It Starts with You

Very little focuses my mind on what my point is more than having to explain my thinking publically. So it is that, prior to folk gathering for this month’s Facilitation Shindig, I’m mulling on WHY I believe Reflective Practice and starting with yourself-as-data is vital in any part of personal learning/growth/development.

I’m a firm believer that change doesn’t happen “out there” through other folk – it happens “in here” with you and your decisions and responses…I can come back to how external forces impact and alter us, but here I’m trying to map out why I think starting with self is the key to growth and change….and then.. work out “So what?” What does that mean for your working practice?

As ever, I’ve been writing, drawing, reading, and came up with some drawings to try to show what I’m trying to say

So here goes:

Part One – The Thinking

Personal growth and development requires you to start, or at least pay attention to, self-as-data. It’s essential that you have some awareness or understanding of your own “stuff” if you want to develop & change. This is because your beliefs, values, assumptions, certainties, doubts and experiences form the Foundations of your Practice – how you act and choose to be with people and situations. Understanding and exploring these means you become more deeply aware of who you are and what you can/will tolerate in life, work and in change. Through awareness, you can take informed action.

So. Start with self-as-data. Pay attention to the small stuff – what you like, don’t like, what you tolerate, what is intolerable, what behaviours work for you, when you act like a git etc. Keep notes or a journal or find an app that will nudge you. Get to know yourself.

Then there’s a piece about understanding what keeps your behavioural stuff in place (it’s familiar? Safe? efficient? deeply entrenched? rewarding? “proper”? Qualification-taught?) Because by understanding what keeps your foundations in place, you can assess the size of your personal resistance/ reluctance/ willingness to do something new. (I’m talking about rattling or fortifying foundations at the Shindig)

From here, through self-awareness and knowing your edges, you have good information to start challenging yourself with; making choices about your behaviours that are different from your “old self” (What are the foundations you want to rattle? What do you want to let go of? What are the foundations you want to fortify? What will you keep doing? or start doing?) This is the action part.

For me, reflection without action risks the territory of slightly naval-gazing/ noodling about.
Action without reflection is basically begging to repeat the same behaviours and errors, without refining successes.
You mostly need both.

So far, I’ve laid it all on you… trouble is we can be very skewed in our view of our own data – so alongside all this data- gathering, there is a huge role for finding others to talk to and test out theories on. Find coaches and mentors, peers, colleagues, brutal friends and semi-strangers who will help you sense-make what you find.

In the event that you bump into bits of yourself that fill you with dread, shame, sadness, disgust, fear, horror etc it becomes even more important to find someone to sense-make with. This is the territory we fear to tread into and reject. Typically, this is the very territory which, if explored, gives us a bigger, freer work or life-range. Having someone – perhaps someone qualified, or just unerringly sensible and trustworthy – to share and illuminate our darker bits is..…well I just don’t know how you tackle this stuff alone.

We increasingly know that change sustains and holds more when making small adjustments – small, purposeful changes are more likely to last… and yet still too often we look for outside sources (courses, mindfulness to forget about inner conflicts, how to guides etc) to enable us to make the changes – when really, it starts with you & your willingness to reach in, adjust your own dials and act.

Of course, the downside is you can’t guarantee everyone around you will like it if you successfully change.. that can get interesting..… longer blog.

The premise behind the Facilitation Shindig series was always to give Practitioners a year & 5 spaces to do some of this self-reflection, action-learning stuff so they really improve their Practice. Facilitation, especially when you work with teams who are unhappy or in flux, can be hugely personally challenging.. and lonely… you need a place to go to fortify yourself.

Part Two – The Drawing

And so I’ve been designing and thinking, doodling and playing with images to try to pull together some of how this stuff goes.
I came up with two sketches that reach toward what I’m trying to capture.

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The person in the circle is surrounded by the Foundations of their Practice and in the midst of a sort of big circular mash-up of Seniger’s Comfort Zone stuff, with a little Argyris Double-Looped learning happening – folding new information back in to his/her awareness to reflect the “bouncing” we do when we start new stuff (in/out certain/unsure etc). Beyond the edges of current practice are new worlds and new behaviours – to get there requires action, experiments, testing stuff out & looping the good bits (you hope) back in to fortify the Foundations

 

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The second is a representation of that “next level” stuff that everyone goes on about – here I’m trying to show that you build on what you know and “next level” means losing or developing some of the familiar & building on new ground…. The better you know the your Foundations, the better decisions you make about what to take with & what to leave behind – means you build your “next level” on a risher, more secure platform.
Not sure this drawing shows the difficulty in addressing the barriers or shows the “bounce” stuff…..

