by Vanessa F. Hurst
We all have them — agendas. No matter if we are in a personal or a professional environment, we have a plan or outline that focuses on what we think should be accomplished. We consciously and unconsciously base it upon our beliefs and judgments. The agenda is a reflection of how we view the world.
Usually we believe that our agenda is the most appropriate plan of action. Of course, there is at least one other individual in the room who has the same belief about their agenda. That person’s agenda and worldview clashes with ours.
Then there is the agenda. This plan of action is developed for the group to follow. It is usually rooted in the beliefs and values collectively held by the group. At least three agendas on the table are not conducive to creating optimal strategies. What makes this process more difficult if that two of these agendas may be unspoken.
How does the facilitator avoid clash of agendas? A reflective, mindful environment encourages understanding of all person’s views. This environment is created prior to the meeting by sharing pre-meeting reflection questions. The meeting may also include periods of quiet that encourage recognition of individual agendas and an acknowledgement of how they may be preventing collaboration. These time of reflection surface resistance to the collective goals and encouragement for ownership.
Agenda clashes often are unconscious. All parties truly belief that “theirs” is the valid belief and the “best” way forward. They unconsciously lack the ability to entertain any other views. Unless we can acknowledge our agenda and intentionally set aside these personal beliefs, the best course of action is unattainable.
Pause: What is your agenda? Political ideology, social beliefs, or money issues are often at the root of agenda clashes. Name your agenda. Answer: how do you get stuck?
While meeting participants may not be asked to share their judgments and biases, they are asked to be aware of them and their potential to derail the agenda. When the conversation threatens to derail, the facilitator gently brings the attendees into awareness of key issues, encourages them to suspend judgment, and invites openness to possibilities.
Really listening with the intent to understand to the comments and suggestions of others provides insight into the validity or inaccuracy of personal agendas. When we are honest with our self, we can begin to articulate silently and verbally where we get stuck by our own biases and how these prevent the collective agenda from moving forward.
The greatest opportunity for success occurs when all members recognize their own personal agendas and agree to be aware of how they interfere with the process. This can be a difficult task to undertake. It requires nonattachment to the outcome. This doesn’t mean that we do not care; rather, it means that we care enough about the success of the task to work together with humility and without ego. We listen to what each person says with an ear for the potential within. The potential exists to create something collectively that we, as individuals, would never have conceptualized alone.
The power of compassion@work lies in our ability to enter the collective and treat everyone’s ideas as just as important if not more than ours.
Vanessa F. Hurst is a community builder who works with organizations to identify compassion aspects of their culture and to create a collaborative environment. She consults with organizations to strengthen relationships with current stakeholders and invites new stakeholders to the community.