still_emerging

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Small Group Leaders Guide

Our “circles of trust” or small groups have been informed by Parker Palmer’s “A Hidden Wholeness,” Susan Scott’s “Fierce Conversations,” and Logan and Carlton’s “Coaching 101.” I want to share some gems from them with you in hopes that the words might inspire and prepare YOU to facilitate a circle.

From “A Hidden Wholeness”

Two over-riding assumptions:
#1 We all have an inner teacher whose guidance is more reliable than anything we can get from a doctrine, ideology, collective belief system, institution, or leader.
#2 We all need other people to invite, amplify, and help us discern the inner teacher’s voice. (p. 25)

A circle of trust:
~ holds us in a space where we can make our own discernments, in our own way and time, in the encouraging and challenging presence of other people (p. 27)
~ is hospitable to the soul. (p. 49)
~ has no agenda except to help people listen to their own souls and discern their own truth. (p. 53)
~ is a group of people who know how to sit quietly “in the woods” with each other and wait for the shy soul to show up. The relationships in such a group are not pushy but patient; they are not confrontational but compassionate; they are not filled with expectations and demands but with abiding faith in the reality of the inner teacher and in each person’s capacity to learn from it. (p. 59)
~ consists of relationships that are neither invasive nor evasive. (p. 64)

Five features of circles of trust:
~ clear limits (small, limited duration, intentional process)
~ skilled leadership (facilitate, participate; not a therapist, or expert; “I will do what I can to keep this space safe for your soul.” P. 81)
~ open invitations (participation is voluntary, without manipulation or coercion)
~ common ground (metaphors/stories that invite people with diverse beliefs to explore t heir own souls)
~ graceful ambiance (lovely surroundings, schedule with breathing-room, etc.)

Group norms in a circle of trust:
~ No fixing, no saving, no advising, no setting straight. (p. 115)
~ We speak our own truth
~ We listen receptively to the truth of others
~ We ask honest, open questions
~ We offer the healing and empowering gifts of silence and laughter (p. 116)


If your problem is soul-deep, your soul alone knows what you need to do about it, and my presumptuous advice will only drive your soul back into the woods. So the best service I can render when you speak to me about a struggle is to hold you faithfully in a space where you can listen to your inner teacher. (p. 117)

The soul loves silence, because the soul is shy and silence helps it feel safe. The soul loves laughter because it seeks truth and laughter often reveals reality. But above all, the soul loves life, and both silence and laughter are life-giving. (p.153)


The soul is generous: it takes in the needs of the world.
The soul is wise: it suffers without shutting down.
The soul is hopeful: it engages the world in ways that keep opening our hearts.
The soul is creative: it finds a path between realities that might defeat us and fantasies that are mere escapes.
All we need to do is to bring down the wall that separates us from our own souls and deprives the world of the soul’s regenerative powers. (p. 184)


From “Coaching 101: Discover the Power of Coaching”

(Aside: Please don’t be put off by the “power,” “rules” language – the authors are more gracious/flexible than these words suggest. How ‘natural’ it is for them to speak like that both makes me smile and gives me ‘the willies.’)

The coaching process and the ‘key’ questions for each step:
Relate – establish coaching relationship and agenda
How are you doing?
Where are you now?
How can I be praying for you?
What do you want to address?
How can we work together?
Reflect – discover and explore key issues
What can we celebrate?
What’s really important?
What obstacles are you facing?
Where do you want to go?
How committed are you?
Refocus – determine priorities and action steps
What do you want to accomplish?
What are possible ways to get there?
Which path will you choose?
What will you do?
How will you measure your progress?
Resource – provide support and encouragement
What resources will you need to accomplish your goal?
What resources do you already have?
What resources are missing?
Where might you find the resources you need?
What can I do to support you?
Review – evaluate, celebrate, and revise plans
What’s working?
What’s not working?
What are you learning?
What needs to change?
What else needs to be done?
What further training would be helpful? (Appendix)
Cardinal rules of listening:
FOCUS: give undivided attention to the person speaking.
SUMMARIZE: mirror or reflect back what you hear without interpreting, evaluating, or projecting
INVITE: ask questions which encourage coachee to dig deeper or be more specific or discover their own solutions
UNPACK: exhaust (again, strange word choice) coachee’s resources before sharing anything yourself
CLARIFY: check assumptions/understanding of what they are saying by asking good questions that help you understand their exact or full meaning (p. 35-6)

Three simple rules:
Don’t give advice.
Don’t tell something they can discover on their own.
Don’t fix the problem for them. (p. 40)

Three primary rules of coaching:
#1 The person being coached does the work.
#2 The person being coached does the work.
#3 The person being coached does the work. (p. 101)


From “Fierce Conversations”

“fierce” – robust, intense, strong, powerful, passionate, eager, unbridled, uncurbed, untamed (p. 7, as found in Roget’s Thesaurus)

“fierce conversations” – coming out from behind ourselves to make a conversation real. (p. 8)

Seven principles of fierce conversations:
Master the courage to interrogate reality.
Come out from behind yourself and make it real.
Be here, present to be nowhere else.
Tackle your toughest challenge today.
Obey your instincts.
Take responsibility for your emotional wake.
Let silence do the heavy lifting. (xv, xvi)

Four purposes of fierce conversations:
Interrogate reality –
Provoke learning –
Tackle tough challenges –
Enrich relationships - (p. 107-8)

“Revisit, reclarify, and recommit to what your soul desires.” (p. 82)

“Authenticity is not something you have, it is something you choose.” (p. 68)

“There are insights and emotions that can find you in no other way than through and within silence.” (p. 227)

Seven steps to bring clarity, understanding and impetus for change:
1. Identify your most pressing issue.
The issue I most need to resolve is . . .
2. Clarify the issue.
What is going on?
How long has it been going on?
How bad are things?
3. Determine the impact.
How is this issue currently impacting me?
What results are currently being produced by this situation?
How is this issue currently impacting others?
What results is it producing for them?
When I consider the impact of this on myself and others, what are my emotions?
4. Determine the future implication.
If nothing changes, what’s likely to happen?
What’s at stake for me relative to this issue?
What’s at stake for others/
When I consider the possible outcomes, what are my emotions?
5. Examine your personal contribution to this situation.
How have I contributed to the problem?
6. Describe the ideal outcome.
When this issue is resolved, what differenc ewil it make?
What results will I enjoy?
When this issue is reolved, what results will others enjoy?
When I imagine this resolution, what are my emotions?
7. Commit to action.
What is the most potent step I could take to move this issue toward resolution?
What’s going to attempt to get in my way, and how will I get past it?
When will I take this step? (p. 87-9)



You are gifted and experienced leaders/facilitators/ministers of the gospel of grace. These above resources are meant to be informing and inspiring, and to help set the tone of our collaborative small groups/circles of trust. But we trust you to use your own gifts, graces, and discernment to create safe space for each woman to learn, and grow, and have fun. Thank you for your willingness to serve as a facilitator. We hope you will find this to be a rich experience. If you have questions before the 29th, please e-mail or call Liz or myself. See you at the Round Barn!