Tag Archives | Meetings

Lost in Space


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

I am a member of a group of Group Facilitators that meets once a month to share questions and ideas with each other. Members have a variety of styles and tools and specialize on various types of meetings and groups so, as you can imagine, the discussions are always lively and thought-provoking. I always learn something or come away with something to ponder.

Our last meeting was no exception. We covered a variety of topics which wove around and through each other, and I came away with a lot to think about.

A term I have heard used a lot in relation to facilitation is “holding space,” but the first time I heard it (when someone commented on my ability to “hold the space” for a group process) I had no clue what it meant. Over time I have begun to get my arms around it, but it has been a learning process.

At the last facilitators’ meeting, one of the things that kept coming up was this idea of “holding space.” Being a Word Geek, one of the things that struck me as we spoke about “holding space” was the similarity between the words “facilitate” and “facility.”

Yeah. One of those things that makes you say, “Hmmm.”

I think of a facility as a building in which something happens, and so as facilitators it makes sense that we become the facility – we hold the space or become the space – in which the discussion can occur. So I came home and looked up the words.

Wrongo!

According to various definitions (thanks to TheFreeDictionary.com),

  • Facility means “Ease in moving, acting, or doing; something that facilitates an action or process; something created to serve a particular function.”
  • Facilitate means “to make easier, assist the progress of.
  • Facile means “easy to perform or achieve,” and comes from the Latin “facilis” (easy) which comes from “facere” (to do).

Maybe not so Wrongo

Good facilitators make a discussion easier, assist its progress and, as a noun, facilitators are the thing that makes it easier. The facility in which it can happen.

At last I understand the concept of “holding the space,” although I’ve been told I’ve been doing it for ages.

Exercise

Think about some of the meetings you have attended (or attend, or lead). Are they primarily vehicles for disseminating information and/or collecting status reports? Are they discussions, with people actively participating? What does the facilitator do differently in those situations? Is the facilitator the center of attention, or is the discussion itself the center of attention? Are they meetings people look forward to? Does the group achieve it’s goal(s)? Or is the group lost in space?

The next time you plan a meeting, consider the goals of the meeting and the type of facilitation that would best help the group achieve those goals. Contact me at susan {at} susantblake {dot} com for more information!

Please leave a comment below!

Would you like to receive more fun, thought-provoking posts and occasional announcements in your inbox? Click Here.

Image Credit: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What Do I Do? I’m Glad You Asked That…


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

This post comes to you in response to a challenge from blogger and IttyBiz marketing guru, Naomi Dunford. (You haven’t lived until you’ve listened to her read Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go.)

In her most recent blog post (which you can read here), Naomi challenged readers to answer a very scary question: What do you actually do? Although I do try to answer that on my About and Services tabs, here it is with a slightly different twist – with the questions provided by Naomi:

What’s your game? What do you do?

I wonder. No, really, not about what I do. That is what I do. I notice how things work, how people think and act, and how human systems work (or don’t work). I ask questions that make people think.

That’s a practice that could be extremely irritating if not used wisely. But I ask questions that give people ideas. And I create a safe space for them to answer those questions.

I apply that in a variety of ways:

  • I rock at facilitating group discussions and meetings, especially when it involves getting people’s creative juices flowing.
  • I write and analyze surveys, drive strategy planning projects, develop and present training, and provide individual and group coaching.
  • I write about these and other things that make me wonder and that I hope will inspire you.
  • Oh, and I’m a photographer on the side.

Why do you do it? Do you love it, or do you just have one of those creepy knacks?

I do it for a lot of reasons. I do love it; I’m naturally curious about – even fascinated by – people, nature, why things are the way they are. I want to share that wonder, and I believe it can open many doors.

And I do have a knack for usually asking the right question.

Who are your customers? What kind of people would need or want what you offer?

Maybe I have a big head, but I think everybody needs what I offer.

Have you ever thought,

  • “Now what do I do?”
  • “I should get this, but it just isn’t coming.”
  • “It’s right on the tip of my tongue…”
  • “I wish I had someone to bounce this off of…”
  • “I’m pretty sure I know what they think, but maybe I should check. How do I ask?”
  • “I’m stuck,” “I’m trapped,” “I’m bored,” “I’m in a rut,” or…

Then I can help.

