Archive for the ‘Experience Report’ category

Listening for Metaphors in Interviews

April 12, 2017

Here’s what I listen for when I interview: metaphors.  I use metaphor-listening to draw some tentative conclusions about a person’s thinking. I do this out of habit from the skills I’ve developed as a Clean Language coach.

Here are some metaphors used by a recruiter in a recent interview:

‘raw shootout’ to describe the competitive coaches market,   

                      literal meaning of shootout: “a decisive gun battle”

‘running you through the gauntlet’ to describe the customer interview process 

literal meaning:  “a former punishment, chiefly military, in which the offender was made to run between two rows of men who struck at him with switches or weapons as he passed”  

‘put in a pipeline’ to describe what happens to me next

literal meaning of pipeline: “a long pipe, typically underground, for conveying oil, gas, etc., over long distances” 

I soon developed an image of a big filter entering the ground, where I and other ‘resources’ who had survived duking it out, and harsh interrogations would be dumped into the delivery mechanism to fuel that Big Agile industrial complex.

These metaphors do not align with my values.  The interviewer was clearly not aware of his own metaphors.  There were no other metaphors that described an alternate reality or an alternate mental model in that interview. I do not judge, but I do notice how I feel and react. 

I am learning the realities of big placement companies with big revenue numbers that lack focus on what really matters:  the connections that people make with each other to gain trust, build alliances, create great products, and instill humanity back in the work force.

Agility is harder than you might think without this.  Connections do matter. And so do contractual relationships which need to be built on a foundation of trust, transparency, and a healthy does of shared values.

What do you listen for in interviews?
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If you are interested in forging stronger bonds, safety, trust, engagement, authenticity at work, do check out my upcoming one day (very small) retreat on the weekend of May 6th.  Accepting up to 6 people on a pay-as-you-can basis.

Gratitude and Hopes: My 2016 and 2017 in review!

December 31, 2016
I am grateful for so much in 2016 and have many hopes for 2017 as well.  Here are some highlights:
 

An Ending and New Beginning: I have ended a 29 year marriage and begun a life of economic and emotional independence.  

photo-dec-31-10-46-00-am

Our marriage certificate from 1987

The marriage began in a far away place, was sustained as we built a family, but faltered as the kids became adults, and I ventured into a mode of self discovery, growth, learning, and coaching.  I am sad it couldn’t last through that change. And I am grateful that we both finally acknowledged our need to live apart.  Grateful for the years we did have together, even the difficult ones.

 
Vision, Action, and Results: I started my own business – Connections At Work, and have been coaching leaders, managers,and teams at Fannie Mae  as an independent contractor.  I’ve had some amazing testimonials from a few clients this year.  Here is one that came to me in a New Year’s email from my dear friend, Kathy Kidd:
“Getting the chance to know you has been one of the highlights of the year for me.   Your generosity, kindness, enthusiasm, and passion for making the work world a much more human and connected place makes such a difference.”  
I am proud of this!
 
Courage: I am more bold and audacious with my clients now, not simply teaching or supporting the agile and Kanban core competencies and practices, but reaching for the most effective experiential learning opportunities I can offer that will make a difference in how people connect, communicate, and build things that make a difference.  It is really a sort of mindset training – a way to influence people in how they think, solve problems, collaborate – and I love this work more than anything else.
 

Learning, Growth, Exploration:  In 2016, I also had 3 amazing trips. In January of 2016, I went to Santa Barbara and gave a talk on Clean Language to the Santa Barbara Lean Agile Meetup group, visited with a second cousin there, and then drove up the coast to be with Clean Language experts, James Lawley, Penny Tompkins, and Sharon Small for 10 days. That was a huge highlight of my year and truly helped sustain me throughout the rest of the year.

