Published monthly by Sharon Eakes, Hope Unlimited, LLC
************************************************************* FOCUS: Solving Circles
Disciplines: Systems Thinking, Team Learning, Personal Mastery

"As long as you can stay in the solving circle
and accept that you can control only your own
behavior, you can negotiate almost anything."
William Glasser, M.D.

Kirk, an effective leader and sometimes-maverick friend of mine, reflects that two insights provide the foundation for his success:
1. "I have no control over others - I can only control my own behavior (with considerable effort) and influence others (sometimes)."
2. "Taking the system view, the big picture, a holistic perspective, is the single most effective tool I have to use. The system view separates what is important from what is a nuisance, allowing me to focus my time and effort on those things that will make a difference."

Kirk notes that he's understood both of these ideas intellectually for a long time. The important change is that now he acts on them consistently. (I suspect the heart of wisdom is acting on what we understand.)

Taking Kirk's insights a step further, William Glasser combines them into a powerful model for conflict resolution he calls the "solving circle." Using a marital problem as the example, he suggests the partners draw a circle on the floor and sit inside the circle. This is the "solving circle." Inside the circle, there are two individuals (who can't control each other) and the system (the marriage.) The salient question inside the circle is always, "What are you each willing to give (not take) that will help the system (marriage)?" The partners understand that when they make a choice in favor of the marriage, it may not necessarily be the choice either of them would make for himself or herself if they were not married.

The solving circle is a useful model in any arena - at work, when departments or co-workers collide, in the world at large, when nations are at odds. Learning to use these insights together has the potential to save systems as important as the whole earth.

COACHING TIPS - To cultivate these tools:
1. Practice seeing systems - become aware of all the systems you are part of and those that operate around you. Read Seeing Systems by Barry Oshry.
2. Notice that you can't control anyone (not even a small child). When this becomes very clear to you, it is easier to stop trying.
3. Use solving circles in your life. Learn more about them by reading Choice Theory by William Glasser.


Please join me in a telegathering Friday, March 22, at 12:00 noon EDT (11 a.m. CDT, 10 a.m. MT, 9 a.m. PDT) to explore in more depth how we can't control others, the systems view changes everything, and the power of solving circles. (702) 558-4398 No need to register...just call at noon!

Reach me: 1-888-769-3494 or e-mail

Each month FRESH VIEWS focuses on a single topic, relates it to one of the five disciplines of a learning community, and offers a coaching tip and a follow-up telegathering. Please forward it to friends and colleagues. My purpose in writing FRESH VIEWS is to nurture, prod and encourage readers to think and talk about these topics with their families, friends and colleagues. Mine is only one view. Multiple conversations may deliver us to insights only hinted at here. Such a process sustains the vitality of learning relationships, learning families, learning organizations and learning communities.

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