This cartoon by Michael Leunig tells you all you need to know about how to get there. I think it’s brilliant.
Sometimes people ask me how I got to be doing what I’m now doing (I think they mean the work, and not sitting here at a computer writing a blog post). Sometimes I ask myself the same question (about the work, and about writing blog posts).
It relates well to my latest mantra: Show Up. Let Go. Jump In.
Or sound advice given by my humanitarian aid friends: Proceed until apprehended.
Just keep on with it. Good advice, don’t you think?
Especially for someone like me who likes beginnings, but not endings.General, Musings | Comments (2)
This is one of my favourite debrief questions when I’m facilitating a group. In truth, it’s a go to question when I have nothing else to ask. It’s open, it’s broad and it allows people to answer it any way they like. It creates conversation, it surfaces ambiguity and yet more questions. In short, it’s a ripper of a question.
I found myself answering it this morning as I reflected on a workshop I participated in last night (that’s right, I had no role in facilitating it). I noticed I completely let go of any interest in process, leaving it entirely to the facilitator. Okay, there was one moment where I thought, ‘oh, I’d do blah blah blah’ and I caught myself thinking that and let it go. That felt good.
And what became clear to me is that I see the world differently to many other people – especially many other people my age. And my views, so often kept to myself when facilitating, are just bursting to be revealed. And they might even have some merit.
What also is becoming clear is my continuing search for a way to embody facilitation within something else – to “use facilitation for…” compared with “being a facilitator”. I think there’s something lurking just out of my reach within the realms of social entrepreneurship.Musings | Comments (2)
There was a moment last week at the Applied Improvisation Network Conference where I felt particularly despondent.
We’d been listening to people talk about what they are doing in taking improvisation skills and practices out of the theatre and into the world. We’d heard of using improv to treat post-traumatic stress in war veterans, in training firefighters, for teaching language skills in Thailand. And more. Amazing work by amazing people.
I felt I had nothing to offer. It’s all being done, and done much better than I could ever hope to do it. Instead of being inspired, I found myself feeling dejected.
Later in the day I was sitting in the sun talking to my friend Eric Nepom, an amazingly talented scientist, educator and improviser, and passionate about finding ways to bring improv and science together. This is a passion we share so we were doing some evil planning on how we might make that happen.
It was then that perspective kicked in. I’d been sitting with about 200 people passionate about the value of improv in all walks of life. There’s a lot more people out there in the world who know nothing (yet) about the potential of improv. And there’s so much that needs to be done in the world, that there’s space enough for all of us. The shift in my perspective came from a shift in my circumstances, going from being part of a roomful of people receiving information, to a picnic table outdoors and a rich one-on-one conversation.
I realised I’d fallen into the old trap of being in an echo chamber – hearing only the voices saying the same thing – and taking a scarcity view of the world. The scarcity view is fed by competitiveness and a belief that there’s only so much to go round, so you’d better get in quick or be the best at something to get some of the action. The abundance view – that there’s more need than is being met and space for everyone to bring their unique talents, skills and perspectives to change the world – is far more hopeful and nourishing.
Conferences, Conversation, Musings | Comments (2)
July 20th 1969 was a school day. It was just eight days before my 14th birthday. I was in Form 2, or as it’s now known, Year 8. My school was large, with over 1000 students. I didn’t like it much, and I was anxious. What if the teachers didn’t let us watch the moon landing? Were there enough televisions at the school? Would I be able to see it? It was history in the making. I HAD to see it. I must have been persuasive enough for my mum to let me stay home from school and watch it with her, on our scratchy black and white television. We shared a love of space travel, of science fiction, and of wonder. We shared watching Neil Armstrong land on the moon.
Fast forward to August 6, 2012. I was sitting at my computer, NASA live streaming, in colour from Mars (from MARS!) the landing of Curiosity. At the same time as I was watching this I was skyping with a friend in the UK. It all seems so natural and everyday.
I’m pretty sure I never imagined such a thing at 14.
