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10 Prepare to Lead

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

If I’m to work successfully with others, I have to remember who I am. So before “we” show up, I do a bit of “me work” and remember who I am.

—Chris Grant
Process Facilitator, 14A Conversations

FOR MANY LEADERS AND FACILITATORS, what happens just before the meeting is largely a matter of agenda review, materials production, and logistics related to the meeting space. Those are important activities. However, there are other important practices related to preparing. These enable us to settle into our own rhythm and intention for the day, connect with meeting participants on a human level, sense the mood in the room, and do the little things that help to create a container in which people will be able to do their best work together.

Many world-class athletes and musicians engage in extensive rituals just before entering the playing field or stage. While some of their practices are driven by superstition, many serve the much deeper function of centering, focusing, and moving into the present moment. Fire tenders are expected to perform under similarly stressful and unpredictable conditions. How do we begin well? How do we arrive in ways that put us in a frame of mind to truly be with others? What are the practices and rituals for coming into a meeting space that support a grounded presence, clear purpose, and authentic way of leading? There are four categories of practices for preparing to lead, and to engage in them you must:

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12 Reflect and Renew

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

There are rooms in my head I don’t get to explore unless I spend time outdoors and with colleagues reflecting on my work.

—Mary Margaret Golten
Partner, CDR Associates

WHEN A MEETING ENDS, OUR intentional practices should continue. It sometimes feels as though we need every ounce of our physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual energy to create and hold together the container for a successful high-heat meeting. We need practices that support our sustained learning and renewal. The practices described in this chapter focus on what we do after the formal meeting has ended. They are practices in which you:

Leave it behind

Harvest the learning


Restore yourself

Practices that foster reflection and renewal enable us to relocate the center of our internal gyroscope and recommit to our purpose and convictions. They help us learn to more clearly see our habitual blind spots and avoid repeating unproductive patterns. These practices enable us to clear our heads, put events into perspective, and reenergize body, mind, and soul. Reflection and renewal practices demand that we create space for quiet and stillness from which new insights and deeper wisdom emerge.

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9 Cultivate Everyday Readiness

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

I’m a strong believer in the importance of my ongoing practices for helping me be present, unattached, and calm in the face of whatever messiness shows up in the room.

—Peggy Holman
Process Consultant and Author
The Change Handbook

GREATDANCERS AND MUSICIANS invest thousands of hours practicing their craft before the curtain goes up. In order to ensure excellence during a game, athletes practice mental focus and technical skills well before they walk onto the playing field or court. Likewise, fire tenders must have an ongoing set of practices that prepare us to be at our best as leaders.

This chapter describes the value of ongoing inner-directed practices that assist us in achieving a relaxed and focused state of being, unburden us from limiting beliefs and stories, help us access our compassion, and remind us of our purpose and gifts. We will also examine the special challenges of starting and sustaining everyday practices as well as the benefits of such practices for preparing us to work in high-heat situations.

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4 Stand in the Here and Now

Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

It’s almost like I’m in an altered state of being. I am so in tune with the group that my personal thoughts and opinions—my internal dialogue—become very quiet.

—Sera Thompson
Process Facilitator

THE WORK OF LEADING GROUPS through difficult terrain can be overwhelming. Events move quickly. Voices are raised. It’s easy to feel inundated. Our thoughts can begin to wander to, What happened just now? or, What’s going to happen? The next thing we know, we’re not really in the meeting.

How do we stay in the present moment and avoid being distracted by thoughts of the past or future? Being present connects us to ourselves and to what’s happening around us. It sets the stage for us to see a difficult situation with fresh eyes, to make choices that are unclouded by emotion, and to feel an authentic sense of calm in the midst of a group storm. When we are able to draw on our present self, we can make the ongoing adjustments required to place our full attention in the here and now. Learning to be present in the fire begins with accepting the idea that the only place from which we can influence the future is in the present moment.

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Dressler, Larry Berrett-Koehler Publishers ePub

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