Guest Post — Inviting the Co-hosting of a Harmonic

with Conor Ritchie-Dunham, singer songwriter, composer, and lead guitar and vocals in The Contradictions

Many of you who follow this blog lead groups of people taking on deeper levels of collaboration, working through the challenges of experiencing a deeper harmonic while embracing ever-more challenging issues. We know that this harmonic reflects the behavior of a group, and who we are being as leaders. While we talk a lot about this harmonic in our community, I realized that I have direct access to a couple of people who know a lot about generating a harmonic, in music. Having the fortune to experience great amounts of music in my home, created most often by my daughter and son, I was talking with my son Conor this past week about the art and science of generating a harmonic in one’s own music, and what it takes to generate the enlivening experience of a harmonic in music with any audience. Conor shares his experience in inviting the co-hosting of a harmonic in the rest of this blogpost.

In preparation for a performance, it is the artist’s responsibility to generate a space for the harmonic. We cannot create a harmonic, just as we cannot make someone love us. But we can create the conditions in which that harmonic has ample opportunity to arise. In hosting a dinner party, for example, we cannot simply tell our guests to have a good time. We must learn from our past positive dinner-party experiences, replicate those conditions, pay close attention to how the experience goes, and learn from there. In seeking a good experience for our guests, we hope to generate an environment where they have ample opportunity to feel comfortable, satisfied, entertained and included in a sense of companionship.

As musicians we seek many of the same factors in preparing for a performance. We wish for our audience to be comfortable: In a comfortable venue that is suitable for the type of performance at hand, and which promotes the experience we wish the performance to give. (A large stadium for awe and wonder, or an intimate poetry café for trance-like introspection.)

We wish for our audience to be satisfied: Having a performance of appropriate length so that it is long enough that they feel the event was worth their money, yet short enough so as not to bore. Ordering the songs so that there is enough dynamic and emotional variance throughout the performance to keep it interesting. Proper attention paid to the sound equipment and acoustics of the space so that sound quality complements the performance.

We wish for our audience to be entertained: That the music itself is of quality, the performances are impressive, authentic, passionate and tell a story, and that any other factors of the performance such as light show, scenery or choreography do their part to aide the emotional effect of the performances.

We also wish for our audience to feel included in a sense of companionship. Concerts of certain styles are often self selecting in the type of person they attract, but it is the co-host and artist’s job to make them feel welcome. Personal, authentic interaction with the audience, which shows leadership and command, yet gratitude and humbleness is a must.

With experience, the performer, like the co-host, can learn to consistently generate and maintain an environment where a powerful harmonic can thrive, and where it can continue to live in the hearts of those who experienced it long after the final dish is served and the final note is played.

In order to co-host a harmonic, I have learned that I must first authentically feel that harmonic within myself. As a performer, I find it helpful to solidify a pre-show routine that will reliably foster that harmonic in me. After a full-body stretch and a vocal warm-up, I go to a dark corner, close my eyes, and meditate, focusing on releasing nervous energy and connecting to my emotional core. I know the performance begins the moment I step on stage. So these preparations allow me to set the atmosphere of the performance before I even begin the first song. When performing with others, I will extend this pre-show routine to include them. After I have fostered the harmonic in myself, I will bring it to them, perhaps by holding hands and saying a blessing, cheer, or singing a song. When we are connected and ready, we can step on stage and bring that harmonic to the audience.

 

Co-hosting Collaboration — What We Are Learning from BUILD UPON Cambridge, Madrid, and Brussels

In this 1st of a series of 4 blogposts, we share what we are learning, as co-investors with BUILD UPON and the European Climate Foundation, about: (1) co-hosting collaboration; (2) realizing the deeper shared purpose; (3) measuring impact resilience; and (4) scaling impact.

CO-HOSTING COLLABORATION

The potential we saw.  In the spring of 2016, in dialog with BUILD UPON and European Climate Foundation (ECF) leadership, we saw the potential for both communities to benefit from greater collaboration amongst their many members, within each community and across them.  Together, we thought that introduction to a proven collaboration-building process, like the “O Process,” (see figure below) could facilitate much greater collaboration, across the networks, by clarifying a deeper shared purpose, the need for diverse positions, and the ability to integrate the unique perspectives these diverse positions bring to the possibilities that can be seen and the commitment to actions that could be taken, together.

To foster this greater collaboration, we decided (BUILD UPON, ECF, Vibrancy) to co-invest in an advanced leadership capacity-building process with leaders from each community, building up their capacity to “co-host collaboration,” through the O Process, and then having them apply the newly acquired skills together at the BUILD UPON Leaders Summit and on their own in their own local organizations.

What we did.  In April 2016, we met with ECF grantees, inviting them into the process. Over the late spring and summer, individuals from the ECF and BUILD UPON communities were invited to participate in the co-hosting collaboration process.  In late August, 32 leaders from ECF and BUILD UPON met in Cambridge, UK for a 3-day advanced leadership capacity-building session.  Three weeks later, we all met in Madrid to apply what we had learned together in a long, morning session during the BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit.  In mid-January 2017, we met in an on-line lab to share experiences and to provide peer-to-peer learning by discussing what we had learned from our work together and in our own settings, in co-hosting collaboration.

