We believe that our intentional use of circle process as our model of governance has made us healthier individuals, stronger colleagues and has enhanced our work with patients.
What Is Circle Process?
At True North, circle process is a model of governance based on a combination of the ideas presented by Christina Baldwin in her book, Calling The Circle, the teachings of Paula Underwood, and guidelines on Relationship Centered Care by the Fetzer Institute.
True North is also proud to be featured in The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair, a new book by Christina Baldwin & Ann Linnea. The authors highlight True North in "Chapter 11: Organizational Experiments in Circle Governance" in "Part IV: Circle as Paradigm Shift."
How Does Circle Process work?
Circle process informs our conduct in meetings and also our organizational chart.
Principle Ideas of Circle Process
As we conduct the business of True North, we are guided by the following principles:
· Speak from the heart, listen from the heart
· All voices are important to be heard
· What is said in the circle remains in the circle
· Practice compassionate self-monitoring
Compassionate self-monitoring means being considerate of the impact of our thoughts, words, and actions before, during and after we interact. Because circle process is a practice of discernment, not judgment, we use this with ourselves and others. Here we also remain conscious of the dynamics of co-opting and passivity and address them so that every voice is heard.
The above tenets yield increasing authenticity from each individual as the comfort and trust level in the circle increases. Creating a safe container is critical to this work.
The rest of the work involves:
- Rotating Leadership - Here we level the playing field. All titles, experiences and gifts are as important as another’s. Leadership shifts according to the needs of the circle. We continually find that the resources to accomplish our goals exist within the group.
- Shared Responsibility - Each person asks for what s/he needs and offers what s/he can.
It is based on the trust that someone will come forward to provide what the circle needs.
- Reliance on Spirit in the Sacred Center - We created a sacred center with objects that were meaningful to members of the group. Through simple ritual and consistent re-focusing, the center, literally and figuratively, becomes a sacred space, and reminds us of the need for spiritual guidance.
- Consensus Decision Making - Voting by consensus, which doesn’t always mean unanimous, where it is important to hear all the points of view and vote when everyone present is able to agree on the action. Thumbs up or down for agree or disagree. Thumbs sideways for an undecided vote or needing more information to consider. Covenants, agreements, decisions must be revised as goals of the group and the group itself change.
Whenever we meet, we breathe together 4 times at the start of the meeting as a way to prepare ourselves to be fully present to the work at hand. Each breath is connected to an action - i.e., letting go of what has come before the meeting, becoming fully present in the room, inviting in what’s next, and stepping into action. We then facilitate a brief check in with each individual present and move to the business at hand.
In a typical organizational chart, the lines of responsibility and hierarchy are established. Using circle process, our “organizational chart” looks different. In True North’s “organizational chart,” we start from the notion that we are responsible to each other rather than to one person (e.g., a direct supervisor). Starting here, as a group we “charge” individuals or smaller groups to carry on the work of the organization in specific ways. When there are conflicts or questions about authority, we reflect back to the charges and if necessary, take the issue back to the larger group for feedback.
What is the Value of Circle Process?
We feel that circle process is healing our multidisciplinary wounds and that it is the container for the momentum of our strong and fearless group to nurture a professional experience that is beyond our wildest dreams (and keeps getting better). The continuous work of the circle has provided us with the most functional place we have ever worked, where we have fun and take risks because of the trust we have in each other and in spirit.
For more information on True North’s use of circle process, contact us at 207-781-4488.