Tag Archives: Engagement

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Increasing Energy, Usefulness and Efficiency in Everyday MeetingsAugust 7, 2015

In my work as an Agile ”Scrum Master” and Team Coach, I’m often confronted with the problem of how to spice up routine technical meetings and create genuine engagement among team members.

Although there are very good reasons why the Agile/Scrum framework encourages routine meetings, the “shadow” aspect of everyday meetings is an all-too-familiar experience that may appear in a variety of different forms:

  • Resistance to the meeting itself “Not another one!”
  • Boredom “Let’s get through with it.”
  • Participants easily distracted “This conversation doesn’t concern me, there’s so much I should be doing instead of this.”
  • No coherence at beginning — joking around, not starting on time, etc.
  • Same activity or discussion repeating itself over and over.
  • Less and less attention to structure and preparation “We know what to expect of the meeting and how to do it, we can just show up and start right away.”
  • Not a lot of listening, thinking about what I’ll say instead of listening.
  • Being physically present and mentally absent (vs being fully present and engaged).
  • The Scrum Master does the meeting by himself “It’s YOUR meeting anyway!”
  • Monologues take us away from priority subjects.

As a Scrum Master, one of my goals is to help the team self-organize and take ownership of every part of their work. Keeping that in mind, here are a few things I’ve learned as an Integral Facilitator that I use to bring a bit of “magic” into these meetings.

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Using conflict as a group thermostatAugust 7, 2015

Every facilitator knows that conflict in groups can actually be a good thing. It’s often a healthy sign that a group has established enough basic trust to raise tensions. Skillfully navigated, conflict can build trust, strengthen relationships, and enhance the effectiveness of team functioning. Poorly navigated, conflict can be a real setback for group effectiveness. That skillful navigation is key, and a central part of professional development in our field.

I for one am always interested in deepening my understanding about the alchemy of group conflict from masters. That’s why I recently attended a Next Stage Facilitation Intensive with Diane Musho Hamilton. Diane is an accomplished mediator and facilitator, having worked for decades with heated conversations around race, gender, culture, and religion. She is also a transmitted Zen teacher, which I figured would have some sort of interesting impact on her work. I was curious to see her in action and learn from her style. And I was not disappointed. One key learning stands out about working with conflict in groups.

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Talking about race in the wake of tragedyJune 26, 2015

How do we open up a conversation about race in the wake of tragedy like the one that took place in Charleston, South Carolina?

Every painful conversation is unique, and every context may require a different approach from the facilitator. Whether you’re holding a town meeting or community dialogue or an informal conversation around the dinner table, in my experience, the best place to begin any truly challenging discussion is with our immediate, felt experience. In our conversations about race this last week, I would begin with the emotional impact of the news of the shooting in South Carolina.

I would pose a simple question like, “How is everyone feeling right now?” and then allow perspectives to pour forth. The expression that I would first want to support is an emotional one, that of pain and loss in the room—the pain of the murder of innocent people and the loss of the nine beautiful souls who died at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church.

It may seem obvious, but people will often rush over emotions to problem solving or political strategizing or discussing facts—but it isn’t satisfying. Presencing the sorrow and grief is fundamental to our human experience and it is unifying to a group. It binds us in the heart, reminding us of the vulnerability we share and of our capacity to care. Sorrow is softening, humanizing, and humbling. So we need to open space for the pain to pour forward, and for the emotions of grief, of loss, of sadness to actually come into the room.

The gut wrenching pain of the murder of innocent people is conveyed by sorrow, grief and loss. The gut wrenching pain of the murder of innocent BLACK people AGAIN comes in a wave of anger, torment, and outrage.

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Being a Tuning Fork for Collective IntelligenceFebruary 18, 2015

An excerpt from “Will the Next Buddha be a Sangha? Responding to the Call to Influence the Future of Collaboration” published in Integral Leadership Review, January-February 2015

In the early 2000s I was retained to lead a cross-border merger integration project for a major utility. This was an extremely challenging and emotionally intense experience for the employees, for the new management team, and for the merger integration teams who now had functional responsibilities for aspects of the ‘new’ smaller and leaner post-merger organization.

In the new post-merger culture, there was a strong preference for learning in teams, and working collectively was valued.

The mandate we were given was to create a new, higher-performing culture using an empowerment framework that relied on more engaged and facilitative approaches to getting work done. One of our key areas of focus was to help people learn how to use more reflective processes and bring team learning into the organization.

As the integration process unfolded, we saw a complete bifurcation in the performance spectrum. One of the key differentiators was the level of facilitative leadership displayed by the team or department leader and their willingness and capacity to engage others.

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Leadership Performance is About InfluenceMay 16, 2014

by Rob McNamara

In Integral Facilitator® programs, one of the core competencies we cultivate is the competency to use the self-as-instrument as a vehicle for greater influence.

Here’s what that looks like:

It’s Sunday morning on the last day of our 5-day certificate program intensive.

Participants have been invited to take center stage in front of their peers, instructors and coaches to take a stand and/or commit to taking a risk in their professional development.

The pressure is on.

On the surface, this exercise is a strong encounter with themselves and the group. But underneath, what we are actually engaged in together in our training is much more complex.

Across the board, participants in this program have taken great stands for their “noble intentions,”—each participant’s intention for their own development. But what unfolds in the moment when someone physically “stands” in front of peers and coaches is something no rehearsal can prepare us for.