In April, I went to Boston – to the Agile Games Conference and the Mob Programming Conferences.  There I ran a session of Featureban game – a game I’ve been using a lot to teach Kanban concept of flow and limiting Work in Process.  I learned this game because of two leaders in the Kanban community who invented and socialized the game.  I subsequently joined the Agendashift community online (thank you Mike!) – for additional surveys and tools to help me in my consulting work and eventually met both Karl Scotland and Mike Burrows (see pic below) on my third trip of the year.  I much enjoyed the Mob Programming experience as well – getting me a bit farther back to my programming days – seeing how to get the best knowledge from the group’s individuals into the code – collaboratively.  I also got to visit my mother’s childhood home in Newton.  Memories!

The third trip was to Edinburgh, Scotland to run another Clean Language workshop at the Lean Agile Conference.   I met up with some European friends

agendashift-workshop

Agendashift Worksop with Mike Burrows and Karl Scotland

for the first time and was also able to visit with the son of my Santa Barbara second cousin – (that is my second cousin once removed), who teaches Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh.  I am amazed that I am able to connect with interesting members of my more distant family on the same trips as my conferences! I am truly blessed!  These were not the first such ventures, and hopefully not the last either!   It was, like the others, an amazing conference too.

This year, I also invested in two workshops given online by some wonderfully inspiring women. Lisette Sutherland’s Work Together Anywhere Workshop and Leslie Zucker’s Deliver Workshops that Bring In Clients. Both online workshops were well thought out and delivered flawlessly and I took a lot away for my ever growing toolkit.

 
Self-reliance: Here’s something surprising. In 2016, I returned to coding and built myself some budgeting and tracking software that makes my life so much easier, especially with my business. code-snippetI am so proud of that. And while I was at it, I learned how to do it using Test-Driven Development.  I had had this goal – to not just know ‘of’ this hugely important agile practice, but to experience it first hand. And I did that! 
 
Resilience: In between all of these things and work, I was able to clean out a substantial amount of accumulated stuff of 30 years. I have pared down by getting rid of 90% of unneeded stuff to make a move out of this house possible. I feel proud of that.  Letting go requires a lot of emotional resilience.
 
Hard work: I power washed the pool deck, the front walkways and the large wood deck behind the house. I put waterproof sealant down on the deck as well.  Only way I got through that was listening to interesting podcasts at the same time. 
 
Self care: I started seeing a chiropractor on a regular basis.  This has been a godsend for my back and physical well-being.  
 

Reliability:  In 2016, I supported my daughter in her dream to leave corporate America and start her own business.  She runs Christie Bailey Fitness now, and is coaching other young women, and very active in social media – now with 10 thousand followers on Instagram.   She is a top-five contender for bodybuilding.com’s spokesperson of the year contest and will be flown to Boise, ID, then on to Los Angeles this coming week for the finals, interviews and lots of photo shoots.  It’ll be exciting to see what comes from this experience.  I am proud that she has the courage to pursue her dreams and to not let negative things or economic uncertainty get in her way!  This is inspiring. (update on 1/7/17 —-> SHE WON!)

She and I (and my ex) have tried the best we can to support my other child, who is taking a path that is slow, unintentional, difficult, bumpy, and very far from a path that leads to economic independence…. The good news is that this child is working full time at a hospital ER as a technical aide. That gives me a little hope, and yet the night shifts and day sleep can be detrimental to health and certainly that makes taking even 1 college class challenging.  Video-gaming takes up most of the rest of the waking hours for this child. Any information anyone has on rehab for gamers – please do share – even if I can’t make force this child to acknowledge the addiction – at least I will be equipped with more information.  Further attention to the mental and physical well being of this kid will form a significant part of my effort no matter where I am or where I go… I am glad they both can rely on me, and I can support them in the best way I know how – through love and belief in them.

 
For 2017 hopes and wishes: What I would like to have happen in 2017? 
 
I would like pay exquisite attention to my own health and welfare, so that I can get my other goals accomplished!
 
I would like to reach out more frequently to ask for help from the amazing coaches I know.
 
