Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Fierce Week in Chicago -- Day Two: Beach Balls and Coaching

Vicar Amy Cortright, Sr. Warden Lorraine Kee, Chapter member Anne Trolard and I ... along with Diocesan Youth Missioner Elle Dowd ... are at the Nicholas Center at St. James Cathedral in Chicago for a 2 1/2 day "Fierce Conversations" training, where we are exploring and learning in depth an extraordinary model of making our churches, organizations, and lives better one conversation at a time. Every day, I'm posting about what we're doing so you can travel along with us.

When you think of being Fierce, usually a beach ball isn't the first thing that comes to mind. But that's what we used today in Day Two of our Fierce Conversations training. 

The beach ball is the symbol for the team conversation. The different color stripes on the ball represent the different perspectives people have about a certain issue. The idea is to bring people from different areas out of their silos into a collaborative relationships -- so our decisions come from considering as many perspectives as possible ... and allowing those perspectives truly to change us. 

Our team tested this out with what initially seemed to me a pretty benign issue : Are the announcements at the end of the service too long?  Even in our group of five we had many different perspectives ... and in really listening what I heard is that this is not only about convenience and wanting to get out of church before too long, but about what voices are heard and how do we communicate and build community and how different people come to the cathedral for different reasons. 

It was one more reminder of the wisdom and deep faith we have every time we gather ... and the gift it is to be able to bring so many diverse perspectives to the table, even though that diversity can be so messy and challenging. It reminded me why we name "embrace diversity joyfully" as part of our mission statement. 

The second half of the day we learned about and tried out "coaching conversations." Coaching conversations are when someone comes to you seeking counsel and -- through asking questions and absolutely not giving advice -- lead them through a process of clarifying the issue and the options facing them, the impact of potential decisions, how they are contributing to the issue, their ideal outcome and action steps. 

In short, without being directive, it's about helping people drill down to what the real issue is and help them come to decisions about what to do about it. It's an incredibly pastoral model of conversational leadership because it's about walking with instead of directing. 

This was some of the most powerful time we spent together as the issues my small group shared very quickly drilled down into some foundational conflicts in our lives. It's incredible how quickly we can realize we are in the presence of the holy when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and real with each other ... and especially when the emphasis is not on directing but on listening and walking with.

Tomorrow, we'll get trained in delegation and confrontation conversations ... so the fun is just getting started. 

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