Archive for the ‘Listening’ category

Systemic Modeling 101

November 22, 2017

What is Systemic Modeling and how can it supplement and improve the conditions for team success?

Topics include:

  • Origin
  • Whom is it for?
  • What are the benefits and observable outcomes?
  • Clean Scoping during pre-contract phase
  • Where can you learn more?
  • Training
  • How to request a Clean Scoping session

ORIGIN 

Caitlin Walker devised a set of exercises and models unique for group work that are based on the work of David Grove, a psychotherapist. David Grove was able to help patients – often PTSD patients – to heal without giving them advice.  Instead, he engaged them by asking questions that helped them model their own internal processes and in doing so they could recognize and reorganize their own patterns and change.

The foundational philosophy is one of deep respect for the individual and his/her own internal processes and therefore it is one of appreciating diversity in groups as well.  Caitlin Walker immediately put it to use and extended it for use in groups evolving into  organizational change work that has had astounding results.

Caitlin Walker’s own definition:  “a set of tools to create intelligent networks of attention across groups, enabling them to make the most of the experience and expertise of each individual present”

My quirky view: One of the coolest, most avant-garde and interesting techniques I’ve ever learned for helping smart people to become aware of and then improve in their interactions and communication. A set of techniques that that allow the team to become self facilitating – and therefore not reliant on a permanent external coach.

Clean for Teams is an alternative reference to what is known as Systemic Modeling.

WHOM IS IT FOR?

Systemic Modeling is domain and experience agnostic. It can work equally well for CIOs, CEOs, as it can for entry level workers. It works for groups in universities and a practice of doctors or lawyers. It has been used with disengaged youth failing in school, as well school administrations and IT teams. It has no boundaries where collaboration is concerned.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS AND OBSERVABLE OUTCOMES?

Benefits:

  • Increased creativity, psychological safety, and engagement – qualities coveted by many knowledge work organizations for contribution to high performing teams (see Google Article here)
  • Reduction in  Victim, Persecutor, Rescuer behaviors (see Karpman Drama video here) – fewer metaphorical elephants left to roam about untended.

You will notice that team members ubiquitously and frequently:

  • listen and pay attention
  • show curiosity and using clean questions,
  • set up for outcome and action oriented work,
  • give each other clean feedback,
  • spot each other’s ‘drama’ (behaviors of persecutor, victim, rescuer)
  • switch the ‘drama’ to outcome/action/evidence orientation
  • set developmental goals and pairing with others to evidence and feed back on the improvements

Other outcomes include:

  • Evidence of more equal levels of  participation in team meetings than prior to training
  • Increased self – advocacy and increased inquiry and learning
  • Utilizing the diversity in thinking for the greater good.
  • Use of modeling exercises to unearth hidden cultural tendencies and assumptions about the ‘way things are’ – thus ensuring continued improvement in culture.

CLEAN SCOPING DURING PRE-CONTRACT PHASE

One way that Clean for Teams sets itself up for success is in the pre-contract phase.  The Clean for Teams facilitator will typically have free phone calls or face to face meetings with both the sponsor advocate and members of the management. They will be led through a Clean Scoping exercise.

The facilitator asks the client what they would like to have happen. She checks for ‘sensory’ detail – not just conceptual words – so the client must share what they expect they’ll notice different once their outcomes are accomplished.  Then she repeats that process for the current state. How is the team working now? And what is the evidence of that? There are some additional probing questions to find out how the leadership expects it will  respond to others’ needs for change. This is to ensure their values around change will mesh with the goals of Clean for Teams training.  If both client and facilitator feel aligned based on what is shared and experienced during Clean Scoping, then the facilitator can draft up expected timelines and outcomes.

WHERE CAN YOU LEARN MORE?

The practices and stories of Clean for Teams in action across the last two decades are described in Caitlin Walker’s book: From Contempt to Curiosity, Creating the Conditions for Groups to Collaborate using Clean Language and Systemic Modeling.  You can listen to some compelling examples of how and why it improves communication in this brief radio interview. Listen to how Caitlin Walker learned about and then devoted her life to Clean Language in this Ted-x.  All links are to audio recordings for your convenience. The paperback of her book does have excellent illustrations that bring to life many of the concepts and models. It is cheapest to buy from the Clean Learning website.

TRAINING

Assuming there has been a set of  Clean Scoping meetings, the training plan would consist of sessions conducted in teams no larger than about 8 people.

The learning is iterative and most models/exercises will be used and addressed more than once during training.

