Why gathering is an art form - by Laurel Chidgey

Why gathering is an art form

When I sat down to write this blog I admit it was a month since we had met with Lyssa Adkins. I’d been participating in my somewhat intermittent commitment to reading Linked in posts and I’d just watched a video around culture and read a blog around values and principles. It motivated me to come back and think what was important to me from the day we had together as a Business Agility capability facilitated by Lyssa Adkins. 

As I was thinking about how I frame this something I have been immersing myself in, “The art of gathering” by Priya Parker, seemed a good place to start. There was a Japanese phrase that sticks with me from this book, “Ichi-go Ichi-e”. Roughly translated this means one meeting, one moment in life that won’t happen again.  So we had one moment together and this is my story.  

The purpose - Gathering without purpose is a gathering doomed to fail.  

My understanding of our purpose was to acknowledge the past reality but look to embrace the future and the opportunities we could create together as a Business Agility capability. This would provide a corner stone for us all to collectively pull together and get a bit of coaching thrown in for good measure. In retrospect I have found that we all had different thoughts around the purpose (mainly when people read my draft blog)! So although I believe we had a shared intent and desire for the day, I don’t think it actually morphed into an agreed purpose in the end. Its lucky we had the prep to rely on! 

The prep - starting to create a temporary alternative world 

The Marco Polo video tool that we used as prep for our gathering I strongly believe helped to create a safe new world for us. We are a distributed team, even in the same state, so I definitely felt it helped break some of those physical barriers. Some of us took to it like a duck to water, others were a bit more reluctant. I always questioned why people still felt after 10 years in Australia I had a broad Northern English accent. Believe me, listening to myself back on video helped me understand why. It surprised me that I felt so comfortable using this forum, I really struggled to understand why others didn’t have the same affinity. I had to stop myself from continually posting, I really found it quite cathartic for some odd reason. I had to force myself to put my coaches hat on and change to a more active listening perspective. Reading Daves blog I now have more of an understanding, but it won’t stop me from trying to force him to ‘get with the program’! 

The effectiveness of this in breaking barriers I could never have predicted. It’s not often that you spontaneously hug someone. Particularly someone not from your org, from the States, who you’ve never met! 

The kindness of exclusion - being able to close the doors. The danger of one bad participant 

This gathering invite had to be earned. I think I speak for all of us, as well as myself, that each and every single one of us felt that they deserved to be there. I was a bit skeptical prior as to whether everyone had earned the right, and how our diverse level of experience would play out. I needn’t have worried though as everyone definitely held their own. If that hadn’t been the case the lead up and the day itself could have disintegrated quickly. 

The host and facilitator and the day itself and after - don’t sail on a skipper less ship 

Don’t get me wrong we weren’t all standing around singing “Kumbaya”. I personally had felt great anticipation for the day, but really struggled to let go of some internal frustrations I had. Even though I kept telling my brain to be silent, I just couldn’t shake the feeling of annoyance I had. It didn’t stop me participating effectively, but its probably only in hindsight once I’d managed to shed those frustrations, that I can truly enjoy what we achieved. I don’t believe you can underestimate the role that Lyssa had sailing our ship, allowing me to still participate through the frustration, but also minimise the impact it had on others. How Lyssa managed to steer both wheels, showing her coaching skills and being a facilitator, is still something I’m trying to work out!  

Watching Lyssa apply her coaching skills was akin to observing an expert from “Dancing with the stars”, someone who could perform jazz one minute, ballroom the next and ballet with a final pirouette.  

It reconfirmed the value for me in having multiple coach perspectives. You gave me the courage to start to explore a new relationship with a new coach. You also showed me “its ok” if someone doesn’t want my coaching services anymore. Thanks for tipping me over the change edge.  

Accept that there is an end – how do you graciously say goodbye 

The visual that sticks with me is standing in the circle at the end and the passion with which everyone spoke about what the day had meant to them. It reinforced for me why I joined Innodev, being with like-minded people where you can be your genuine authentic self. 

The feeling after was mixed emotions, a disappointment that we finished and a desire to continue. I genuinely feel a stronger bond with everyone and writing this blog reminded me it’s something I need to hold as one of my anchors going forward. 

So to wrap things up the art of any gathering is its effectiveness in leaving me wanting more and this definitely did. It’s reignited a passion in me to be a better coach and how I both create and participate in gatherings. Much as we have our frustrations with our friends, our colleagues, our partners and our relatives it is a timely reminder that to be better, we need to gather with purpose and have the faith to be better together. 

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Renae Craven

Renae Craven Prof Pic

Renae has over nine years of experience leading and coaching organisations through their transformation to an Agile mindset, including the establishment of roles, development of cross functional teams and improvement of supporting practices and principles. Renae has also affected organisational cultural change by coaching individuals to adapt to an agile mindset from an individual or fixed mindset.

Renae is a strong facilitator and is passionate about building Scrum delivery teams that can self-organise to achieve commitments and hold themselves accountable for all outcomes.