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I will not stand in the way of the Meeting.

Posted by griffithd on November 16, 2019 at 3:45 PM

One of the many benefits of living where we live is there is a long and deep Quaker tradition and active practice. To be clear I am not Quaker, but our children attended a Quaker school, kindergarten through eighth grade. I was asked to clerk the development committee and in turn sat on the school committee. I called a good friend who is a Quaker and asked a few questions after my first meeting. What’s a clerk? Someone who chairs a committee, but does not lead. What do they mean by a sense of the meeting? Is there consensus. I learned there is no voting. Last I asked what was meant by, I won’t stand in the way of the meeting? You may disagree, but not be willing to stand in the way of group consensus. In consensus there is movement and most times movement is better than prolonged inaction and deadlock. In movement there is learning and the opportunity for correction based on that learning. Sometimes you have to launch when you are 80% ready and learn as you do. 

It has been many years since those days, but the lesson on consensus and being able to disagree, but not stand in the way of the meeting have stayed with me. In the years since I have retired and moved on to working at a nonprofit focused on intergenerational poverty. The work requires building a consensus across a wide range of organizations, individuals, and stakeholders all of different backgrounds, races and genders. Often with such diversity we are asked to think and act inclusively. Indeed, we now know it is best practice.

What does it mean to be inclusive? My standard answer was a seat at the table. Reflecting on my Quaker exposure and learnings from my latest work, I know now it is more than just a seat. It is also an equal voice at the table, it is active listening, and a willingness to respect consensus when it forms and not stand in the way of the meeting on many issues. Movement creates change and you need to be willing to launch and learn as you go and tune all along the way with experience, data, and results. By definition inclusion at the table should build a better solution, and consensus as a process builds buy in and ownership of the process.

I have also learned that the old African express rings true here. “To go fast, go alone, to go far, go together”. We know that we are stronger together, not just in a political frame, but in the process of building programs and creating a movement to drive change. No one individual is that smart, but a group of talented diverse individuals, all with a seat at the table, all with an active voice, all active listeners, and all willing to respect consensus and not stand in the way of the meeting, is indeed stronger together. It takes trust to launch a project at 80% and tune it as you go. It is also in my experience the best way to drive action and change. It also requires you to have each other’s back and to have the courage to try and fail in order to try and succeed. It also requires you to be honest in keeping score and accountable to the data and the results. You either drive impact or you don’t.

We are strong together. We are stronger when we build from an inclusive framework made up of all of our stakeholders. Sometimes leadership is best defined by listening and building consensus.

It takes courage not to stand in the way of the meeting.

Movements take courage.

Trust the process.


Categories: Muddy Boots, Leadership, Griffith Thoughts

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