How Do You Balance Leading With Intention and Listening To The Room?

by Reid on October 8, 2017

A group of business people are in a meeting in an office. TheySetting intentions is powerful, but how can you do it while leaving space for the audience’s needs and direction?

With Reid Mihalko from and Cathy Vartuli from

Reid: Yeah. 

Cathy: Talking about today about needing from intention versus expectation. How to listen to the room and hold space for it. 

Reid: That sounds like a facilitator question. Oh, my goodness! That’s why I wear my Sex Geek Summer Camp, because we’re talking about business.

This is Cathy Vartuli from The Intimacy Dojo. 

Cathy: This is Reid Mihalko from and 

Reid: I am not over caffeinated. 

Cathy: No, not at all.

One of the things I loved about watching Reid read rooms, especially one that really inspires me, and something that I’m trying to foster more myself, is the sense that when he walks in the room, the space is haut and he’s going in a specific direction. 

Reid: Okay. That’s why I make fun of myself, but it’s not adding anything to the video so I’m going to stop. 

Cathy: Oh, really? You’d be silent if you didn’t pick on yourself sometime.

There’s a sense people can feel safe because he’s in charge, he’s going where things are going, and he has a direction. I’ve been trying to incorporate that because I tend to be a collaborator, I tend to be softer, and want to draw people in.

When someone’s learning something new and scary, that’s not always the best way to do it. If they’re new and scared, they want someone to say, “I’ve got this space, I’m going to lead you.” How do you balance that, “I’ve got this. I’m leading,” and listening to the room and hearing what they need to collaborate and flow things together. 

Reid: If I’m… from understanding your question, there’s a couple of different answers based on one: what kind of event or situation are you leading. If I’m the bus driver and I know we’re going to Chicago, I know the route we’re taking, and as long as I deliver you to Chicago, we’re fine. 

Cathy: You’re listening to when we need to stop for food and- 

Reid: Yeah, and there’s another way for other kinds of events. We’re going on a journey and we don’t know where we’ll end up, and so you can be in charge, but what’s showing up in the room is how you’re leading. You’re not trying to get to Chicago, we’re just going to go on a drive. 

Cathy: And part of that depends on people. How do you decide when you’re driving to Chicago and when you’re just going for a Sunday drive? 

Reid: The way that I do it is what’s the intention of the event, and what kind of design. There’s lots of other different kinds of designs for containers or for events, which will influence how you’re showing up to facilitate. The way that I do it is, what am I trying to accomplish? The next question is, what’s the best way to accomplish that for my audience? The third question is, what it is the top three best ways to accomplish that? Which one makes me happiest?

I don’t recommend that you design workshops-

Cathy: That you hate running.

Reid: … that you hate running. If there’s a particular design that delivers the content the best and you hate that design, call me and I’ll coach you through that, because it’s tricky because you’re like, “Well, if I do it this way, it actually helps people more but I hate it,” versus, “If I do it this way, I love doing it, but it’s 50/50 whether it helps people.” Now you’re in this really interesting dilemma about, “Well, what am I actually trying to do? Am I running this event for me or am I actually trying to help people?”

Again, ideally, you find a way that helps people, makes you happy, and then you’re always coming back to intention and when you lose the intention, even if the intention is that we don’t know where we’re going. If you don’t have an intention then usually what happens is people fall into facilitating from expectation and that “We must take this route,” and that’s bad facilitation because then you get upset that the room’s not behaving the way that you want it to, and hello, they’re human beings, and you can’t calibrate for every response that’s goings to happen, or who’s in the room always.

I know we need to end up in Chicago, so if the major highway to Chicago is under repair, there’s another way to get to Chicago- 

Cathy: Versus if you were expecting to go that one way and you don’t have any… 

Reid: Yeah, and then you get all angry that, “That highway must be that highway!” Then, what your audience is seeing is there like, “You’re losing your shit,” and then they feel like they don’t feel safe. Whole video just on “safe space” and “Are you ever truly, really safe?” I hope you know what I mean.

Again, leading from intention, what are you trying to accomplish, rather than expectation. Intention allows for a number of different ways to show up or different ways to achieve and fulfill on the intention for those people who, if you’ve ever studied Landmark, or there’s a lot of other organizations that work with intention settings. The way that Landmark talks about it is it doesn’t make other outcomes wrong, whereas expectations create a lot of upset because it’s not going the way you thought it was going to go.

If you’re going to lead events and work with human beings, or children who are also human beings, teenagers, we don’t know if they’re human beings. Please start to get better at working from intention. You’ll be happier and your attendees and fans and followers and clients will be happier and feel better. 

Cathy: Sometimes the detours are the most powerful things. Anyone that was first leading group calls, I was really nervous and I had a lot of exceptions of how I wanted it to go. If someone would go off on this tangent, I’m like, “Oh, dear lord,” and I could certainly bring it back to the main topic. I realized that often if I went deep with hook that person, I was actually serving really well even though it didn’t match what I had this picture of. 

Reid: The irony is if you’re working in the intimacy and sex and relationships field and you’re helping people get better with their relationships, expectations are what’s making a lot of people upset and decreasing the appreciation, connection intimacy, and joy in their relationships.

Again, in like a meta way, you as a facilitator and as a teacher getting better at catching and noticing for yourself when you’re in expectation mode rather than intention. When you’re coming from intention, then surprises are gifts. When you lead from expectation, surprises are a pain in the ass. And you know what? Even when you’re leading from intention, surprises can still be pains in the ass. They’re also gifts. Welcome to being human folks! 

Cathy: We hope this helps. Please leave comments below and we’d love to know what you’re questions are around this and any suggestions or thoughts you have. 

Reid: Bye!

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