I would like to make every week that I work include one or more of my mindset related experiential trainings.  
 
I would like to add new clients to my business.
 
I would like to design a logo for my business and publicize more about my success and techniques.
 
I would like to submit proposals to teach at new conferences and meet ups that I have not yet attended.
 
I would like to write more blogs and collaborate on a book with Sharon Small.
 
I would like to go back to Liverpool and train in Systemic Modeling with Caitlin Walker.
 
I would like to be even more supportive and find resources for my second kid – especially with respect to the gaming addiction (universe, please send me advice!)

I would like to start exploring moving to Europe – what would it take? Could I find work there? What are the visa hurdles?
 
I would like to explore selling my house so that when the time is right, it can be done quickly and effectively.
 
I wish everyone a wonderful year ahead, filled with whatever it is that YOU would like to have happen in your life! Thanks for being with me on my various journeys and do stay in touch! 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Temenos Retreat – A Journey of Change

April 23, 2012

View from Kayser Ridge log cabin

Temenos

Temenos is a retreat experience created and inspired by the life work of Siraj Sirajuddin, who is also my personal coach. Siraj has been using the Temenos retreat format in his work with organizations that are undergoing change.  This past weekend a group of 5, including Siraj, headed up to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, to beautiful mountaintop log cabin called Kayser Ridge that is used throughout the year for various sorts of retreats.  The group itself was not formerly connected through a work setting – we had all chosen to join in this experience to 1.) Learn Siraj’s techniques for facilitating group change through experiencing them as a group and 2.) Explore our own life journey and our own dreams and visions for the future of our individual work

Backing up a bit, let me explain a bit about the concept of this retreat. Temenos means container in Greek.  The container can be thought of in this context as the space, energy and interactions created between people. A marriage is a container. A group at work is a container. A set of people on a retreat is a container. Just use your imagination to think of all the containers you step into and out of in your daily work.  The significance and usefulness of this concept lies in the acknowledgement and respect given to the container while contributing to the development of its potential.  What I mean by this is that by ‘naming’ and using the word ‘container’, we have consciously acknowledged that we are more than loosely networked individuals – we have purpose as a group and goals to reach.  While we are in the container, we give our full attention to its purpose and growth.

As a change agent sharing this technique, Siraj both observes the container and participates within the container. Siraj moved in and out of these two roles, guiding the container and modeling the techniques for us to practice and learn.  On the retreat, Siraj was mostly inside the container – as he modeled the activities and responded to others as a participant, but at times he would stop us and say he was stepping outside the container to give us the meta-level view of what he was observing about our container. As a change agent, practicing the meta-level view of observation of course requires an extra level of thinking and abstraction. And even purely just as a participant, the listening required during the entire weekend (11 or 12 hours each day) was intense.

A short blog can’t possibly do justice to the experience of the Temenos retreat. However, I would like to share some of the techniques and learnings.

Check In

This was our ‘entry’ mechanism – a familiar round of introductions by each member of our group. We shared briefly our inspiration for coming and hopes for the session.

Introduction

Siraj gave an introduction to the timeline for our work and introduced us to his big-picture model for change agency. Suffice it to say that within the introductory framework, there was something called Personal Vision. To achieve personal vision, one starts by creating an Influence Map, which we did next.

Influence Maps

Influence Maps are pictorial representations of our life stories. Each person independently reflects and draws the events of his or her life that they feel compelled to share. The maps can be depicted in any way and with text if desired. When everyone is done, we take turns telling our life stories. Each person in our retreat took 1.5 to 2 hours for the sharing portion, including time for some open questions at the end.  You have to experience this to know – but what happens is that a web of incredible emotional, intellectual, and social connections is built between all the members of the container. We found not only during this exercise, but emanating from this exercise over the course of the weekend, that connection points between us spanned experiences of pain, growth, struggles, places, relationships, and much more. One person commented at the end:  ‘It is absolutely riveting to realize how little we know about other people.’

