How to Start a 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership Book Group
Using the power of human connection to do deeper work
I was first introduced to the book 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership (by the way, I’m not an affiliate, so all proceeds go to them if you buy their book!) at 2018 after seeing Diana Chapman speak. A copy of this book was a conference gift. After hearing about a book group like this from my friend Devika who was a part of one, I created a book group with 2–3 friends to keep myself accountable to my journey. Being a part of one of these books groups transformed the way I show up, think, and feel.
“15CCL” was published in 2015 with 15 potent commitments for leaders to become more conscious/aware of their emotional states, approach with curiosity, take radical responsibility, and, well, about 12 more gut-punching lessons. As someone who, like many others, can intellectually appreciate topics but not apply them immediately in my life, I needed a book group to stay accountable, and work through each commitment DEEPLY, through peer coaching, thinking about the commitment myself, practicing the commitment daily, and supporting others through the commitment.
- Frequency/time: Choose the timing and frequency that works best for you and your group. 90 minutes every week works really well for our group. 90min every 2 weeks has worked well for others.
- Consider the number of people you want in the group: I recommend no more than 3–5 people. Our group started with 4, and 1 person left (we’re still good friends; the commitment simply wasn’t aligned anymore). With 3 people we were able to get more time per person to process, and had fewer moving pieces for scheduling. 90 minutes for 3 people is enough time for us to go deep, and not so much time that we zone out or can’t commit.
- What kind of container do you want to set? I wanted to create a container where the structure was loose and negotiable, but with relatively seasoned leaders who were also flexible. Perhaps you’d want more structure and have every session planned, or have a group that has more or less leadership experience. Everyone is going to be different on this one, and there’s a lot of value in creating a group even if you feel you don’t have any leadership experience yet.
- What’s the format? We use video conferencing for 90% of our meetings. It gives us very little excuses to be late, to go missing, or even “skip” if one of us was out of town. We use Zoom for video, but could have easily used Google Hangouts as well. The amount of tears and emotions and laughter shared from our computer screens was more than some of my in-person relationships! I was skeptical at first as well, but not being in person can still be VERY POWERFUL.
Choosing the group:
I began to think of people I knew who would be good fits for the group. Although you may want to have completely different criteria, I selected for the following:
- People who were in a similar learning trajectory, emotional awareness, and a strong level of commitment to do deep work consistently over several months.
- People who were willing to be vulnerable and lean into discomfort/challenge/courage.
- Each person had been a leader and a follower (or had facilitation experience); all 3 of them had started their own companies, although this wasn’t a requirement. And all 3 of them were receptive to receiving feedback and had a certain level of trust with me over the years (although they didn’t all know each other).
I approached each person individually (in person or over the phone), stating my desire to start this group, and let them know where I was in the process (how many other people have said yes, when we might start, how many hours the commitments would look like.) Several of the first people I asked said no; it was, after all it WAS a huge commitment (many have since asked if they could join months later, after seeing our transformations — more on this below).
The First Meeting:
- You (as the first facilitator) will set the container by welcoming/thanking the group, and share why you started it.
- Some connection game like, name + why you’re here, and an icebreaker to get authentic conversation flowing. Favorite examples include: “if you really knew me you’d know…” or “rose, thorn, bud” (sharing something that feels good, something that feels painful, and something exciting yet to come).
- Share personal leadership stories (~10min each + 5min questions).
- Decide on a number of commitments, communication, how we want sessions facilitated, and expectations (all of these sections are below).
- Each of us will take ~25% of the time as leaders.
- Each of us will assign tasks for the weeks we take leadership on.
- The leader of the week sends out the google calendar invite.
First meeting email example:
“Our next meeting is Tuesday 7pm PST via google hangouts you can reach via the google calendar invite, which I’ve sent out. I will be leading the next meeting.
Please come with the first 60 pages completed, with questions and ideas that really resonated with you written down so we can share with the group.
We’re starting with a 4-week commitment, and then will discuss how we’d like to adjust commitments.”
- We are switching from messenger to text! (Nick doesn’t check facebook)
- Kim — xxx-xxx-xxxx
- Brandon — xxx-xxx-xxxx
- Nick — xxx-xxx-xxxx
- We will use email for links/threads of thought so we can come back to it more easily than text (and send a text to the group if there’s someone you want us to check via email sooner)
See you all on Tuesday! Text ahead of time if you might be a few min late so we know where you are.
As the initiator of this book group, you want to have some guidelines written out, then get together for everyone to discuss and agree on a final set of guidelines. Guidelines will help keep the culture of the group.
On day 1 of our book group, 4 of us gathered into a small office conference room (we happened to be in the same city that week; we could have easily done this online) and set expectations/guidelines for our group:
- Be fully present
- Seek to understand
- Update expectations when we can (If we’re going to be missing/late etc…or if this group is no longer a priority for you)
Here are some things we’ve learned that have kept our group continually transformative and connected:
- Reps over content: We experimented with having each facilitator summarize the chapter in a lecture format and quickly realized this wasn’t productive; the precious time we had together was best spent digging into one person at a time. We called this “doing reps” like we do at the gym lifting weights.
- The worksheets at https://conscious.is/resources/handouts are what we spend most of our time on. We pick 1 relevant handout, then practice it 1 person at a time, facilitated/coached/supported by 1–2 group members.
- One example is the Integrity trigger list — we’d pick ONE thing on the list that was unseen/unfelt/undone, and felt all the feelings around that. This list was sometimes called the “oh fuck” list. We’d make all sorts of noises and tears, and hold space for each other.