Day 1 – Five Senses , Working at Best
Day 2 – Clean Feedback, Team Metaphor
Day 3 – Drama Triangle , Modeling
Day 4 – Clean Setup, Developmental Tasks
Day 5 – Current Situations, Modeling

Follow up sessions – Usually there is a need for follow up sessions spread out of a period of weeks or months to work on live issues and for deepening the practices.

HOW TO REQUEST A CLEAN SCOPING SESSION

To contact me for a free Clean Scoping session, email me: Andrea Chiou.
Please feel free to comment or interact here on the blog as well. Others might find your questions as well as the answers quite useful.

Contempt meets Curiosity

November 1, 2017

Contempt means thinking that a reaction or an attitude or a person or a group of people are unacceptable as they are.  Curiosity means noticing how things are and wondering how they’ve come to be like this and what we might like to have happen next. – Caitlin Walker

Do you experience some aspects or behaviors of people you interact with as alienating?  I sometimes do. And I am trying to learn how better to deal with that.  Since much of this habit is done under the proverbial hood, I’ve committed to start noticing and catching myself when I am subtly labeling or categorizing others in the back of my mind.

It doesn’t have to be like this.  I can try to be a bit more curious about you and you about me.  The world will surely improve if more of us learn this skill.  Whether at work, at home, or even in the routines of family life connecting, listening, and sharing requires both skills, attention, and time.  Nancy Kline’s book, Time to Think convinced me of that long ago.  Caitlin Walker‘s book, From Contempt to Curiosity, was more icing on the cake for my learning journey.  Recently I started to listen to Caitlin herself as narrator of the Audible recording of the same book. It’s a delightful listen, highly recommended to all my agile coaching friends, former and future colleagues, anyone in the healing, social service, teaching, or organizational culture change domains.  You’ll be amazed by the power of her stories in which more confident individuals and interactions emerge with the simplest of techniques.

I yearn for more interaction where mutual curiosity is nurtured, connections are strengthened, creativity fostered, and productive activity and friendships are born.  This is why I started the Clean Language Practice Group in Reston, VA. We practice skills that lead to better, more resilient interactions, and happier selves.

What is your experience of contempt and curiosity and the connection between the two?

Come join us there if you would like to learn and practice with a small group every other Thursday evening.

 

My Company is Seeking a Team to Train in Clean Language

October 23, 2017

My company’s name is Connections At Work.   My mission is to promote connections between people and ideas.  And I don’t know a better tool to do this with than Clean Language.

Clean for Teams Paris

Training a Team of 12 – Paris , Sept ’17

I am urgently looking for one or more teams to train in Clean Language and the body of work called Clean for Teams.  I will be cross posting similar appeals on various groups in LinkedIn.   Apologies if you see this in duplicate.  Will you help me find a team?  Here’s what I need and why:

My ideal team(s)  would desire a huge increase in performance and/or increased mutual understanding and general engagement with each other. To help me find such teams, consider a few of the following contexts that might apply:

  • You or a team you know of is working in a competitive landscape and you just want your company to outperform all the others for the next 20 years! (Hint: there’s several small companies that have done just that for years using Clean Language)
  • Maybe you are working with a team or know of one where  members participate unevenly or with uneven results due to communication foibles?
  • Perhaps you’ve seen or heard of some drama in a group or team you know of such as blame, secretiveness, inability to say no or to give each other useful feedback.

Maybe its a bit of all of the above… The team can be a team of managers, programmers, service professionals or any other sort of group or small business, agile or otherwise.  It can also be executives. Clean knows no boundaries.

So, why do I need such groups now? Why urgently?

The reason is that I am pursuing a Certification in Systemic Modeling more familiarly  known as Clean for Teams. I need to train one or more teams as part of the certification. More importantly,  I want to see the results I know are possible from these tools. Lastly, I enjoy helping teams get into a state of mutual support, inquiry, and self-development. Here are some benefits of Clean Language:  

– helps groups/teams/leaders strive towards autonomy and mutual support;
– is simple to learn and practice after a few days of training;
– does not require constant coach presence, and is therefore very affordable
– is an efficient way to surface creativity, eliminate assumptions and misunderstandings;
– incorporates a very effective feedback model that can be used frequently and easily

While simple enough to learn , it will take commitment from team members towards creating a higher level of personal and team self-awareness than what they are used to.  It will happen over time, while the team and members learn to drop habits, sometimes unconscious ones and replace them with  introspection and very big dose of curiosity. It isn’t hard, but the will must be there. Don’t worry if you’re a bit scared, I’m there to guide you and it’ll be a very, very pleasant ride.

