A Little Bit of Circling

A couple of weeks ago I set up two separate 45 minute conference calls to connect with some leaders who have embarked on a journey in a new role. When the calls started we began with a check-in question.

Two years ago that moment would have brought butterflies into my tummy. Using a check-in within a conservative, corporate setting? I’d be laughed out of the room (or, off the phone)! Not the case at all. After summoning my courage and trying it out for the first time I discovered in fact I wasn’t laughed out of the room; people went along with it without protest. It’s now part of my practice. On nearly every meeting or conference call I will start with a check-in and end with a check-out.

“One of the skill sets I bring to the nursing community is how to convene people in a different way. Even if we don’t formally call it a circle, I always use check-in and check-out. I tell people, ‘Check-in convenes us and check-out releases us.’ ” ~circle practitioner story from The Circle Way by Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea

I like how Christina and Ann describe the purpose of check-in as helping people into a frame of mind, where the verbal sharing weaves the interpersonal net. It helps us land in the present moment, tuning into ourselves and the others present.

The check-in question I used was light-hearted and invited some personal sharing: “What’s something exciting that has happened to you this summer?” We learned of new babies and home renovations, trips to Europe and wedding excitement. These little personal stories helped us get to know each other more and also set some context to our conversation. Our lives are more than just our work lives; what is happing in one part affects the other.

The check-out question was: “What insight or feeling are you leaving our call with?” Hearing each person speak what they were carrying away with them was insightful for me and reflective for them. One of the main themes was a feeling of support, connectedness and ‘not feeling alone anymore’. Because of that energy we decided that another call would be scheduled in six to eight weeks. Lovely harvest.

Even though I didn’t formally call it a circle, this is circling practice. The small action of taking these few minutes at the start and end of the call invited a different quality of attention, listening and conversation. Convening people in a different way.

Woven basket Sally via Compfight

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