The Importance of Beginning

I have been meaning to write this particular blog for a while, yet have got sidetracked thinking that the topic is self-evident. Of course beginnings are important – doesn’t everyone know that?

Yet it is my experience that so many human interactions skip past the moment of meeting and go to content and solution finding activities. In doing so, innumerable opportunities for innovation and creativity are lost.

The connections made at the beginning of any meeting are crucial. They set the tone and open the field for what may be possible. They provide an opportunity for not knowing, for stillness, for deeply listening, for reflection, for questioning and for learning something (or many things) new.

In all the workshops that I facilitate, I invest a chunk of time to the moments of introduction and meeting. A standard process I follow is to ask participants to pair up with someone they don’t know or know only lightly. The pairs are asked to share their names, their core work description and drivers and their expectations for the day. They then have to introduce their partner to the whole workshop group.

At times I notice one or more individuals who are anxious to get into the meeting ‘proper’ and they exhibit some impatience at having to meet and greet people they may already know. This impatience ebbs away as they find themselves engaged in a conversation that matters. They are being deeply listened to and in turn they are being trusted to deeply listen.

This introductory exercise meets a number of purposes. It shares valuable information about the people in the room and reveals the wealth of experience. It serves as a practice for building trust (it is quite a leap to let someone speak for you) and it sets the tone for the workshop as one of experiential learning. Finally it models that collaboration means ‘going slow to go fast’. Taking the time to really meet the people in the room means the participants are then able to rapidly build the necessary relationships to do activities later in the workshop. Commitment to collaborate is being built.

It is worth reflecting on some of your more recent meetings. How have you begun them? Have you taken a moment to check in where everyone is at that point? You may not need to share names if you meet often, yet you may need to share drivers and expectations for that day and take the time to learn something new.

One of the wonderful things about collaborating with our fellow humans is that it is an iterative process. This means you can begin again and again, each time deepening the connections and consequent trust. Not only can you learn more about the people you are working with, you can learn more about yourself. This expanded knowledge and increased capacity will directly benefit the co-creation of innovative and desirable outcomes.

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