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Reflections on dialogue and the six week rule

chairs in a circle ready for facilitation at Windsor Leadership Dialogue

chairs in a circle ready for facilitation at Windsor Leadership Dialogue

My perspectives disrupted and a clearer worldview has emerged, one that is already becoming a movement. My workplace has transformed as a consequence of what has been learned and applied in practice. I have an extended network that is responsive, supportive and full of untapped riches. I am changed for the better, my family are happier, there is the potential of a political shift in the air and I’ve lost weight.

When I developed in the 1980s as an individual and team development practitioner there was the ‘six week rule’.

A potent intervention at one session could emerge around six weeks later as an idea from the other person that they were committed to and believed to be their own.

Milton Erikson, a talented therapist and practitioner, used to comment that in his approach the average number of sessions before a person was effectively helped was one.

I know from my own experience that it isn’t the duration of any intervention, but the degree to which there is a quality of meaningful and deeper meeting, that makes a difference.

My first paragraph is all true, what they mean and the extent to which they are in any way related, may forever be a mystery. The paragraph helped to capture my attention, to make contact with myself.

For me, without contact, without ‘hello’, there is little more to be done, but then without honesty and sustained rapport few things of any value can be done.

Once we have connection, what seems core to any change is something about relationship.

What I experience the leadership dialogue offering me is simple: through quality meeting with another person and the energy of the group, unexpected magic can happen.

It doesn’t just happen, it doesn’t always happen, but when it does it seems to take a combination of four elements:

  1. enough perceived safety
  2. feeling understood and valued
  3. an experience, conversation or action that confronts me in some way
  4. a chink in my field that provides the opportunity for making a different choice in regard to what I think, feel or do.

As I reflect on the time I spent at Windsor Castle with around 20 other people in leader roles, I recognise it was not the specifics that have stayed with me, but rather the friction of the questions and issues, the time to stop and take a breath, a feeling of living in a ‘liminal’ space between now and then, and moments of meeting from which I have taken something beyond knowledge or practice, but that seems to me to reflect a form of wisdom or addition to my body of knowledge. I am often surprised at how little change is related to content, but more to the felt sense of meeting.

Some of the conversations touched on the demands on me as a person and the impact on my wider life, the expectations from those I work with whether as peers or those who look to me for some form of leadership, the humanness of those who I am accountable to, and the immense complexity of the interconnected and changing world that cannot be managed but needs to be worked with. And through all these it was the confidence of others to say where they were, and thus be open to meeting, that made a difference for me.

I found the chance to be affirmed in my own worldview, as well as the opportunity to have it shaken and alternative perspectives offered, to be stimulating and at times fun, but at the heart of the time was the space to meet ‘the other’ behind the role, to be less alone in what can be a lonely path, and to feel recharged as I emerged into a world that demands me to change for the better.

Since then I imagine some of my actions were as a result of those I met, but as the six week rule goes, I believe them to be mine – but when it comes to nourishment and wisdom it is often hard to tell who feeds whom.