The next several months are prime time for “gatherings” and I wanted to share with you a wonderful book I just read – The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters. Truly it has been a long time since I underlined and wrote notes in the margins of a book, and I did this extensively for book. The author, Priya Parker, writes beautifully and personally, sharing story after story of her experiences of both successful and unsuccessful gatherings.

Whether it is Mother’s day or Father’s day, a family barbecue, a business meeting or a baby shower, Priya says every gathering can be enriched if you focus on WHY you are really gathering. We often think we know why we are gathering: it’s a board meeting or staff meeting, a monthly book club gathering… but she encourages looking deeper. For example, does your staff meeting really accomplish all that it could in terms of connection, vision and productivity?

What’s the deepest and most meaningful reason for gathering?

Next she focuses on hosting and boy did I see myself in her examples of not hosting well. Many of us are shy of really standing up and hosting well. We don’t want to impose on people so we greet them, tell them about the drinks, food or logistics and then we step back emotionally, metaphorically leaving them on their own to manage.

A good host carries the ball all the way to the end, including managing the “know it all” or person who goes off in a crazy direction. Because you are the host no one else is likely to feel it’s their place to intervene and if you don’t, you leave your guests “hostage” to one person.

I could go on and on about how to start a gathering well, which most of us don’t (we start with logistics which is all wrong according to Priya). She even puts a spotlight on how the space can make a huge difference. I’ll end this blog with a really valuable piece of advice she offers: If you want your guests/colleagues or friends to open up YOU have to lead. You have to share something that says “It’s safe to be more open, more vulnerable and I am going to go first and I’ll stay in the lead to guide the process well”.

I hope you have some really wonderful gatherings, big or small, business or personal over the next few months!