The introductions were taking a little longer than I had grown accustomed to, but it seemed participants were in desperate need of getting concerns off their chests. So I let them go on. Showing that this is a safe, supportive environment where we actively listen and affirm each other is more important then sticking to arbitrary time limits.
It’s not always an easy task. As the facilitator, I had to fight the urge to get visibly annoyed, while at the same time making sure we stayed true to our purpose and respectful of everyone’s time. So I found the natural break where I could acknowledge each person’s contribution to the discussion in a way that re-shifted the focus back to the topic at hand so that we could proceed with all members present and engaged.
One of the very first EntrepreNerds book discussions.
This is actually a typical EntrepreNerds Book Discussion. People like that they can “come together and shed all of our inhibitions and share stuff about business that we wouldn’t have normally,” like talking about their challenges and frustrations. There’s a camaraderie that forms when we hear the concerns and see the worries of fellow entrepreneurs. Participants can easily empathize, and I love the encouragement they give while also challenging each other to grow.
Every month we meet to discuss a different topic about business. Having a topical focus creates a more inclusive environment where participants may contribute ideas from a variety of resources. It takes the pressure off of having to read a specific book, while also providing an opportunity for people to gather insights from wide range of topic experts.
The discussions always evolve in ways I could never predict. We tend to engage at the convergence of current practice, theory and future aspirations as inspired by both the reading as well as participants’ experiences and challenges. It is the marrying of these areas that makes for such an enriching learning environment.
Understanding and practicing a new concept or theory are two different things. Most anyone can talk a big game. But when it comes to walking the talk, many people (even the well meaning) fall short. That is because we each possess deeply ingrained habits and world views that make it difficult to effectively apply new approaches and ideas.
Creating a space where one can develop deeper levels of self-awareness so they may begin questioning their own assumptions and tendencies is essential. And that’s where the “therapy” portion of EntrerpreNerds comes in. To some, it might seem tangential to the discussion when deeply personal fears, apprehensions or experiences come up. But, it is through such vulnerability that participants become open to personal transformation and growth.
Despite having guided these conversations for over 2 years, I still get pulled off track by my own insecurities. Hence, the need to fight my desire to get visibly annoyed at this discussion. The culture of business tends to reinforce logic and getting to the point over emotion. Every time I facilitate these discussions, I have to get past my own deeply ingrained assumptions of the “respectable business person” and embrace my deeper purpose.
Having the courage to show up, be authentic and be vulnerable at an EntrepreNerds book discussion is important for participants to get the most out of the experience. And if you want to take it a step further you must step into the role of participatory facilitator where you guide the discussion by modeling this kind of engagement while also sharing the leadership. Whether you are a participant or a facilitator of such a program, when done well you’re sure to experience part professional development with part entrepreneurial (or business) therapy.