At the bottom, is looping – I’ve double looped, down into Existing Practice, up into New Practice – I like this now. It’s sort of elegantly simple, but needs a little explanation.

All of this is to articulate why Practitioners benefit from taking time out to reflect, experiment, learn about themselves and try new actions and work with other people. It’s why I’ve designed the Facilitation Shindig to be a year-long programme, for those who want it to be – to give you time to become more self-aware and give yourself that time to rattle or fortify the foundations of your practice.

So the basic premise is, Practitioners, that it starts with you & then it goes out to others and comes back to you.

The Facilitation Shindig is a Series of events running throughout 2017 in Manchester. The aims are to upskill and support facilitators, celebrating the art and the craft of facilitation through discussion, reflection, storytelling, experimenting and action.

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If you want to know more about the Facilitation Shindig – visit www.facilitationShindig.com

or follow @shindiggery1 on Twitter

Or register your interest here

About me:

I’m an Organisational Consultant, Exec Coach, Facilitator, Speaker, Blogger & Dialogue Guide. Working with people & organisations to improve conversations, relationships & learning – Doing stuff with love.

Find me on Twitter @fuchsia_blue

Contact fuchsiablue to find out more

 

Introducing….The Facilitation Shindig

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Earlier this year I spent a day in a room with a group of people I respect beyond measure as we walked through the process and methods we were going to use to facilitate teams of leaders in a FTSE 250 over a period of months.

The purpose of these leadership sessions is the good stuff – the simple, yet not easy, good stuff – that thing of getting highly skilled, smart, experienced folk to let down their guards a bit, to know each other and to work together in different ways to their current ways of being. Looking to shift intractable issues through building relationships, by thinking and working together, by equipping these leaders with alternative methods for talking and acting… it’s stuff that takes time and care and tenacity and skill.

Some things struck me on our walk-through day.
I was struck by the sheer pleasure of being in a room with really good facilitators, hearing others’ thought processes and learning from each other. We worked hard. We laughed. We pushed each other. We questioned. We developed the process together. It was like the best rehearsal ever.

I was struck also by how lonely it can be in the work….Sometimes facilitation is you. In a room. With a whole bunch of strangers/ near strangers, trying to achieve a thing – and whilst it’s one of my favourite places, it’s also… kinda nerve wracking (especially if you are doing it properly, I’d argue).

I also was struck by something I’m currently mulling on as “Genuine Practice”– the importance of folk who reflect and learn and experiment and in order to improve their craft. Those who diligently show up in life and in rooms with groups and who work with care and consideration to create outcomes and change. Practitioners who can drop everything planned and knit something utterly unique and needed in the moment, because they have taken the time to build their skill and personal capability – the ones who are doing their 10,000 hours to get to mastery…. And how deeply I value that Genuine Practice.

And how I’m becoming increasingly intolerant of Shiny, Showy Post-Truth Change Gurus taking up airspace without ever proving themselves or their theories. I need my Emperors Clothed these days. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

And I was struck by the increased importance of well designed face-to-face work to generate conversations and change.. that our work future means there are likely to be fewer and fewer chances for folk in organisations to convene.. and when they do, that time is precious….and brilliant facilitators are what will make that time purposeful and useful and productive and thought-provoking and behaviour-shifting….

And so a beginning idea came into being – Rather than being wistful, how about I created time and a place for those of us who facilitate to gather? To celebrate and work on Genuine Practice? And how about it was a joyful thing – something about the love of the work and learning from others?

And so after much doodling and deliberating and asking folk stuff, the Facilitation Shindig has arrived.

The first gathering was on 19th January 2017 in Manchester….
Beyond this there will be 5 more in Manchester throughout 2017. In March, May, July, September and November… With a bonus social Winter gathering in December or beyond.
The intention is to run more, in other cities or internally in businesses…but one step at a time.

