The learning circle
How coming together in a circle to share concerns
can improve communication and influence change
By Amy Fish
know two things for sure about the Canadian
health care system: it is constantly changing, and
there is an ongoing need for communication.
To cope with the ongoing changes in our environment,
most of us have committed to frequent communication
with our staff. We write employee newsletters; host town
hall meetings; showcase content on electronic screens;
and supply old-fashioned suggestion boxes.
How can teams work better together?
How can our leadership strengthen teamwork?
In terms of timeframe, a learning circle can last anywhere
from 15 minutes to over an hour, depending on the number of participants and complexity of the subject matter.
Regardless of timing, it is important that all participants are
able to sit comfortably in a circle and can see each other
when they speak.
Yet even with all these tools at our fingertips, we are still on
the lookout for new and simple ways to improve communication with our teams. And there is a very effective new
tool for your communications toolbox: the learning circle.
The leader will sit in the circle with the participants and
introduce the concept of a talking stick. Each person will
have a turn to hold the stick and to speak.
A learning circle is a circle of employees sitting together
and sharing their concerns in a semi-structured format. To
create one, the first step is to choose someone to lead it.
The ideal leader is somewhat removed from the action, yet
who has an understanding of the main issues. You might
choose a member of the quality team, an accreditation
coordinator, or a manager from another area. Preferably,
however, the supervisor of this team would not lead the
discussion so that members will not feel intimidated.
The leader poses the first discussion question while holding the stick and passes it to his or her right, and then that
person responds to the question and passes to his or her
right. And so on, around the circle. When the stick comes
back to the leader, he or she summarizes what has been
said and then poses the second question. This continues
until each participant has had a chance to reply to each
question. There are no interruptions, and there is
Once selected, the leader will work with the unit manager
to select four to six relevant questions for discussion. For
example, if the unit is struggling with teamwork, questions
Comments made during the learning circle are confidential. Feedback to management or to other interested
parties remains general for maximum benefit. For example,
the leader may observe that teamwork remains a challenge
with this particular working group and additional intervention may be necessary. However, no one will be quoted
What is your current team like?
LONG TERM CARE TODAY