In fact, rehearsal invariably leads to “presentations” of self—not the pure force of your body, mind and heart unified in the moment discovering itself as a vehicle for facilitation.

The invitation to take a “stand,” be recognized, and held accountable is a rare opportunity most people simply cannot find anywhere else in their lives. Rare are the deliberately developmental contexts that see beneath our “presentations” of self and call us to show up fully.

One participant takes her stance in front of the room, and begins to speak. Quickly, her coach interjects, pointing out the gap between her embodied presence and the words she’s speaking. She tries again. More coaching is offered, and then again.

When her expressed intention is lived through her presence, the message lands in the room. The entire room feels the dramatic difference. Some of us have tears in our eyes.

Another participant stands up, presents, then attempts to take their seat. I find myself saying, “Not so fast, you’re not done!”

It’s clear to me, a subtle betrayal is occurring. The self is not yet joined to the immediacy of the instrument of facilitation. Again, there’s a gap. I find myself working with her body, inviting more bold and powerful energetics to conduct from a vulnerable heart that is focused and on a mission.

As each person takes their seat, I can see a visceral change in who is sitting down. In just a short 60 or 90 seconds, participants are transforming. They are being reshaped into more worthy and powerful instruments for facilitative leadership.

While we each want to escape the hot seat when we find it’s our turn, I can also see this is what we have come here for—this is what we have been starving for. Real, genuine, developmentally-fueled feedback.

Why do we do this?

It’s simple: influence. Our participants are driven. They are looking for a new level of engagement from themselves. They are wanting to give themselves more fully to their vocations and the many people they can serve. They follow the threads leading them to greater embodied presence, greater discernment and more powerful leadership that is born only from the unique mixture of their unique gifts and the Integral Facilitator® certificate program.

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Catalyzing Engagement & Intimacy in GroupsApril 16, 2014

How can we become more capable of working with whatever comes up in our lives in a way that actually supports the growth and evolution of all human beings?

When we cultivate presence, we are more able to work with the here and now, take more perspectives, and embrace more of our experience—including dissonance and conflict.

We have more choices, and more capacity to address the full complexity of what is happening—in the energetics of a room, in the emotional domains, in the realms of power and authority, decision making, and conflict.

Being able to open up to a deeper reality beyond our own notions of what’s going on in a group begins with three essential moves:

  1. Owning your first person experience.
  2. Recognizing and naming your experience.
  3. Moving from autonomy to communion, or I to We.

Often, the last move can be quite challenging.

How do we catalyze a group to become more coherent, and deepen the quality of engagement and intimacy?

One of the pillars of Flex-Flow experiences in groups occurs when individuals shift their awareness from first person experience to the experience of the group or the whole.

As facilitators, leaders, and participants, we can generate greater coherence and enhance the quality of our work together by shifting our group’s awareness from “I to We.”

By shifting our attention to others, sharing our impressions of the collective space, and noticing coherence and common characteristics of the moment we can significantly heighten our participation in the group awareness.

Here are some practices we’ve explored in our workshops that you can take into your life and work:

CULTIVATING COHERENCE AND COMMUNION IN GROUPS

  • Try inviting your group or team to share their observations about the physical space you are in: what do they notice about the lighting, colors, the feel of the space? What sounds, smells, and textures do they appreciate? (This can be especially helpful for virtual teams.)
  • If your group is virtual, invite them to imagine and conceptualize the  virtual room your group is inhabiting together. What kind of physical space would this group like to inhabit?
  • Sometimes a group can be aware of its explicit project or goal, yet it’s members can be misaligned on the level of shared purpose or intention. Invite each participant to share their personal intention for the meeting or for your group’s shared efforts and goals.
  • Invite input as to why each participant is here, what their hopes are for the gathering. Explore what people notice right now, in their sensory perceptions, in their bodies, and what it feels like to participate.
  • Take time to appreciate the unique personal qualities of the other individuals as contributors to the group.
  • Often, deep coherence and alignment arises paradoxically when a group is able to articulate its differences, obstacles, or struggles. As a leader or facilitator, explore giving voice to the unspoken tensions or struggles you perceive, and invite the group to bring these “shadow” elements into open discussion and exploration.
  • Name the “obvious.” In other words, reflect back to your group what you are seeing, sensing and hearing. Recognizing clearly what is arising in this moment invites us to become more open to ourselves and to each other.

Hopefully, after reflecting on these practices, you’re curious about how these kinds of techniques could be used effectively with a wide variety of group cultures and styles. To deepen your learning, you might find it helpful to reflect on these questions about your own approach:

  • Are there other effective practices or techniques you’ve used or experienced that have cultivated a sense of “we”?
  • What framing would you employ if you were bringing these practices into a variety of different group cultures and styles?
  • Where do you notice your edge as a facilitator being challenged when you imagine yourself engaging these practices in your groups and teams?

Individual and collective development are interrelated, because as we develop, our experience in groups changes.

We become more at ease, less fearful, less instinctively competitive and self-protective. We feel more freedom to be ourselves, and we have fewer struggles with the otherness of others.

We have access to creativity, we enjoy the support of others, and at the same time, we are willing to experience more authentic challenges. We live with liveliness and vigor.

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