The Apprentice

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Last month we were graced by the presence of Kathy Sferra, who was on loan from Mass Audubon.  Kathy took the initiative to approach us about spending one month of her six week sabbatical apprenticing herself to IISC, observing and contributing to our work and taking the lessons back to her home organization.  She began contributing instantly as a thought partner, often making keen observations and asking good questions that her relative outsider perspective afforded.  As her parting gift to us, Kathy offered up the following reflections and take-aways, specifically with respect to designing and facilitating meetings and other convenings, that I wanted, in the spirit of the season, to re-gift and pass along:

  • Music can be powerful at the beginning and/or end of a meeting to set the stage. [Curtis’ addition here – “Music makes your brain get its groove on.” – Daniel J. Levetin)
  • The opportunity of the opening –  make people feel welcome, get them connected, get voices into the conversation before diving into the content.
  • Pull on multiple strategies for engaging participants –  sticky notes, pairs or small groups, cooperative games, fishbowls, Appreciative Inquiry, gallery walks, World Café, etc.
  • Let go of PowerPoint – slides don’t engage.  There is a difference between pushing (passive) and pulling (participation). [Curtis’ addition here – see Garr Reynolds work, including Presentation Zen]
  • As a facilitator, there is power to just “standing there” when things get challenging.  “Do less so that others do more” – experiment with silence, stay grounded, allow the conflict to generate creative energy.
  • Look beyond the people and understand their facts.   Be more aware of my own stories [as the facilitator] and the possibility of additional facts.
  • “They” don’t push my buttons, I do.
  • Quote from Larry Dressler: “You know that you are standing with full receptivity when you find yourself becoming curious about ideas that repel you.”
  • Don’t forget the power and importance of “project end meetings” for reflection, celebration, and learning.

Kathy, you’re hired!

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  • Cynthia Parker says:

    Thanks Kathy for adventuring with us and for sharing your reflections.
    Thanks Curtis for sharing them with all of us!

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