10 Years Old

Like what I said in the 5 years anniversary, I would not imagine that this blog would last for 10 years when I started it in 2007.

I reflected on my professional development journey for the first 5 years of blogging.  See ‘A New Look’.   Along with ‘A New New Look‘,  it is now a good time to do the same for the 2nd 5 years through my blog posts.

I have continued my interests.   On technical aspects, my reflection on questioning continued.  For example, I reflected on various powerful questions I came across (see ‘A question to draw questions’ in Sep 2013 and ‘Useful Questions’ in Feb 2014)   But the reflection on questioning extended into more the executive coaching context (see ‘What story would you like to tell?’ In Dec 2015 and ‘A question on question’ in Sep 2015)

Another development is in the facilitation domain.   I reflected on particular technique e.g. ‘Sit on your hands and shut up’ in Oct 2014, physical set-up in ‘Physical Conditioning’ in Jun 2013, and even learning from a french teacher in ‘A facilitating French teacher’ recently in Mar 2017.   A particular aim of facilitation emerged as my new interest – a very pure form of facilitation for the purpose of collective wisdom (some called Hosting).  See the few posts on ‘Intended Messiness’ in Sep 2016.

Learning / Learning Design is a key theme all along in this blog (see ‘More about learning… from the french class’ in Feb 2017 and ‘Rethinking Experiential Learning’ in Oct 2016)   But I find myself taking on more the organisational angle in the last few years instead of focusing on particular interventions (see ‘When a program has a life of its own’ in Oct 2013 and ‘Be careful about L3 and L4’ in Feb 2014)    In particular, this angle reinforced my inclination towards the ARL approach (see ‘Learning Sustainability’ in Apr 2012 and ‘Action Learning in Action’ in Jan 2014)

Another new development across my interest in coaching / facilitation / learning – I notice myself shifting gradually more from the technical i.e. ‘skill-set’ towards the ‘mind-set’ perspective.   For example, in ‘Rethinking Facilitation’ in Dec 2013 and ‘Never Perfect’ in Apr 2013, I examined the assumptions I was having when I facilitated.   Looking back, such interest actually started earlier, like in the post ‘Be prepared, and prepared not to use what you prepare’ in Oct 2011.    This was probably triggered by a few Leadership Development programs I started to facilitate in 2000 (see ‘Adaptive Leadership’ in Dec 2013) and some external learning experience (see ‘Immunity to Change’ in Sep 2013)

Along this path, I find myself losing interest in talking about highly technical domain like presentation skills, and definitely topics like using visual aid.

Another new area of interest in the last 5 years is ‘Leadership’.   ‘Leadership’ is a big concept like ‘Love’ i.e. can mean completely different things for different individuals.   To me, I am interested at a particular interpretation of ‘Leadership’ (see ‘Really…  what is leadership?‘ In Feb 2014) and ‘Leadership Development’ (see ‘Leadership Development’ in May 2014)    Like facilitation, this angle of ‘Leadership’ is more about mind-set rather than skill-set.   It can be illustrated by ‘Leadership’ on a gravestone’ in Mar 2014 and ‘The Paradox of Confidence and Vulnerability’ in Feb 2013.

I notice another interesting trail when I review my blog – scepticism on some training and facilitation work, including my own previous work.   I have highlighted in the 5 years anniversary my critics on training (see ‘Forget about Training’ in Jun 2011).  But it continued to other area like some kinds of meeting facilitation (see ‘Facilitation Work as a Cover-Up’ in Nov 2016)

What would be some emerging new path of interest going forward?   I mentioned above my shift from the technical to the adaptive perspective.  It started to extend into some deeper works as I moved to Switzerland.   The journey was highlighted by the Tavistock GRC (see ‘Tavistock Experience’ in Jan 2015, my own psycho-analysis (see ‘Drawing out thoughts and emotions’ in Jul 2016) and work in psychodynamics approach (see ‘Unconscious Collusion with Learners’ in Nov 2016.   This post did not exactly describe the work but gave some sense of what it is like)     Pondering on the crossroad between depth psychology and performance at work is definitely one of my on-going interest (see ‘Individuation, Abstract Art and Corporate Learning)

Having the above journey in front of me, I cannot help ponder on a question – To what extent does the blog name ‘Ask, Not Tell’ capture my growing areas of interest?   Or it no longer does?    Probably another blog post to reflect on…..

Drawing out thoughts and emotions

 

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In my exploration of what some people called ‘Depth Psychology’, I have been receiving psycho-analysis in recent months.    There are a lot of angles for me to reflect on the experience e.g. feeling and sensation, mid-life, family.   In this post, let me take the perspective of facilitation and coaching.

We had very deep conversation in the sessions.   I could not help thinking – ‘What made the analyst so successful in drawing out thoughts and feeling from me?’   Further the question is ‘What can I learn from these sessions for facilitation and coaching?’    Well, there are factors which are specific to psycho-analysis e.g. her particular questioning skills in helping me make association with dream.   But there are some which can be borrowed to facilitation and coaching.

