Folks, we made it, two years later in Dubai and the first LeadIN cohort is on it's way.
One of the participants, had found my creative bunch card, the one featured on Instagram. We'd made it way back when I first got here. For the field that asks "I'm working on" I'd stated that I was establishing a gym for leadership. Unbeknownst to the LeadIN participant, I was referring to LeadIN, they were excited that my card stated something that resonated with their mission.
I found it ironic, that two years on from when I'd posted that card, this person had already applied to LeadIN, and then found my card. I'm aware that I'm not clearly communicating this bit of serendipity.
Suffice to say, the kick-off went well. Some of the people were aware of each other, some were bunchies, some knew they were bunchies, others didn't. Some were new, but by the end of the experience, they were all a part of the new cohort.
I think they need a name, maybe I'll ask them half way through the cohort what name they'd like to use to refer to themselves. I've found that bunchie as a moniker caught on for people, I'd like to see if something similar could evolve from this cohort.
I also felt strongly the challenge of organizing a cohort single-handed. I had a hard go of it trying to facilitate, and imparting aspects of the experience to look forward to.
Let talk about what worked well.
I used the tried and tested method of connect cards, however, I kept people outside of the space we were using, instructed them to come half an hour early, then let them roam around, grabbing drinks, coffee, etc, and instructed them to come in at 6.30. Having an open space that allowed for this was helpful, they were able to relax, take a minute while I setup the room.
When they entered the room, they saw two boxes, a small one for those who were paying the commitment fee in cash, and a bigger box to put all their electronics in. I let them know that they've got until 6.30 before the box is closed with their electronics remaining inside for the remainder of our time together. Immediately, there was a flurry of thumbs swiping at screens, hurriedly completing whatever emails they needed to complete, and when the minute struck 6.30 all were quiet.
I asked people to pair up and handed out the connect cards, the space had cushioned seating and sofas and was comfortable, which added to the atmosphere. As pairs of people entered I invited them to deposit their electronics, handed them a connect card, and kept rotating cards until the 10 participants were all inside.
I then invited them all into a circle, reduced the lights, had them engage in a breathing and meditation exercise for 5 minutes, to shed the weight of the world and to center themselves in this space we were in. I then led them out of the room (electronics stayed behind), into the outdoors to get some fresh air, away from the lights and under the sky, I had them introduce one other person, with the interesting fact they appreciated the most.
With names and connecting moments aside, the next prompt, was to take a minute and think through what change they'd like to see in themselves and in the world. I let them know that the answer doesn't need to be final, they'll be iterating on it. I led them on a 10 minute walk, through which I would stop every 2 mins and request they switch with someone. In that manner they got to iterate their intention for change, and hear another persons' aspirational change.
I led them back to the space, still in a circle, I asked them the next question, which was their intention for LeadIN. I encouraged them to support each other, and one participant became the "You can do it!" voice. I tried my best to hear what they had to say, acknowledge it by phrasing it in the words I understood and invited others to reflect briefly or support the individual. I could have done better in encouraging them to create their own ritual here, something to explore for next time, because moments like these are where group cohesiveness could start to take root and form identity.
Meanwhile, I ran out of the space, and tried to find the food delivery, ran back to the space to find them finishing their sharing round. So I directed them to the guiding principles and I asked what they noticed after reading it. I reaffirmed what I heard by saying that I witnessed them actively behave in ways that brought those principles to life.
I was proud of the above interactions I created, where the experience could have been stronger was in talking about LeadIN. I spoke fast, really fast, the energy was spent, the food was late, I rushed through it, emphasized that they'll experience it over the coming weeks, that the hardest part for me was bringing them together, but like they'd acknowledged, what they put in is what they'll get out of it. I reiterated that they'll have access to everything, and are encouraged to connect with anyone in the cohort. I'd shared the farmer's market meetups and the multi buddy systems that often occur. That this experience is for them to craft, that my only ask is to not talk about work, I was a bit mental about that point, and kept interjecting into conversations I felt were heading in the work direction.
Were people excited, yes, were they hungry yes, one thing that worked really well, was that I crowded them into a small space when it was time to eat. It was so small I couldn't get in, the 10 fit perfectly into the space. I left them be for awhile to chat with their buddies and each other.
I've sent out the notifications, the calendar invites, and now I'll wait for people to show up next week.
Surprisingly, the whatsapp group is super quiet. We'll see what happens. Though it's a good start, knowing what I know about the region, I'm not sure how much individual follow up I'll need to do. Nor do I think I should create an expectation, for constant follow up. I'll need to strike a balance of sorts, hopefully my patience extends to believing people will be self motivating.