One of the things I do as a facilitator of the Servant-Leader Milwaukee rou
ndtable is to monitor the interactions among the group members to ensure all are welcome and all are respected as individuals. I recently had an opportunity to unpacked two situations with new members of our community. The interaction was an enriching experience that allowed me to learn about myself and to practice some of the things we talk about in our roundtables.
It isn’t often I feel a need to talk with roundtable members about our operating agreements but I had two opportunities in this past month. The first was regarding a marketing contact I received from a recent roundtable participant. After a brief conversation I was satisfied the contact was coincidental and the member understood the expectation of separating his marketing activities from his engagement in the Servant-Leader Milwaukee community. The second situation involved concerns I had about a member using the roundtable as a means of religious evangelization. A similar but far more delicate topic to navigate. Once again this situation was resolved through thoughtful conversation.
I realized upon reflection that I responded to my concerns regarding the marketing efforts much more quickly than the concerns about religious evangelization. While the underlying concern in both cases was the maintenance of the roundtables as a safe place for people to gather I recognize the fact that marketing is something we do and our religious beliefs are related to who we are. It is a far simpler task to tell someone you can’t do that here but it is a treacherous path to tell someone they can’t be who they are.
The insights I took from both experiences is a greater understanding of the challenge of bringing our whole selves to the conversations we have and at the same time to recognize the wholeness in others. The wisdom that is at the center of the Servant-Leader roundtables comes from the fact that the people at the table are sharing their personal, professional, and cultural experiences. This requires us to maintain a space where people feel comfortable enough to speak from their hearts in the language that allows them to express themselves most clearly. At the same time it is critical that each person at the table have confidence that their own beliefs and experiences will be respected by others.
I walk away from these experiences with two lessons:
- I don’t have an expectation that the people at the Servant-Leader roundtables should necessarily conceal their spiritual beliefs any more than I would expect them to conceal their livelihood. It’s only when the engineer starts feeling picked on by the poet in the group that I need to be concerned.
- And yes, someone will be offended at times and yes, a facilitator may find it appropriate to focus a conversation to a more general (secular) stream at times.
On a more personal level the take away from these situations was a recognition that walking with someone and gaining an insight to their beliefs, hopes, and fears is a precious gift. A gift that only comes by being open to learning about oneself while learning about someone else.
I am grateful for the opportunity to; once again, affirm that the wisdom is in the room.
Click here to find the Servant-Leader roundtable opperating agreements.