The Process

  1. The issue holder explains their situation very briefly and answers questions for clarification only. This activity should take between 5 and 10 minutes with 10 minutes being the absolute maximum. The aim here is to work with the minimum of factual data: too much data can all too easily dominate, overwhelm and lead to feelings of hopelessness.
  2. The issue holder then ‘sits-out’ of the group by physically removing him/herself from the circle, the circle closes and the issue holder sits outside the group but close enough to hear. The role of the issue holder is to listen to the subsequent discussion, not to partake in it, resisting both their own and the attempts of others to get re-included e.g. interruptions, questions and eye contact, for these reasons the physical separation is very important.
  3. Each person within the group then speaks for not more than 5 minutes along the lines of:
    • Firstly showing empathy and positive appreciation of the circumstance that the issue holder is in. This could then be added to with experience of a similar nature.
    • “This reminds me what it was like in …”
    • “What has helped me in these situations is…”
  4. When each has had their turn the issue holder then sits back in the group and acknowledges the help already received and sets the direction for another round if required:
    • “How this discussion has helped me is…”
    • “What I now need help with is …”
    • “There’s some new information you need …”
  5. And then another round of `sit-out’ begins and the cycle of b., c. and d. is gone round again. This is done for as many times as is required during the overall allocation for the session (usually 2 or 3 rounds).
  6. Ideally at the end of the session the issue holder will feel ready to commit to 3 actions that they will feedback from at the next meeting.

The Dangers

  • Too many questions at the beginning; stop after 2 questions. Questioning is based on the fallacy that you need a lot of information to make progress; you don’t.
  • That the issue holder can’t ‘keep out’ during the `sit-out’ phases. The process then turns into a discussion that, whilst this may be more comfortable and look productive, is usually less effective and less efficient.
  • That the group does not show enough empathy and appreciation that has the impact of making the issue holder defensive and unable to hear the pearls of wisdom that are there. So avoid judgmental phrases such as, “Anyone with a brain can see that what needs to happen here is …”
  • That the issue holder tries to justify their actions when they come back into the group. This defensive reaction is not necessary, helpful to anyone and wastes time.
  • If, after the first round, no good ideas have come from the group then one or the other processes described below should be used. This `stuckness’ indicates that the group is ‘all in the same boat’ – or to use a jargon term, ‘locked in an organisational dynamic’. A different process needs to be used to free up the dynamic.

After the 2nd cycle a danger is not pinning the issue holder down to do anything. The aim of this process is for the issue holder to leave feeling able to do something.

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