May was a month of profound disruption in our client groups. As a facilitator, this presents in our work in curious ways – people arriving frustrated, concerned, anxious, furious, tentative, needy, curious, hungry to learn and a full range of other moods as they grapple with their changing context.
Here are some of May’s sound bytes:
- ‘Today, the company will tell me if I have a job.’
- ‘Today the hospital called me on suspicion of cancer – I need to leave.’
- ‘I want more in my life and this has inspired me to create a new pathway.’
- ‘I want to quit and am preparing for Plan B – actually, Plan B is now Plan A.’
- ‘Our CEO won’t listen to this, can you help share it?’
- ‘I am terrified to be here – it does not feel safe.’
- ‘That person over there has diminished my reputation.’
- ‘My team member is sabotaging this – I’m scared its falling apart.’
- ‘This leader doesn’t know what they want – we are directionless.’
- ‘After today none of us may have a job.’
- ‘I am too afraid to hear the feedback – please don’t ask me to.’
- ‘I have had a spiritual awakening and must continue to explore this!’
- ‘I can do this – I know I can!’
- ‘I’m going to have this conversation tomorrow – I’m ready.’
- ‘I had the conversation last night and it solved six months worth of grief – it was easier than I thought.’
Can you hear the moods circling in the background? A mix of fear, ambition, sadness, concern, curiosity and more… This makes our work ‘interesting’ at the most basic level and at its richest, it requires innovative and creative responses to situations that ‘arise’ – mostly without warning.
Yesterday we were delighted participants in a more ‘local’ affair, sharing stories and practices in the space of a creative couple whose house told of story of abandon and creativity – a juicy place to facilitate. The challenge was to prepare a performance around moods and emotions and I watched a young drama student rise to the challenge. She directed a short clip that used music and silence to land the distinctions around mood – and moved everyone in the audience by saying nothing. She evoked everything without a word. Masterful.
This creative genius has made me reflect on what happens behind the words in our own work. How, despite presenting material as designed and as planned – the magic happens in the rabbit holes – the unexpected conversations and adventures we take en-route towards a destination as a group. How we evoke a list of responses from our participants by creating a space of relative safety. The ‘real-time’ changes we make in delivery to adapt and morph material to meet the group’s present moment needs. This month there was so much of that! Necessary adaptations to the anticipated direction.
This month, we have invited our respective artists into our work. Tony’s performing artist and my visual artist have collided with conversation practice and the outcomes are stunning:
- We added miming to components of conversational practice to more effectively explain conversational flow – and this is profoundly increasing comprehension.
- We are exploring and using metaphors to explain complex phenomena – making core concepts much more accessible.
- We have been ‘breaking rules’ in group session, stepping from the plan to work with the human need right in front of us – and this takes us in many new directions!
- We have taken over entire walls to canvas ideas and work things out visually – together and all of a sudden it feels like everyone is ‘in’!
- And… although not a new practice, we are telling more stories than ever – to connect with heart and minds – participants always remember the story – and this helps land the content.
We are in some new frontier it seems. A necessary space of presence and availability for what presents itself at real time and offers an access point for the learning. And although these methods might feel a little whacky – it is their difference that is making the difference. Our participants seem more connected and safe to declare what’s really going on and to recognise their own capability in navigating the complexity they’re experiencing. It is the experience of our leaders and learners that inspires us to keep pursuing more avante guard methods.
In all aspects of our day job there is one thing that holds it together and that is a capacity to witness humanity. To be comfortable with the deep discomfort of the range of emotions that people present in their being human. These emotions are provoked in the natural course of our work because we are supporting people through transitions, change and disruption.
As we experience our own humanity, our practice deepens, our results deepen (reflected in the satisfaction our clients get in transiting their own difficulties and trials), and we find ourselves deeply stirred! More passionate about evolving our practice and passing the baton on to our inner circle of clients so that they can facilitate (like us) the most meaningful of conversations and so they (like us) can stay comfortable in the space of discomfort – be it conflict, emotion and the space of deep unknowing – knowing that bearing witness to another’s breakthrough can sometimes be enough.