A Wisdom Council is a profoundly valuable tool for the business leader or manager grappling with a challenging concern that requires practical action. The process has its origins in a centuries-old model, adapted for the modern corporate environment. Based on the belief that we all have access to an inner intelligence, this technique can be used as a way of seeking clarity around important decisions or transitions. The concept is that when an individual is given the support to find their own answers through self-reflection, the discovery is more likely to have deeper and longer-lasting results.
The Wisdom Council is a problem-solving technique that asks its members to contribute from a very different perspective than is customary. It is convened when a leader has a specific question, issue, or problem that they have not been able to work out on their own. The individual then meets with the four or five colleagues or work partners who are able to maintain strict confidentiality and be present in the spirit of genuine concern.
The group members’ primary responsibility is to help the focus individual uncover their inner truth more deeply by asking honest, open questions; no judgement, no advice, no “fixing,” no saving, no wise anecdotes, no correcting, just open-ended inquiry to help guide the individual toward inner clarity to know if it is best to act on the stated matter, to wait, or to take another direction altogether.
It is important to keep in mind that the goal of the Wisdom Council is not to reach any particular outcome, but to discern whether there is clarity on a matter and if there is clarity, where it lies. In this process, the answer is not found in “correct” responses to a set of questions; rather, success is measured when a deeper wisdom is found in the sense of having uncovered the promptings of one’s inner guidance.
The collaborators assist by asking questions that “ . . . strip away whatever obstacles lie between [the person’s] ears and [the person’s] Truth,” as Parker Palmer, educator, scholar, author, and thought leader, explains. All involved can usually sense when this unity has been reached.
The Wisdom Council can meet for 45 minutes to an hour, anywhere from once to three times over several weeks or months in duration, depending on the complexity of the issue.
If necessary, members of a Wisdom Council may meet separately from the focus person in order to clarify process or address obstacles to unity.
Here are a few of the fundamental responsibilities of the participants in the Wisdom Council:
The focus person should do the following:
Again, it is important to restate that on some occasions the council and the individual may not find clarity. This is not an indication of failure; rather, it merely signifies the need for further searching and internal dialogue. Often, the clarity, or right action, will arise over time as an awareness that unfolds gradually.
These are open-ended questions to which the participants could not know the answer:
A Wisdom Council is a true gift and resource. It is nurtured over time through mature interactions. An executive or leader who can convene a Wisdom Council is privy to a rich and valuable well of insight and guidance. It goes much deeper than strategic meetings or leadership teams. Leadership teams have their place. A Wisdom Council holds a “wiser” and more unique role.