Initial contact time: 4 sessions of 2-4 hours each depending on group size.  Ongoing monthly refreshers as needed.  

For more background on how Clean Language gets such amazing results when used by teams, do listen to this excellent radio interview with Caitlin Walker, the inventor of Clean for Teams.

Please contact me  at andrea@connections-at-work.com or call me at (571) 437-4815 if you want to learn more and especially if you have leads on a team that is willing to invest in learning this amazing technique.

Empathic Listening, Symbolic Modeling and Non Violent Communication – Compared

August 22, 2017

img_2220On August 19th and 20th, 2017 I had the good luck and privilege to participate in a weekend of Empathic Listening training and practice, led by by Allan Rohlfs (NVC Trainer), a student of Eugene Gendlin.  Gendlin was a philosopher, who was heavily influenced by Carl Rogers – a pioneer in client-centered psychotherapy. Rogers noticed that Empathic Listening contributed greatly to the creation of a safe space and connection between the client and the therapist. Gendlin went on to create ‘Focussing’, a method Rohlfs uses to help teach his version of Empathic Listening.

Focussing uses the term ‘felt sense’ to describe a pre-verbal or unconscious but emerging awareness about something.  In Empathetic Listening, there is both a listener and a speaker.  The listener is to discern the emergent ‘felt sense’ of the speaker and to use those moments to reflect back to the speaker by repeating or slightly paraphrasing what they said.   The idea is that the listener might, by focussing on the listener, also ‘get’ this same ‘felt sense’, that it is shared.  Unlike what we might think of being empathetic in normal every day discourse, there is a LOT more focus in a one way direction here. In other words, it takes timeand deliberateness – while in normal course of the day, being empathetic comes and goes in between other interactions.

In Symbolic Modeling, there is a client and a coach or facilitator.  The client expresses subconscious thought via metaphors that the coach intentionally elicits. Those metaphors come from what I imagine is the same place of ‘knowing’ as the ‘felt sense’ – expressing something that might never have been verbalized, that is emerging.  It seems to me, that Symbolic Modeling might be faster in helping the client understand themselves than Empathic Listening.  Symbolic Modeling makes no attempt and has no goal for the facilitator to ‘understand’ or ‘get’ anything about the client.  Hence, rapport and connection is not the purpose.  The Symbolic Modeller is a facilitator for the client – helping them to create their own ‘metaphorical’ or internal landscape.  However, the Symbolic Modeller is observing the coachee, reflecting their words back and looking for shifts or changes (i.e. aha moments, sighs, body movements) to support the new awareness emerging.  This is similar to Empathic Listening.

While the  purpose of Symbolic Modeling (coaching with a desired outcome) and Empathic Listening (rapport/connection) differs, the effect on the coachee/speaker could be similar.  

During the workshop, Allan caught me (when I was listener in a pair) trying to use a question, and he interrupted and asked me not to do that because any question would be ‘leading’.  While this gave me a LOT of anguish at first because I am so comfortable with clean questions and I do not consider them leading at all, I came to accept it for empathic listening.  I think this new awareness will help me to pause much more while coaching using Clean questions in a Symbolic Modeling session, rather than coming up with a question right away after the speaker stops.

During the training, we each got to sit in both the speaker chair and the listener chair in a pair, with Allan coaching the listener and everyone else observing.  Each speaker (in the speaker/listener pair) seems to have felt ‘gotten’/understood.  We seemed also to all agree that sitting in the Speaker’s chair was absolutely necessary to understanding Empathic Listening.  In other words, you have to be listened to well by someone experienced in Empathic Listening, to feel really understand the effect. In that way, you may become a more effective empathic listener.  This is true for Symbolic Modeling and Clean Language – best to experience it first.

On the relationship between Non Violent Communication (NVC) and Empathic Listening

The event participants were all familiar, if not expert, in the use of Non Violent Communication techniques for creating rapport and understanding. While NVC has the certain purpose of creating safety and connection between two people, within its construct, it includes places where one person asks questions of the other, in particular with relation to understanding the other person’s feelings and needs.  If you are not familiar, NVC uses OFNR (Observation, Feelings, Needs, Request) framework where the empathic bits are mostly centered in the exchange of feelings and needs.  The most significant difference between Non-Violent Communication and Empathic Listening as learned in the workshop is that in Empathic Listening, the Listener does not try to guess the feelings or needs of the person speaking. That element falls away in Empathic Listening in favor of a more natural verbal validation and very slight rewording of what was said. Observations and Requests are also not present in Empathic Listening.  Both are strongly geared toward creating safety, empathic listening being much more a one way flow, it seems.    As Listeners, participants in the Empathic Listening workshop fairly universally felt much relief NOT to have to guess at the other person’s feelings and needs. 

