Have you ever felt total safety revealing your heart to strangers?
At least not until I took what felt like a daring leap and joined a coaching circle through U.Lab.
The coaching circles are groups of 4-5 people who meet weekly for 75 minutes. Each week a different person presents a case that is current, concrete and important. The case giver is a key player in a scenario that can be explained in 15 minutes. And, if addressed, the case clinic can make a big difference to the case giver moving forward. While one person gives the case, the others listen deeply. Otto Scharmer calls this kind of listening, Level 4 listening. The intention is to connect with other person and listen so deeply that you (and maybe the other person) are transformed by the experience.
In the video introducing the case clinic process, Scharmer describes the two ways we could present our case. One way is the typical way we ask for feedback in a professional setting. The other is the REAL case. Presenting a REAL challenge puts us “one down” in a position of vulnerability (see video about 2:44-3:00 for how this looks). THAT is the case clinic posture. THAT is serious.
We were given a handout to on the process, a way to connect with each other through the Presencing Institute site and meet via Google Hangout. The basic structure is: 15 minutes for case presentation, a few minutes for clarifying questions and then 3 minutes of silence. Following the silence each of the coaches offer the images, thoughts, feelings and gestures that arose for them while listening to the case. Then there is time for generative dialogue and NOT trying to fix/solve the problem. The case giver then reflects on his/her situation and next steps going forward. The case clinic closes with each person expressing gratitude others and taking a few minutes to capture learning points.
This has been a profound experience for the women in my circle. We didn’t know each other before the course. We come from different countries, backgrounds and professions (a coach, a scientist, a consultant, and me, an evaluator). And every one of us presented a case from the heart. I’ve learned about these women and learned to see myself in new ways through their eyes. We’ve decided to keep meeting even after the official end of U.Lab.
The vulnerable posture is NOT the one we bring to our lives most of the time, but I believe it is the one we need. We get different results when we talk about REAL issues as REAL people, not the people we think we should be, but the confused, complicated people we are.
I’d like more opportunities for conversations like this and I’m rather certain I’m not alone. Goodness knows we don’t need any more conversations about the cold and snow.
What do you think? Would a structure like this work for conversations between friends, colleagues, family members, stakeholders? Would you be willing to try it?