This is an awkward story. One of my coaching clients asked me to work with her and her team in defining the vision for a new venture. When we came to the point of defining the actual purpose of the venture itself, it got sticky. People wanted to think very broadly, in almost global terms, far beyond the scope of the actual work. This was important because it was the source of inspiration, the reason they were so excited about the venture in the first place. But it was making it hard to define, and all the words on the flip charts were getting confusing. The team was bogging down.
There was time left in the session, and I let the bogging down thicken. We reached a frustrated silence and sat with it. People were looking to me for help. “What are we paying you for?” But I just waited.
Then one of the people said, “There’s too many words and ideas here. My mind is moving all over the place and I feel like I want to move the words around and see how they fit. Let’s write each word on a separate piece of paper and spread them out on the table so we can move them around.”
We did. Everyone got up, writing words and leaning over the table moving them around, putting them in groups, busting them up again and making other groups. Words like “welcome” and “demons” started to get put together, and a big pile of discarded words grew on the floor.
The team realized that this wasn’t a public statement of purpose, likely to be framed on the wall in the lobby. It was private. Just for them. It was their secret purpose, and in the end it didn’t even include the words that might define the venture to the general public.
They had a debate about whether this was appropriate. It took some courage, but they decided to leave it as it was. They all suddenly felt completely clear about what they were doing, and fortified by their conviction.
This group thought I was there to be in charge. But all I needed to do was create enough process to bring them to the sticking point, hold them to their awkward moment long enough, and trust that what they needed was already there. It just had to surface. The awkward moment provided the friction to wear through their stuckness and uncover their brilliance. Then the already present solution could surface. My job was not to provide a solution to their stuckness. That’s their job. My job was to help them find the friction of the awkward moment, and hold them to it long enough for it to work. And to trust that it would work. It usually does.
There is always an awkward moment. Or a brilliant moment. Or a heartfelt moment. Because we humans are awkward, and brilliant, and heartfelt. This is trustworthy. If we can create conditions that call out these qualities, that hold and protect them long enough for something to happen, we can support people to discover their own brilliant human gifts.If you would like to invite Crane to speak at your event, or to offer a training session to your group, please contact him, or visit his speaker page.