After completing the maps, we stepped outside the container to briefly record our learning from this exercise. I noticed

  • Listening is a form of respect and is an art and a discipline.
  • Influence Maps involves intense storytelling of a very personal nature. These create empathy hooks between people and connect the space between the members of the container.
  • Small changes in awareness of the person that sits opposite you have a large impact on how you interact with them in the present and the future.
  • Later presentations are more intense – I believe this is due to the slow build of safety in the container – that people feel more able to share more about their past and think of things they might not have initially depicted on their own maps. I like to say of this phenomenon: ‘the connections become thicker’.

Clean Slate

The next exercise we did was Clean Slate. Clean Slate is an essential element of the change process. It combines a look back over your past and a hard look at the present. So here is how it works. Each person answers first this question: How have, in the past, one or more of the ‘container’ systems you have been in failed you? You answer this with 5 or 6 examples and then continue with answering this question: How have you failed these container systems? The group reassembles and shares the results… This process clears the air through acknowledgement and forgiveness and allows you to move into a better pattern. In some organizations Siraj has coached, the organization has benefitted from this cleansing activity so much that they have implemented variants of ‘Clean Slate’ on a regular basis (similar to say a retrospective) with incredible success.  My learning from this section was entirely related to the second question and how it interplays with the dysfunctions described in my answers to the first question. I was able to explore my own accountability as a player in the ‘containers’ that I perceived as having failed me.

Personal Vision

After Clean Slate, we went on to draw our Mandalas. Mandalas are picture/symbolic representations of our future. How do we see our personal future in a  picture without words?  Each drew and we followed with presentation, comments and feedback. At this point, the container was so resilient and comfortable for everyone that I sensed a vested interest by each participant in the future vision of each other person. This aspect of the retreat was extremely intense for that reason.  As a group that had JUST come together, that did not know each other well, we were able to bond over the network of shared past-history story elements to appreciate fully the future visions and positive outcomes for each other.

Compelling Shared Vision

The next step break up into pairs to create a picture of our Compelling Shared Vision. In an organization this would pertain to the organizational container represented by the people doing the drawing. In our case, we paired with people we knew from our retreat without an organizational context, but we still came up with amazing shared visions of a future that we might support each other with. We brought forth all those shared personal connections from the Influence Maps to weave a new tapestry for the future. These maps combined the personal and the shared into one.  It was a little hard to get started since we are not related to each other through a work environment, but we did achieve beautiful shared visions anyway. Each team of two shared its drawing and explained it to the others. We ran out of time to then create a shared Mandala which would have represented our more global shared vision for all four of us. You can imagine how this might be useful with an executive leadership group in an organization.  This was very powerful sharing and visioning.

At this point day 2 was almost over and some people had to leave early. We wrapped up by exploring the process of ‘exiting’ a container and re-entering a different container. Based on the changes we experienced in our ‘retreat’ container, how would entering back into our ‘family’ containers be difficult or different and how would we ease that process.  This discussion helped us understand the impact of change on the surrounding environments and how other containers could benefit from our changes, but only if respecting the new (container) – the one we were entering back to.  My take away from this and the whole weekend in general was that the web and sphere of influence is complex. It is an interaction of containers with each other, of a container with its participants, and of the participants with each other within a container. All of these interactions are dynamic and changing over time and over space.

We also covered some more advanced concepts of Siraj’s work:

  • attributes of a container (too many to mention and we only covered the surface of each)
  • typical archetypes (influencers in service of the container) in organizations

Exit

We each checked out by summarizing our appreciations to each person and wondering how we would absorb all of this into our professional and personal lives. It is really the beginning of a fascinating journey of change.  We will stay in support of each other and reconnect through social media.

To my fellow participants, thanks for a wonderful experience!

To readers who want another participant’s view of this retreat, please read this blog by Peter Stevens, Scrum Coach and Trainer!