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Going from a Culture of Evaluation to a Culture of Dialogue

“As we lean into this ancient lineage, our work in circle is to create the world we want within the world we have. Circle and its components are the seeds. Circle is the pattern. We have changed the chairs. Now we can change the world” (Baldwin and Linnea, The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair)

 

The intention of today’s team meeting was to make an assessment, a review of the probationary period for those who recently joined our organization. Me being one of them.

My experiences with this type of meeting have been mainly one-on-one to hear a one-way feedback. In the best of situations, I would get to the meeting feeling anxious and left with a sense of relief. In worse situations, I would just be numb because I dissociated from my emotions in order to ensure professionalism.

I now realize the negativity of this dynamic where I had to find coping strategies (red flag)! Have you ever had a similar experience? Being passionate about the subject, many shared their experiences with me, and vulnerability is a common feeling during such meetings. The more toxic or hierarchical an environment, the greater the feeling of powerlessness. I used to tell myself that it is normal, that everyone goes through that, and that people are just doing their jobs.

No wonder I didn’t last long. I realize that I was constantly looking for a job where culture supports authenticity and healthy relationships. Simple right? Still, it seemed less likely than winning the lottery.

Today was different. No surprise, we do things differently at Percolab. It is important for me to document because I am starting to forget how toxic organizational cultures can be. I would like to introduce the benefits of a collaborative culture and share with you that there is a way of working where you do not spend your time coping and adapting to an authority. There is a way to just be yourself and get the best out of yourself!

As mentioned above, today we had an evaluation and probation follow-up day, however we don’t call it that. Today, we can call it: an appreciative collective assessment, and we did it together with a team spirit. We have shared our experiences of the past few months as human beings. I did not feel judged or criticized. Instead, I felt I was genuinely cared for, and fully heard. We had a safe space to express our vulnerabilities. I was able to ask for help and was able to express my fears. The process allowed me to end my Monday full of appreciation and gave me a new boost of confidence and energy, knowing that my team cares about me and sees me fully.

Here is how this type of process works and the transformative benefits that it generated.

  • First there is an invitation. All members (old and new) are invited to take part in the meeting.
  • A generative question is formulated in the meeting. Ours was “what feedback can we mutually give ourselves following the onboarding of new members in the last few months?”
  • Time agreement. We agreed on 80 minutes for the circle and 20 min discussion for follow-up and further actions.
  • Roles held by different participants: facilitator, note taker and time keeper. Notes are very important to document our process and for those who were unable to join to have transparent access to the information.

The process

We proceed in a circle. Whoever is ready to share, goes, and then we follow the order we agreed on if it is a virtual meeting (which this one was), or the order we are sitting in the circle if it is a face-to-face meeting. When our turn comes back and we have nothing to add we can choose to skip this turn.

With the facilitator holding the process and the relational space, we speak about our experiences from the heart. We share to the center of the circle, with trust of being heard and accepted fully with all we carry.

Organizational wellbeing, organizational healing, is an amazing doorway for healing our society.

For those who see themselves as leaders: what responsibility do you want to take on to create a better emotional and psychological environment for yourself and others around you? Can you share your power and vulnerability? Can you trust others and show others how to trust you? Can you genuinely ask for your needs and feel safe doing so? And can you give others that same opportunity?

And for those who do not see themselves as leaders, remember your autonomy? Remember that each day gives you an opportunity to make one tiny different choice at a time. These are your building blocks for a better future, for yourself and others around you.

I wonder how the world would change if the workspaces changed. I wonder how our mental and emotional health would change if we felt heard, appreciated and simply at ease being our genuine selves at work.

Can you imagine the ripple effects of such a transformation? How would it change your life and that of those you care about?

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