Mother’s day or Father’s day, a family barbecue, a business meeting or a baby shower Priya says EVERY gathering can be enriched if you focus on WHY you are really gathering.
We often think we KNOW why we are gathering it’s clear: it’s a board meeting, a baby shower, a monthly book club gathering… but she encourages looking deeper. For example, does your meeting really accomplish all that it could in terms of connection, vision and productivity?
What’s the deepest and most meaningful reason for gathering?
Next she focuses on hosting and boy did I see myself in her examples of NOT hosting well. Many of us are shy of really standing up and hosting well. We don’t want to impose on people so we greet them, tell them about drinks, food or logistics and then we step back emotionally, metaphorically leaving them on their own to manage.
A good host carries the ball all the way to the end, including managing the “know it all” or person who goes off in a crazy direction. Because you are the host no one else is likely to feel it’s their place to intervene and so you leave your guests “hostage” to one person.
I could go on and on about how to start a gathering well, which most of us don’t bye the way, we start with logistics which is all wrong according to Priya. She even puts a spotlight on how the space can make a huge difference. I’ll end this blog with a really valuable piece of advice she offers: If you want your guests/colleagues or friends to open up YOU have to lead. You have to share something that says “It’s safe to be more open, more vulnerable and I am going to go first and I’ll stay in the lead to guide the process well”.
A few more notes for those who like details:
Priya’s Goals: Put the right People, in the right Space and help them think, dream, challenge, trust and connect for a larger purpose. Help people connect more deeply on what matters and inspires
⦁ Establish the WHY of the gathering FIRST! No matter what type of gathering or how many times it has happened, consider revisiting WHY you are really gathering. Drill deeply, it will influence what you do:
⦁ Is it to build a tribe?
⦁ Make connections?
⦁ Help people move from a “should” to a “could” perspective (“should” often breed hurt disappointment, shame, guilt)?
⦁ Have a Disputable Purpose – this will help filter out who wants attend, and set criteria for decisions etc. Eg. “Consumption is robbing us of our future” Not everyone will agree with this statement and the title will help people decide if they want to engage on the topic.
⦁ There is power in displacement, getting people out of their comfort zone. Breaking routines or habits
can elevate a meeting/conversation or gathering to a higher level.
Hosting: I loved this Zulu greeting that Priya shared: “Sawubona” I see you “Ngikhona” I am here
⦁ Optimize being the host! You are in charge so savour it, be a wonderful host, starting with the welcome when people arrive. Be the depth and sincerity you want from them!
⦁ Stand in your right to be a host, this is no time for shyness or modesty Priya says, it confuses people
⦁ Don’t abandon your role part way through the evening or gathering… if you do, you abandon your guests
⦁ If you need to step out of role for a few minutes assign the roles to others eg. time keeper
⦁ Protect your guests from a negative vibe or “know-it-alls
⦁ Chill doesn’t work and isn’t cool – be courageous
⦁ Connect people and think about shifting the balance of connections from host=guest to guest=guest
⦁ Do your homework on your guests if introductions are needed. Off the cuff will not serve!
⦁ Create safety, as much as you can, by having clear rules and sticking to the rules you set!!!
Themes and Space:
If the theme is caring think about how you would set the stage for people to be caring off the top. Plan your questions/activities to build caring etc. If you want deep and meaningful conversation then the invitation needs to convey this.
Does the space support/enhance your theme? A poor setting will unconsciously set up a certain dynamic. Sometimes an unexpected venue will be the perfect choice.
Process: “A talented gatherer doesn’t hope people will become a group, she makes them a group”
Did you know people pay most attention to the first 10% of the gathering, last 10%, plus one highlight in the middle? Don’t waste the beginning when people are really focussed, with logistics. Set the tone, share the purpose, and why “they” in particular are there. Do this with as much passion as possible.
Good Controversy and Endings: If you want a great discussion you need to set ground rules so that it really is productive and not just a free for all. As far as endings are concerned most people are poor at this too! We need to really think about how you want to end a gathering. Do you want people to just leave when they are tired, do you want a firm finish? There are no set rules, only what will serve your process best.
