Listening Circles

Listening Circles

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Listening Circles open up space to learn together about inclusion, diversity and equality.

Since December last year, EMCC UK has hosted 12 Listening Circles, opening up a conversation among our members about diversity and inclusion. The circles were set up with the aim of developing resources, education and individual support, for example, succession planning, grievance procedures and constructive ways of calling out non-inclusive behaviours.

This is thanks to one of our guiding principles at EMCC UK: to be a modern, culturally aware and inclusive professional body. Yolanda Collinson (above), who took part in the Listening Circles, shares her experience of being part of this process.

"Before working as an executive coach, I sat on the SLT at a successful manufacturing and engineering company. As the organisation doubled in size, I introduced coaching to middle management so that their growth and development could keep pace with the growth of the company.

The value of coaching was very apparent and highlighted the needs of leaders over and above their job description, myself included. Now I help those who find themselves where I was, wanting to do more and wanting to do better. The one topic that is mentioned vastly more than anything from the leaders I coach is creating a culture at work where everyone feels heard, valued and included. My next step to helping them is to start with me.

I didn't know what to expect when I joined the EMCC's Listening Circle series. I just knew that the bigger picture question evoked a sense of curiosity in me that was felt both professionally and personally: How do we, as members of this UK professional body, actively learn, model and practise being more inclusive from today onwards?

It turns out that leaving the expectations at the door was the right thing to do, and I'm reminded of a quote from Harvard historian and physiologist Claude Bernard who said, 'It is what we know already that often prevents us from learning'. Could this be true within the learning space of inclusion, diversity and equality?

Each Listening Circle allowed me to connect with people I may not ordinarily have crossed paths with. Our varied experiences added to a learning experience that was not like other EMCC events that I have attended. Yes, there was learning from our diverse thoughts, experiences and outlooks, but there was also an edge, an edge that we as coaches may feel a little uncomfortable with.

Upon reflection, this was where the penny dropped for me. We work in high support and high challenge relationships with our clients every day, and I have witnessed real breakthroughs that follow discomfort. Is it such a surprise that I, too, would have the same human experience?

The initial series of Listening Circles is just the start. Those of us who have been involved have seen the real value of their rich insight and scope for further learning. A working group has been created, but we have a long way to go. A Miro board has also been created to record the outputs from our discussions. Here are the four main considerations:

1. To highlight our current challenges as a member organisation
2. To understand the implications for supervisors, mentors and coaches
3. To explore impact-measuring
4. To generate ideas for our next steps

To be truly inclusive, an obvious next step is to continue the conversation with our members in all EMCC networks across the UK. We invite you to pilot your own regional Listening Circles, have the conversation, let everyone be heard, record the findings and make the most of the spaces that we already hold for each other in our network meetings."

We at the EMCC D&I Working Group are keen to know more about your learning. So do get in touch to let us know how things are going.

If you would like to do more, we have spaces in the Working Group for you to join as a volunteer to make your own contribution. For more information please contact: Rachael Hanley-Browne, Paul Crick or Yolanda Collinson.