Anticipating the Rhythm of Change

by Arthur Hull

Following is a descriptive write-up for a Fortune 500 company meeting that I facilitated. The write-up was created by two program planners who had hired me regularly for their offsite programs. To surprise the participants, they described in their program what I would do during my presentation, without mentioning drums orpercussion. They entitled their program “Anticipating The Rhythm of Change” by Arthur Hull, expert in organizational training and teamwork, from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Their program description follows.

“Readiness counts for little without proper execution, but in large organizations, execution requires coordination and cooperation across disparate parts. This is often fiendishly difficult to obtain. Arthur Hull provides both theory and practice on structuring the work environment in a way that creates greater trust and respect among employees. Much of the session will concentrate on seeing and hearing things differently, paying keen attention, and experiencing what communication is really about. It is a unique demonstration of just how quickly and easily learning can take place when the conditions are made favorable.”

“Arthur’s unorthodox approach has provided guidance to numerous executives bent on sharpening their ability to coach, align, and execute complex tasks. But this is a topic that resonates with people outside the corporate environment. Spouses and guests are therefore warmly encouraged to attend.”

I started the program at a podium in a standard meeting room with a projector next to me and writing boards behind me. After I was introduced, without the mention of drums, I told the participants that I had been brought to the meeting to challenge them in the way they think, about a subject about which they already know everything there is to know. I told them that I would present to them the subject in a format that was totally out of their expertise, and most likely out of their lifestyle.

Then I led them out of the room and into the room next door where the drums and percussion toys were waiting. Some of them walked into the room and saw the drums, stopped in their tracks, looked around the room as if maybe they were in the wrong room, folded their arms, puffed up their chests, and started backing up to the wall. Two of the people who walked in and saw the drums, got excited, and walked over and started tapping on the drums, picking out a particular one that they would like to play.

I got the participants to form a circle and started my program by walking out of the circle, then back in, modeling the same body language with which the executives walked into the room. I modeled and demonstrated the guy who saw the drums, thought that he was in the wrong room, then realized the he was in the right room and was going to be expected to drum and reacted by putting up his shields, crossing his arms, and puffing up his chest. Then I demonstrated one of the guys who was now standing in the part of the circle that was closest to the drums. I walked over to the drums and tapped on them, then got back into the circle next to the executive I was modeling. I continued to look back at the drums, just like he had done, making sure the drum I picked was still behind me. We all had a good laugh. The laughter released the tension in the room and helped the executives drop some of their corporate physiology.

I then asked them not to worry because they thought they were rhythmically challenged, because the program would not be a drum class. I told them, “This program is not really about drumming. It is about relationship.” With that I started my program.

From the book Drum Circle Spirit: Facilitating Human Potential Through Rhythm