This blog, written by Phil Cass, was originally posted on the Berkana Institute website. We include it here because it references our work together as friends who have built a company and, we think, serves as a great invitation to work with us or join us at one of our event. Enjoy!
A Gathering of Friends: dinner at our place, hanging out by the fire, let’s do lunch, a drink after work, are often some of the sweetest times in our days. Sometimes they are planned and other time spontaneous. Sometimes they are quiet and sometimes raucous. Sometimes they are for serious conversations and sometimes they are for letting go.
What if we made these gatherings an intentional practice? Intentional in that they meet regularly, at an agreed upon time, for an agreed upon length of time, with an agreed upon purpose and we committed to each other that we’d not quit. We’d not quit at least for an agreed upon period of time that is long enough so that we each could experience the best and the worst of us. Where we could practice being in authentic relationship with each other with our whole selves.
In three different instances for three different purposes I have been a lucky participant in just such gatherings. I am one of three co-founders of a small consulting and training company. Our company is based on friendship and in many ways authentic relationships is our business model. The three of us decided from the beginning that if our core competency was to be assisting others in developing meaningful relationships that we needed to practice this. We meet together once a month, usually for a four hour period of time. Most months we spend the first hour or two in deep check-in with each other. These check-ins are both related to our work with each other but are also about our lives in general. We intentionally pierce the artificial veil between who we are as co-workers and who we are as private people. We have been doing this now for about three years.
In the early days of our relationships our check-ins were largely made up of getting to know each other at ever deepening levels and were heartfelt and often very moving. As the years have rolled along they remain that but we have also come to reveal some of those pieces and parts of ourselves that each of us struggle to accept in ourselves. For me, for example, it has meant sharing my jealousy of not being able to be a part of working with them together very often or at times feeling like a third wheel and not being heard. When feeling not being heard, of seeing my habit of wanting to “take my ball and go home”. Not easy stuff but real and part of what it means to deal with being in authentic relationships. The commitment is to not quit but to stay, to see, to learn and get to the next level.
Although a long and lovely story that there isn’t time for here, I have also been in a peer coaching relationship now for going on twelve years. These are monthly phone calls and as you can imagine we have both gone through many changes in our lives over twelve and have been there for each other as witness and coach for all of them. My growth and my life’s direction have been hugely altered because of this ongoing authentic relationship with this person.
And finally there is the weekly circle of our leadership team in the organization that I am CEO of and where I spend most of my time. Our leadership team has been meeting in circle once a week for usually an hour and a half for twelve years now. It’s how we get work done and how we stay in relationship. As I often say to people, when you meet deliberately, using circle practice, for twelve years the end result is wise decisions and you end up loving the people you work with. That mythical line of our business persona and who we really are fads away and here we are real people caring for each other and doing good work.
I hope this gives you a sense of what we mean when we talk about “A Gathering of Friends”. I hope this can serve as an invitation into your own creation of meaningful circles for yourselves.
To hear more from Phil and to see our friendship in action, please join us for our upcoming Art of Hosting in Columbus, Ohio May 15-17, 2015.