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Have you ever felt “stuck” when you are in large groups?
When I do, sometimes I don’t talk or I avoid taking the lead or talking too much and – in so doing – I neutralize myself… While my conscience might be ok with this – and even satisfied by telling myself the story that “I allow more participation,” I doubt that that is an effective way to show up in groups.
This false modesty of not talking to avoid dominating turns into a way to prevent yourself from taking the lead….but taking the opposite path – talking a lot and sharing constantly what you are feeling – can easily turn a group situation into a “me, me, me” kind of session. So what’s the best thing to do in a group in order to learn something from the experience by navigating those two extremes?
I think the answer is DOING. I am suggesting that when you are in a group setting knowing is not enough. Knowing too much can encourage you to procrastinate, to avoid getting into the fray, and to tell yourself your noble story of “giving space to others” or to simply share your ideas for its own sake.
There’s a certain point when continuing to know – people’s feelings, ideas, experiences – at the expense of doing, making something happen – allows the mess a group might be in to grow further. Doing the work required when you are in a group often means exhibiting the courage to push past the edges of your current reality.It means asking questionsthat inspire change. It takes honesty and confidence in other people. We may need to shine the light brighter or longer than other did. Perhaps now is a better time. Or not. Which of the many peer leadership activities will do and when?
We are here with this group and we have seen what others have tried, but we don’t know what we can try yet, what could our contribution be for this group. We can’t until we actually try. What if turning on the light reveals that the room is full of wild beasts? What if the light we shine reveals that the room is actually empty? Worse yet, what if turning on the light makes us realize we’ve been living in darkness? The truth is that these are all potential realities for groups, and understanding that is part of the journey. We need to explore all those group dynamics roles…. And the only way to know what will happen next in a large group is to do it.
So the next time you are in a group: stop knowing and just do something… as a way of knowing.
Adriano understands how to increase your returns on leadership. He works with professionals in world-class organizations that include Philip Morris, Microsoft, the World Bank, Johns Hopkins University, the US Marine Corps, the State Department and NASA. A skilled experiential educator with corporate leadership experience, he is the Founder & Principal Consultant of ParticipAction Consulting, Inc., a firm committed to help clients redefine change, collaboration and power in their organizations. He co-authored "Teachable Moments of Leadership" with Jill Hufnagel in 2016, on a learning methodology that gets results by going from PowerPoint to …powerful!