If you need someone to…

  • Come in and ask the questions that need to be asked, or
  • Help you to formulate the questions that will help you get useful answers, or
  • Maybe you want to have a team event that you can participate in without having to lead it…

Then I’m the one you want.

What’s your marketing USP (Unique Selling Proposition)? Why should I buy from you instead of the other losers?

Because…

  • I ask great questions that give people ideas.
  • I will tell you the truth.
  • I’ve been around, and survived a few things, and I know you can too.
  • I have a lot of tools in my toolkit, not just a hammer.
  • People say my meetings are fun.
  • I know the difference between being a Consultant and an Insultant.

What’s next for you? What’s the Big Plan?

In addition to helping more and more people build their curiosity muscles,

  • I’m developing a series of workshops on Asking Powerful Questions in both personal relations and business interactions.
  • I’m updating my ebook, “Remember to Look Up: 35 Tips for Making a Comeback.” The new version will include exercises to help you with some of the tips, and it will be ready by the end of November.

So there you have it. If any of this appeals to you and you’d like to talk to me about helping YOU out, click here. Or give me a call at (925) 580-6922. (I’m on Pacific Time.) You may also leave a comment if you have something to say but aren’t ready for us to work together.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

Can Webinars Ever Replace In-Person Training?


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

Although the technology and platforms for teleconferences, webinars and online meetings have improved dramatically in the recent past (Skype, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, and Facilitate.com are just a few examples), the question still comes up: Can virtual training and meetings ever replace the in-person experience?

The answer is, of course, “No.” Before you proponents of virtual meetings begin howling, however, let me say that I also support and use these new technologies. These tools have made it possible for people from around the globe connect and participate in meetings and training that they would otherwise not have access to, and they have allowed me to build relationships with colleagues whom I have never met – in person, that is. I have colleagues with whom I have formed virtual relationships in Pakistan, Spain, Belgium, and Switzerland, not to mention Maryland and South Carolina. I marvel – and am grateful – that this is even possible.

Granted, virtual meeting rooms present certain challenges: It can be difficult to obtain visual clues about how event participants are feeling, their level of engagement, or even who is speaking or wants to speak. It is not only difficult but impossible to engage in the physical actions that contribute to relationship building: Signs of respect such as a handshake, a bow, a kiss on both cheeks, and signs of support and affection such as a hug or even a pat on the shoulder or back. It is also far more challenging to sit on a conference call for eight hours than to sit in a room with a group of people for eight hours.

These gaps can make not only participation and facilitation challenging but can also inhibit valuable bonding and expressions of respect. These challenges require new processes to bridge those gaps and even new etiquette.

It has been very interesting for me to participate in and to help plan a variety of webinars in the last year, and I have observed a lot of creative uses of technology to replace in-person interactions, such as:

  • Using “chat” features to give participants the opportunity to introduce themselves;
  • Using those same “chat” features and “raise hand” features to allow participants to submit questions;
  • Using polling to gather feedback and test knowledge; and
  • Using discussion forums to provide participants with an opportunity to interact with one other between and after sessions while digging into and reinforcing the material presented.

A prime example is the new series of courses being presented by Michael F. Broom of The Center for Human Systems. Michael and his colleague, Edie Seashore, have for years been presenting a variety of in-person programs ranging from short workshops to their multi-session Triple Impact Practitioners Program. These programs have been very popular with their participants, but even these in-person programs have a downside: It is challenging for people in all but a few locations to get to them, and it is challenging for the presenters to get to all of the locations where there are people who want to attend.

For this reason, Michael is launching “Making OD Work[1], a new series of courses that will be conducted virtually using a combination of technologies. The webinars will be conducted using conferencing software that allows for visual presencing by participants with web cams, presentation of audio-visual aids by the presenter(s), dialogue between the presenter and participants, chat between the presenter, the participants, and subgroups, and small-group breakout sessions. Between webinars, participants will have in-depth discussions via private discussion group software – making possible the deeper exploration of topics, enhanced learning, and relationship building that are hallmarks of in-person events.