- As our toolbox of exercises has built up over time, sometimes we combine activities to address a challenge that we might be facing in a given session (one recent example is a frustrating father/self dynamic over Thanksgiving break last week). Here’s what we might use for that example:
- Notice if above/below the line: (in this case, below).
- Take a look at the Drama Triangle Handout and identify where we’re at: (in this case, both victim AND villain)
- Select an appropriate “shift move.”
- Noticing stuck anger might bring us to the 6-step Practicing Emotional Intelligence worksheet to feel and move the emotion.
- The Work, allows for empathy, understanding, acceptance, and in this case, a really important conversation!
- Re-evaluate and repeat step 3 as necessary
- (Optional) Thank our practice partners and exclaim how difficult that session was and how important it is to keep doing the work!
- Call others in (everyone is accountable to everyone’s success): This is especially helpful if you begin by saying, “I trust you all and would like to be called in if you ever feel like something doesn’t feel complete for you. I would love for you to help me see my own blind spots.”
- Shared leadership: The practices in the book can be new and challenging. Setting the expectation that everyone is welcome to offer ideas or facilitate conversation makes it less stressful knowing that you can ask for help!
- Push each other out of the comfort zone with curiosity and kindness (make sure you establish trust in the first few weeks for this to become effective). You want everyone to be in the stretch zone, instead of the comfort zones or panic zones. This is the slight discomfort that allow us to grow, but not disengage, get bored, or run away. Examples of what we frequently say, ad hoc include:
- “Is that really true?”
- “What would it look like if you approached with more wonder/curiosity?”
- “Where do you feel like you be in the victim triangle?”
- “I have a story that what you just said is a judgement, are you open to exploring that?”
- Go back into older material when relevant: Even if we’re on the commitment “opposite of my story” if I’m showing up as below the line, my group would call me in and we’d pull out the victim/hero/villain worksheets again to review. In fact, doing the 100% Responsibility Sheet (Commitment 1) on a day slotted for Commitment 8 was one of our most powerful sessions to date!
- Have a set schedule, or schedule WHILE ON THE CALL. Asynchronous scheduling for busy people like us meant we went almost 2 weeks without a meeting one time because we decided one time to not “waste precious call time” scheduling.
Here are some interesting takeaways I did not expect before the group started:
- Some of the first people I’d approached to join this book group said no. It’s a huge commitment! Since then, 2 of the people I originally asked told me they were ready to commit, and asked if they could join it. Because of the integrity of the container already created, I had to decline someone joining in the middle, but offered to help set up more book groups for them (part of the reason why I’m writing this article)!
- There have been a LOT of tears! And challenge. And deep, deep work! The kind of depth I went to some of these calls with were perhaps witness only by past romantic partners; the way we care about each other and became attuned to everyone’s faces and bodies even over the internet became uncanny in the best of ways.
- We began to get more intuitive and more comfortable. Sometimes after one of my shares, Nick might say “that doesn’t feel complete but I need some help from both of you on why it doesn’t feel complete for me.”
- It’s the times we’re coming into the meeting BELOW the line that are the most effective sessions. When we’re sleep deprived, frazzled, heartbroken, having overeaten to numb our feelings, in conflict in our lives (or even with one another!) or home for Thanksgiving in stressful family situations.
- The relationships we have with family have greatly improved. I have gotten several texts from my group about how they approached a conversation with a parent that went extraordinarily well thanks to the call we just did the day before.
- The changes we’ve personally made in our lives have inspired friends to buy the book, read the book, and investigate their own relationships with others and themselves.
Other snippets into how our group is run differently now vs. a few months ago:
- We used to take meticulous meeting notes (1 scribe per meeting) and we have since stopped. Turns out, the best use of our time came from working in the present and we never read our meeting notes. We DID, however, begin to record our sessions on Zoom (this only works if you pay for zoom), or sometimes audio recorded when we were diving into a process.
- Our greeting instead of “rose thorn bud” or other connection games morphed to “how are you (feeling)?” Followed by the 6-step feeling-your-feelings worksheet, which we’ve all fully memorized.
- If you use Google Calendar to schedule virtual video meetings, put the Zoom video link in the “location” of Google Calendar, or you can simply click “add conferencing” when editing an event on Google Calendar and it will create a video conferencing “Hangouts” room to join. I can’t tell you how many times I had to scramble through old messages and emails to try to find the link at the last minute.
- Use your group for emotional support when you handle a situation well, or if you’re struggling! A simple “hey, does anyone have 5min to hold space for some stuck grief?” will do!
- If your group is bigger, maybe for 1 week, divide a group of 4 into 2 groups of 2 for accountability, and switch up the pairings the following week.
- Avoidance is a HUGE thing that comes up. It’s recommended to talk about your own avoidance tactics in the beginning and how you want to be supported through them. Even saying “can you ask me if I’m being avoidant?” can be a good first step.
In the future…
- I’d like to organize a retreat for others who have gone through this book format so we could spend a weekend/week together with those who’ve been working toward a common goal. Perhaps I’d even want to bring a few groups together so we can meet others who’ve gone through multi-month commitments.
- I’ll keep you posted, and if you’ve been through something like this for >6 months, please feel free to reach out to me via the facebook page I manage.
I need your help!
“15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership Book Group” or even “15CCLBG” is a LOT! For the first 3 months we called our group CoCoLe. Then we did a full on brainstorming whiteboarding session and thought about Co-Lead. Do you have better names for these book groups? Something short, snappy, and easy to say would be amazing!