Leadership – Being alone with our thoughts

“tout le malheur des hommes vient de ne savoir pas se tenir en repos dans une chambre”

“All of humanity’s misfortunes stem from man’s inability to stay at rest in a room”

From Pensées by Blaise Pascal, written in the 1600s


A search on this “My Writing” page currently returns twenty articles referencing the  keyword “silence”.

If you’d like a quiet hour or two to muse eclectically on this theme, I offer you the search here.

I keep coming back to silence as a theme, so why is that ?

First, my experience tells me that silence is one of the simplest tools a leader has, yet so often ignored for many reasons, not least the need to be seen to be busy (a search on busy yields even more results !).

Why else, though? Well, I struggle with silence myself, not only with sitting still in a room (as Pascal puts it) but also being silent and continuing to listen rather than speaking out to give my opinion.

Despite years and years of training and practice as a coach, I am yet to master the art of Stephen Covey’s fifth habit, that of listening with the intent to understand, not to reply.

My guide and coach, Ed Percival, said: BE MORE YOU.

He also strongly guided me to “never dim your light!”, so I know sometimes my best way to be of service to others is to speak my thoughts, to bring my energy, not to dim my light and sit quietly.

Why come back to this today, then?

Well, last week, serendipity had me attend a powerful day called a “Facilitation Shindig“, hosted by Julie Drybrough of Fuschia Blue.

On the facilitation shindig page, Julie puts it as:

“A gathering space for Practitioners who facilitate team and group conversations to expand and improve their practice. This is a celebration of the art and the craft of facilitation through discussion, storytelling, experimenting and action.

It’s about taking time to deepen and improve face-to-face practice for facilitators.
It’s about taking time to “rattle the foundations” of your current practice.”

Julie is masterful, powerful, generous and kind. She created a wonderous container for practitioners to indeed rattle their foundations, to bravely take a close look at themselves, to go further than they’d ever ask their clients to go, as they realised that only by so doing can they deepen their art.

The day built to an amazingly powerful exercise where each person at a time stood and stepped in and out demarcated spaces in the room and talked through their experience. All the while the other participants stood in silent presence, only occasionally asking questions or adding thoughts while the person in the focus had their individual experience.

The space created for silence and, to use the Pascal metaphor, for staying at rest in the room despite the discomfort (Pascal also wrote often about the power of suffering).

The “rattling of foundations” was profound for me, as I witnessed it was for every other participant. Masterfully powerful and was still processing energetically for some time afterwards. Thanks again to Julie Drybrough for her mastery, bravery and care.

The point of this story? Well, if most of humanity’s miseries and misfortunes stem from our inability to sit at rest and be with ourselves, I hope my own example of the power of choosing to sit still and rattle my foundations so as to grow and develop can lead some readers to consider where they focus on being “busy” out of fear, inability to sit with themselves. Perhaps a few may choose to do what they need in order to, in fact, sit in that empty room.

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