There’s a certain beauty in entering into new experiences don’t you think? I LOVE taking in what is happening around me, and relaxing into observing and engaging with perhaps a bit more distance and (I won’t lie) thoughtfulness than when I am a long-time group or team member.
In my personal life, I observed a group in December and decided to join in January. The nature of the group is to provide a service to those who are very ill and/or dying. As you can imagine, we all come to this volunteer work with a commitment to creating a positive experience and with varying levels of expertise.
I haven’t entered a new volunteer group in quite a while, and I have a long history of joining and moving into positions of leadership. These two factors are making this a journey that is interesting…
What about you?
When did you last join a new group, team, or organization as a volunteer or paid worker?
What was that like for you?
I walked in with expectations based on my many years as a volunteer. I imagined there would be some infrastructure in place:
- a plan for meeting group members and making a new member feel welcome (creating the space)
- a handbook or materials ready for the tasks to be accomplished
- an agenda for meetings and our practice
- clear roles and information (who reaches out to whom about what, how decisions are made, having processes at our fingertips for working with challenges that arise)
A girl can dream, right?
What I discovered was:
- people who were happy to be together and committed to serve others
- a desire to do the tasks well
- folks eager to contribute their ideas (which at times felt chaotic)
- formal and informal leaders within the group
- ad hoc decision-making
- little attention to the passage of time (a facilitator’s nightmare)
As I am still relatively new, I chose to sit back, look and listen… which worked until our last meeting went off the rails—meaning that we didn’t accomplish what was necessary to be prepared for our performance the next day. I came home and, seeking to gain perspective, shared with my partner that I would wait and see what transpired over the next three months… As you might imagine, things fell apart a bit the next day at the performance.
I am a true believer in, “In every crisis there is an opportunity.”
What do you think?
How do you work with challenging circumstances?
What’s your philosophy and how does it guide your thinking, feelings, and actions?
I stepped into the opportunity presented by our crisis, asking to have a quick conversation about the experience. While I had lots of thoughts and much I wanted to share, I bided my time, keeping my eye on my goal—a group that could view the experience with perspective, recognizing what had gone well and where we could do better, and begin to develop ideas for what better would look like, and how we would achieve it. (A mini-session of Appreciative Inquiry design.)
This situation required “upaya”/skillful means (Sanskrit) —particularly as the newest kid on the block. I worked to stay in the experience, keep my purpose and goals of the discussion uppermost in my mind, focus on the relationships within the group, ask questions, manage my emotions/take a breath and listen, be open to various ideas, co-create ways to do even better and, ensure that concrete steps were taken for different experiences in the future.
Happily, it came together well. We left feeling aware and committed to how we want to work together in the future.
This Saturday is our next meeting… I look forward to being a part of the change we envision. And, I am aware that progress is messy. No doubt we will do some things better, and some things will continue to challenge us. I feel quite sure that we have the heart and the will to move forward positively.