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Jim continued the conversation with Arthur, changing the topic slightly. "Your Majesty, all that you have shared with me about the Round Table makes sense. They are techniques I can, and will, use with my team.
"I still have a rather significant concern that I want to talk with you about. Once you got the knights to the Round Table, how did you get them to talk and not do battle with each other? It is one thing to create the Round Table. It's another to get people to communicate with each other at it. How did you get them to exchange words, not death blows?"
Arthur responded, "I had the same concern when planned the first meeting at the Round Table, Jim. If the knights were to unite as a single group, it was not enough for the knights to sit around a table. I wanted real openness. I wanted real listening. I wanted real energy. None of these would happen unless I created an environment at the Round Table that allowed openness to flourish.
"Getting the knights to communicate openly with on another was one of my most difficult tasks. Let me tell you the challenge I faced at the first meeting at the Round Table.
"Some sixty knights traveled from all over England to Camelot for the first meeting of the Round Table. Knight arrived in full battle armor, complete with swords. There was such excitement, yet such tension in the room as the five-day meeting began.
"Introductions were made by everyone seated around the table. When Sir Lionel stood to say his name, another knight three seats away, stood and said, 'How dare this out law sit at this distinguished table? Lionel is a thief and murderer who plundered a peasant village for no just cause He has nothing to say that I want to hear.'
"In a flash, Lionel drew his sword, challenging his accuser to battle. Lionel retorted, 'You are a liar, nameless knight! I challenge you to battle to prove your accusation Or shall we do battle to let God decide who is right?'
"Jim, here we were only beginning the introduction to start the first meeting at the Round Table when the battle challenge was made.
"I instantly realized how difficult it was going to be to conduct this first meeting! The meeting had barely started, and the knights were ready to resort to old habits-deadly combat. These two knights were drawing limits to their communication and interaction by drawing swords. In this instant, I saw all of my effort and work collapsing in one gigantic battle.
"As my eyes scanned the knights seated around the table, I sensed underlying distrust throughout the room. I knew some of the distrust was based on real history. Some was based on rumor and legend. But most, in my view, was because the knights did not know each other yet.
"The knights were uncomfortable with each other. In contrast, they were very comfortable with their swords and battles. It's the only pattern they knew.
"The tension of my hand's grip on Excalibur told me this issue of trust was not to be ignored. So I bolted out of my chair. In a flash, I climbed onto the top of the Round Table. With Excalibur in hand, I stopped when I reached the center of the enormous table. I plunked the blade into the table top, and I walked around it as I spoke."
In his mind's eye, Jim pictured Arthur's imposing presence standing at the center of the Round Table. Jim pictured a huge table, crafted in a pie-slice design, with each slice of a different type of wood, finished to perfection.
',Shocked by my move, knights throughout the room became still. I said, 'You are Knights of the Round Table. Every one of you has earned the right to sit around it because of your great deeds. Every one of you has pledged your commitment to me and to the task we join together to create.
" 'Most of you are new to each other today. Each knight in this room comes from a different part of England. Each shares a unique history. Each speaks with a different accent. Each has different strengths unknown to others in this room, including me. Each of us has fought different battles. Some of you have even fought each other.
" 'For all of these things that divide us, so many are rooted in our destructive past. So many are rooted in all that we do not yet know of each other.'
"Then I spoke to the knights about my flight as a bird. I recounted my search with Merlin for glory. Then I said to the knights, 'Real glory is in what all of you, as Knights of the Round Table, can build together. It is no longer found in those things that kept you apart.'
"I took Excalibur and held its handle with both hands, its sharp blade pointed to the ground. Then I extended it in front of my body to clearly display its 'T' shape to the knights.
"With a sense of urgency and sincerity, I slowly turned and spoke, 'Honored knights. Look at the sword Excalibur that I hold before you. It is beautiful. It is powerful. It is dangerous.
" 'But none of these qualities of Excalibur will help us build Camelot. Excalibur has a much more important quality that will guide us to where we need to be. It is a message I learned much earlier in life, and I will share it with you now.
" 'Look at its 'T' shape. The 'T' stands for trust. If we are to be successful together, we must build trust among one another. Each time I look at it, Excalibur keeps that message in front of me. It guides me as a leader. If we are to be successful as Knights of the Round Table, it must also guide you. It must guide all of us.' "
Complete silence filled the room. I knew I had struck an important chord by addressing the issue of trust right away. One by one I looked at the eyes of every knight that circled the table. Every one was looking at me, awaiting my next words.
"After the long silence, I finally said, 'We sit at the Round Table to exchange ideas, not swords. We are here not as enemies. Instead, we are here as great knights. We can create a legend for all time, but only if we become trusted colleagues.
" 'This table is round for a reason. It is symbolic of the ring that binds us. Equally as important, it is symbolic of the circle of communication. For all of us, if we want respect, first we must give respect. If we want trust, first we must give trust. If we want to be heard, first we must listen. If we want to speak, first we must let others speak.
" 'At the Round Table, no knight has a greater voice than any other knight. You have my pledge as King that while we sit at the Round Table, your ideas will always be heard and valued. I expect the same from each one of you.'
"The knights clapped! Then they stood and clapped some more! When silence again came back to the room, I instituted a ceremony that we used to begin all of our meetings at the Round Table. The purpose of the ceremony was to remind everyone that the Round Table symbolized a place where ideas and ideals were valued...