“May Your Gatherings be Richer and More Meaningful”
This book outlines how we each have “upper limits” that stop us from taking the big leap to our next level of success. These limits are operating in each of the different aspects of our life. They are present in work, relationships, and even creative endeavors. The term “upper limits” applies to the pattern of putting on the brakes, or somehow managing to stop yourself from living your full potential. When you step more fully into your potential the ego has less influence and control and it therefore will do all it can to prevent this. Beliefs are the major way the ego has of stopping us. Beliefs about what can do, what we deserve, and even what is possible.
Gay Hendricks asks:
- Are you willing to increase the amount of time that you feel good inside?
- Are you willing to increase the amount of time that your whole life goes well?
- Are you willing to feel good and have your life go well all the time?
It may feel easy to say yes to the first two questions but if you felt a twinge of discomfort on the last statement and whether it is even possible, this is resistance in the form of a limiting belief.
Here are a few more questions to consider:
- How much happiness and exuberance are you comfortable with?
- Are you uncomfortable with other people’s success, or question how they got it?
- Are you suspicious when things work out easily or quickly?
These questions can point to where you have self-imposed limits.
Where do “upper limits” come from?
There are three main ways that upper limits originate:
- From your family environment
- From an experience where you were “knocked down/disappointed/hurt”
- From a desire to help someone else feel better, by limiting yourself
Let me offer some examples to expand the above 3 categories.
In the family environment you may have grown up being taught unconsciously or sometimes explicitly, not to expect too much from life. It may have been the feeling of “we’re poor or things never work out”. The attitude is “this is just the way things are AND they aren’t going to change. And this does not need to be spoken out loud necessarily. Or you may not have ever seen someone YOU know, do really well. Or you did know someone who did well and you heard adults criticize or condemn them or they paid for it in a negative way like getting hurt, sick, divorced, etc.
If you experienced being knocked down and this occurred after you just experienced success you may form the belief that you shouldn’t be so happy or proud. “Don’t get too big for your britches” captures the feeling of this one. Almost instantly success can be paired with a negative experience and feeling.
The third main way we limit ourselves shows up when we sense that our success could or is making someone else feel less than or bad. Now, for the sake of another person’s feelings, we have to mute or downplay our success. If we don’t, we look like an insensitive person.
What experiences from your own life come to mind as you think about these three categories? What did your family teach you, whether intentionally or not? What happened to you when you were successful or tried to be? And did you ever downplay your success and if so why?
Here are a few other questions to consider:
- I can’t expand into my full potential because__________________________________________
- I can’t expand to my full success because_____________________________________________
- I can’t be the real leader I want to be because_________________________________________
- I can’t have the financial freedom I want because______________________________________
Ultimately, all upper limits result from limiting beliefs. These beliefs are almost invisible to us because they became part of us long ago. It’s almost like they “slipped” in when we were sleeping. Getting at the root of these beliefs, and clearing them from our system is very important for our health, well-being, and success. If you know you want to move ahead more powerfully, or feel happier and more alive, consider getting help to address your limiting beliefs.
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I recently heard an interview with Chris Larson, Assistant Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado. She spoke about the research she did on Romance Writers and their surprising financial success. Unlike many in media, romance writers are flourishing in an era of digital disruption. Larson looked at their incomes from 2008 to 2014. She found the median income had tripled. She compared that to a study by the Writers’ Guild in the US over the same period, suggesting median income for authors, across all genres, had dropped by 30%.
Chris was intrigued to find out why they were so successful and, contrary to what you might think, the key wasn’t what they were writing about.
A little history sets the stage. Romance writers were not welcomed into the Writer’s Guild with open arms and if you were not published, it was a definite NO. So a group decided to form their own organization and do things a little differently. The rest, as they say, is history. Their enormous success is due primarily to three things they did very deliberately:
- They welcome everyone, published or not. Yeah!
- They shared competitive information (including strategies and money)
- They asked advice from newbies.
There is also strong tradition of mentoring in the “romance” community and they do all sorts of things to support the newbies, including sharing mistakes, new digital strategies, advice and overall transparency. Lastly, the openness to newcomers has led to innovation, with seasoned professionals asking for advice from the new people.
In a nutshell the advice was: band together, share successful practices and look for the newcomers, they likely know more about what’s coming down the pipe.
These ideas and practices I believe are relevant to any organization, board and group that wants to really flourish.