The Power of Meeting in Circles™
Have you ever watched a football game where a quarterback is discussing a play to the teammates, standing above them, and speaking to them all lined up straight? No, they are in a huddle, why is that? The huddle creates connection. In a huddle all players are meeting in a circle, eye to eye, unified, connected. During the huddle, energy and direction is transferred to all players, the next play is known to all, and the feeling of knowing those on your team have your back is felt at a deep level of resonance, we often call this trust. Similarities of this brief huddle or circular meeting style show up in multiple team sports. Why a circle?
When we meet one another in a circle we are instantly creating and receiving a direct connection with those gathered. If we further enhance the connection by grasping the hand of the individual on both our left and right we will have created an ‘Energy Circle’ and energy transfer will be felt passing directly through all members of the circle while hand to hand contact is maintained. We can observe this in visual form with a simple test experiment utilizing a children’s educational toy called an Energy Stick™. Two individuals within the circle are assigned to hold onto one end of the Energy Stick™ with all other hands clasped, side-by-side, within the circle. The battery-less Energy Stick™ will light up and make sound when unified physical connection is made amongst the group. At any point if two individuals break the hand-to-hand connection, or release an end of the Energy Stick™, the flashing lights and sound will stop. Often we observe similar hand-to-hand connection amongst individuals engaging in the spiritual practice of group prayer. This practice enhances the spiritual and energetic connection within the group, and beyond to include a connection to the Divine, God, Source, Creator, or Mother Earth. Knowing these ancient practices, how can we take this wisdom and knowledge, and implement the Power of Meeting in Circles into both our daily life, and office/corporate culture?
Our sun rises in the morning signifying the beginning of the day. When we meet together in a circle in the morning at the beginning each day, we are all coming together as a unified and cohesive team. Whether the individuals meeting consist of trade professionals on a construction or oilfield site, administrative staff in an office setting, or high-level executives in the C-suite, the meeting produces the same purpose – commencing the start of a new day, and re-connecting as a unit or team. This morning meeting need not be long in length, and can be conducted in as little as 5-10 minutes. The key importance is that the meeting is done in a circle – standing or sitting. Avoid long rectangular boardroom tables that have a clear ‘head of the table’ that is typically reserved for a higher position of power. Subsequent daily meetings can certainly be conducted in traditional boardroom settings, however the initial morning meeting or morning huddle is to be done in a circle. Why is this? The circle places everyone on an equal level, if someone is standing, we should all be standing, if someone is sitting we should all be sitting. An outsider should upon brief glance be unable to clearly identify a ‘boss’ or ‘leader’, or individuals of various ranks. Depending on the group meeting, items to be discussed could include: safe work practices and emergency procedures, primary tasks/roles and assignments to be accomplished, additional meetings and upcoming daily items of critical importance, and inspirational, emotional, motivational, or spiritual points of positive information to be carried onward throughout the day by team members, to enhance work performance.
Here is a case-study example of the Power of Meeting in Circles every morning. A trades based company located in Kelowna, British Columbia had been experiencing frequent issues with workers showing up late to the worksite, causing delays in projects, along with discord and lowered morale amongst those workers that were on-time and left waiting. One of the common excuses given was ‘I was grabbing breakfast’ and ‘I have to eat’. The owner and manager decided to implement a practice of having a daily breakfast brought onsite for all the workers. The mandatory daily breakfast is provided to all the workers on staff as part of the daily morning meeting. This allows everyone to meet together in a circle and partake in an experience similar to the family dinner or a celebratory food gathering of breaking bread together, often seen during the holiday season. Morale has improved significantly since implementing the morning breakfasts, and though workers are not required to eat the breakfast provided, most do. Those choosing not to have breakfast also partake in the meeting, and simply enjoy the coffee and camaraderie. Cost of the breakfast is $12 per person and worth every dime. ‘I am paying most of these guys $35/hr. This breakfast has been the best business investment decision we have ever made’. Since implementation, the business has expanded, late attendance has virtually become a non-issue, and both employee & customer satisfaction has increased. It has also resulted in several additional jobs & projects, along with referral work due to the companies increased reputation within the community.