Each Shindig this year will be themed around a word.
The words for Manchester 2017 are: Writing, Movement, Outside Emotion and Closing.
What we do together within those words will depend on who attends the Shindig and how they interpret that word.

You can buy Season tickets for all 5 events, or Pay-as-you-go single event tickets here

Find out more here: www.facilitationShindig.com

The intention is to work with care and challenge, to practice and experiment and learn from each other. If you are interested in the Shindig in any way shape or form, please do get in touch – I’d love for this grow and to have a thriving community of practice.

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Focus Shift

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When mid-year swung into view a couple of weeks ago, I found myself doing one of those Scooby-doo double takes… Huh? How? What?

Perhaps this has been the cause (or the symptom?) of some recent conversations I’ve found myself in about focus. I’m not a precision junkie by any stretch of the imagination. I’m a lover of life, a connector of ideas, someone who relishes experiences over hypothesis. This means, fairly often, I am playing with and working on all sorts of things – seemingly disparate – and I have to remind myself, as I would my clients, about balancing my focus and my energy.

At a recent Leadership Retreat run by Wendy Palmer, I reconnected with the embodied part of my practice. This is the bit where, when I’m coaching or facilitating, I ask you to pay attention to yourself more fully… to lose some of the rapid thought, ambition, judgment, fear, busy-ness, that stuff….  It’s the bit where I invite you to breathe a little deeper, stand a little taller and cut through a lot of the crap you sense around you. It’s the bit where I invite you to focus on what is real, what is important for you and then work on how to make that bigger, more figural, more present in your life.

I’m not sure what the technical or academic term is for this. To me? It’s focus shift. It’s the part where we work together move your focus either up and out – way way beyond the issue at hand to look at the broader picture…. Or it’s the part where we move from the broad morass and life-stuff-hubbub to focus in on the quiet spaces and begin to unpick what matters most.

This is my job – to work with you in a way that is meaningful; to cut to the very crux of what action you want or need to take…. Then to cheer you on as you move to action. This is my job and I love it.

So it was I found myself wondering where my own focus has been so far this year – noticing the lack-of–contact I’ve had with certain friends and family and how others have absorbed me. The folk I feel I have let down, the folk I know I haven’t. The work I’ve done that has delighted, the work done that has distracted. The miles clocked up. The money spent. The conversations.The learning. The dissertation that I both love and loathe in a bizarrely complicated fashion. In the midst of all of this gloriously full-on life of mine, I found myself pretty knackered and a bit… hmmm…. Where did my year go?

Now I’m all for physician heal thyself. The last time I checked I wasn’t perfect and dropping back in on myself more fully of late, it seems that still stands. So I have been lucky enough and hopefully discerning enough to get into some conversations with people who have helped me focus more (shout outs in particular to Amanda Ridings, Jon Bartlett @projectlibero, David Goddin @David_Goddin, Liz Tyson, Rhona Graham @rhonaoGraham, & Joanna Pirie) – to pick what is important and true for me, at this mid point in the year.

Focus shift? It’s the way forward.

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to experience it….

Oh… and the peacock? He was strutting around Samye Ling whilst we were on the retreat. Is this boy a master of distraction or focus I wonder?

Day Four – Dialogue? It’s a Whole-Body Thing

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Last week I ran a “Bring your Body to Work” session in a leadership programme. The invitation to participants was to pay attention to how interactions at work generate physical responses (altered breath, tension, knotted gut, racing heart) and how learning to work with that can help us respond well or differently in-the-moment.

It’s my challenge to the whole “sticks and stone may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” adage. Actually? Words can hurt and wound. Or lift and inspire. There is a physical impact, often, in the talking we do. Pretending otherwise kind of seems counterproductive, especially if you are striving to be a leader. So dialogue absolutely has an embodied element to it….

Body Works
I have been privileged to work with the deeply wise and generous Amanda Ridings, author of Pause for Breath, for over 3 years now. She is mentor, friend and teacher. Amanda brings together her experience in business, her t’ai chi and mindfulness practices and the embodied/ somatic work of Wendy Palmer; linking these elegantly with dialogue and leadership. Her work is fiercely powerful.

You know you’ve worked with Amanda when you find someone pushing gently against you (physically or conversationally) and your body becomes rock-like and unyielding, stubborn and unwilling to budge (in my case) and you suddenly realise you’re not quite as flexible and open as you’d have yourself believe….

