Engaging Ways

By kate, April 15th, 2014

Most meetings and most trainings are ho-hum. Here are some simple ideas to spark more engagement, more connections, and more fun. You don’t have to be in a formal leadership position to make them happen.

  • “Connection before Direction” is an important principle. If people feel connected to at least one person in the group and seen, they are more likely to participate constructively. You can have a subtle and very powerful influence on a group by greeting each person individually, with eye contact and a welcoming smile.
  • Aim to have everyone speak in the first 5 minutes of the session. If people are talked at for more than five minutes, it’s as if they are hazed into greater hesitancy to speak for the rest of the session. You might suggest a quick go-around where each person shares a word or sentence.
  • In ongoing groups, switch up how you do go-arounds to avoid boredom. It can be powerful, for example, to leverage the theme of your meeting or training. E.g. if your session is about making a difference, try a go-around with everyone associating to the word “impact”. If your meeting is about documenting change, you could invite people to say what makes a story compelling.
  • During the “body” of a meeting or session, vary the format. Too many meetings are entirely whole group processes. Even around a board table, you can invite people to have a focused conversation in pairs for 1-5 minutes. I often do this at the beginning of a new agenda item to reduce the “group think” impact of whomever is first to respond to the topic. It also supports quieter people to participate more as they have a chance to formulate and practice their comments in a lower stakes context.
  • Sometimes, after a pairs conversation, I invite people to share what they and their partner had in common. This can be helpful if you are trying to build consensus.
  • The best way to introduce any of these suggestions is by invitation. If you invite people they are way more likely to respond positively than if you tell them.
  • Even inviting a group to try something new can be nerve wracking. You need to take a clear and strong stand for your idea. If the group senses that you are not sure it will work, they will resist the suggestion.
  • In more advanced (open) groups, you can invite people to take a few moments of silent reflection. This is an excellent way to give space for people’s intuitive knowing.

These simple practices can help create more trust, community, synergy and impact. Do you have other ideas? I’d love to hear them, and also your experience with trying these.

Intergenerational Systems

By kate, January 16th, 2014

Each of us are parts of wider systems which — often invisibly — influence what we do.

Neuroscientists working with laboratory mice have shown that fears and trauma appear to be transferred down generations through DNA.

The mice were trained to be afraid of a scent similar to cherry blossoms. The following two generations of mice had no exposure to the same scent. The great “grandchildren”, when exposed to “cherry blossoms”, exhibited a fear response similar to their great grandparents!

The transfer mechanism, according to the research, is the greater activation of specific genes. See a fascinating BBC article here.

I believe this calls us to have greater awareness of intergenerational systems, and greater compassion for ourselves and each other. What if what stops us from moving forward are fears we’ve inherited from our parents, grandparents and even further back?

Being aware of intergenerational effects can help to burst the bubble. I can, by metaphor, train myself to notice when I’m triggered by “cherry blossoms” (or whatever it is), and consciously choose how I respond. I can “give back” what I’ve inherited, leaving the fear and trauma with previous generations.

Over the holidays, my mother gave me a folder with memoir writing she had done in the late 90s. I was struck by several references to how my mother would give up whenever she encountered resistance as she sought connection with her parents.

Perhaps not coincidentally, also over the holidays, my husband and I contrasted our respective styles in the face of resistance: I tend to withdraw/give up, and he tends to persist.

In this new year, I’m getting a lot of mileage out of noticing this particular “cherry blossom” trigger. I have been able to follow up more persistently in situations where I’d like to make a connection, and have way more compassion for my irritated self’s desire to chuck everything in the face of resistance to how I’m organizing a group I co-convene.

Understanding that we (and everyone we deal with) are affected by previous generations opens a lot of cans of worms. The good news is that since those worms are working on us anyway, being more conscious of them allows us to shift our “system”, both for our own lives, and for the lives of our children!

Pass it on!
P.S. One of the most powerful tools I know of for shifting intergenerational systems is Hellinger’s Constellation work. Ask me for more info if you are interested!

Potent Leverage Points

By kate, November 20th, 2013

My colleague, Anne, speaks about “noodling” when she has a question that calls her into new territory. I love the image, and want to share the noodling I’ve been doing about leverage points to support non-linear change.

  • Faced with a challenge or opportunity, one of the best places to turn is inward, where we can tap the power of intention, perception, intuition and consciousness.
  • For example, framing and reframing define the game, and can therefore change the game. The shift to seeing the glass half-full takes a nanosecond and offers much more possibility.
  • Clarity about purpose is something rock solid to both anchor to and push off from. When I’m stuck, what helps the most is connecting to the deeper purpose that is calling me forth, or to the deeper purpose of whatever I’m working on. Most groups benefit from revisiting their purpose, and framing it in a way that inspires a big “YES!
  • The shift from “self” to “Self” changes everything. Otto Scharmer calls it the shift from “Ego system awareness” to “Eco system awareness”. Lots more of his rich reflections here!
  • Our rational logical society steers us away from 99% of the game-changing potential in inner work. This is cause for hope: there is sooo much potential in shifting perspective, choosing trust, coming into alignment with purpose, tapping our intuition, being grateful …

Most of us need reminders or supportive habits to help us remember to use inner work.

Maybe this is a nudge you need!

And what if we join the revolution in consciousness — nudging each other to turn inward, and passing on inner work approaches we find helpful?



“Barefoot Facilitators”

By kate, March 04th, 2013

“I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Today, many things indicate that we are going thorough a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself, while something else, still indistinct, were arising from the rubble.

– Vaclav Havel


A barefoot facilitator is to a professional facilitator

what a paramedic is to a doctor:

A person with a basic and versatile tool kit and enough savvy to skillfully support what is needed 80% of the time, and for a fraction of the cost.

I resonate with Havel’s statement above: we are going through a massive transitional period. This “Great Turning” is calling for collective intelligence, collective wisdom and collective capacity as never before. We are being asked to revolutionize how we work together.

To help things go better, I’m inspired by the “barefoot doctors’ of Mao’s China. In the mid-60s, there was little access to medical care in rural areas, and not enough resources to supply fully trained doctors. Instead, 30,000 villagers were trained in basic Western and Chinese medicine — enough to treat common ailments, and to share information about hygiene, family planning, and prevention of epidemics.

They were called “barefoot doctors” because when they weren’t tending to basic medical needs, these people continued to farm barefoot in the rice paddies along side their neighbours. Almost overnight, this important innovation revolutionized health outcomes in rural China.

By analogy, we do not have resources or capacity to supply professional facilitators to all the meetings and group endeavours supporting the great shifts underway. There are, however, thousands of people in all walks of life already up-skilling their ability to facilitate deep and lasting change in the human systems of which they are a part.

Perhaps you already know that you are a “barefoot facilitator”. Perhaps you welcome the invitation to so serve. Either way, I hope you step up and offer your skills and awareness in the groups you are part of, and I hope you find ways to keep deepening your capacity to understand group dynamics.

If you are interested in co-creating a movement to revolutionize how we work together, including spreading the idea of “barefoot facilitation”, I’d love to hear from you.