Some of us are better at noticing than others. Facilitators get a lot of practice at noticing. Noticing is not the same as knowing. I might notice someone frowning, but that doesn’t mean I know the reason why. I need to ask, and there needs to be enough trust for the person to answer honestly.
Unsurprisingly, this is true in life as well. We can therefore all be facilitators of each other’s well-being.
This Thursday, September 13, is National R U OK? Day in Australia.
In case you’re wondering why there needs to be an emphasis on asking each other if we’re okay, here’s two blog posts you should read: Mark Pacitti has documented his journey with depression over the last 12 months. It’s an insightful, sometimes harrowing, and illuminating read. And MadameInsideOut has written A Letter to the Black Dog. Another amazing story of fear, and struggle, and hope.
So if you notice someone close to you acting in a way that might suggest they are NOT OK, please ask. You won’t make it worse, especially if you just listen. Listening to someone who needs to be heard is a gift we all have the capacity to easily give, even if it causes us some discomfort or unease. And yes, it can be hard to stop talking and just listen. And it could make a difference in someone’s life.Community, Conversation, Culture | Comment (0)
Imagine if this is what we said to each other when we met for the first time? Imagine if we were able to answer the why, instead of defaulting to what?
My friend Andrew Suttar has been exploring this and sharing it around The Hub in Melbourne. I’m thankful to him for challenging my thinking. And to John Baxter too, for catching and sharing some of these thoughts.
There’s also a TED Talk by Simon Sinek about how great leaders inspire action. Typically, we all talk about what we do and how we do it. Guilty. Rarely do we even get to why we do what we do.
Simon Sinek suggests we turn that around – and this is what inspiring leaders do, they talk about the why first, then the how, and finally the what.
I wanted to explore this for myself. And it’s harder than it seems. So I went searching for more of Simon Sinek’s work and found this video about the value of human experiences to build trust. Yes, I recognise the irony of posting this on-line.
I completely agree with his conclusion that we need more human interaction and more conversations.Culture, Leadership | Comment (0)
Two things caught me eye in the newspaper this week.
Sarah Wilson was writing about trusting the process. She was referring to the creative process – the sometimes messy, unconnected, seemingly random process that we go through when being creative.
And the other was an interview with Eva Cox, author, feminist and activist. (Feminist alert) Here’s the bit that stuck with me (the emphasis is mine):
“The revolution we wanted in the 1970s is not happening: we have not undermined the powerful masculine cultures of workplaces, politics and business, despite having more women in top positions. The feminist label is fine by me, and I work with both men and women. I am now part of the Centre for Policy Development, a Sydney-based think tank, and am exploring using the dinner party (instead of a meeting) as a new way of tapping into good ideas for a more civil future. This domestic food-sharing approach may open up discussions of a society valuing social connections, care and feelings rather than the powerful male mantra of essentially macho economies and firms.”
Yeah.Community, Creativity, Culture, General | Comment (0)
Let’s say you have an idea. A great idea. And you want your work colleagues to know about it. There’s a meeting coming up where you might get a chance to share your great idea. What does winning mean to you? What about success? Are they they same thing?
Many of us wouldn’t give a second thought the the difference between winning and success – because there’s no difference, right? Winning IS success. Success IS winning.
You will be comfortable with that view if the metaphor that underpins how you work is drawn from sport. Sport seems to be ubiquitous as a metaphor for organisations – teams, goals, stepping up, targets, avoiding the curve ball, taking it on the chin, keeping your eye on the ball, winning the game – are a few that come to mind.
And what if we used a different metaphor – one from theatre perhaps: we’d then have starring and supporting roles, directing, orchestrating, stage managing, focus, on- and off-stage, subplot, and troupe for example.
I was introduced to the concept of success by improvisors: that success in an improvised performance is about sometimes yielding so as the collective (troupe) is successful.
It seems to me the planet could do with some of us giving up the goal of winning and a hell of lot more yielding.Culture, General | Comment (0)
I’ve started a little research project to explore the edges of how we work.
When facilitating workshops with many different groups and organisations, there is sometimes a disconnect between what people want to do and how it is expected to be done. Approaches that were once just fine are now struggling in the face of complexity, unpredictability and demands for creativity, innovation and agility.
To find out what has traction I’ve come up with a series of short, free workshops that explore some of these edges. I’m pretty excited about this. You might be interested in taking part? If so, check out the offerings over on my dedicated web site, Transforming the way we work.Creativity, Culture, Innovation, Play | Comment (0)
Here’s something that puzzles me. It appears (and I’m happy to be proven wrong) that the higher you get in an organisation or the more serious your work, the less likely it is that you’re allowed or expected to be playful. I don’t mean to trivialize what’s important, but playfully exploring issues, and options, and ideas, and solutions, and relationships with each other. There appears to be an expectation of behaving oneself when doing work. That sometimes means sitting through some pretty dreary meetings. And I may be making this up, but I also have a sense that some people see playing as a waste of time, verbalised with “when are we going to start the real work?”
Over the last two weeks, Johnnie Moore and I have playfully explored facilitation. We’ve tried to emphasize that not all games and activities are designed to be used when facilitating (although they can be). Some are used to help us understand our own reactions and behaviours. It’s easier for me to unearth my supervising behaviour, my tendency to play safe, my irritation with people who don’t do things my way – and to explore other ways of acting – when playing a game. Then I can use my new knowledge about myself when I’m doing something else – facilitating, organising an event, meeting with friends, negotiating with a client.
We’ve heard a common concern about playfulness expressed in many different ways. It goes something like this: “It wouldn’t work with (insert client group, profession, culture, organisation etc).”
