The Art of Gathering – Priya Parker

The Art of Gathering – Priya Parker

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

Strategy:
⦁ 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”

 

 

“The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks

“The Big Leap” by Gay Hendricks

 

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:

  1. From your family environment
  2. From an experience where you were “knocked down/disappointed/hurt”
  3. 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:

 

  1. I can’t expand into my full potential because__________________________________________
  2. I can’t expand to my full success because_____________________________________________
  3. I can’t be the real leader I want to be because_________________________________________
  4. 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.

The Big Leap Worksheet Download >

 

 

 

 

The Value of Lobster

The Value of Lobster

The lobster fishery has been a way of life for generations of families in sea-side communities. It has literally put food on lots of tables.

Over the years, the perception of the value of lobster has changed. Lobster hasn’t always been considered a treat; far from it.

Generations ago, it was embarrassing for a kid to bring lobster to school. A lobster sandwich conveyed the message, “We can’t afford to buy filling for our sandwiches; we have to eat lobster.” Lowly lobsters were perceived as trash, tossed in the garden for fertilizer.

How’s lobster perceived now? It’s a delicacy in restaurants. It’s packaged for travel. It’s no longer perceived to be the food of the poor.

But it’s still lobster. It still looks, tastes, and smells the same as it did generations ago. The lobster hasn’t changed. What did?

The perception of value has changed. Why? Part of that change may reflect supply and demand. However, it seems that there was also a perceptual change similar to what happens in fashion. Clothing, jewelry, shoes—they are all vulnerable to going “in” or “out” of style. A brand name hits the right promotional tone, becomes the hot thing; everyone wants it, price goes up.

Then that brand is ousted by a different brand and your expensive sweatshirt, purse or coat becomes so “last year.” The product hasn’t changed. The material, the design, the workmanship is still there. But now it’s worth a fraction of its former value.

Let’s take those questions of value into a bigger picture. Consider the objects that you value. What makes them valuable to you? Is it the purchase price? The usefulness? The memories it evokes?

Does something take on higher value if it’s celebrity-endorsed? Does something take on a higher value if others wish they had it? If you lived in the wilderness with no one to impress or to envy, would you still value the object?

Does your perception of an object’s value depend on how valuable others believe it to be? Or do you perceive the value based on your personal criteria: usefulness, effectiveness, whatever is important to you?

Now, let’s consider the value of ideas and opinions.

When you hear an opinion, does your perception on whether it’s right or wrong depend on who is voicing it? Does it depend on how popular it is? Does it depend on whether it’s promoted in media or by thought leaders? Or do you decide based on your own criteria: your principles, beliefs, and critical thinking skills?

Do you question why some opinions are promoted, while others are ridiculed? Do you wonder whether some prevalent opinions of the day are fundamentally sound, or are they, like the value of lobster, based on perceptions?

Whether it’s products or ideas, when we let others define value for us, we give up an important freedom.

If you have lobster sandwiches in your lunch box, how concerned would you be that others might judge you?

 

Friend and supporter lost her battle to cancer

Friend and supporter lost her battle to cancer

On Friday, July 27 a good friend and supporter lost her battle to cancer. Janet Longaphie was the first and only School Principal to bring her Beaverbrook School to the status of Glasser Quality School.

In 1991 Dr. Glasser came to Moncton for a conference with Reality Therapy New Brunswick. At that time, I made arrangements for him to speak to a group of administrators at the local school district. Janet told me that she had read his book. “ Schools Without Failure” back in 1969 and had always been a fan of his.

At that time he had his new book called Quality School.  After a few years of using some of what she learned, from Glasser and his writing she bought a book for every teacher in the school. They met weekly for an early morning breakfast before school to study the book and it’s concepts.

In 1997 after the study was done, Janet believed her staff may be ready to do the training programs. She contacted me to see when and if we could do the training. First she had to ask her teachers. To her amazement, all of them wanted to take the training.

We spent the next three years working with staff and parents and even went into the school classroom at the request of teachers. It was amazing and wonderful to see these ideas develop in a public school. Janet never accepted “ no” for an answer when it came to getting funding for her teachers.

