There is a wonderful Ted Talk with Margaret Herrernan which beautifully captures this challenge in the context of the pecking order at work. Margaret examines a study of chickens which showed that a strong, productive group of chickens failed to survive because they pecked each other to death. Whereas a ‘normal’ group of chickens ended up healthy in the end because of their collaboration. The strong group of chickens did not last because they suppressed the productivity of the others. This group demonstrated aggression, dysfunction and waste as opposed to empathy and equality.
Taking this study of chickens to businesses, Margaret discusses that social connectedness leads to success. What happens among the group is important. When everyone is treated with equality and empathy, ideas are able to flow and there is no wasted energy. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to surround yourself with people that are willing to help. Ideas never emerge fully formed, their full potential is only achieved through collaboration. This sounds much like Forum, doesn’t it?
As an individual, how can you assure that equality and social connectedness flourish within your group?
Listen more, talk less. There is often a person in a group setting that dominates the conversation or meeting. Whether their drive to overtake the meeting comes from a place of frustration or excitement, it has negative impacts on the group harmony. There are other people in the room with ideas that aren’t being heard simply because they can’t be heard. An individual dominating a meeting can intimidate others and not even leave a second for someone else to jump in.
Luckily, at the CFBC we have received a shared experience from Mary Koonce who uses an excellent tool to prevent herself from monopolizing everyone’s time at a Forum meeting. When Mary joined a Forum, she became aware that she often talked too much. To help keep this part of her habits in check, she began following the 1/9 vs. 8/9 rule. The rule is as simple as speaking just 1/9 of the time and listening 8/9 of the time (the number nine comes from the number of people in the Forum group – each person should follow this rule to allow for harmony and equality).
When it is your time to speak (before you speak), really think about what you are going to say so you can condense it and communicate clearly. In the beginning, it can be a challenge to follow this rule but the results will be rewarding not just to yourself but your group. Mary found that it helped her Forum operate smoothly and she was then able to bring this practice into her business.