This month we feature a story from organizational consultant Jonas David Hunter. As a recipient of a grant from The Circle Way, Jonas participated in a recent Advanced Circle Way practicum where he reflected on his practice of applying circle with his global teams and clients.
The Need for Circle to Build Connections in Organizations
Preface to Practitioners
I'm often looking for ways to bring The Circle Way into businesses and organizations where I consult. In business development and team building, startups or fast-moving organizations, my desire is to more deeply connect with my teams and clients. I’ve found The Circle Way serves as an effective foundational tool to realize my desire.
Sometimes it offers a “light touch,” as when we integrate Circle into key meetings, where the check-in consists of something personal and fun, and the check-out is rating the session with some necessary feedback. This simple practice gives a basis for connection and offers a rhythm that didn't previously exist. It becomes a stepping stone to stronger habits of effective communication. The application of a fuller circle practice becomes immediately valuable in team-building or conflict resolution as the means for holding space for sensitive interactions.
The origins of meeting in a circle go back to when we gathered around a campfire for sustenance, to resolve clan conflicts and to share stories. Coming together in this way helped us feel safe and connected to each other. It made possible the emergence of new possibilities to be and work together. The Circle Way is a powerful model and framework bringing back a familiar way of being together.
Today’s gathering places often occur at work, where we still have a need for connecting and story-telling but our meeting and organizational structures do not always allow for this.
The need for connection to accomplish a shared goal
Why is connection important? It is to ask, why is beauty important? For connection is beauty; it is to see our humanness, the essence of life in each other, and when we feel this we are moved -- this is the response to beauty. Connection requires our presence and humility and asks us to listen more deeply without adjustment, to express things that often go unsaid.
When we bring the practice of circle to business and organizations, gathering together to listen to each other, we create conditions for trust and mutual understanding. We invite a genuine way of working together. Humility is held in the center as we risk being vulnerable. Through our stories, we tell each other, “Yes, I’m human too. I, too, have difficulties and fears and concerns. I also have humor and ideas to share. I am here with you.” When we hear each other and see each other in this way, we can now begin to create together from a place of unity.
In this space of connection, there is the emergence of something new between us. We come to see parts of the “field” we didn’t see before, including ourselves. We discover our shared dreams and visions. By working together, for each other and the whole, we are benefiting ourselves as well. Things start to look different, and while our ideas might change – and this can be personally challenging - as we let go of some of our notions, we make room for a bigger view and more creative, effective, responsive possibilities.
The value of understanding and connection in an organization goes beyond efficiency and productivity; it feeds our passion, creativity, and happiness. It touches the top three levels of belonging, esteem, and self-actualization in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The idea that we’re going to do meaningful work together without feeling uncomfortable is unrealistic and ridiculous. - Hannah Sadtler
Circle up to collaborate
Circle helps build and empower shared leadership through its liberating structure of governance. With a “leader in every chair” as its premise, it is a foundational process for developing authentic collaboration.
Listening well to each other is needed to move through difficult situations. By listening more fully and putting aside the urge to add adjustments or corrections or judgments, we come to understand more about each other and ourselves, about our skills and interests, our shared passions and vulnerabilities.
Often, we can be in our boxes and forget that really, we're in a dance of co-creation, that others can work with and for us and we can work with and for them to create a beautiful result together. We can then welcome an easing of whatever we do next. As a new way of understanding this way of work, it may take courage for us to commit. When we do, then, we see doors where there were walls. Then, with continued practice, we grow together past judgment to deeper levels of trust and connection, to let go of the perceived experience, and instead trust in what arises.
Shared leadership relies on people being able to say what they are thinking and feeling. Circle gives a structure and method to support this kind of authentic communication and connection.
Stepping back to take a wider view, there is also a deeper undercurrent of Circle as a framework for organizing that is becoming more and more common in organizations. Reinventing Organizations, Sociocracy, Holacracy, Liberating Structures, Peerdom, and Enspiral are examples of a contemporary organizational applications of circle.
For me, The Circle Way creates a foundation of relating with other people to build on ideas, strategy, problem-solving, and day-to-day business. Connecting is the starting point for seeing what is and where we're going together.
Jonas David Hunter is a business/organizational development consultant with international experience in building successful teams and organizations. He is passionate about systems thinking, simplifying complex situations, and helping teams be their best. His work focuses on strengthening vision and mission alignment, culture, strategic management, and process.
Since 2010 Jonas has been consulting with organizations such as Kiss the Ground, where he was the Executive Director and developed the leadership team, the board of directors, and set the strategy for the early stages of the organization. He was the interim COO for Sacred Capital, a blockchain innovation company based out of Singapore and developed a self-managing sales team for B-Line Logistics.
As a dual Canadian/American global citizen, after living in India, Japan, Russia, and Macedonia, he brings an international view to his work and life. He also loves farming and the outdoors.