If you have flown for work, you might have noticed that sensation of being “nowhere.”

For the suspended time after you settle into your seat, you no longer have a sense of place.

You barely notice your surroundings and, frankly, your sense of “purpose” dwindles down to how you will pass the next few hours, where you will store your stuff so you can reach it without contorting into a pretzel, and how to avoid conversation with the person next to you. Later, you can probably recall very little about the experience.

On a rainy and turbulent flight in a small plane in Costa Rica I noticed my experience was quite different. Because I was in unfamiliar territory, I paid a lot more attention to why I was there and who was around me. Even before takeoff I was keenly aware of my family, their excitement and trepidation. I assessed my fellow passengers – would they be helpful in an emergency landing? I paid very close attention to the pilots and gratefully noted their calm and reassuring sense of humor. 

For some reason I started thinking about the meetings we attend that are like the predictable flights – we move into autopilot (so to speak).

We settle into the meeting like we settle onto a flight, planning how we can make the time pass. It all looks so familiar that we feel no need to interrogate why we are there.

What if we took a moment to really name why we are here, who is in the room, who is not in the room, what role we each serve – basically, why this moment in time has meaning.  

According to Priya Parker, “The single biggest mistake we make when we gather is we skip defining the purpose. We assume that the purpose is obvious and shared.”  

We are starting to spend more time ensuring groups have a clear understanding of the purpose of their gathering. People may have different ideas of what they hope for – which is fine – it is certainly possible to have multiple outcomes. But clearly articulating this at the outset is critical.

Taking the time to settle ourselves in the broader context, even as we recognize we have different roles and desires, we will be better prepared for takeoff.


creating context, meetings, purpose

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