Archive for the ‘Personal Growth’ category

England – oh Clean England!!

October 6, 2017

cleanjourney_paperI am just back from a whirlwind trip to England where I attended three different Clean Language related trainings. It was a fantastic trip, and proves without a doubt that England is a hub of excellence and activity for what goes on in the Clean Community. Besides providing brief descriptions of the training, if you want to keep up with me on this Clean learning journey, I am inviting you to come to my newly formed Reston Clean Language Practice Group, running 2x per month starting next week.

Clean for Teams

The Clean for Teams taster is a two day introduction to the elements and principles of Clean Language for Teams.  This approach to group facilitation holds at its very center the idea of curiosity in order to allow its participants to work at their best and be in support of each other. Team members become more self aware of their behavior patterns and needs while learning to be curious with each other.  Caitlin Walker took the Clean Language tools of David Grove including especially his eliciting of metaphors and brilliantly adapted its use to groups.  Do watch the TedX link above for a taste of what that’s like. The approach Caitlin created is called Systemic Modeling (aka Clean for Teams) because it teaches a group (a network or system of individuals) how to work in support of each other’s development. Because the skills are easy to learn,  the process is highly generative (meaning, not dependent on the facilitator over time) and promotes high degrees of personal and interpersonal awareness.  

If you are interested, as a facilitator, or as a group member, in processes that:

  • reduce friction
  • generate individual and insights
  • foster respect
  • celebrate diversity
  • establish an equality of attention in a group
  • shift the culture to a more productive one
  • and be relatively cheap to to acquire and use compared to an embedded coach or facilitator

then you should explore the possibility of learning these tools.  

A great description can be found here along with the dates for future courses.   

At the end this two day event, Caitlin said: ‘You have everything we need to go forward and practice’.  I am now looking for teams interested in working with me to learn the techniques.  I will become a certified Clean for Teams facilitator in the coming year.  And, to do so, I will need to find teams that are willing to be recorded, so that I can be evaluated and get feedback from my trainers.  Given that there are no trainers in the US (yet), you could become one of the first teams to adopt if you decide to work with me in support of my certification process. Contact me via my website at http://www.connections-at-work.com or call me at 571-437-4815.

 

Symbolic Modeling Rolling Program 

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Penny Tompkins, me, and Marian Way

If you are interested in personal change work using Clean language, you must learn Symbolic Modeling. Now also widely adapted to business, life and executive coaching, Symbolic Modeling originated in its therapeutic use with trauma patients. Invented by David Grove, Symbolic Modeling uses Clean Questions (a language of inquiry) to help focus the client’s attention on their own desired outcomes, resources, and experiences.  James Lawley and Penny Tompkins wrote the definitive book on this subject after observing David Grove’s therapy sessions for 4 years, codifying what they observed him doing.  The book is called Metaphors in Mind.  I was very lucky to be in this three day practice session with both Marian Way and Penny Tompkins facilitating!

 

Learning the basic Clean Language questions alone, without any insights into the Symbolic Modeling principles and processes is a bit like learning to write letters, without learning how to form words or sentences.  Symbolic Modeling and Clean Language questions are by the way, also at the core of the philosophy behind both Systemic Modeling and  Clean Space (see below).  

So, I highly recommend taking the Clean Language Core Skills Course (which is pre-requisite) and then using the Rolling Programme modules to deepen and practice the skills to become a Symbolic Modeling facilitator, if that’s where you are headed.  There is also a fantastic California based introduction to Symbolic Modeling in January 5-7 2018, called Symbolic Modeling Lite. Sign up here.

Clean Space

Marian Way and James Lawley have recently codified the essential aspects (process and principles) of the Clean Space practices of David Grove in a new book called Insights in Space, How to Use Clean Space to Generate Ideas and Spark Creativity. The two day training is based on the process described in the book. As you experience and facilitate the process, you are able to put it in action right.    

If you are interested as a facilitator, an individual, or even a group in processes that would:

  • spark creativity,
  • utilize space to gain perspective
  • create connections between those perspectives
  • generate new insights on any topic
  • be adaptable to many situations (we can create new processes from these principles)
  • be unlike anything you’ve likely experienced before

then this would be the class for you.   If you’ve ever gotten new insights from taking a walk, or taking a shower, you’ll discover a way to do this sort of thing in a facilitated session in ANY location.  Do note that all David Grove’s work was meant to get the facilitator out of the way, so that even with this, the facilitation is light touch – but heavily informed by spatial metaphor – one of the predominant ways we make sense of the world.