Next time you are at a conference or networking event, stop and look around. You will see groups of different types forming, and un-forming, some sitting, and some standing. We will see individuals alone on the outskirts often tuned into devices, one-on-one dialogues between two people, and typically within groups of three or more you will begin to see that the groups naturally have a tendency to form in a circle. Some of these circles will be closed with individuals almost shoulder to shoulder, and others more spread out. Individuals can be seen being accepted into circles, and other circles will have individuals breaking off, that may or may not join another circle. Often at the end of the conference or event surveys are distributed to gauge feedback from participants and determine the success of the event, whether that be overall satisfaction, or comparing the speakers, presentations, and workshops to one another. One question that is rarely if ever asked on such surveys is ‘How many circles or groups did you meet in?’ Some of the best-received conferences and workshops come from those that have structured group collaboration in circles, and circles of different sizes, fostering both small and large group discussion. Meeting in circles allows for experiential learning to take place, and should be considered of critical importance for those in the business of event planning. A highly successful event can produce an increase in both return and new business/sponsorship year after year. It is far more cost-effective to continue on with a popular event, than the expense and risk to continually start anew.
When we meet in circles the frequency and duration of eye contact amongst team members also increases. Holding eye contact and meeting others in their eyes, improves trust through the allowance of shared vulnerability. Many spiritual practices and teachings refer to the eyes as the gateway, doorway, or access point to the soul of another. Not surprisingly, we see deep connections form between individuals with ongoing eye contact. This is also why individuals will have a tendency to avoid direct eye contact when wanting to avoid revealing true intentions, thoughts, or emotions to another. Developing a daily practice of meeting in circles with shared eye contact will also elevate levels of psychological safety experienced within the team or group. The circle is inclusive with everyone on the same level, standing or sitting. Learner safety is also promoted, allowing for contribution, collaboration, and after time, challenger safety, which will promote innovation and enhancement as individuals come to recognize, disagreement does not equal rejection.
As the Sun rises each morning, it sets each evening, indicating the closing and conclusion of the day. Meeting in a circle in the morning and again at days end, will provide even more benefit to the organization choosing to adopt the practice. Circle meetings held at the end of the day allow for lessons learned to be shared from the current days work. Changes or alterations required to projects are handled and addressed swiftly. When the team or group is then kept current of changing events, they are in an optimum position to act on future opportunities. Corporations that adopt both morning and evening circle meetings often experience a reduction in both the required need for and time spent in additional meetings throughout the week. As waste is eliminated and work productivity improves, companies will see direct effects in terms of ROI, and bottom line improvement. Meeting in circles at day end allows the team to clear the air, providing opportunities for resolving conflicts that occurred during the workday. The inclusive environment is conducive for individuals to take accountability for daily habits and actions taken, whether good or bad. Team members can celebrate wins, share wisdom, make amends for moments of error and regret, and resolve lingering issues allowing for a fresh start next day. When the loads and burdens of the day are released, they are no longer carried, and the mind is able to rest, and start fresh again tomorrow. Many studies have shown benefits experienced by obtaining a good night sleep. REM sleep has particular importance for the regeneration of brain nerve cells. Being able to let go of daily work stressors and anxiety in a productive manner may result in improvement in worker concentration, and a reduction in employee fatigue.
As with anything, consistent practice is the key to creating and maintaining daily work habits that foster contribution and compliance. Making a commitment to take on the practice of meeting in circles at both the start and end of the day for a period of no less than 90 days is recommended to begin effecting change. Meeting in circles can be as short as 5-10 minutes at day start, and 10-15 minutes at day end. Leadership is required to start the practice to hold initial accountability and compliance. However, as teams continue to engage in this daily practice they will soon find the employees begin to hold both management and leadership accountable as well. Collective Emotional Intelligence often rises, along with improved communication, and deepening relationships.
Meeting in circles can have a transformational effect on the culture of an organization when the principle is put into daily practice. The concept is not a new one. It has existed for ages and eons. It is natural and simple. Meeting in Circles allows teams to tap into the power of the collective for a unified purpose, producing valuable results, for the benefit of all involved.
Copyright Wes Paterson 2021
View the February 2022 presentation –The Power of Meeting in Circles™ delivered for the CMC Canada – The Canadian Association of Management Consultants