The work throws up great questions: How does my body respond under pressure? Or under praise? What effect does this have on my capacity to talk well or respond well to others around me? What’s my body up to when I feel fight-y and scared? What working conditions help me to be expansive and generous? How can I understand these and work with them more often?

Bring Your Body To Work
Amanda’s work really forced me to understand that I work with head, heart and instinct. I am not a “brain on a stick” as she would say. How people speak and respond to me and how I speak and respond to others has an impact. It matters. If I want good outcomes for me, for my business, for my family, some awareness of my-whole-self-in-conversation is not just useful… it’s absolutely bloody essential.

I was a little shy about explicitly using body work in leadership and management programmes for a while. I thought clients would see my work as being slightly “out there” if I wasn’t using the appropriate models and giving due attention to the brain….But how can you run a Presentation course without due consideration for breathing and posture? Is it OK to train managers how to performance manage without dealing with the physical reality of nerves? How can we ask someone to lead a team, without equipping them with an understanding of what it might physically do to them when they step into the limelight? I’m not sure it’s wise or productive to work in this way.

So I talk about body work now. It is a firm part of my practice. These days? I bring my body to work…

And in this is an invitation – fuchsiablue is running two 2-day workshops on 5th & 6th Feb and 20th & 21st March this year designed to encourage attendees to think well and talk well together.

You’ll find more details about Exploring Dialogue here:

If you are interested, please sign up – if you’re not, please pass this on to someone who might be – and no matter what, I hope you enjoy the blogs over the next few days.

The Change Effect

Recently I have had the joy of working with a not-for-profit team who are working to inspire and catalyze leadership for a low carbon future that is smarter, better and more prosperous.

Part of the day was re-connecting the team to their purpose through a series of talks by people working in areas such as Climate Science; promoting and researching “green” business practices in large commercial entities and Social Entrepreneurship.

Suffice to say, I’ve had my eyes opened.

Much of the discussion was about the realities being imagined if the Earth warms by 1°, 2° or the disastrous scenarios (unimaginable, from my perspective) of a 4° future.

And I found myself profoundly humbled, disturbed and also… kind of energised. I realised I was in the room with people who are dedicated and committed to generate the conversations and actions needed to… well… DO SOMETHING about the current situation…. And I began to start asking more about what part I can play in that.

I had a conversation with one of the team and was saying:

“It’s all so big. There is SO much to think about. I take out my bottles and recycle everything I can. We run a woodburner and I’m an extra-jumper-no-heating girl… is that enough? Does it make a difference? At all?”

And of course, the answers were not fully yes or no.

And what I’m noticing is this:

Firstly my spectacular ability to not pay attention to something that disturbs, perturbs and alarms me (Climate Change and all that means for our sustainable future). I am astonished at just how little attention I can actually pay to something because it seems unbearable to consider– tuning out information until it’s a low-level hum that I barely notice anymore… and I’m noticing I’m not alone in that.

Secondly that I have to believe my contribution matters and behave as if I can make some sort of impact. Just as I would say to anyone within an organisation: the responsibility for what goes on around here is partly with you – you can’t opt out if you are in this system. Pretending you don’t matter or have no effect in itself absolutely has an effect.

Thirdly, The day was, for me, a massive re-affirmation of the complexity of change. Climate Change doesn’t happen in a neat and tidy way. It is unpredictable and messy. Some will argue it isn’t happening. Some will be deeply skeptical about what the authorities are offering to be “true”. Some believe it won’t affect them…. Or won’t happen on their shift, at least. Some won’t care until it directly affects their pockets or lifestyles.

And then there are the some who embrace that something is happening and fight to ensure the future is a better one, despite or maybe even because of, the changes that are afoot. Some people are positive, relentlessly active, striving to be creative and inventive to adapt and respond to their circumstances.

As a Consultant working in organisations, I can’t help seeing the parallels, that this global experience is so clearly also our local one.

I guess I’m left with the same sense about the global situation as I have about working with people and organisations. I believe small actions can make a big difference. I believe conversations and connections allow new possibilities to open up. I believe change doesn’t happen in huge conferences or across Board tables, but the need for change gets highlighted here. I believe that the voices of skeptics are vital to spur on the actions of the advocates. I believe apathy is dangerous and also inevitable.