A more detailed description of Clean Space can be found here.  If you are interested in experiencing Clean Space with me, I am available to facilitate sessions with you in the coming months.   

Additionally, as mentioned above, if you want to practice Clean Language  locally in 1.5 hour practice group sessions in Reston, VA, I’ve just launched the Reston Clean Language Practice Group.  Again, for any additional information you would like on any of these topics, contact me at 571-437-4815.



My next adventure with my Clean learning journey will be in California for the Clean Convergence events January, 2018.  In September 2018, I will likely return to England to attend one or all of these events.

 

Adventures in Clean

Friday 7th September, 2.30pm to Monday 10th September, 2pm 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker, James Lawley, Penny Tompkins, Marian Way, Shaun Hotchkiss, Phil Swallow

Systemic Modelling Level 1 Rolling Programme

17-19 September 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker

Northern Taste of Clean 2018

29-30 September 2018
West Kirby, Merseyside, United Kingdom
With Caitlin Walker, Shaun Hotchkiss

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.

 

What Are You Daring To Do?

August 14, 2017
Miki Kashtan, Non-Violent Communication expert recently posted her evolving thoughts on ‘Why Patriarchy is Not About Men’ and what we can do about.  I posted several years ago my experience report of an all day workshop with Miki and she is not only an amazing facilitator, but an amazing human and writer.
Miki says we need to stop paying exclusive attention to the individual actions (of others) and start to measure the degree to which we take action to change or affect systems we are part of.   We need to act congruently with our espoused and actual values. To change up the patriarchal system we live in we need to push ourselves out of our own comfort zones.  Her writing is about societal systemic issues and more importantly about our personal agency for change, when our values do not align.

Do you have the courage and ability to say, even when you feel uncomfortable:

“No, I won’t participate”
“I need X”
“In this context, this does/doesn’t make sense to me’?
When have you done just that? Does it include times when it meant you could have lost your job?  Or are you more prone to recoil into the safety of your current patterns, and current job with all its perks and advantages?

I am leaving the big-agile organizational transformation coaching business because I do not believe in imposed coaching.  It isn’t that I refuse to coach in a larger organization, but I won’t have a central agile department as well as other placement agencies or prime contractors between me and my client. As long as I can be a participant in a Setup process prior to engagement, I will be able to choose whether I am a good fit for a potential customer.

I have exercised my agency. I have stepped out of my comfort zone to align my values to my work life – and looking forward to new, fresh opportunities for success.

Temenos Retreat – Finding Humanity in the Workplace

May 9, 2017
Temenos Retreat 1

We laughed in amazement towards the end of the retreat after we posed to take this group picture with my selfie-stick. Why? Because we only had to take one shot to get a perfect one. There was no awkwardness or hesitation in creating this picture. Everyone is at ease, smiling, eager to create the memory of our together time.  

My first Temenos Retreat facilitation took place on May 7th, 2017.  Seven participants joined with me in an intense day of reflection, sharing and learning.  I am grateful and honored to have hosted so many amazing people who were willing to be vulnerable in order to learn with others. I’ve written this post to reflect on seven ways in which the Temenos Leadership retreat improves our ability to experience humanity at work:

Connections with Others

The foundation of connection in Temenos is the story telling we do with Influence Maps at the beginning of the retreat. From this we find the rich threads of shared experience by recognizing and acknowledging what others have done, how they have been influenced, and how they have overcome their struggles.  Temenos takes us back to quality relationships as we practice sharing our personal history and building our shared vision in small group settings.  Taking these practices back to the workplace means that we can now model this connection-making in the teams we work with, manage or coach. 

Intuition/Feelings/Self Awareness

The biggest taboo in business is to expose one’s feelings. Businesses and people could thrive if there were safe ways to express emotion. Organizations that wish to thrive need the kind of leaders who can pave the way for this. Such leaders must learn to become self aware and confident in sharing their feelings and intuitions. In addition these leaders learn to listen for for what is alive in others. Temenos participants become more able to do this as they witness others doing so. 

Meditation

We can think of Temenos retreats as a way of rebooting ourselves, meditating with others about our own life and work/life. It’s an emptying of our past disappointments and an appreciation of what is happening right now.  Breathing in and out, and cleaning the slate for renewal.  

