#howto: Breakfast sessions

How to // posted 23-04-2020

Continuing on the same train of thought as ‘Who are you without your business card’, here’s another fun and useful way to break the ice when working with groups or teams: Breakfast sessions. It’s one of our fundamental methodologies we use with clients and partners. These early morning moments encourage groups to connect, reflect, and share. Find out why it's important to connect on a deeper level by reading an earlier article I wrote, it highlights that according to a growing body of research, warmth is seen as the conduit of influence: it facilitates trust, and the communication and absorption of ideas. 

Ride that wave
The challenges that we help organisations overcome are oftentimes complex, multilayered, and take individuals out of their comfort zone. To make sure that everyone has skin in the game, is motivated, and can help design creative solutions to abstract problems, it’s good to first meet on a personal level. To see where everyone’s head is at, to understand the struggles they might be facing, but to also share the elements that give them energy. So, we can ride that wave. 

Considering our lockdown situation, we’ve started holding the metaphysical equivalent of these breakfast sessions with previous journey go'ers. To check-in with them, find out where they’re struggling, what’s going well, and where they could use a helping hand.

Below you’ll find a description of my experience during breakfast sessions and later the practical approach. Give it a go yourself, you’ll be amazed by the answers that arise. Finding it hard to get started? Just drop us a message.

Salmaan's experience
As the sun rises, we awaken from our slumber. We taste the freshness in the air. The world around us starts to move slowly as we too get ready for the day. Time to take a seat at the breakfast table. A silence lingers as groups gather. A moment to observe how different we are. Just look at what you’re having for breakfast.   

Chatter begins. We tuck into our food to stop our tummies from rumbling. Sharing familiarities, joking about the different sounds we heard in the morning or chatting about the fun games we played the night before. We take a moment to pause, and we know the facilitator is going to ask the all too familiar question: Who wants to start?

The night before, everyone was asked to reflect on their experiences so far and write it down in their journal. Someone starts reading. We all listen intently. We hear what they’ve gone through; how it has impacted them. What moved them. What made them see and think differently. As we listen, they continue. Sometimes there’s laughter, sometimes tears. There’s just one rule here: Never interrupt, always allow the person to finish. A silence falls. We let it sink in.

We ask questions. We explore. Try to understand better. We support and empathise. The questions show the group’s profound wish to help. Vulnerability is the passage to personal growth. This is the moment we use one person's journal as the doorway to this passage. Asking questions comes with sensitivity and finesse. By letting go of ego and judgement, we can simply let each person be. Whilst encouraging the rest to connect to the story.

One by one, we all share. There’s a mix of emotions. Getting to know each other better in this way gives space to be more frank and open. It means we can be blatantly honest, and completely ruthless with our self-deprecating jokes. As the last bites are taken, and the last words are spoken, we all look around and thank each other. What a way to start the day.

Putting it into practice: Here are five main steps to keep in mind
Step 1: Journaling
Ask each person in your group or team to reflect on the day or journey so far and to write it down in their journal. A minimum of one page. You can pose a specific question, but simply asking what made the biggest impression on them and why is also enough.

Step 2: Location and starting
Collectively choose a date and time. Schedule an online meeting when everyone is due to have breakfast or choose a place to meet. Find a secluded place to sit, where you won’t be distracted. Don’t forget to bring your journal and breakfast with you. Give yourselves about 10 minutes to get the niceties out of the way. Then simply ask: Who wants to start?

Step 3: The sharing and the questions
Create a space where people feel they can share. When someone’s telling their story, the rest must listen. Interruptions or disturbances should be dealt with in the moment. Questions can be posed at the end. To avoid steering the conversation in a different direction.

As soon as someone is finished, acknowledge their courage. Then open up space for others to ask questions. As a facilitator, it’s essential to play an active part. To clarify when needed. Closed questions give little room for someone to answer, while more open ones help someone explore.

Step 4. Closing off one sharing and starting a new one
Once you have the feeling that each person has asked their questions, just double check. Does anyone else want to ask or say anything? If everything has been asked and said, you can move on: Who wants to go next? Continue until everyone has had their turn.

Step 5: Wrapping up the Breakfast session
Check one last time if anyone wants to add anything else. If not, wrap the session up and thank everyone. Let them know how much courage it takes to share and ask questions. Incredible to see how engaged everyone was. These sessions guide us in the right direction as we all seek our personal purpose.

Now, good luck and enjoy your breakfast! If you do give this a go, we’d love to hear about your experiences. Please share your stories by sending an email to: intouch@better-future.com and add ‘Breakfast session’ to the subject box.

Words by Salmaan Sana

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