Today I’m surrounded by devices that keep me connected, somewhat distracted, and occasionally facilitate work.
Many events – like the moon landing – and many people, have influenced my thinking, the way I work, the person I am. I’ve met some of these amazing people in person or on-line (I no longer make a distinction).
Most of them probably don’t even know what influence they have on me. Or on others.
Which is my point.
It’s impossible to know what influence we have on other people.
Which is all the more reason to do the things that matter, in ways that feel right, with people we believe in.Musings | Comment (0)
Is it over sharing or reaching out? This is one of the new skills we have to navigate in this connected world. I think we all crave connection and understanding, empathy and love. Is it possible to get this on-line?
I’ve seen friends reach out on-line and receive an outpouring of support, ideas, encouragement and love.
It doesn’t replace our local human friends and family – it enlarges it to embrace a wider field of humans who can travel with us as we navigate this uncertain world.Community, Musings | Comment (0)
We hear a lot about doing what you’re passionate about. Good advice. Certainly beats doings something you hate. Finding your passion is one thing – and not always as easy as it seems – and sharing your passion with others is quite another.
I’ve come to realise that passion is not enough.
It’s not okay to be passionate and boring, or passionate and rambling, or passionate and incoherent, or passionate and judgemental.Musings | Comment (1)
What an exhausting and exhilarating couple of weeks it’s been. Improvention in Canberra with lots of really talented improv folk, then hosting AIN Downunder: Thriving In Uncertainty Conference. More on that later. And now I’m at Mt Hotham for a week’s skiing.
I love skiing. I love being in the mountains. Today was a glorious day, one of those days you dream of – a bit of new snow overnight, a clear, bright, sunny day, only a little wind, not many people on the mountain.
So I’ve been thinking about edges a lot. Of course, I’ve been rediscovering the edges of my skis. And Johnnie and I have had many long, rambling conversations about Edges of Work. My business is called Beyond the Edge, and today I skied past this run. Not sure I wanted to be Off the Edge so I skied right on by.
This relates to a theme that Johnnie and I were exploring that we named “I’ve Got Your Back”. As I was skiing alone today – my partner was back in the lodge with a nasty dose of flu – I was thinking about the role of a skiing buddy who’s ‘got your back’. Someone who’s ‘got your back’ is there to support and encourage, as well as poke and prod. Ski instructors often play this role – taking their students into terrain they wouldn’t (and maybe even shouldn’t) ski alone.
Whether it’s skiing, improvising, trying something new at work or in life, experiencing change and uncertainty, leading a group or organisation, or even making difficult decisions, knowing that someone’s ‘got your back’ can be the difference between playing safe and taking a risk. And most importantly, feeling safe to proceed in the face of uncertainty. There’s a lot written about leadership and what it takes to be a good, great, better, the best leader. Maybe it’s the people who support leaders who make the biggest difference, that enable leaders to go to their learning edge and make new and interesting discoveries for themselves and their organisations?Edges, General, Leadership, Musings | Comment (1)
Those of us who have seen an improv group perform are sometimes in awe of the skills and teamwork a group of players can demonstrate when performing – in front of a paying audience, and with no script. It’s no secret that they can do this because of the way they approach a performance, the rules that create a platform for what they do, and their willingness to practice together.
Most of us are also familiar with sporting teams. Whether successful or not in terms of winning, these teams also operate from a basis of rules and practice. They can at least play the game, even when pitted against a team that can play better.
Then we see groups and teams in organisations sometimes struggle to work together. There may be rules and structures and guidelines that support what they do (and sometimes hinder). The missing element may be practicing together.
And there’s also individual pursuits: yoga, music, tennis, juggling, driving, karate, weights, painting – just about anything I can think of requires some sort of practice, whether that be to build skills, to build confidence, to develop muscle memory, to be able to automatically jump into the task.
