The Magic of Powerful Collectives

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During the last few weeks I spent in Canada, I had a number of experiences for which I am grateful. These include wonderful coaching moments and energizing group facilitations that leave me wanting more. Now that I am back in Sri Lanka for a while and have time to reflect and write, I wanted to share what I have learned about transformation of individuals within a strong collective. I will focus on one experience that, to me, exemplifies what can happen when a strong collective awakens.

On the first day of this month, I worked with two powerful young women to structure an experience for a group of 30 Young Black Professionals who meet regularly to network and support each other in their personal and professional growth. That evening, the co-hosts and myself facilitated a dialogue that far surpassed in authenticity and depth what I have witnessed in groups where many members are new to each other. I felt I was watching a flower bloom in accelerated motion, and was moved.

As I work on a book project and other creative ventures related to transformation, I want to document what I think contributed to this acceleration, in the hope that this formula can be replicated again and again with other collectives.

After facilitating groups for 20 years, I was always aware of being more optimistic than my clients about what could be accomplished for the team, the community or organization. My expectations for genuine connections in groups were high, and these expectations were most often met. Now, I know that it is possible to create a wave that has more speed and force than I thought possible. Very cool.

I note 4 phases: 1. Setting the tone, which is done by the leaders and starts the process before anyone is in the room. The communications, the invitation, the images, even the space chosen will attract those who need to come to the experience. The intention must be clear and compelling. 2.Facilitating the Opening. Hosts/Facilitators have an important role to play to create and maintain the open space for transformative dialogue. That is where the facilitation experience is invaluable: open questions, self as instrument, dynamic of participation, body language, formats that increase trust and openess. As a facilitator, I have to be an invitation as well as a challenge by helping participants observe Self through other eyes, and by inserting new information that helps expand their awareness. 3. Making room for an in-body experience. There must be time to walk around, eat, connect in duos, trios, breathe deeply, laugh, visualize, meditate. When the intellect is parked for a while, participants are connected to something more raw and spontaneous, and will speak, reveal, decloack more readily. 4. Reinforcing: There is a natural contagion factor in a group that can accelerate the experience for all. Whether one choses to ride the wave quietly, or decloack publicly, each person can contribute to the transformation and help build the momentum for rapid transformation. A sight to behold.

I will write more… soon.