As I move forward in the coming year in my goal of becoming certified in both Symbolic Modeling (individual coaching) and Systemic Modeling (group coaching) both of which use Clean Language, I know that the philosophy and practice of Empathic Listening will stay with me as a useful alternative in other situations. I really appreciated that Jane McMahon (certified NVC facilitator) organized this event. It gave me the opportunity to connect meaningfully to a variety of interesting people. 

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If you are in the DC area and interested in learning more or wanting to practice, please get in touch with me at andrea@connections-at-work.com. I am considering starting a practice groups if I can find enough people interested in joining. Location will be Reston.

 

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.

My ‘Intentional’ Mindful Leadership Retreat

March 26, 2016

cherriesI am planning a retreat with Selena Delesie, called the Mindful Leadership Retreat at the April 22-24th, 2016. You can read about it here, and register here.

I want to share why I am running this retreat, why at my home, and why now in my life? I want to disclose my intent!

My Intent in running the retreat is to:

1.) Share.  What holding this retreat does for me that it holds space for others to learn and share. The magic that can happen over a three day period with a small group of people is incomparably rich as compared to short  workshops. It is the ambience and generative experience I wish to replicate  – especially for those who have NOT had this opportunity before.  

2.) Invite people into my space.  Where one does one’s important life-advancing work is as important as discussing what the work is.  The learning environment you will come to has both beauty and serenity.   If you want to make a meaningful connection with someone at work, it is best not to do so with a desk between you.  Take a walk, go to a space where there is openness. That will have a beneficial effect on your communication. Learn why by experiencing it here.

3.) Spread the wealth of mindfulness and of my past influencers.  I want the effect to be far-reaching. I want to know that you’ve gotten what you needed by coming to this retreat and that I can support you even after it is over. I have my own influencers to thank. And want you to carry the torch forward.

4.) Collaborate with an amazing woman in doing something new.  Learning to go with the energy of the present moment is a gift – being able to let go of past stories, and create meaning and value in one’s life. If Selena and I can model a fresh new collaboration like ours for you, I’ll feel great – and you’ll see the reward in our faces for having tried something new and a bit scary.

5.) Create close connections between people.  Quite simply put, that’s where the magic happens and where the problems are solved. I want others to see how they can foster that happening as well.

What are some concrete Mindful Leadership exercises that you can expect from us?

Checking in: We will use checking in to launch each day in the morning and afternoon.

Temenos:  Influence Mapping / Vision Mapping – exercise in self-reflection, mapping one’s influences  and envisioning the future. Each person will be narrating their influence and vision maps during the retreat. This is story telling, a leader’s gift.

Jim and Michelle McCarthy: Personal Alignment exercise – identifying what you want, and what is blocking you from getting there. Identifying your core resources for overcoming these blocks.

Virginia Satir:

  • Five Freedoms – creating safety to speak (both at the retreat and at work)
  • Interaction Model – what happens when we are talking and responding in pairs, in slow motion
  • Congruence Model – (self, other, context) practice session with simulation of the five stances

Grove: Clean Language Questions – will be taught to help participants train their attention on others – and to remain judgement  free – a good practice for information gathering prior to reacting – for any leader.

Caitlin Walker: Systemic Modeling exercises, building up the power of the group to notice (each other) and take advantage of the diversity of experience in the room.

These tools are simple and therefore very powerful. We want you to take back some things that you can use right away!

Call to Action

Discovering, sharing and implementing your own intentions  is what Selena and I will help you do at the retreat.  The downsides of remaining with the status quo, not fulfilling yourself at work, of faltering with interpersonal or business relationship issues, and of observing disengaged workers are too many for us not to be doing this work together with you.   We do hope that if this appeals to you, you will sign up now, or join us on the upcoming webinar Q&A sessions. Details to be posted soon.


More on Intent Based Leadership

Intent based leadership is described in Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders – one of the very best leadership stories I’ve read.

