April 2016

The Synergy of Round Table Work

Your Power Lies in Using All of Your Selves

Bringing all of the parts of yourself together so that they can coexist harmoniously is worth the effort.

The joy and the amount of energy that come from using all of the internal characters at your Round Table is remarkable. This Round Table Work™ creates an internal synergy which, when unleashed, is what empowers us to live into our full potential.

Let's look in on Sally and Donna in turn and if and how they experience this synergy in their own lives.


We left Sally in the midst of an emotional meltdown. Driving out of town, she came up with the idea of moving away so that she could start fresh without anyone knowing that she was a quitter or a loser. Returning home to announce the good news to Larry, she was not met with the enthusiasm she imagined she would get but rather, his practical response. For her, this was translated to mean that he didn't care about her welfare or plight.

Sally pokes her head out of the bedroom again to lament.

“If you aren't supportive of me, who in the world will be? What in the world am I going to do? Larry, you should be ashamed of yourself; not thinking about me and my predicament. You're only thinking about yourself. I was counting on you to step up but you're not so what am I supposed to do?” Sally is yelling. At the same time, she starts to sob. Her last words are hardly audible as her sobs overtake her and she slams the door and locks it.

Larry goes to the bedroom door and, finding it locked, knocks and implores Sally to open it.

“Sally, you know I care about you,” he says through the closed door. “I'm so sorry that I didn't react the way you wanted me too. However, I don't think that running away is the solution. Open the door and let's talk about it.”

Larry waits for a minute and nothing happens. “Sally?” he questions, “What's happening?”

“I'm deciding if I want to talk to you,” Sally responds.

“C'mon, let me in,” Larry implores softly.

“Promise you'll be nice to me and agree to move!” Sally demands.

“Sally, that isn't fair,” Larry replies. “Now open the door so we can talk about this like adults.”

“So now you're accusing me of being a child!” Sally yells. “You're no help at all.”

“Okay, have it your way!” Larry retorts, now totally frustrated. “Figure it out yourself. You're a pain in the neck anyway.”

“Just go away and leave me alone!” Sally yells through the door. “I don't even want you to move away with me now. I'll be just fine. I'll show you.”

Larry does not respond. He goes to the wet bar and pours himself a shot of scotch. Shaking his head back and forth, he mutters under his breath, “What a basket case. She's hopeless. When will she ever learn? I don't have a clue about what to do now.”

While Sally and Larry are flailing around in this state of disrepair, let's look in on Donna and see how she's doing...

When we last peeked in on Donna, she was in the midst of a conversation inside herself between a part of her that wanted to express gratitude and acknowledgement to her team and another part of herself that felt cautious and concerned about how they would take it. Donna resolved the internal conflict by deciding to take the risk of expressing herself and then seeking their feedback.

Donna goes through all of her emails, and as she responds to her direct reports, she acknowledges the work they're doing and thanks them for their contributions. Then, she writes some brief emails to others on her team who didn't happen to have an email in her inbox. Donna feels satisfied and really good about taking the time to express her feelings to these people who work so hard and give so much.

Donna sighs as she reflects on her self-development. She learned the hard way that being task oriented wasn't enough to create high performance. She learned that it was just as important, if not more important, to attend to the social-emotional relationships on her team if she wanted everyone to do their best and collaborate well. Before her accident and before taking a deep dive into herself as a leader in the Authentic Leadership 1 and Authentic Leadership 2 courses, she had a reputation for being so task-oriented that there wasn't room for fun and joy. People who worked for her felt unappreciated for their efforts and that they could never measure up. Since she was so competent, they were always afraid that she would have something critical to say to them, and she usually did. It wasn't that her ideas weren't good and valid, it was just that they were lacking humanness. It was if she was a robot. She was so good that people wanted to work on her teams since they knew the project would be successful, but they didn't want to stay too long because it was a bit demoralizing.

When Donna was in a serious car accident, it was as if her world got turned around. She started realizing what was truly important. Her physical therapist was a life saver, not just because she was so good at what she did, but her attitude exemplified everything that Donna was learning in her leadership courses. She was really blown away at the level of unconsciousness she had had about how to treat people. She did what her Mom and Dad had done with her and, for that matter, what her prior bosses had done. It even went back to high school and college. The teachers she liked the best were the ones who were the hardest and were quick to point out what she had done wrong or what she could improve. It worked for her, so why wouldn't it work for others?

It was a huge wake up call when she realized the impact it had on her as a child and young adult and that she was perpetuating this negative cycle. Donna sighs deeply again. She feels so much happier in her own skin now. She gathers up what she needs for her next meeting and leaves quickly, wanting to be on time for the meeting.

Walking briskly, Donna waves at folks who look up from their computers. Emily pops out of her office to walk in step with Donna.

“Thanks so much for your email,” Emily says. “That meant a lot to me. I was having a hard morning and that just hit the spot. It means a lot to me that you value what I bring to the team. Thanks.”

“You are so welcome Emily,” Donna responds. “I'm glad it means a lot to you. You are contributing so much. Sorry that I'm in such a rush. I'm going to a review for ARCTIC and I don't want to be late.”

“No worries,” Emily says, smiling. “Do you have few minutes this afternoon?”

“Look on my calendar and if there's an opening, put yourself on it,” Donna answers. “See you later!”

Donna slips into the conference room, arriving before the review starts.


Using the lens of internal synergy that is created by doing Round Table Work™, we see very different scenarios. Both Sally and Donna have internal dialogues as we all do. However, they differ in a fundamental way: Sally's dialogues tend to cycle and repeat themselves. They are either coming from an omnipotent character or a victim character. Her ability to self-regulate using various characters at her round table is fairly limited. When she does, it is short-lived unless she finds immediate support from a trusted person outside herself. Her self-talk tends to focus on charging her up so she can conquer something outside herself, criticizing herself or others. The characters who show up mostly are at war with each other. There is not a lot of peace inside Sally's head.

Donna's internal dialogues are quite different. She has learned to bring her angel characters forward who serve to moderate her fear and anxiety. Her round table work now progresses easily and she actually finds that she is more relaxed, happier, and more spontaneous because of this. Rather than having a bunch of internal conflicts, her internal experience is that her characters are all working together collaboratively. Her insides are singing rather than quarreling.

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