The Importance and Power of Presence in Hosting and Facilitating

A core pattern in the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter, or the Art of Participatory Leadership, is the Four-Fold Practice. The very first practice is to be present, which sometimes describe as hosting self. The power of this in our hosting and facilitation work is not to be underestimated. It is being present that allows us to lead or guide a group to being able to access their own collective wisdom and arrive at their own solutions.

I (Kathy) began my consulting career a few years before I knew about the Art of Hosting, coming to facilitation through my leadership experience as an Executive Director of a Health Charity for almost a decade. While I got a lot of things right, what I believed at the time was, that as the consultant, the clients I worked with would look to me for the answers. So, like many, when the group lost its way, got side tracked by other ideas or side conversations, or caught in an unhelpful debate, I thought it was my responsibility to find the answers for them. Not only was this a lot of pressure and stressful, it took me out of the present moment to try to think a few steps ahead to look for those answers.

While I was already beginning to understand through experience that direction or solutions often arrives from someone else in the group, discovering the power of engagement, self-organization and hosting was a game changer. Trusting people to coalesce around what they are passionate about, recognizing the inherent wisdom in the group that comes from each person’s knowledge and experience, learning about patterns and practices that create understanding of and how to work with chaos, order, divergence, emergence, the groan zone and convergence fundamentally changed the way I now arrive at hosting and co-hosting. It isn’t about providing solutions. It is about providing process, design and structure that helps the group find its own way.

Staying present when entering a groan zone, chaos, lack of clarity, side roads, jumbled thoughts and conversations, means being alert to the solutions that do emerge. This can be helped by good observations (We are in the groan zone. We are feeling tired. There is a bit of tension in our interactions. We need a break.) or a good question (What is the clarity that is emerging now? What do we know now that we didn’t know before?) that can shift the energy and dynamics in the room, inviting people into a shift in thinking and experience.

As a facilitator, host or meeting convenor, we always say, “You are the most powerful instrument you have.” Being present is key to accessing all of your own wisdom, experience, knowledge and powers of observation. It enables you to fully embrace and act in each of the other folds: participating, hosting others and co-creating. Being present is at the root of so many of the other patterns and practices experienced at the Art of Participatory Leadership. It is more than a training. It is an experience that can be quietly revolutionary in your approach to leadership, team development, relationship, hosting and living life.

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