Are such events the same as the in-person experience? Of course not. Do they allow for the same duration and intensity as the in-person experience? No. But in this age where the world is getting smaller and smaller and yet we are still often thousands of miles apart, these technologies are making meeting, learning and bonding possible in ways that we could only dream of a few years ago.

What new processes and etiquette would you like to propose to enhance effectiveness and engagement in virtual events?


[1] In the interest of full disclosure, I am a part of the team that has been developing and promoting this program.

Circles


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 244

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, string given in /home2/stblake1/public_html/wp-content/plugins/facebook-button-plugin/facebook-button-plugin.php on line 246

Have you ever noticed how seemingly unrelated things connect?

Last week I attended an event in an ongoing series of VisionHolder calls sponsored by Craig and Patricia Neal’s Heartland Circle. This week’s event was an evening with Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea, co-founders of PeerSpirit, Inc. and co-authors of “The Circle Way: A Leader in Every Chair.” I have enjoyed several of these events in the past year, and this was no exception.

After opening the circle, Ann and Christine spoke about how they began using circles as a forum for teaching and conducting meetings, how they met and began working together, and some of the key facets of circle work. (Maybe “facets” isn’t the right word, since circles don’t have facets. Hmmm. How about points?)

Anyway, some of those points included the idea that the circle is the molecular unit of democratic practice; all members have a voice. They can remove divisions and do not allow differences to divide people. Anger can be expressed, if it is directed to the center where it can just be deposited and not directed across the circle at someone else. And when we focus on the issue we are gathered around today, “the sacred comes into the room.” (I thought this was a particularly moving idea; it was not about religion, but about something “entitled to reverence and respect.”

I was also struck by Christine’s description of how she began using circles in her teaching. She realized that her students were also teaching her and each other, and I was struck by the connection to Paulo Freire’s emphasis on the teaching model of “teacher-student and student-teacher.” (I am re-reading his book, “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed,” for the first time in 30 years, and I am struck by the timeliness – or timelessness – of his thoughts, as well as how he has shaped my thinking.) Connection Number One.

Then on Friday I attended the annual conference of the Bay Area Organization Development Network (BAodn). For the first time the conference did not follow the traditional model with a keynote speaker and pre-defined sessions with expert speakers. Instead, the conference followed the “Open Space” model. There was a facilitator, but there was no set agenda and there were no “expert speakers.”

Instead, we convened in a circle (ah, Connection Number Two) and the facilitator, Lisa Heft, explained to us how the day would proceed. Anyone who had an issue or question they would like to have addressed in a session could come to the center, create a placard, and announce it to the group. They then selected which of three one-hour time slots they wanted their session to be in. When those who had created sessions were done, they were assigned meeting stations to convene their circles. (There it is again.) Then we began the first session and participants went to the session(s) of their choice. Each group was asked for a Note Taker and the notes were turned in at the end to be compiled into a Book of Proceedings that will be distributed to all participants. At the end, after all sessions were complete, the facilitator reconvened the great circle and each person had an opportunity to share a reflection on the day.

This was quite an interesting experience for me. It was somewhat uncomfortable, at least initially, for those who are more comfortable with Structure – even if they admitted it was only so they could resist that structure – but there was no Chaos. Every person’s expertise and desire to learn had a place; and all perspectives were welcome. The only barrier to being heard was one’s own barriers to speaking. There was a lot of sharing and learning and exposure to new ideas or tools, and I was struck by how many people said they found themselves having, and sharing, surprising insights.

I wonder about my recent experiences with these learning circles. They are not, at their core, new; as Ann and Christine said, such circles are archetypal, part of our cellular memory: Humans have been gathering around fires since there were fires and humans.

But why are they getting attention now? I wonder, is it just me paying attention? Or is it that at this point in time we are realizing that many of the “experts” have been wrong, or dishonest, and our answers have to come from each other – and from within?

It seems to me that these circles are like Four-Way Stops, which someone once said were one of the great examples of Civilization. Why? Because everyone generally agrees to abide by the rule without enforcement. There is the opportunity for Chaos, but it is avoided.

I wonder. And I look forward to doing more circle work.

What about you? Care to join me?

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes