A Circle in Conversation

Jun 14, 2011 // 1 Comment » // Conversational Circles



A leader flagged-out his concerns with me regarding one of his director whom was faced with people and team challenges; she is not able to command respect and lead the team in a way that this leader expected of her.

“I am very concerned with her ability to lead the team and enable them to move in the right direction.”

“How do you arrived at this conclusion?” I asked.

“Well, for a start she just don’t seemed to be able to get the best out of her team members…she kept telling me that her people are afraid to speak up and do not have the capacity to present themselves well. She is convinced that many would benefit from an intensive training program in presentation skills and ways to get them to speak up…I don’t know that’s why I would like to hear your opinion.” lamented the leader.

I requested and met with the director the same day afternoon. After the formal and informal chat, I asked:

“Tell me a time that you are proud of your team effort.”

“Definitely! There are about 11 of them and some of them have many years of experience in this profession. A few are still very junior and I will coach and mentor them as frequent as my time permits…”

“And your frustration is…?”

“Umm…like many managers I faced the same problem in getting them to speak up and contribute their ideas during meetings and group suggestion. They are very poor in presenting their opinions and thoughts especially in client meeting…Do you have any training program in presentation skill to help them?”

“Would you let me have a conversation with them tomorrow for about 45 minutes of their time to find out more…?” I suggested.



Next morning, 10 of the team members showed up at 9.15am for a quick informal coffee before we adjourned to a small room with 11 chairs in a circle. I was not surprised by their surprises written on their faces but some were already very indifferent in their disposition.

I started with a welcome and quick story about the circle council. The flow of session was shared using a flip chart stated the agreement and guided intention so as to give us some direction.

A talking-piece was introduced as a way to garner respectful way of speaking and listening. Though it took them a few minutes to get use to the flow of things but the magic of circle enable most of them to have their voice heard; even for those who hardly speak the local languages…



Here’s some of the emails I received after the conversational circle which overran by 30 minutes:

“I noticed that I am more relaxed and more willing to listen to people to understand them, rather than being so busy reacting to them. I’ve made it a point to slow down when I speak so I can think it through.”

“Thanks for holding a great session and providing us a place to express our thoughts and feelings.”

“Being a good listener is more difficult than I ever imagined…thanks!”

May I invite you to pick up the talking-piece and start listening

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One Response to “A Circle in Conversation”

  1. Leadership says:

    You’ve got great insights about Commanding Respect, keep up the good work!

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