One of the six roles of a host leader is the Gatekeeper; the person who watches over the ‘gate’ (or door, or threshold), welcomes people in, lets them know what’s happening and what their expectations are, negotiates about the boundaries and – potentially – excludes people who don’t play by the house rules. It’s a very rich and important element of leadership which is not always captured by the other metaphors and approaches.
Our good friend Chris Corrigan wrote a blog recently about the many ‘nested thresholds’ which might apply when thinking about a workshop or event. It’s easy to see the way that the idea of thresholds works on the day – people arrive (though the threshold), they work together (inside the threshold) and then they leave again (out of the threshold). Chris has identified a full fifteen ‘thresholds’ – not all of then physical – which may be considered when entering and leaving a conversational space.
These start from the instant that people notice and start to engage with an invitation to join. In our experience that’s a really key moment – after all, deciding to move along and not enter at that point will pretty much rule out any subsequent benefits or possibilities (though it may be the right thing to do for the individual). We spend a lot of time and effort on working up great invitations to our workshops and talks; when people arrive in good heart and with worthwhile expectations, then a useful session is in sight. If people show up with misaligned expectations, then difficulties immediately begin to encroach.
The role of a leader in helping people to understand, approach and cross thresholds is an undervalued part of what creates engagement and therefore performance. When it goes well, it seems almost inevitable. When it goes wrong, it’s a mess.