First, to start with, I am open to her because it is my own choice to work with her.   We had a chemistry session in advance like the those in some executive coaching arrangement.  Sometimes, this is applicable in group facilitation.   I know of a practitioner who was once asked by a CEO to do a challenging team development work.   He sat the condition that he would only take the job if he could interview 1 on 1 every single top team member and no one refused his appointment as the facilitator.  (How smart he is!    The interviews themselves were probably already interventions!)

Second, it is my analyst’s silence.   After she asked a question, or when we were like running out of things to talk about, she managed to keep silent with her gentle eye contact.   In particularly, I am impressed with her way to start almost each sessions.   She greeted me, we took our seats, and then she just remained silent and waited for me to start!    To me, this was more stimulating than questions like ‘So, what would be useful to talk about today?’

[To be continued….]

What is really Reflection?

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I am intrigued as I heard a colleague explaining what reflection really means.   I have not really thought about it, and I like her definition.   I got to make a note here.

‘Reflection is not about re-telling or summarizing.   Reflection is about not about reviewing which means summarizing and evaluating.   Reflection is abut the question ‘What does the experience mean to me?’

It is more elaborated than how Oxford Dictionary defines it – ‘Reflection = Serious thought or consideration’.    Perhaps the ‘What does the experience mean to me?’ version is more applicable in the learning context.

Relating to this, we had this conversation on the topic of Reflection in a very reflection-friendly venue.  There are a lot of space for individual or group jointly to talk about ‘What does the experience mean to me?’    To be more specific:

  • There are a lot of quiet corners or rooms with chairs or sofas in circle
  • Natural light is available in most rooms
  • The interior décor (lines and colours) is ‘clean’ and simple
  • There is a library full of business books
  • The venue is next to the nature – a forest and a stream

But most importantly, there was no other group in the same building.   I am talking about the big barn (in the picture above) with just some 30 of us.    (I subsequently learnt that the place has a policy of renting out the a building only to one group.)

All the above provide ‘white space’ for the participants to reflect on or have dialogue together.

What if one day I can build one like this in Shanghai or Hong Kong!?

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Sit on your hands and shut up

I heard a veteran facilitator talking about Open Space earlier this month. Great wisdom. She said that there are 3 necessary conditions to make Open Space work. First, there are burning issues which the participants care collectively. Second, all participants join the event voluntarily. Third, the sponsor (who calls for the event) is really interested what may emerge from the process.

If these are in place, after giving the instruction, the facilitator should just sit on his / her hand and shut up.   It is so true but not exactly easy to do.

To the contrary, an Open Space will surely fail if the participants as a community do not see any burning issue, some (if not all) of them are ‘forced’ to join the event and the sponsor calls for the event just for sake of doing it. For the last point, the worst is that the sponsor in fact has his / her solutions in mind already.

 

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Lucky Me

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This post is a bit dated.   But I still want to post it here since it is rather significant to me.    The photos were taken in Gazipur, Bangladesh – the outskirt of Dhaka.   I conducted a team development workshop there for 2 days.    The event is significant to me in a number of ways:

 

  • The workshop went very well.   The sponsor and the participants were apparently satisfied and more importantly their relationship seemed to start changing.   In the final 1-word check-out, one participant said ‘change’.   He further elaborated that he now saw people differently.  In addition, we arrived with very concrete Requests and Offers between leader and the team, with specific person and date for follow-up.
  • It was the last workshop with my previous employer.    It nicely marked the end.    I am particularly happy that I end it with a piece of ‘real’ work.   As I mentioned before here, I believe more and more that learning happens much more effectively when we get the learners do real stuff.
  • Most importantly, I felt very grateful during the event.    I was absorbed with what I did there.   I felt like time just passed by so quickly.  I was in the flow.   People say everyone is borne for reasons.   If that is the case, I really feel like I am borne to facilitate group work.    Not that I am very good at it.   Just that I like to do it so much.

 

 

 

I guess I am lucky.

‘Check-In’ in Phone Meetings

A useful post on the HBR Blog – Create Human Connection in a Virtual Teams.

A reflection as I read through it…. on the idea of conducting ‘Check In’ to build human connection in virtual meeting.   It is quite tricky.   When I discussed this idea with leaders, their response is often ‘We do not have enough time for this’.    This brings to 3 points:

  1. Someone shared a question with me before ‘Is it about efficiency or effectiveness?’
  2. There are different ways of Check-In instead of everyone on the call doing a ‘wedding speech’ .   To be exact, there are more efficient ways to do so
  3. Check-In will work only if the leaders themselves believe in it, do it first and do it a few times.   It is bound to be a bit odd the first time.   If we do it just once and then drop it, it will probably ‘prove’ to be not useful.