The Art of Convening

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What if a meeting could change your life? In The Art of Convening, authors Craig and Patricia Neal offer a recipe for taking any meeting, gathering, or conversation and making it transformational. It starts with authentic engagement, the phenomenon that occurs when a person truly expresses what is true for them and listens attentively to what is true for others. Authentic engagement creates a feeling of connectedness that leads to better outcomes, no matter the purpose of the meeting. The authors define convening as the art of “holding” people in a safe environment so that authentic engagement can take place. The Art of Convening offers a set of practices and principles laid out in a logical sequence on a convening wheel. By following the points on the wheel, conveners can make any gathering better.

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  • A great book that offers a 'recipe' for convening and a framework for whatever facilitating methods you want to try.
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The Art of Convening

  1. 2. THE ART OF CONVENING Authentic Engagement In Meetings, Gatherings, And Conversations AUTHORS: Craig and Patricia Neal with Cynthia Wold PUBLISHER: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. DATE OF PUBLICATION: 2011 198 pages
  2. 3. FEATURES OF THE BOOK Although they are often seen as a waste of time, meetings can be transformational. In The Art of Convening , authors Craig and Patricia Neal offer a step-by-step approach to encouraging authentic engagement, which can help meeting leaders achieve breakthrough results. Anyone who has worked in a group setting would benefit from reading this book, but it is also useful for anyone looking to improve the quality of gatherings and communication with family and friends as well.
  3. 4. THE BIG IDEA In The Art of Convening , authors Craig and Patricia Neal offer a recipe for taking any meeting, gathering, or conversation and making it transformational.
  4. 5. INTRODUCTION What if a meeting could change your life? In The Art of Convening , authors Craig and Patricia Neal offer a recipe for taking any meeting, gathering, or conversation and making it transformational. It starts with authentic engagement, the phenomenon that occurs when a person expresses what is true for them and listens attentively to what is true for others. Authentic engagement creates a feeling of connectedness that leads to better outcomes, no matter the purpose of the meeting.
  5. 6. AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER In order to convene a successful meeting, gathering, or conversation, a convener must first have an understanding of who he is and what his relationship is with the participants . This is what the authors say is at the heart of the matter – the center of the convening wheel. Often, it can be a challenge to stay connected to others, but when a convener truly knows himself, it gives others something real to connect to.
  6. 7. CLARIFYING INTENT By clarifying intentions, meeting leaders identify motives or desires that might distract them or others from the primary goal. It takes patience, but conveners should try to look past their immediate conclusions and try to examine their deepest intent. Armed with the knowledge of their true intentions, conveners will have confidence and energy to pursue the next steps toward authentic engagement. One good way for meeting leaders to do this is to sit down and write for at least 30 minutes. They should first ask themselves, “Who am I and what am I doing right now?” Then, they should take that self-knowledge into consideration while writing down an intention for their next meeting or gathering.
  7. 8. THE INVITATION Beyond how it looks or the method of its delivery, the most important aspect of an invitation is sincerity. A sincere invitation invites guests not just to show up, but to be fully present. To truly access all the possibilities that come with authentic engagement, the invitation must be made with hospitality, generosity, and conviction. One way to visualize this is to imagine issuing the invitation with open arms, open hands, and an open smile.
  8. 9. THE INVITATION The challenge in this step is rejection . It is difficult to offer a whole-hearted invitation to others when they are free to refuse. However, the likelihood of refusal increases when the invitation is not whole-hearted. A great way for meeting leaders to minimize the fear of rejection is to practice extending sincere invitations and hospitality in their everyday lives. This could be in the form of sending cards and messages to others to invite closeness or simply setting the table for their family to invite them to dinner.
  9. 10. SETTING CONTEXT Conveners should open a meeting or conversation by stating its purpose or intent (which should also be present in the invitation and agenda) and the desired goals or outcomes. One good way for meeting leaders to prepare for this is to write out the purpose then read it aloud to themselves, on video, or to a friend. This exercise can help a convener see areas that are likely to be misunderstood.
  10. 11. CREATING THE CONTAINER What the authors call the “ inner container ” is the energy and chemistry felt by the people attending the gathering. The first step in creating a successful inner container is defining the protocols and terms of engagement for the meeting. Meeting leaders should begin by asking members of the group for permission to be the convener. Once that has been established, a convener can describe what he or she will do (mark time, open and close the gathering, etc.). This creates a safe environment for guests to participate. These rules hold true for meetings held in person or via technology, such as webinars or conference calls.
  11. 12. HEARING ALL THE VOICES Authentic engagement is created in a group setting when everyone speaks and listens through mutual generosity. Each voice contributes to the whole. It can be a challenge to allow each voice to be heard because impatience and judgment can get in the way. Groups may want to skip this step to save time, but according to the authors, slowing down and allowing for pauses creates space for the collective genius of the group to emerge. Judgments damage the energy of the group and the safety of the container.
  12. 13. ESSENTIAL CONVERSATION Important ingredients in essential conversation are safety and trust . When all members of the group feel safe, the quality and authenticity of the conversation improves. The challenge here is self-consciousness, which can keep participants from contributing or cause them to dominate the conversation.
  13. 14. CREATION With a shared purpose and a sense of trust, authentic engagement leads to the creation of something new. The convener’s role is to keep participants engaged in order to reach this step . If the group has followed the steps thus far, each participant is present in this moment and is bringing a unique presence to the group. Through this unique presence, something new can emerge. The challenge conveners face in this step is disengagement, which can come in the form of distraction, dissent, inertia, resistance, or criticism. It is important, therefore, for them to protect the integrity of the container, reinforce the context, and watch for signs that creation is taking place.
  14. 15. COMMITMENT TO ACTION Once something new has been created, it is important to decide how the group will move forward with it into the future. The group must make a commitment to action , which might be a decision to do something, a decision to do nothing, a decision to make one person accountable for next steps, etc. Moving from the creation aspect to commitment might be logical and seamless, but meeting leaders should be on the lookout for a lack of alignment within the group. This is the biggest challenge conveners face at this stage. If there is dissent, conveners should intervene or regroup to try to come to a consensus.
  15. 16. COMMITMENT TO ACTION It is important for conveners to help the group decide a common way forward, but it is not their job to hold the group accountable. If it is a true commitment to action, each individual will hold him or herself accountable. If there is no clear path to the future, a convener may choose to go back to a previous aspect on the convening wheel or ask participants to commit to working together more in the future (this is a valid commitment to action as long as it is not just a postponement).
  16. 17. COMMITMENT TO ACTION One way to get each participant to make a commitment to action is to ask each person in the group to share what their next steps will be, either in the next 30 days or a timeframe of the convener’s choosing. Another way to accomplish this is to hand each person a commitment card and an envelope and ask them to write down what they commit to do.
  17. 18. Business Book Summaries is a product of EBSCO Publishing. The website is updated weekly with 4 to 5 new summaries chosen from among the top business books printed in the United States. For more information or to sign up for the weekly newsletter, please visit http://www.bizsum.com. ABOUT BIZSUM.COM

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