 

Cambridge Advanced Leadership Capacity-Building on Co-Hosting Collaboration and the O-Process, 29-31 August 2016

BUILD UPON Madrid Leaders Summit, 20-21 September 2016

Online Lab on Sharing and Peer-to-Peer Learning, 12 January 2017

The evidence we saw.  The 32 leaders who self-selected into the Cambridge advanced leadership capacity building  were able to connect and understand the fundamental skills of inquiry and co-hosting within one day, which allowed them to begin to co-host on day two a difficult exploration of challenging topics with stakeholders holding sometimes-conflicting positions, such as whether there is a deeper, shared purpose for why we all work in the space of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and building renovation, and why each perspective in that greater mix matters.  This showed the speed with which high-impact resilience leaders can learn to co-host collaboration.

“When I went through this process, I began to see the intense value that comes from understanding voices from other actors within our field. I began to understand the value that they can bring to what I want to achieve, and the O Process itself, with the way it is structured, allows guided conversations, which certainly, before I took the training, I would not have been able to do at a roundtable discussion or with a group of stakeholders whose values are not the same as mine.”

— Adrian Joyce, Director, Renovate Europe Campaign (0:35 – 1:08 – https://youtu.be/wIpZU73wEiQ)

One of the key difficulties in co-hosting collaboration is the passion and process for including the wide diversity of stakeholder perspectives necessary to achieve the identified deeper shared purpose.  It is far easier to work with the same, friendly colleagues as usual.  It is far more challenging to actually want to and to be able to honestly make a space of trust for the voices that are necessary and usually not included.  This is a process of deeply valuing “the other.”  These 32 leaders showed that they were able to take up this process, both in repeated practice in Cambridge and in a live situation together in Madrid.

We thought it would be best for the many stakeholders coming together in Madrid to be co-hosted by their peers.  This proved to be much more powerful than having the session facilitated by a group of experts external to their community.  The long tenure within the community, the credibility from many successful, large-scale projects, the passion for the aggressive goals of dramatically reducing the adverse impacts of buildings in Europe, and the respectful attention to co-hosting diverse perspectives led to a wide-ranging, efficient process for eliciting and integrating a deeper shared purpose, as expressed in the BUILD UPON “Common Vision.”

It was critical to develop these co-hosting collaboration skills in the context of a direct application together to a topic and community that directly influenced all participants.  The immediacy of the application, coupled with the capacity-building process, made the feedback from co-hosting peers ever more critical.  Approaching the whole process through the principles of transformative learning, we repeatedly hypothesized what we would do, tried it, reflected on what happened, gave ourselves and each other the feedback, adjusted, and tried again, learning and evolving along the way, together.

“Immersed as we all are in our very particular lives, we usually are not aware of how much collaboration, true collaboration, can transform our lives.  In fact we don’t even know what collaboration means to start with, so most of our work in BUILD UPON has been to try and give a sense, and a meaning, to it just by doing it and involving others in it, probably not knowing much at the beginning, but believing in it.  Through the process we have seen how powerfully this idea has opened new dimensions in all our minds: it is not only that work with–instead of work against–each other could be much better, in a linear way, so to say, what happened was that new, unforeseen possibilities would unfold right before our eyes.

Thanks to the help provided by the Institute for Strategic Clarity, through the Cambridge-Madrid-Brussels experience we’ve come a long way, from our initial rudimentary way of listening or, rather, thinking we were listening, to a much more profound listening attitude, which is the base of true collaboration.  I believe we are only at the beginning, but fully motivated to go on progressing, learning from others and from ourselves, learning from all ‘nos-otros’. Thanks”.

— Emilio Miguel Mitre, GBCe, BUILD UPON Coordinator

Finally, to continue to develop in their capacity to co-host collaboration, bringing people from across Europe together to collaborate, requires more than one workshop (Cambridge) and one application (Madrid). It needs continuous reflection and conversations in leadership-tangibilization circles (online/in-person).  We experimented with one such online experience, in a webinar in January, and an in-person experience together in February in Brussels.

“The ‘co-hosting collaboration experience’ gave me a new framework and skills for problem-solving. Some recommendations provided by our guides and other members of the team sounded a bit obvious at the beginning of our joint collaboration, but over the time became a ‘check list’ of all discussions I run. It helped me a lot especially in debates on sensitive topics such as ‘organisational values’.”

— Antoni Bielewicz, European Climate Foundation, Poland

We thank our colleagues at the European Climate Foundation (ECF), the ECF grantees network, the BUILD UPON team and network members, the World Green Building Council, the co-hosts, the Madrid and Brussels participants, the Institute for Strategic Clarity, and Vibrancy—all co-investors in this process together.

Realizing the Best Conversation Available in the Group — Recommended Reading

Ritchie-Dunham, James L., and Maureen Metcalf.  2016.  “Co-hosting: Creating Optimal Experience for Team Interactions,” Integral Leadership Review, (http://integralleadershipreview.com/15209-co-hosting-creating-optimal-experience-for-team-interactions/).

What level of conversation is available, where all participants can engage and contribute their unique perspectives?  One way of understanding this is what Terri O’Fallon calls the “roaming space.”  Extending that concept, my colleagues and I have found that there are two roaming spaces a conversation can play in: one where we find the least common denominator of shared awareness, perspectives, and language; and another where we find the highest available awareness, perspectives, and language we can share.  In the first, we find the overlap in the  awareness, perspectives, and language we share.  In the second, we access the unique awareness, perspectives, and language each person brings to the conversation.

This article highlights the five dimensions of the co-hosting roaming space and the co-hosting process for putting it in practice.