Confidence Building

Temenos ‘containers’ are the spaces we create in relationship with others in a pair or group. Much as a child learns to walk (falling, and trying again) with the loving surrounding of parents and siblings, adults can also be more influential with the support of others.  A workplace that fosters love is one where the network of support is strong, people know each other like a family and also support each other without blame or placating.  We gain confidence acting in an environment of support. 

Risk-taking

Leadership means going beyond what might be ‘normative’ at work, and taking a risk to do something a little differently. When we encounter stress at work, we might often revert to past habits that are not effective.  In my version of the Temenos retreat, we learn about the work of Virginia Satir and her Congruence Model to explore this angle. At the end of the retreat we practice scenarios from work, learning how to improve our responses to stressful interactions.

Doing the Right Thing

Congruent Leadership meshes well with the idea of ‘Doing the Right Thing’.  Congruence means that we act and speak in accordance with our feelings, our intuition, as well as in balance with the context of our environment.  In Temenos, the context is the social container we are in and considers our self-acknowledged strengths and the feedback we get from others as well.  Doing the Right Thing means not only listening to one’s own feelings, but listening to the needs of others and striking a balance – but not running from conflict, discomfort, or uncertainty.  In the end, in any toxic, rigid, or politically plagued office environment, we learn to have more joy when we have ‘agency’ – meaning the power of choice in how we react to other people.  

Collaborative Mindset

In Temenos and with other tools that I care about such as Clean Language and Non Violent Communication, sharing and listening lay the basic foundation of collaborative work. The more personal sharing we do, the more supportive, empathetic and creative we can be with one another. We can dare to build on each other’s great qualities and to experiment with our ideas when we are bonded and aware of each other’s humanity.  

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.  

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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! 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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.

Northern Taste of Clean – Sept 2015, West Kirby, England

September 23, 2015

2015-09-18 09.07.04

I took another leap (flight) into the realm of Clean Language last week – in West Kirby, England – which is an area just West of Liverpool – at a very atypical conference/gathering called ‘The Northern Taste of Clean’. This event is now in its 4th year, and is hosted by Caitlin Walker and Shaun Hotchkiss in their home.

It was part social gathering, part conference, focussed on building shared knowledge, community, and finding new opportunities and connections in the Clean Language Community. The forty participants ranged from the well-known (the hosts Caitlin and Shaun, Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, Wendy Sullivan, and Marian Way to name a few)  to  established practitioners in the field making a living using Clean,  to those who are more recent and passionate enthusiasts, wanting to do much more with Clean Language than they currently do. I count myself in the latter group.  

2015-09-20I came away inspired by and learning from everyone I talked to.  Shaun and the many volunteer helpers provided tea and food throughout the day – all vegetarian fare – tasty and homemade by Shaun and others.  Body and mind thrived and even the weather cooperated much of the time – so we could enjoy the sun and beautiful garden, as well as Caitlin and Shaun’s lovely labradoodle Stella.  It was a fantastic event and very much worth the transatlantic flight.

I can’t possibly jot down all the  learnings and rich conversations I had, but I will share a brief listing of the sessions I attended – as much for my own recollection later as for your curiosity, if you wish to read on.

Clean Learning Thresholds, facilitated by Marian Way – a look at modeling the session participants to see when they ‘grasped’  specific subtleties of Clean Language, what happened ‘just before’? What ‘aha’s’ in learning could they recall and what were the conditions that lead to it.  The aim was to identify thresholds and to understand how people cross them. I’ve started documenting my own (from the past 4 years) as a result of this session.

Clean Selling – Simon Coles – a group discussion about the position of Clean Language in the model of ‘Crossing the Chasm’ (link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossing_the_Chasm) and why Clean Language is still in the Early Adopters stage.  How can the community support each other in promoting Clean Language in the best way possible such that it might cross to Early Majority stage?

Self-Organizing Systems – James Lawley – a session to learn from participants what principles from Clean or elsewhere might support self organizing groups of people (such as for organizing a conference, for example).  James and Penny plan to host a self-organizing conference in 2016. We broke into groups and reported out on 4 main themes at the end.