In 2000, Dr. Glasser came to town again and this time, Janet had asked her teachers if they were ready to declare themselves a Glasser Quality School. They agreed and Dr. Glasser attended the first and only Glasser Quality School in Canada to accept their declaration. Janet was an amazing caring teacher and principal.

She was quoted in a news video as stating that the biggest change in the school was she was no longer spending time disciplining and the teachers were now able to teach learners that wanted to learn and she was able to do her work. I want to share more information about what the impact her work with The Quality School had in the community.  Even after retirement, she continued to work in the community.

In 2003, Doug Jones and I received a letter outlining what was happening at the school 3 years after they declared themselves a Glasser Quality School

Janet wrote: “ Beaverbrook School continues its Journey to Quality. Each day we see new signs of children, parents and staff using Choice Theory in their interactions in the school and on their playground.  We continue to learn and grow and often talk about how we cannot believe the changes in the school and the students.

We all believe that it is the relationships that we have at school-relationships between staff and students, students and students, and staff and parents that are changing the school.  We do not always see the parent and child interaction but  often in the hallways will hear the parents talk to their children about choices, encouraging them to make good choices. Our goal is to keep Beaverbrook School in not only each student and staff member’s Quality World, but in the parent’s Quality Worlds as well and we believe this is happening>

What is happening at Beaverbrook?

In her letter, Janet continued:

 

“DISCIPLINE

We are very pleased with the statistics about our discipline incidents. Our Violence and Bullying statistics show a dramatic drop in the number of incidents.  Our students know that they cannot blame other kids for their actions. They know that they alone are responsible for them. This makes such a difference in the discussions that take place with the children.  Discipline is a learning opportunity not a punishment and when children understand this and begin to take responsibility for their behavior the number of incidents decreases significantly.”

In talking with Janet, she told me that they used a solution room with the students. It was a small space across from the principal’s office. Whenever there was a conflict between two students they went to the solution room to work out their differences on their own. When they found a solution they both could work with, they reported back to the principal and then returned to the classroom. Most of the time this was related to incidents on the playground.

 

Janet continued:

“ SCOR=E

During our SCOR=E program in the first two weeks of school, all of our children in Grade K to 8 are taught Choice Theory.  The teachers welcome the opportunity during these two weeks to develop a relationship with each of their students that will be a good foundation for the coming school year.  SCOR=E This acronym stands for Study, Concentration, Organization, Reading equals Excellence. It is a two- week program at the beginning of the school year that teaches academic skills in the mornings and social emotional skills in the afternoons. The entire school takes part because this is when we teach our Choice Theory and get to know the children but the format has been designed to meet the needs of the children at their own level. “

Leadership is everything and Janet understood the value of creating great relationships with the children so they would want to learn.  You see the teachers did not have to put all the children in their quality worlds  but they needed to be in the quality worlds of the children. We have a tendency to listen and learn from those people that we have in our quality world.

What about academics? Janet continues:

 

ACADEMICS

We were thrilled with the increase in our provincial academic testing scores this year. In the past, we have struggles to achieve a measure of success in these tests. This year we not only matched the district and provincial averages, we exceeded them in a number of areas. This as an extremely pleasant surprise.

I remember when Janet got the results of the tests she was so impressed with her students and teachers. She knew that the children from this center city school were beginning to love learning.  She told me that it had gotten to the point that the students did not want to take the summer off.

In my work at the Sexual Health Center, when I saw certain teenagers, I could tell they came from Beaverbrook School.  Their behavior and language said it all. Even the teachers at the local High School where these students attended, stated they could tell which students came from Beaverbrook but I digress again.

There is much more in this letter. I will share with you here comments on Discipline, SCOR-E and Staff Changes.

 

In our public schools there are often staff changes as they seek new roles and opportunities. Janet writes:

“STAFF CHANGES

There have been many staff changes this year because some members of our staff went away to study, to become Literacy Specialists., to get a job closer to their, etc.  This meant many new faces on the teaching staff at the school and these new teachers are eager to become trained in  Choice Theory. They like what is happening at the school and want to learn more.

