Art of Hosting: Getting Grounded For Our Next Steps

by Kelly Rowan
follow me on Twitter: @kellykay30

"Successful leaders are able to disappoint their followers at a rate they can tolerate." – Ronald Heifetz

Mac Antigua and Bryan Schachtele opened our 2011 YNPN Twin Cities’ board retreat with these interesting words from Ronal Heifetz. Not the jolt of inspiration you might expect a facilitator to use to get a group of board members riled up, but it was exactly what we needed to ground us in the reality of some of our tough challenges ahead. With that said, we have much to be optimistic and enthusiastic about (stay tuned)!

In the meantime, I caught up with our retreat facilitators—who so generously shared their time, talent and insights with us—to learn more about their approaches to group facilitation and leadership development. I hope you’ll find their innovative ideas and techniques valuable as well.

So why did these two agree to take on this hefty retreat facilitation in the first place?

Mac and Bryan responded to this question by outlining some of the ways the work of YNPN aligns so well with the mission of an organization with which they are both deeply involved, Public Allies. They were both quick to emphasize our shared core values of collaboration and inclusiveness, as well as the commonality of our work to build up the capacity and development of young leaders in the sector.

Bryan also described his eagerness to put some of the things he had learned from InCommons’—a community-based initiative of the Bush FoundationArt of Hosting workshop series into practice. One aspect of this approach centers around the chaordic path, which posits that real innovation can occur as we navigate the fine line between chaos and control. The idea is to create opportunities for a group to be fully creative while also ensuring that we walk away ready to take tangible next steps toward a shared vision.

What are some of the key philosophies that guided their facilitation approach?

Mac and Bryan knew it would be important to find creative processes that would use all the different learning and communications styles of our board members, balancing one-on-one reflection with group process.

In pulling together his toolbox as a facilitator, Mac recalled the teachings from a favorite performance technique instructor:

“When you open up people's minds to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange, we begin to think about things differently. And that can be magical.”

And that’s exactly what Mac and Bryan helped us find: those magical moments of insight that are birthed from an open space approach. This space allowed us to learn how to say what we may not have been able to say otherwise.

How does this open space approach differ from other methods of facilitation?

We talked a bit about our usual approaches to group conversations: we often sit in a circle and take turns talking. But the approach Mac and Bryan administered introduced unique elements like partnering up and going for a walk outside, or drawing images, or making physical statues to represent ideas. These unique approaches were meant to break us out of our usual ways of thinking about the work and the value and meaning of YNPN for our members and community. 

Later this year, we look forward to sharing the fruits of this retreat with you all, our members, through the resulting vision and strategic plan.

Both Mac and Bryan welcome the opportunity to connect with anyone interested in learning more about their facilitation process or employing this technique with their board or leadership teams. Connect with Mac on Facebook and Twitter and Bryan welcomes email at [email protected].

Share your thoughts on these facilitation approaches or other models you’ve seen work (or not work) in the comments field below.  

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