The following is a powerful excerpt from a blog post by Tony Schwartz, president and CEO of The Energy Project, at Harvard Business Review's blog network. It provides a great example of how what we would call "restorative circles," both proactive and responsive, can be used successfully to build social capital in a corporate business setting:
For two years now, we have been holding regular "community" meetings at our office to give team members an opportunity to check in about how they're doing, not just professionally but also personally. Each person answers several questions beginning with a deceptively simple one: "How are you feeling today?"* The rest of us simply listen.
It was only when we faced a sudden crisis that I finally understood why these meetings had been so important. On a weekend last October, the 23-year-old son of one of our team members died unexpectedly and tragically. On Monday morning, I called our team together in our conference room.
The feelings that surfaced that morning were raw — grief, bewilderment, fear, an acute awareness of the fragility of life and the preciousness of our own loved ones, and empathy for our grieving colleague.
The emotions ran even higher at a community meeting on the first day our colleague returned to work several weeks later. Painful as it was for all of us, we were able to create a container for our colleague's heartbreak. Sharing our feelings also made them feel less burdensome. We held her, and holding her held us. It was cathartic, and that helped each of us to go back at the end of the meeting and focus again on the work at hand.
It dawned on me that day how powerful and liberating it is to say exactly what you're feeling, and to feel truly listened to without judgment.