I believe one afternoon, listening to 3 different perspectives in a room filled with committed and action-oriented people has made me read more carefully and pay more attention to what is actually happening around me.

The Change Effect? It’s that simple…

A different story….

I’m working off a theory that there is a paradoxical need for slow time to talk in fast-paced organisations. Even as a card-carrying, fully committed member of The Impatient, this Slow Time notion is strengthening through reading Nancy Kline’s Time to Think, David Bohm’s classic On Dialogue, and the beautiful, lyrical i-thou concepts of Martin Buber.

What i notice is this: If you crash diet, you might get leaner for a while, but long-term you’re likely to get fatter. You go for fast food? Fine, it might satisfy you for a bit, but you get hungry and it’s unsatisfying (not to mention heart attack inducing) You send your Leadership team for a 1 day “experience” or a 3 day Programme? The effects will be marvellous, but fleeting.

We know this. What’s going on with our thinking?

How are we in a situation where our Boards and Leadership teams often put no value on taking time to build the relationships and the conversations that would enable decisions to be made quicker, allow meetings to flow with greater ease, or performance conversations to be appreciative and constructive? Where does the rush come from?

Oh.. but we’re really busy….

Busy? Who SETS that story? What does it mean? Surely we already know that thumping along at a fiercesome pace means stuff gets missed. Voices get lost. Common sense becomes a rarity. In that “busy” frame, it becomes permissible to see the role of “The Board Conscience” as someone a little boring or risk-averse – too slow, not compelling enough. The guy in charge of “people” is not perceived to be commercial: ergo unimportant…. Let’s move on….

And then LIBOR happens. Or Nick Buckle is stuttering in front of the Commons Select Committee because no-one knew how to point out the massive big elephant lurching about the middle of G4S, indicating that there was a recruitment issue 3 weeks before the Olympics kicked off…..

Too busy, huh?

At what cost?

This busy-ness is surely costing companies both on the bottom line and in terms of their reputation? Help me out here. Am I missing something?

As a Consultant, I notice a temptation to be swept up in the orthodoxy that says Boards are too busy, too important, too powerful to worry about the details, like…..relationships, or really understanding what’s happening on their shift. I get that it’s hard not to be impressed by status; or sucked into that whole “too busy” trope….I really do….

And I beg to differ. I seek to challenge. I want to offer other ways of thinking and working.

I want to work with dialogue as a direct response to the speed and single-story narrative I perceive around organisations. I’m making a bid for slow time, considered conversations and building real relationships which will hold up to dissent, to disagreement, which will be more respectful of difference-of-opinion. Conversations that can hold debate and allow time to be taken to hear all the voices in the room.

And before anyone throws out notions that I’m being idealistic or overly simplistic, (evoking John Lennon..again) I’m seeking to do this in ways that fit with the needs of an organisation. This work can be done without going to a retreat in the country – it can happen in meeting rooms and requires only the commitment to take time to talk and listen more carefully.

I’m happy to be told I’m wrong, of course, but my view is basic:

We need a different story in organisations.

“Too busy” demonstrably doesn’t work.

Huge thanks today to Phil Wilcox for his Blog post: “I am Humble, Fallible… and I LEAD” and to Rob Jones for his post “The one where honesty is the best policy” – Blogs which, I believe start to show there are other, more compelling stories to be told within organisations.

Negative Talk

Sometimes things just show up in the room, unplanned, unexpected and deeply powerful.

Running a team development day yesterday near Muir of Ord, north of Inverness with Michele Armstrong from Acorn Principle plus www.theacornprinciple.com, we had the team working on storyboards, describing what they had noticed since we last saw them six months ago.

Two groups worked with gusto using a series of images, pom poms, buttons, pipecleaners, string, stickers, coloured pens and glitter glue (my kind of exercise) to describe personal perspectives and outside perspectives. They worked on 6ft long wall lining paper taped onto huge trestle tables to ensure plenty of space for chat and movement.

We hung the two marvellous creations on the walls and stood back to have a conversation about what was there and why. After roughly a 15 minute discussion on the first storyboard, we turned to the second. There was a pause in the room for a second as we saw this:

Thanks to wet glitter glue, a much deeper conversation opened up in the team.

What a gift.