Given that everyone on the planet experiences love, loss, friendship, anger, has memories and hopes, can wonder at the stars and shed tears over an injustice, can be sad, and can laugh – is emotional – then what is really stopping us from being more playful? I can’t speak for others, but for me it’s fear. Fear of looking silly, fear of not being taken seriously, fear of being an outsider, fear of being the lone nut with no first followers. Fear of what others will think.
I’m intentionally trying to let go of these fears. Sometimes it’s hard. It’s easier with a friend who pushes, and pokes, and prods and doesn’t let me get away with saying one thing, and doing another (thanks JM).
A lot of things appear not to be working. Just look at what’s happening in northern Africa and the Middle East. Look at your own organisation. The more we try and control each other the less that seems to work out, sooner or later.
While the Ghandi quote “Be the change you want to see in the world” is a little over-used, it came alive for me these last few weeks. I can’t control what others think of me, or of my work, or of my approach. I can only be me, be the change, and hope that others who also want more playfulness in their lives and work, can be inspired to do something a little more playfully. Maybe it will be catching.Culture, Facilitation, General, Musings | Comment (0)
I found this the other day on Twitter (sorry I don’t know the source but a HT to @nomeatballs for the link). It was described as ‘the best infographic ever’. I like the simplicity of it, and while it relates to happiness, it got me thinking about meetings.
In London, Johnnie Moore, Trish Stevenson, Stephen Wrentmore and Oli Barrett have been hosting a series of meetings about meetings called We Can’t Go On Meeting Like This. The premise is, if your meetings are not working, then try something else – change something. They try out different ways of meeting. I guess for some people, the fact that there are even different ways of meeting is a revelation.
It’s not such a big linguistic step from revelation to revolution – and I think that’s what’s needed for meetings.
I believe a lot of us want meetings to be better, it’s just that we’re trapped into a format and it feels too risky to break out. I remember choosing colours to paint the interior of our house. We wanted some bold colours but weren’t very confident in choosing them so we asked a colour consultant to help. We worked with her and made some pretty bold choices, except for one which she described as a ‘maybe next time’ colour. As a facilitator, I hear a lot of ‘maybe next time’ comments about possible different ways of meeting.
We can see that things aren’t working, we want something different, but we also want to stay safe, so we take ‘baby steps’ instead of bold steps.
I’m reading Dialogue: The Art of Thinking Together by William Isaacs. I’m only part way into it but am already excited about the potential of relearning dialogue, which is about exploring the nature of choice. Isaacs describes dialogue as “a conversation in which people think together in relationship”. Any conversation can turn on our choices. If we choose to suspend and listen without resistance we are on the road to dialogue; if we choose to defend our ideas, we are on the road to either skillful conversation or controlled discussion. Skillful conversation relies on analysis and reasoning, controlled discussion on advocacy and abstractions.
More often than not, I see polite conversation – saying nothing to offend, playing by the rules – wrapped in a cloak of passive-aggressive dissatisfaction. I’ll have more to say on this soon.
To echo my London friends: WE CAN”T GO ON MEETING LIKE THIS!Culture, General | Comments (2)
I once worked with a young woman who wanted to know, at every turn, what she should do, how she should do it. She was smart, passionate and able – yet she was gripped by fear. Gripped by the fear of not doing it ‘right’. The problem was, and is, that there is no manual – there is no ‘right’ way. As Seth Godin would put it – she was in the grip of her lizard brain, that primitive part of our brain that is either hungry, scared, angry or horny. It’s the reason we are afraid. I heard that she’d recently had a baby. I hope she’s worked out how to tame that lizard brain because I’m pretty sure there’s no manual for raising a child either.
This is the premise of Seth Godin’s latest book, Linchpin. We have a choice to stay stuck, or we can embrace the fear and create some momentum. That’s the good news. The bad news is that our conditioning, and that damn lizard brain, might stop us. We’re conditioned to fit in, not stand out. We’re conditioned to deny our own genius, our art – whatever it is – because we might fail and then the lizard brain can say ‘told you so!’. We fear failure to the point where we don’t even try. Prototyping is all about trying and discarding. Accepting failure. Our lizard brain doesn’t like failure. It once meant we were probably dead, a tasty meal for some predator.
The predators today are no less fearful – it’s just that they are harder to recognise. Security, compensation for our labour, following the rules. These are the things that prevent us from embracing our art and sharing it with the world. Not because we want to get paid, but because there’s nothing else we CAN do, but share our art. Share our passion. We have to accept that it might not work and do it anyway.
Generosity is at the heart of Linchpin, gifting our art to others, not for something in return, not for a later transaction, but for the human to human connection. And for movement. If you’re stuck there’s no movement. It’s hard to be generous if you’re stuck.
There’s no ‘how to’ in this book. It’s a description of what the world needs, and Godin suggests each of us needs to find our own way, create our own map, forge our own future, share our own art, find others who will share the passion and momentum rather than hold us back with the threat of ‘not safe, not secure, not wise’. It’s not a bad description of how to navigate a complex world where even if there was a manual, it would be out of date before you finished reading it.Creativity, Culture, Innovation, Leadership, Learning | Comment (0)
Rob Paterson has an interesting post on the differences between growing an audience and growing a community. I think he’s nailed it.
“We don’t want a bigger audience – defined as passive transactional consumers of transactional content delivered on our terms. We want to have a deep attachment with our community – defined as their active participation in news and culture in safe places created by us for them – 24/7 on their terms.”
Is anyone listening yet?Community, Culture | Comment (0)