This challenging proposal made me look back in time and remember the day in 2000 when I met Beatrice Briggs at a social gathering in Uruguay.
Just to start a conversation I asked her, “Consensus? What is it all about?” She replied: “It is about sharing power in groups.”
Something in me stopped and I asked, “How is that possible?”
All at once I was flooded with the memory of being a survivor of a thousand lost battles in countless groups where the lack of consciousness about power-sharing had led to disaster.
My husband had been insistent about my meeting Bea and I always replied, “I have taken many courses, met many teachers. . .”
Nevertheless, after this conversation I took the course she offered at the Chemistry department of the University of the Republic in Montevideo.
And there I found a totally different universe. An incredibly powerful door was opened for me. I had a feeling of expansion and clarity that I could not yet find the words to express.
I have always been passionate about working with groups and had been involved in many, but this was different. I felt completely open, expanded, focused, living and manifesting my personal power. What made it different? The answer was—and is—the PROCESS, the HOW.
I learned that designing processes consciously is about knowing where every move comes from.
Little by little I discovered how to design a structure that permits the “expression of the self,” the sharing of each participant’s soul and personal power in a way that is functional, clear, orderly, and accessible to all.
Once I began to understand that consensus seeks solidarity, not unanimity, I realized that as facilitators we need to find ways to allow the inherent diversity in the group to flourish. We need to create a safe container in which all participants can express their truth. We must encourage each human being to show the best possible version of themselves.
So now I understand that my job as a facilitator is to shift power from the front of the room—the traditional focus of authority—and let go of my own impulse to control the outcome. I am there to serve the group in its quest for a decision that they can support.
I have learned the importance of asking two key questions: Who decides? and, How are decisions made? And now I observe what happens when a group begins to answer these questions, noticing if the participants open up or shut down, claim their power or hide from it.
When the approach to conversation changes in a group, the field of knowledge changes. The people in the group begin to relate differently to each other and co-create very different results.
Now, I invite you as leaders to consider these questions: How do we design our meetings? How do we make decisions? Are we conscious of the importance of allowing for the expression of each individual’s personal power?
Others have said it: Power is not outside. It is not scarce. It is in each person. Our responsibility as leaders is to create a group field that changes how we conduct conversations.
Remember, the indicators are in the group field and each person’s body connects us to that field. Expansion, joy, light, are good hints that each individual’s personal power is present.
Do not forget: this is possible. It only requires consciously designing and sustaining the field in order to achieve change.
About the author:
Ana has been a professional facilitator since 2002. Her expertise includes training facilitators in Latin America and Portuguese-speaking Africa. She has assisted Beatrice Briggs in the design and continual improvement of the professional development programs offered by IIFAC.
Editor´s note: This text is based on a talk given by Ana at Human Camp Leaders, Montevideo 2016. You can see the video here.