„Hosting Change“: Workshop Harvest (in English)

At the 3rd Host Leadership Gathering in Munich (27-29 June 2019), I held a workshop titled „Hosting Change, or: How to treat Change like a guest?“ (in English, hence this report is in English, too). There is a story behind that.

The Host metaphor, to me, is very powerful once it gets adopted by people trying to have conversations that matter, to be productive together, to create results together. In fact, I find it so powerful that anything placed beside it feels like an unsolicited add-on, trying to steal the shine of the relationship between hosts and guests. Which makes me feel quite uncomfortable when a common-or-garden suffix like „leadership“ is appended.

How „Hosting Change“ became a thing

In my work with teams and the people called their „leaders“, as well as one-on-one with executives, I often found that the L-word was getting in the way of collaboration towards results. Similar to the ever-changing ideal of beauty that is combined with body shaming to sell cosmetics, there seems to be a role shaming, a constant background whispering „You’re not a great leader“, „What you’re doing doesn’t look like great leadership“, „Here’s what you need to read, and buy, and attend to become better at leading others.“ Quite distracting, especially since 21st-century teams are used to talk with each other at eye level, in a circle, looking at each other, to accomplish something; and not so to plodding along, as followers, staring at somebody’s back who is trying to „lead“ them – and to motivate them to „take the lead“, too.

That archetype is outdated, hence the myriad of efforts to re-interpret the L-word, to make the mismatch between what is needed, and what the plodding image keeps suggesting, less annoying. Now, being dissatisfied with – and wanting to get rid of – something is one thing. Trying to pin down what we want instead is another.

Enter my good old friend Solution Focus and one giant upon whose shoulders it is standing, Gregory Bateson:

„Change is happening all the time. Our role is to identify useful change and amplify it“
– Gregory Bateson

Usually, Change does not get treated like a person, but rather like an idea: there are more people specializing in selling their ideas of what is important and urgent, trying to convince others – than specializing in spotting useful changes that are already happening, trying to amplify them. Every Change that exists (Mr or Ms, who cares) has their story, though: somebody tried to achieve something, amend something, make a best hope a reality. If we treat every Change as merely an idea, changes become a bunch of options to choose from. It’s not like that. Thoughtlessly discarding a Change that is already happening, in order to replace it by our own ideas, can feel like the modus operandi of a cuckoo to others: To the parents of a Change that already exists, it looks like we’re throwing their child out of the nest, and expect them to direct their parental love towards our own brain child now, as if nothing had happened.

So, in my work, I started to observe people more closely who were great in identifying positive, existing change; and in amplifying it. I noticed they were treating Change that had been initiated by others with a lot of respect. Then it clicked: Almost like such a Change was a person. It’s important to not only treat others with respect, but to take the concept of a brain child quite literally. Change is a guest, too.

What this workshop is made of

Over the course of time, I collected many conversation prompts that emerged while discussing this concept, and what it could result in, in the workplace. The workshop on Hosting Change described here is a collection of these prompts, and a setup that allows for 90 minutes of conversations about them. The harvest presented here is an example what friends of the Host metaphor made out of it, at the 3rd Host Leadership Gathering in Munich (27-29 June 2019). You can

My best hope is that it is at least inspiring, and maybe also useful for your own work. Enjoy!

Basket of damsons, by Annie Spratt