A school is a dynamic vital place to be. It is important that it is a place where staff and students enjoy coming, where communication is seen as extremely important at all levels, where teachers are lead managers in not only their classrooms, but throughout the school, and where everyone is aware that their choices affect the quality of not only their own lives  but the lives of others around therm.”

During her tenure at the school, Janet received many requests from schools and teachers internationally that wanted to come visit the school to learn from them. Janet always welcomed them with open arms. She wanted to spread the ideas far and wide.  It takes strong leadership and commitment and persistence to pursue your passion.

So many people were influenced by Janet is this one small part of her world.  She continued to stay connected to the community of the school long after her retirement.

Personally, I admired all the she did for the teachers and students at that time. Once she retired things changed at the school but that is a story for another day.  Leadership is everything. For those that attended the school in these years, Janet certainly left a wonderful legacy. I know she will be forever etched in my heart!

For those of us in the Glasser Community, she will be remembered for the first and only principal to date to lead her school to a “ Glasser Quality School.”

Are We There Yet?

Are We There Yet?

When traveling with kids (or some adults), you’ll hear a repetitive chorus of, “Are we there yet?”
If you are the driver, you may choose to find that annoying.

However, put yourself in the position of the passenger-child for a moment. They have no control over where they are, and they probably have little information about what is to come. From their perspective, it’s just one endless boring kilometer after another. When will it ever end?

We go on many journeys throughout our lives; not all of them involve travelling. Some journeys involve career, education, marriage, house-building, child-raising. Other interests have destinations too, whether you want to become a master chef, woodworker, or more physically fit.

Any of those journeys can be long. They may have tedious dull sections interspersed with moments of panic, and they will likely include a few setbacks, U-turns, and some confusing directions.

Whenever we embark on a big goal, “Are we there yet?” is a worthwhile question. And while it may be clear that the answer is “No, not yet,” having a little information can make the experience more fun and satisfying for everyone involved in or touched by the journey.

Think about a scavenger hunt. Why is that fun? Part of the entertainment is that you get feedback as you go—you know that you are making progress as you find treasures along the way.

For a road trip, try choosing landmarks along the way that break the trip up into manageable chunks. Seeing and sharing checkpoints along the way provides feedback. When everyone sees the mastodon on the ridge, or the giant welcoming blueberry, or even a favourite rest area, they know where they are in relation to where they are going. Progress is happening!

Simply knowing that you are headed in the right direction and getting closer to your goal can be remarkably satisfying.

This idea of making and communicating incremental progress is helpful for all kinds of “journeys” in life. Most anything that has a goal can be broken into sub-goals. For example, do you have a long educational program stretching out in front of you? What are the big milestones? Completion of tests, courses, projects…

Make a checklist, and check things off as you complete them. First semester done? Check it off. There’s no need to micro-analyze (that is, don’t try avoiding your work by making elaborate checklists.) However, giving yourself feedback by checking off completed tasks can really help you stick with it and stay motivated.

There’s a big difference between having no clue about where you are on your journey versus knowing you’ve passed 5 of the 7 checkpoints and are making progress.

Whether you are on a journey by yourself or with others, communicating milestones can help replace the aggravation of, “Are we there yet?” with the motivation of, “We’re getting there!”

What kinds of journeys could you apply milestones to in your life?

Romance Writers Break the Mold Overview

Romance Writers Break the Mold Overview

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:

  1. They welcome everyone, published or not. Yeah!
  2. They shared competitive information (including strategies and money)
  3. 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.

 

Finding the Joy

Finding the Joy

There is a woodchuck in my life. He lives close enough so I see him when he emerges from his den to sprawl on his rock in the sun. He’s far enough away, and much too wary of me, to become a pest.

I’ve been observing him off and on for a couple of decades now. I call him Willie.

