In the final blog of this series on Transformational Presence, I’d like to share a model with you called the Four Levels of Engagement. The purpose behind this model is to bring awareness to how we ‘show up’ in relation to the daily events and circumstances we face in our personal and professional lives. This model is really just a description of what we’re all experiencing internally, all the time. When we work through this model, we’re choosing to slow down enough to see the inner workings of our level of engagement. We can take any situation or challenge and notice how we engage with it in a particular way.
To explain and demonstrate this model, let’s take a situation that we’ve likely all experienced at some point in our lives – a client or colleague who frequently is late for, misses or cancels meetings at the last minute. You are now faced with the fifth time in two months that this has occurred.
So, let’s step into the first level of engagement which is Drama. The initial internal dialogue might go something like this. “Are you kidding me?”, “What is he thinking?”, “I’m honoring the time on my calendar for him, why can’t he do the same?” That’s the level of engagement of Drama. So, I know none of you reading this EVER goes to that place of drama, right? But, I’ll admit, sometimes, I can go to a dramatic place. So Drama is an either/or, black or white, whose fault is it, type of space. It’s a criticism or a complaint. And then, after there has been time to vent, we might start to move into another level of engagement which is Situation.
Now, Situation sounds like this. “So, I’m going to need to address this. Let me sit down and prepare and I’ll go through the 5 steps to having a difficult conversation so I can take care of this.” Situation is about fixing the problem. It’s about getting it off my desk, moving on, getting it over with and getting it done. Often, for a while, these situational approaches will work, as has been pointed out earlier in this series. The problem-solving done here will likely lead to an okay result but one that typically isn’t sustainable for the long haul. So, when we run into the same situation again, we look for the next solution or drop back into Drama again and then shift back into Situation.
At some point, if we’re willing to go deeper, there’s a third option that shows up where we begin to notice there’s an invitation to ask the question, “Who do I want to be in this situation?” or “How do I want to show up?” Taking this deeper perspective breaks out of Drama and Situation into Choice, which is the next level of engagement. So, as we ask ourselves those questions, the answer in this circumstance might be, “I want to be a person who is both compassionate toward my client’s (or colleague’s) competing priorities and confident that we’ll reach a solution that works for both of us.” So that is who this situation is asking for the individual to be and that’s the individual’s choice to show up that way.
From Choice it’s rather easy to move into the 4th level of engagement which is Opportunity. So, let’s take this same situation into Opportunity. What’s the hidden opportunity of the situation? What wants to happen or evolve out of this? So, as we step into opportunity, there is an opportunity here to evolve as a leader. A leader who not only demonstrates deep commitment and caring for clients or colleagues but also demonstrates the same level of caring and commitment to themselves. That is what wants to emerge.
Four Levels of Engagement Exercise
Now that you have a sense of each of these levels, you’re going to have a chance to play this game. It works best if you physically stand up and step into each of the different levels. If you remain seated, then simply choose a different spot on the floor or around the room to focus on for each level.
Bring to mind a challenging situation with a client, manager or colleague. It could be something current or from the past.
- Choose a spot that represents Drama.
- Step into the drama of your challenging situation. Close your eyes if you’d like. Really hear, in your mind, what’s happening.
- Notice and ask yourself “What’s going on?”
Step back to a neutral spot and repeat the steps above replacing Drama with Situation, then repeat again with Choice, and finally, with Opportunity.
Four Levels of Engagement Debrief
What did you experience? Where has your level of engagement been in past interactions with this person?
What would be different if you approached the challenge from Choice and Opportunity?
How can you apply your awareness of the Four Levels of Engagement in your life and work starting today?
I invite you to share what you discover in the Comments section.
When we engage with the events and circumstances of life primarily from Drama and Situation, we spend our time primarily on struggle and problem-solving. It can be that feeling of putting out one fire after another. Ultimately, this can be exhausting. On the other hand, when we engage with life mostly from Choice and Opportunity, we step into a powerful place. We are no longer buffeted about by circumstances and choose how we want to respond and focus on the potential that wants to emerge. I invite you to apply the Four Levels of Engagement model in your own life and see what happens.
If you missed the earlier parts of this series, please click here for Navigating a Complex World, here for Part One – The Three Questions, here for Part Two – Becoming Mindful, and here for Part Three – Working with What Is.
For more information about Transformational Presence, please visit: www.transformationalpresence.org
Derived from: Seale, Alan. Transformational Presence: How To Make a Difference In a Rapidly Changing World and Transformational Presence: The Tools, Skills and Frameworks. Topsfield, MA: The Center for Transformational Presence, 2017. Used with permission.
Leave a Reply