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Holding Space: A Guide to Mindful Facilitation
is out now!
Before you buy, read an excerpt from the first chapter.
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Holding a Space for Others
“When we hold space for one another, we are fully present to the
other’s experience. We are fully present in the moment and in the
sharing. We are witnesses to human experience.”
THE HARBOR TWINKLED in the morning light through the large
windows that made-up the western wall of the hotel ballroom.
Three well-placed bouquets of flowers sat on linen covered
tables. Staff wandered in and out of the space, placing immaculately
arranged trays of food down for breakfast and shifting chairs
Kate, Izzy and the rest of the Nebo team bustled about, ensuring
their microphones were in place, the slide advancer functioned
properly and the graphic facilitator had enough space to set up her
large, blank canvas. By the end of the day, that canvas would be filled
with a collective vision of a major American city could look like in five years.
A large organization had enlisted The Nebo Company to work
with them to create a vision for a future that could transform the
city. The event was an opportunity for the leaders to unite together
around a shared dream and work in unison towards a better future
for the city they loved.
The event took place at the edge of the harbor, offering the
participants a view of the water and of the city’s skyline. From the
choice of the room where the event took place, the seats arranged
in a large circle and the natural lighting glancing in from the windows,
each element was thoughtfully curated. As the conveners of
this event, we sought to create a memorable experience that would
leave an imprint on each leader who walked into the room.
Towards the end of the day, after framing the topic and diving
deep into important conversations, we gathered the leaders and
had them read aloud the visions that they had created. They stood,
and with the harbor still glistening in the background, they described
a city that didn’t yet exist, but could. One after the other,
these leaders dreamed together, and by the end of the day it felt
like a tide had turned. The road ahead was long and winding, but
the first brick had been laid. New connections were forged, commitments
made, and, as the participants left the room there was
a lightness to the air that was evident in their movements as they
walked out of the space.
To “hold space” means to create the conditions for transformation.
In our work, we hold space for individuals, organizations
and teams every day. We help lead them through their toughest
challenges and remind them to tap into their innermost resources–
their own stories, experiences, emotions, barriers and breath.
The future depends upon the work of facilitation. In order to
solve our most complex challenges, we must have conversations
that produce understanding, action and new outcomes. While
facilitation proves to be demanding and intense work, it is also
deeply rewarding. To do this work well, one must commit to growing
through the work, to examining ourselves as facilitators, opening
ourselves up to feedback and trying methods and modalities
that create breakthroughs.
After thousands of facilitations over many years, we recognize
that there is something special that distinguishes skilled facilitators
and makes for transformational facilitation. We see genius
in the unique, authentic work of many different styles and approaches.
A willingness to bring one’s authentic self to the work,
accompanied by thoughtful, disciplined preparation characterize
great facilitation. The mindset, skills and methods of facilitation
can be learned and honed. As a facilitator, there are many ways to
establish the conditions for success for yourself and for those who
participate with you. In truth, the task of holding space is the same
whether you are leading a group of executive leaders through a
strategic visioning process or hosting your family reunion.
How do we do this intentionally, thoughtfully and mindfully?
This book first and foremost offers a philosophy, a belief in
what it means to create the conditions for transformation, and
the strategies and tools that you need to create safe, creative environments
where important work can be done. We invite you to
consider the ideas here and experiment with the strategies. Our
approach has grown out of the work itself, and we expect that your
approach will evolve that way, too.
The starting point–and where we begin in this book together–
is within ourselves. To hold space in a transformational way, one
must hold space in a mindful way.
TO BE CONTINUED...