The following question was asked on a WebChat on Oct 18, 2018. We didn’t have time to answer it there, so Karen is offering the answer here.
Is there a way to get folks who are extremely focused on "getting a lot done" -- especially leaders/facilitators who make very packed meeting agendas down to the minute and are worried that they need to build membership ASAP in order to get to actually living in community ASAP -- to slow down and focus on connection? Or, is this a basic mismatch of values and I should seek another community?
First I want to say that folks who are good at getting things done are really valuable in community. I’d wager that it’s very rare for a community to get built without them and many have failed for lack of them. It takes all kinds to build a community (or run one effectively) and I would encourage you to celebrate this sort of diversity.
At the same time, diversity in any form will stretch us to the edge of our relationship skills. One of the best things about community is that it pushes us to grow those skills, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
This particular scenario can be particularly challenging because of how our societal norms tend to play out. It’s often the case that the “get it done” folks are highly organized, articulate, verbal folks, very skilled at the confident tone and direct approach that is rewarded in groups in our culture. The “slow down and connect” folks are likely to be quieter, more focused on the emotional energy as opposed to the words, and less inclined to jump into the fray of strong voices. The norms of our culture dictate that the former set will have more impact and power in meetings even if their intention is very much to share decisions and hear everyone, which is usually the case in cohousing.
The result can be that one group feels run over while the other feels falsely accused of domination. The reality is that it is unconscious habits on both sides that are running the show and everyone can contribute to changing the pattern. This will help to balance the “getting it done” with the connecting while making the most of all the talents in the group.
The question we started with was: Is there a way to get the “get it done” folks to slow down and focus on connection? Maybe. Here are things I would try:
1. Talk to them outside of meeting times, perhaps over a cup of coffee. Ideally one-on-one, scheduled and for a stated purpose. Frame the conversation around your needs and wants. Telling them what they are doing wrong is unlikely to help, but odds are they will be concerned about meeting your needs.
2. Offer specific suggestions. The mirroring exercise I described in the WebChat is one. You likely know or have read about others.
3. Schedule a gathering that is just for community building. Often getting a taste of connection will help people to value it. One note of clarity, social time and community building do overlap, but in this case they are not the same thing. Take time for structured community building activities. You can add in some social time to go with it, like a shared meal.
4. Speak up when you feel like things are going too fast and ask for the time you need. Again, do this by describing your need, not lecturing on the “right way”.
5. Be sure to notice decisions that do need to be made quickly. Not every decision can wait. Hopefully you’ve done the work to build trust ahead of time, but either way, delays can be extremely expensive. When this kind of decision is needed validate and appreciate those who get it done.
6. Read process blogs. Mine can be found at www.imago4coho.net. There are others.
7. Hire a process consultant to spend a weekend with your community working on skills for community building and consensus. A good process consultant will make sure there is time for connection.
8. Some consultants also offer phone or zoom support. You might be surprised to discover how much small shifts in your approach can impact your community for the better.
As to your question about a mismatch of values, I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion just yet. It could be that, or it could be that the work to make the shift is more than you want to do. At the same time, any group is going to have some mismatch and working through it is the best way to get to a strong community. In the end, only you can decide who you want to make your new home with, but my bet is that it will be worth your time to work through the issues with this one.