Modelling Session Demo – Caitlin Walker, facilitated a participant on her research/writing desired outcome. Caitlin included the observers in the analysis of the facilitated session as it was going on (when put in pause mode). This I had seen in some of Caitlin’s training CDs, but had not ever experienced it in person.   It was powerful and the subject also was able to resolve the issue.

Working with Disaffected Youth – Stuart Clark and James Jeffers – shared fascinating outcomes of their ongoing work in Caitlin’s company – with the unemployed youth of the area right nearby Liverpool.  The techniques come from Systemic Modelling which you can read about in ‘From Contempt to Curiosity’.  James Jeffers had been a participant in the program and is now apprenticing with Caitlin and being paid as a facilitator in the program. It was fantastic having him there as living proof of the transformational nature of Clean Language and Systemic Modeling.  This program has seen roughly 250 of 300+ participants graduate from NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) to EET (now either Employed, in Education, or in Training) with no recidivism.  Many of these youth are from multi-generational unemployed families.  So inspiring.

Clean Interviewing – James Lawley and Caitlin Walker – session to learn how to discern the difference between leading questions and clean-ish questions when trying to collect real data for qualitative interviews. After James and Caitlin shared a brief history of and introduction to  this topic, we were handed a sample questionnaire for study and then broke into small groups to assess the questions in it (categories were strongly leading, mildly leading, or contextually appropriate). After debriefing that, we were guided to practice spontaneous clean interviewing in triads.

Modelling Gender – with yours truly and Caitlin Walker.  This was my proposed session – run in parallel with the pre-set conference sessions – and many wanted to come to it.  In the end we had eight people discussing what their experience of gender is like followed by ‘who is different?’ and other clean questions and discussion. A friend of Caitlin’s who was not part of the conference was invited in  to participate in this session as she has a transgender child (but no support group in the area of West Kirby). Everyone found something new to think about on a topic most never discuss.

For the last session on Day 2, I floated back and forth between two spaces/sessions. The first was titled: Whirly-gig, Clean Space and Emergent Knowledge. It took place outside with one participant at a time on the ‘Whirly-gig’ a contraption that is used to suspend people in space.
WhirlyGig2Each participant can explore perceptions spatially in a unique way while being clean questioned  about a desired outcome and rotated to new positions as requested. If you’ve never heard of Clean Space, you might have to read The Power of Six, by Phillip Harland. Clean Space was a late emerging gift from David Grove prior to his passing.  The Whirly-gig is not required to experience Clean Space, and only one of those exists in the world, as far as I know.
 

The second session titled Systemic Modeling in the Real World  was given by Jacqueline Surin from Malaysia in which she was interviewed by James Jeffers and participants on how she got to where she is.  I was very inspired by her story. I had not yet met anyone who had put her first career aside to devote herself to Systemic Modeling based on reading Caitlin’s book, from Contempt to Curiosity. Jacqueline had been a well-known journalist in Malaysia!  She inspires me!

A few of the other sessions I had very much wanted to attend were:

Looking for Literacy – A Modeling Approach to Learning to Read – Cricket Kemp – on her proven techniques to help kids learn how to read and spell.

Clean Voice – Sophie Kirkham – a method for retracting your vocal chords

The Advantages and Disadvantages to having an outcome – Shaun Hotchkiss and James Jeffers 

The weekend event was preceded by a two day workshop given by the partner and ex-wife of the late David Grove, Cei (pronounced Kai) Davies on using Clean Language to resolve traumatic experiences. I attended this event purely because of who she is, but also because the topic is extremely fascinating. I also learned about many of the theoretical underpinnings and historical influences on Clean Language from the fields of psychology, philosophy, and anthropology.  Cei has extensive experience working with Trauma victims around the world and gave two very powerful demonstrations of facilitation to two volunteer participants. Each of those lasted about an hour or so, followed by some debriefing and questions. Most of the two days was a lecture/discussion format and was very informative indeed. I got a certificate again for CECs (continuing education credits) – but I have no idea which program would take these! I am neither a certified coach (yet) nor a therapist!

Lastly, flying to England gave me the added opportunity to meet some second cousins I had never met, one family from West Kirby, one from Liverpool, and one from Manchester.   Now that was extremely special for me and for them.  And who knew I have a second cousin twice removed  – a young 12 year old – who performs regularly in London musicals – look him up on Youtube, his name is Ilan Galkoff….

It was an amazing week on many fronts and as always I am so grateful that I have such great opportunities to learn and grow.