Yes, I know it’s not the same woodchuck that I first saw twenty years ago. Some years, Willie has the grey muzzle of maturity. Others, he’s a sleek, fresh-faced youngster – that’s Junior. Occasionally, there are offspring, indicating that it wasn’t Willie at all, but Wilhelmina. Sadly, some years, there’s no woodchuck at all.

I get a ridiculous amount of joy from seeing Willie emerge in the spring. I also recognize and am grateful that I can find genuine joy in such small things.

Some people may perceive that the ability to find joy in the trivial is an indicator of unsophisticated tastes. That might be a reasonable perception. I choose not to let it bother me.

In choice theory, Dr. Glasser likens the human satisfaction mechanism to an internal scale, one that looks like the scales of justice. The scale compares your “what you want world” to your “what you perceive that you have world.”
If those two worlds are more or less balanced, then you’re reasonably satisfied and happy.

Glasser refers to the “what you want world” as your personal Quality World. It’s unique to you, filled with pictures of people, things, and values that you associate with positive feelings. Clearly, Willie the woodchuck has a place in mine.

To find joy in what you have is a wonderful gift. However, if you spend much time watching news or listening to some who position themselves as leaders, you may detect an attempt to influence you—to convince you that it is more virtuous to be dissatisfied than satisfied.

We could complete this sentence in a million ways: “We cannot be happy, satisfied or joyful because…” There will always be reasons to be unhappy; valid reasons that affect your life, the lives of people close to you, and the lives of strangers.

Despite all that, there are also reasons and opportunities to find joy.

If I want to find joy, I have options. I can identify what brings me joy, seek it out and bring it into my life. For example, if I were not so fortunate to have Willie, I could seek joy in other ways. No woodchuck? I could go to the shelter, help out, and pet puppies.

Or, I can deliberately choose to look for the joy in what I do have. If I find joy in nature, then even in an urban area, I can choose to see the beauty of the seagulls (or the pigeons) and the emerging greenery of spring.

Do you, too, look for the joy in whatever you have?

 

 

Total Learning Competence in a Glasser Quality School

Total Learning Competence in a Glasser Quality School

In a Glasser Quality School, Total Learning Competence is stressed. Evaluations of work that are below competence (what is now a “B”) is eliminated.

All schooling as defined by Dr. William Glasser has been replaced by useful education.

For example, one school working on the Glasser Quality School Model uses a scoring system consistent with  Dr. Glasser’s recommendations, but with considerable enhancement. The in-house progress testing used is:

  • Learning in Progress (P) means competence is not yet reached
  • Competence (C)
  • Advanced (A)
  • Mastery (M)

To proceed beyond Competence to Advanced, a student engages in teaching someone else or shows a standard well beyond the learning expectations.  Similarly, to achieve Mastery, the student must teach a group of people or show a standard well beyond Advanced.

Cooperation

Students work cooperatively in teams from Pre-K onward. This early practice prepares for collaborative teamwork as students progress through the grade levels.

Senior students perceive collaborative teamwork as a skill required for University and they believe that it is one of the keys to being successful there.

 

Relationships in a Glasser Quality School

Relationships in a Glasser Quality School

One of the most obvious characteristics of a Glasser Quality School is the special relationship that exists between staff and students as well as between students.

Teachers demonstrate repeatedly how much they enjoy and love being with students.

Students at all levels indicate that they want to come to school.

Evidence of trusting relationships may be found in comments such as:

  • Here they care about us;
  • The teachers help us learn;
  • School is so much fun;
  • We have many chances to succeed;
  • We love the way learning takes place;
  • We have lots of freedom;
  • It’s not like other schools where people want to control you;
  • It’s not a scary place;
  • Other students care about me;
  • I love everything.

There is no need for teachers to raise their voices, rebuke students, or appear cross in their presence.  Students are orderly and relaxed in the corridors and in classes. There is a reasonable noise level which naturally accompanies certain types of classroom activities.  Interactions demonstrate mutual respect:  each side listens to the other and students respond to requests for silence immediately and without fuss.

In a Glasser Quality School, relationships are based upon trust and respect.  While there may be discipline incidents, all discipline problems have been eliminated.