April 14, 2020   written by Valentine Pleser

In reaction to our COVID-19 Survey a majority of our Members responded with a desire to connect with peers. Therefore we have opened up the Trust Circles experience to all of our members. We would like to introduce to you our Open Circles.

Leveraging peer exchange in Open Circles

Approximately five weeks ago, as the coronavirus started to spread throughout most of the world’s population, our product team gathered in our ‘Gaia’ product creation room to discuss which immediate actions we could take to support our community.

To seek these out as fast and precise as possible we sent out a survey to our members, asking them: What do you need at this time of crisis?

An overwhelming majority responded with a deep desire to connect with their peers in a trusted environment to share their current situation, thoughts and feelings. 

We have answered this call – purposefully shifting our focus the past few weeks to open up the Trust Circle experience to all of our members. The result: The Open Circle, unique one-time sessions providing support to the entire Argonauts’ community.

The Open Circle is now available to both Argonauts and Friends of the Argonauts. Our aim with the Open Circle is not only to provide a safe place to share both the challenges and new priorities that have evolved over the course of the coronavirus’ rise, but also to share our positive experiences and those “silver-linings” that provide hope and focus for the future. 

With 6-8 leaders and one professional facilitator coming together for one session to support each other with their full presence, the Argonauts’ Open Circles deliver a tested and proven environment of trust and expertise that delivers personal development and strengthens resilience in times of uncertainty.

Bringing our leaders together allows them to learn from one another in a structured process, with the two main goals being:

1. To share your current challenges and lighten the load on your shoulders, and

2. To learn through other leaders’ stories about how to overcome your own challenges without listening to “advice”, instead developing your own solutions through what you hear, not what you are “told”. 

Instead of inviting an expert to tell our members how to solve their problems, we let them share their different approaches to the respective problem. Thus, every participant learns from members from all over the world, be it approaches that worked or ones that did not work. The learning process we have created emphasizes on vulnerable sharing and authentic experience exchange to accelerate our members’ learning curve.

This is one of the core concepts that our Trust Circles’ members value most and practice in our Trust Circles to improve their leadership style. In times of crisis, it is vitally important for us to give as many leaders as much access as possible to this powerful and proven tool.

 

The Origin

The Open Circle concept came about from our collective experience over many years of facilitating Trust Circles for our members to connect, share and grow. The Trust Circle supports our members in their development both as an individual and as a leader in their organization. It is designed as a safe space for honest dialogue, authentic vulnerability, and non-judgemental support. By regularly discussing key issues and challenges as well as listening to others’ experience, you can break unhelpful patterns and be inspired to take new ways forward. By expanding our self-knowledge we can create greater impact; positively influencing ourselves, our teams, and those around us.

Within this safe environment you develop trusted relationships with 7 peers from different industries, countries, and demographics. A professional facilitator ensures a structured process for sharing experiences and challenges. The non-judgemental conversations and authentic experiences offer an immediate and accessible solution to gain new perspectives and to grow not only yourself, but your business and your relationships. 

With the onset of the coronavirus crisis, we are now offering this format to every single member, Argonaut or Friend of the Argonauts, who wishes to share their experiences, thoughts and feelings. To allow for engagement and equal speaking time, the groups will be kept small and are guided by a professional facilitator. 

Each participant shares their currently most present challenge or priority, and the facilitator then selects one challenge to be explored by the one of the participants of the Open Circle. After elaborating on one’s own challenge, everyone gets the chance to listen to other participants’ responses and there by receives immediate input that they can take or leave. 

Each 90-minute Open Circle session is designed to give all participants equal air time to present their challenges and approaches to solve them.

While currently most of the topics revolve around the COVID-19 pandemic, they are diverse in their focus and the way our members handle them. Any topic can be discussed and every participant will have their space to respond with their story. 

In previous Open Circle sessions, we have discussed a wide range of topics, from how to ideally and quickly organize a team to work from home, to how to build trust, partnerships and connections digitally, all the way to dealing with members being separated from their families. Another central challenge was how to ideally make decisions and manage in these times of uncertainty and how we can proactively shape what will come after COVID-19. There have been times of joy and laughter and times of sadness and tears. This exceptional opportunity –allowing us to be exactly who we are, to be totally open– is only possible when we create a space together that is completely non-judgmental about sharing and that also holds an authentic challenge for exploration. 

 

The Feedback

In my role as Head of Product Development I have had the honor to facilitate the first four Open Circle sessions to test and adapt our approach. These four sessions gave me the space to connect at a profound level with the members I engaged with. It was really beautiful to receive the responses.

A number of participants explained how the 90 minutes came to be some of the best investment – in terms of time – for as long as they could remember. 

One Friend of the Argonauts shared how in the midst of a particularly overloaded time of online-meetings and sessions, they now truly understand the power of an organized and professionally facilitated process. Most of all I share the feedback of the participants on how deeply moving an experience it is to see the building of trust and meaningful connections in just 90 minutes. It truly is a profound experience.

Along with the incredible gratitude members have expressed, the feedback from the Open Circles has been amazing, exceeding even our greatest expectations. We observe people that have never met before essentially forming an immediate connection. Partially we track this back to our careful member selection process that is the foundation for our incredible members. 

One result of our Open Circles has been that two members –who have never met before– already set up a new project together to support their countries in the COVID-19 crisis – all based on a connection made in a 90-minutes Open Circle and The Argonauts’ shared values. 

 

These are just some of the reasons why we are moving forward with this provision and why we are happy to announce that new Open Circles are scheduled and will be available for as long as they are needed during this unprecedented crisis.

I am grateful for all the hard work our team has put into this fantastic approach to contribute in times of crisis and for all the supportive feedback from our members to improve the Open Circles for the next groups.

We are inviting you to → sign up for the upcoming Open Circles and to feel the magic yourself.

 

Stay safe.

Valentine

About the author

Valentine Pleser is Head of Experience at The Argonauts. She is specialized in agile transformation and conscious living.

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