YOU & YOUR PEERSFaciliating Trust
Faciliating Trust

Wisdom Circles For Executives

GOAL:  Build upon the strengths and wisdom of one another.

OUTCOMES:

  • Become more curious and reflective
  • Foster peer relationships
  • Determine where you need more courage
  • Build confidence and create accountability
  • Identify opportunities to collaborate with others
  • Recognize and celebrate new ways of doing and leading


PROCESS:

  • Participate in co-creating the norms
  • Choose a topic of interest to you and bring it to the Circle for exploration
  • Participate in facilitated Circle Sessions with a rotating topic leader
  • Attend to your Individual Sessions between group circles with your Coach Kristiina
  • Do some light pre-work before some sessions
  • Capture reflections after each session

Wisdom Circles are specifically designed for executives to develop peer trust and support. The circles are a form of group coaching that enables the scaling of coaching from one-on-one coaching to small groups of 3-5 persons. Rather being taught and lectured at, in Wisdom Circles we believe that experienced executive “know more than they know”. Therefore, participants are encouraged to tap into their own knowledge, sharing of stories from their everyday experience. Through engaged dialogue and reflection circle members gain new perspectives and deepen their understanding of and commitment to better leadership. This why we choose to call this process the “Wisdom Circle”.

The role of the facilitator-coach is to guide this peer group to share their challenges and celebrations in a confidential environment and develop mutual trust. The session topics are brought by the participants from their own experience, not determined by the facilitator.

In contrast to team coaching, where the focus is on coaching an intact team toward a shared, common goal, in a Wisdom Circle participants work on their individual development goals.

The Circle process usually flows like this: After creating agreements (so called “Alliance”) about the commitment to the process and confidentiality, members get an opportunity to step into the role of a “Topic Owner” by having a dedicated “airtime” to express what they’d like to talk about, explore the challenges they are facing and get ideas from others how to move forward. Those listening are asked not to jump into advising but to participate in a reflective manner: exploring options and perspectives with a supportive, non-judgmental and curious mindset. This is an opportunity to develop the skill of asking questions and listening actively. At the end of the circle sessions each member will reflect on and share their takeaway – a learning (or unlearning or relearning) or commitment.

As coaching takes place over time and individuals develop their thinking and skills at a different pace, it’s hard to pre-determine specific outcomes. However, coaching circles have proven to be an extraordinary way to increase the sense of belonging and supportive relationships. When everyone in the circle has an opportunity to give and receive support from their peers, relationships deepen, and problems are solved with more creativity. As participants begin to show up with their authentic power of presence not only in the coaching circle but also with their teams, and other relationships within the organization, everyone benefits.

Kristiina answers some questions about Wisdom Circle:

Some Curious Questions and Answers

They are similar but have some differentiating elements: 1) prescreening/intake interviews, 2) a small group (3- 5) of similar level peers pre-interviewed regarding needs,  3) agenda generated by the participants, 4) group behavior rooted in the Alliance (creating agreements on needs & promises, confidentiality).

A trained facilitator guides the process. The facilitator’s role is to “hold the space safe, authentic and meaningful”, make sure everyone engaged and move things forward and to a commitment.

1) A circle consisting of peer level people who do not know each other is actually liberating because they don’t know each other’s coworkers (less potential for gossip), 2) the circle is grounded in the co-created “Alliance Agreement”, 3) the circle serves only those who actually commit - cannot be done haphazardly (prescreening important that everybody is willing and able to do this).

Pre-circle individual interviews about the challenges and topics are summarized in a report and presented to the group to discuss and choose topics. Each group member chooses the topics (1-3, depending on the length of the contract, number of circles) they want to bring to the group because they are particularly meaningful/important to them.

Full presence, listening others with respect and committing to the process… and whatever comes up in the cocreation of the Alliance Agreement.

It’s not a question of better or worse. It’s about BOTH AND: In a 90-minute circle you have a treasure trove of brains, collective intelligence – in other words, wisdom - to work with you! Simon Sinek says: “The value of our knowledge multiples when we share what we know with others.” However, we always augment the Circle sessions with 60-minute individual coaching sessions so that we can make sure each member gets what they need personally.

The Circle is member-driven: it addresses the burning needs of the members, only focused on what is important and for what there is an actual yearning to learn/ know/ find a solution for. It’s internally driven, not provided from the outside by an external expert. The process trusts that the inner wisdom is revealed. “We know more than we know we do” and the circle process helps to tap into that.

YES!!! I’ve done all my Wisdom Circles online and they work just as well as in person.

Wisdom circles foster a much more intimate environment, where the members welcome the unknown, are eager to dive into personal topics, and are committed to their own and one another's development. Topics are presented by the group members rather than the facilitator.

There are two options for Circles: 1) Cross-department peer (e.g. Vice Presidents) circles from the same company and 2) open enrollment peer-level circles (e.g. Sr Directors from 3 different companies or ED’s of different nonprofits, different industries) from different companies. 

It fails when people feel flat about the process. It can be because the participants do not respect the Alliance agreement, are disrespectful or judgy. Also, when the participants do not take responsibility for what they need and then withdraw or don’t share honestly and allow others bring up topics are not relevant to them. If the participants hold back and the conversation stays at a shallow level.

Participants feel validated and grateful when all members commit to the process fully and honestly, share and explore with genuine interest in learning. It feels good when they own the circle as their safe space and hold the relationships in high regard and confidence, and support each other’s growth and develop ways to collaborate. It is fantastic when the members of the circle want to begin applying their insights and learning with their respective teams. This ripple effect is invaluable!