Different balls, different games – metaphors for communication

July 5, 2015

AlistairGolf Cockburn has written that developing software is like a cooperative game.  Whether cooperation needs to occur between IT and business, program management and teams, architects and programmers – I do not often see the flow of ideas,  solutions and decision-making happening collaboratively. Coaches can not solve communication problems unless there is both the awareness and the willingness to have those kinds of problems solved.  It is a bit of a chicken and an egg issue.

I’ve recently come up with a few sports metaphors for the way the interactions go, or could go, if only deliberate learning would take place around communication excellence.  I’ll use an example to illustrate this. 

The backdrop for this setting is a large agile transformation. It has a fairly lightweight governance process but the leadership must report monthly to the business side whether the IT side is on track for the target deployment. The delivery date was set 2 years earlier and is now months away.  The pressure on IT to paint a rosy picture is high.  The program manager must update the governance reports.  Because the Program Management Office personnel who normally pull that data are on vacation, the program manager asks a coach to fill in last month’s data – using a chart the coach has not seen before. The program manager provides her only a paper copy. There are no calculations, queries or information on where the earlier data came from or exactly what it represents.

The coach  asks a lot of questions about the data behind the graph, but her questions are given short shrift by the program manager – who really can’t adequately answer the specific questions. The coach does as close to what the program manager requested as possible and provides the data – though with some discomfort.

The baseball metaphor

The coach has recreated the graph using a new sheet, augmenting it using her own ‘queried’ information for the current month in question. The coach delivers this to the program manager: “I worry when we present data that may be misleading, especially when the data I have provided is mixed with data from other queries or sources and overall I think the story it tells is different from reality. When I pulled all the data that I think represents the current state, I see a different picture.”

The program manager immediately shoots back: “The data from the tool is just that, data from a tool. It will never be accurate or up to date.” [she looks annoyed and wants to move on to her next issue of the moment. She shuffles other papers and looks back at her email.] The coach does not think that pressing the point will be helpful at this point. 

This interaction is not atypical in the IT and/or business world.  The coach (batter) has pitched a ball.  The program manager (hitter) hits it strong; the ball soars over and out of the stadium and there is nothing left to discuss. Batter wins. 

The golfing metaphor

Here’s another way this could have gone – using one of my favorite listening and inquiry tools: Clean Language.

It starts in a similar way: Coach to a program manager: “I worry when we present data that may be misleading, especially when the data I have provided is mixed with data from other queries or sources and overall I think the story it tells is different from reality. When I pulled all the data that I think represents the current state, I see a different picture.”

The program manager listens and then asks one or more of these clean questions – first repeating a portion of what she heard – clearly showing she was listening  ‘and you worry when data is used that may be misleading… ‘

     and what kind of misleading is that? [asking for more attributes]

     and what kind of worry is that?’ [asking more about state of the coach’s feeling]

     and  is there anything else about that data? ‘  [opening space for more observations]

     and where could ‘misleading’ come from? [getting at the source]

     and when misleading, then what happens? [getting at significance, if nothing happens]

Clean questions let you stay with the thinking of the person who is talking to you, rather than reacting right away.  To me, this interaction is like a golfer hitting the ball into the hole.  The coach has found a sweet spot with the program manager – a ‘time/place/space’ where the concern is heard and embraced. The environment is one in which the program manager assumes the coach has a valuable intention as well.  I imagine in this scenario, the two explore further mutual needs and resolve the discrepancy so both parties are happy and more importantly so that the program governance body gets an accurate picture – with all the consequences that might entail. 

The first conversation is frustrating because the coach wanted to ‘do the right thing’ – and perhaps was a bit fearful that not fulfilling the request for the data would be unprofessional.  She provided the data and did not argue past her initial observations and reflections to the program manager.  The program manager’s response and overall sense of urgency seemed to drown out her ability to stay present and listen.

Whether using Clean Questions or other types of listening and inquiry models, the type of attention given in the second example is rare … especially in stressful situations when it is MOST needed.  I do not accept ‘urgency’ or ‘time-pressures’  as excuses for not taking the time to listen and to investigate. It is precisely in the slowing down that in fact you can speed up with confidence. Yet it takes some training and intention to create an environment and culture where this can happen well.

The mindset shift that comes along with knowing how to use Clean Language can help projects, companies, and relationships thrive; it can create more vibrant classrooms, happier employees, better students, thriving business results. I’ve got many examples of this in my book of interviews of people who use Clean Language in their work.

If you want to learn more about Clean Language, please let me know by contacting me at andrea.chiou@santeon.com