Thursday, December 2, 2010

Standing in the Fire: Leading high-heat meetings with clarity, calm and courage

Standing in the Fired: Leading high-heat meetings with clarity, calm and courage
By Larry Dressler
Published by Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.

Ever been in a meeting where tempers flared, loud opinions were expressed and the original purpose of coming together seems forever abandoned? More importantly, have you ever tried to facilitate such a gathering? Well, if you are active in any church organization, I can almost guarantee you've been there are least once if not several times. I purchased Standing in the Fire because it seemed to address one of my greatest learning curves: how to facilitate a meeting in a non-anxious way.

My Impressions

Dressler does not show you how to get others under control. What he does is help you to understand and begin to practice how to get yourself under control. Keeping yourself cool in the midst of controversy and mayhem is essential for anyone who facilitates meetings.

Standing in the Fire intrigued me first by its title. My first thought was of Pentecost. This was when the Holy Spirit first came to the followers of Jesus after his Ascension and the church was literally born. How did they all keep their cool while an appearance like tongues of flame roared over their heads? Many observers thought they were drunk. Yet, Peter had the courage to stand up and proselytize, bringing many to believe in Christ. For me, this kind of cool-headedness in the midst of the flames really intrigues me.

Most meetings I attend or chair are usually not so full of the Holy Spirit. But the fire certainly is there! And I do tend to lose my own cool very easily. What could Dressler show me that would help?

What stands out most is that I need to know myself. What are my hot buttons? How can I read my own body language to know when I am on the verge of losing my own cool? What is my purpose - for being at the meeting and for life in general? What are the best ways for me to remain in the present moment and go with the flow, despite my apparent loss of control?

Dressler suggests several handy disciplines for me to practice on a daily basis until they become a natural response in any situation. And he encourages the reader to go ahead and notice one's own responses in conversations, casual gatherings and even standing in line at the grocery store. The best part is that Dressler never comes across as the expert who knows it all. He admits that he too is still a learner and that we are all on this journey together. His warnings that keeping your cool in high heat meetings is a journey not a destination are what I need to hear.

My Faith Impressions

As a pastor, I attend a lot of meetings. I have also been known to lose my cools in meetings, to get swept away in the passions of the moment and to come across as pretty authoritarian at times. What Dressler has made me realize is that I have been sabotaging some possibilities for what could happen with my own attempts to remain in control.

And there you have my own faith life in about one sentence. I am always trying to run the show when God really wants me to step back and let things unravel so that something new and wonderful will be born. This is quite painful to admit as I have spent most of my pastoral "career" trying to establish my authority as a clergywoman by seemingly being the one in control.

In addition, Dressler has some great thoughts on recovering when you have lost your cool or done something stupid in a meeting. What comes to mind in those instances is forgiveness. This is not as much about being forgiven as it is in forgiving yourself.

My Recommendation

I highly recommend this book, especially if you chair or facilitate any kind of meeting or group. And I would love to hear what insights you glean from your reading.

Happy Reading!


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