Yet some work seems to be different. A one- or two- or five-day course and you’re trained in something. Back at work there may be little opportunity to practice newly-learned or even long-held skills. There’s the real work to be done, pressure to perform, meetings to attend, deadlines to meet. Where is the practice that supports work skills, especially the practice that underpins skills that are highly sought after and rewarded? Skills of leadership, of communication, of teamwork, and personal interaction. Skills of participation, of awareness, of knowledge transfer? Is there space at work to practice, to do activities that hone these skills so as when they are needed it’s innate?
Where is the equivalent of the gym or the rehearsal studio at work?Collaboration, Learning, Musings | Comment (0)
Reader warning: self reflection
In the last couple of weeks my extraversion muscle has been stretched to its limit. It’s interesting to notice our own limits. I am now revelling in complete isolation. My partner is off cycling and I’m alone, completely alone and with few demands on my time and energy. It’s rejuvenating. It won’t last either. Soon I will crave the company of others, the warmth of real human bodies and people I can touch and relate to in a different way to how I reach out here on the internet.
I’m conscious of this rythym, this ebb and flow of being with, and being away from, people. A friend said to me recently that, given my need to be alone to recuperate, it’s an odd choice to be a facilitator, to put myself in front of groups of people. The thing is, I love it. I love being with groups, in front of groups, performing, being challenged, meeting people, seeing their delight, their anxiety turn to engagement, and sometimes, even joy. My personal aim is to bring more joy to my work, for myself and others.
It takes a long time to know yourself well, to know your limits, your strengths, the buttons that activate sometimes outrageous responses. We’re all still learning this together, right? In moments of doubt, I tell myself I know how to do this. It helps.
It also helps to have perspective. To know what really matters and what’s really important. In the build up to a big event, in the moment of standing in front of a hundred or so people, it can appear that this is what’s really important, that the world might actually stop if I stuff this up. It won’t. The world will hardly notice. In fact, many of the people in the room will hardly notice. That’s humbling. That’s perspective.
Like you, I’ll do my best. Sometimes my best is better than even I imagined. Sometimes it’s just good enough. Sometimes it’s not good at all. Surprise! We’re human. We’re vulnerable, we’re fallible, we’re inconsistent, we have emotions.
And then there are friends. When the work fades away to just a memory of just another event, the friends we’ve made along the journey remain. Now that’s joy.Musings | Comment (0)
Confidence is a strange thing – it comes and goes, almost with a mind of its own, and then there’s the issue of how much? Too little, and we feel intimidated, too much and we appear arrogant. Getting confidence ‘just right’ is tricky.
When Anne Pattillo and I founded Facilitating With Confidence it was based on the premise that confidence is the secret ingredient of great facilitation. Most of us can learn good, sound techniques and processes. We can practice and hone our skills of questioning, and giving instructions. We can be competent. But is that enough? Confidence is what enables us to shine, and to take risks, and to be true to who we are.
Sometimes I feel confident. Sometimes I have to fake it. Johnnie Moore likes to quip about Facilitating Without Confidence, and how this is often more of a challenge. I agree. Facilitating With Confidence is about finding that sweet spot, where our confidence is just right for the circumstances we find ourselves in. Athletes and performers sometimes call it a ‘flow’ state. Unearthing what conditions enable me to operate in that ‘flow’ state is an ongoing search. Just when I think I’ve figured it out, some situation will come along and remind me that I haven’t, not really.
The end of a calendar year seems to demand some reflection. As I look back over the last 12 months I’ve experienced the absolute joys of my work, serious questioning of my capability, discovering and rediscovering some things and people I love, letting go of some things and people that are toxic, and reinventing my approach to work. It’s been scary and challenging and exciting. I’ve felt validated at times, and at other times, vulnerable. I’m not alone. I know many others who are questioning what they do, and why, and looking for something more rewarding or challenging or lucrative or fun or serious or that simply makes them feel good about themselves.
Thanks for being part of the journey.
To celebrate surviving and thriving yet another year, I’ve created a networking group on LinkedIn – I want to stay connected, especially to my facilitation colleagues and those of you who have helped shape Facilitating With Confidence. I hope you’ll join me there. It will be good to talk to you.Facilitation, Musings | Comment (0)