Running a HeartSpeak Circle

 Transforming Team Building With HeartSpeak Circles / Councils

Speak what will serve yourself, the circle, the highest good

In our REAL LEADERSHIFT and Appreciative inquiry Team Building we incorporate a variety of tools, models and frameworks to facilitate and enable team members to connect, communication and create a better way forward.. Here is a simple framework for our HeartSpeak Talking  circle / Way of the Council process.


‘com’ from the Latin word ‘communis’ meaning common  – ‘unity’ – ‘unis’ meaning one or oneness

“Compassion arises naturally when we listen with respect and when we express ourselves with an open heart.

Wisdom flows from the wholeness of the circle and … listening to the voice of council teaches us that the circle’s knowledge is greater than the totality of its members’ individual knowing.  Jack Zimmerman and Virginia Coyle, The Way of Council.


HeartSpeak / Council Elements


*  Make the physical space beautiful, harmonious, and inviting before council begins.
*  Honor the center of the circle with symbols and objects meaningful to the group.
*  Arrange seating in a circle (unless absolutely impossible).
*  Assure that the emotional space is open, safe, and nurturing.
*  Assure that there will be no interruptions, including telephones, pagers, cell phones, etc.
*  Avoid conference tables, desks, or other furniture in the middle that might serve as a barrier, hiding place, or crutch.
*  Mark the special quality of the process (by offering an intention, dedication; inviting the group’s commitment; adding flowers to the center; pouring water in a vessel or using stones in a bowl).

*  Honor the transition from the “real world” and “business as usual” into council, perhaps with a moment of silence or centering, singing a song, or asking “Are we ready to go into council?”
*  Invite any clearings that people may need to do in order to be fully present.
*  Consider a check-in or brief open council to bring people together and open the space for deeper issues to surface.

*  An object chosen to symbolize the visions and intentions of the group.
*  Focuses the attention of circle participants.
*  Signals a clear beginning and ending to each person’s sharing.
*  Assures that each speaker has full time to complete his/her communication
*  Creates a pause or “beat” between speakers, during which the group can digest what has just been said.
*  Identifies the next speaker.
*  Can be held in silence or just passed on.
*  Represents, when at rest in the center of the circle, the ever-present potential for invoking council and heartful communication.
ROLE OF THE FACILITATOR  (from facilitare, meaning “to make easy”)
*  To safeguard the integrity of the process.
*  To safeguard the “container.”
*  To establish and clarify the ground rules before beginning council.
*  To “read” the “interactive field” and encourage the flow of group energy.
*  To deflect any transference away from leaders and return it back to circle.
*  To assist the circle in clarifying its needs regarding goals and logistics, especially including confidentiality, time frames, breaks, ending, etc.
*  When necessary, to invite or input any “voice” or perspective that may be missing.
*  When in doubt as to what to do next, to ask the group.
*  Whenever possible, paired co-facilitators (ideally of both genders) work best.

*  To “hold the heart” of the group (its highest intention) foremost in awareness during the session.
*  To maintain a relatively unbiased perspective or eagle’s-eye-view of what the group is engaged in.
*  To observe and, when invited, to offer feedback on the group’s process and dynamics (as compared to content and subject matter).
*  The Witness usually remains silent throughout the council, sharing only at the end, after all participants have finished.
*  The Witness has the “last word,” an honor and a responsibility.

“TURNING INTO THE SKID”    *  When circumstances or a sudden eruption of suppressed issues, feelings, or problems takes over and derails the planned agenda, go with it.  Do not deny or pretend that this isn’t happening, which is often our instinctive response.  Instead, embrace the disruption and lead the group toward the learning or opportunity hiding within the chaos.

This is known as “turning into the skid”–paradoxically, the best way to avoid an accident when a vehicle seems to be skidding out of control.
*  Determine the group’s needs regarding closure (e.g. summary? next steps? decisions? expressions of gratitude? etc.).
*  Acknowledge where the circle is and where it isn’t–if things are left hanging or incomplete, acknowledge that; if a lot has been accomplished in council, celebrate!
*  Create an opportunity for everyone/anyone to offer a closing comment, perhaps one brief final round, or place the Talking Piece in the center for individuals to add an after-thought
*  Invite any Witnesses present to share at this time.
*  End with some formal or ceremonial gesture: a group thank you, a cheer, a moment of silence, a hand-holding pulse…whatever might be appropriate.

To participate in a REAL Team building session with HeartSpeak / council process contact Tony Dovale on 083-447-6300 – This will facilitate Conflict reduction, More effective change management and a closer knit teamworking and a better organizational Culture.