You People ❤️

Sometimes, if you’re really unlucky surreal things happen. But they’re actually real because they’re actually happening. To you, not somebody else.

But what has surprised me the most over the past few months is the overwhelming amount of love from you. At a time when I didn’t actually realise you were there. That all that love was available without costing me anything. I never knew that at my darkest, when I couldn’t access my self-compassion or strength, you would be there to access it for me, reminding me it was still there, waiting.

Your love has blown me away whilst quite literally holding me down and keeping me up. Each day, and each week, more conversations, cups of tea, and you continue to amaze me with your patience and kindness whilst I had nothing to give. When you know that’s not my style. 

Thank you. For those hugs that last longer than 5 seconds, for your arms around me, for getting drunk with me, for hanging with me after, for talking, for just sitting, for laughing, for cooking for me, for the walks, for the laughter, for getting me ‘dressed up and out’, for  watching rubbish films and shit TV, for a flask of tea, for reflexology, for listening, for not judging, for trusting, for believing in me, for knowing me, for looking at me like you always have and not differently, for aromatherapy, for a poetry book. 

I will be forever grateful and appreciative of you. And I somehow hope the path we tread and how we chose to be with and for others boomerangs right back. 

Reflective Practice

It feels like I’ve been ‘going on about’ reflective practice a lot, and with that I’m noticing my frustration that people (you know, them) who still don’t get it. I noticed this frustration when I was talking to someone I had only just met at a recent CPD day. After our introductions I’d already decided the person I was talking to was ‘of interest’ (as our host and facilitator encouraged us to identify) and would have lots of value to add to my learning during the time we had together. We got chatting in our triads and off I go on my ‘but how can you not be doing reflective practice’ bit fuelled by positive intent and perhaps a passion for reflective practice. I spotted my potential overly emotional plea/preach and though ‘quick…bring in something insightful, quote someone good’. I proceeded to mention Schon and a personal interaction with David Megginson where he differentiated between reflectivity and reflexivity. Something I found useful and valuable and have remembered since. Then I thought, ‘are you actually being a dick now Jo? How about you have a go at that thing you always tell yourself to do… oh yeah, listen’.

We concluded that blogging can be a useful and helpful medium for reflecting on action. So here I am reflecting on action, about reflecting in action, whilst promoting reflective practice.

Last week I attended the inaugural Facilitation Shindig in Manchester, organised and generously facilitated by Julie Drybrough of FuchsiaBlue. Prior to the day I was already excited as I anticipated quite an open space approach to learning with other people who are interested in challenging and developing their own facilitation skills. Along with that was apprehension about whether I would have anything of value to offer, and (after a chunk of time out) whether I could still facilitate. The lead up included a welcome/info video from Julie who encouraged us to join a Google Plus group and say hello. All of which helped to break the ice and do some pre-meeting meeting.

So what happens when a group of people get together, with the purposed of growing our facilitation skills? Like the best group learning environments we collectively accepted the invitation to be both subjective and objective; to try new, to play with ideas, to let go of some old ones. Julie invited us to explore Bridges Transition Model, and bring it to life by stepping into the model, large scale across the floor. We were facilitators, being facilitated and practicing facilitating with each other. But with the considerate and thoughtfulness to avoid feeling ‘done to’. We stepped willingly into stretch without panic:


With a lot of space, and a little structure, and wholly self-directional intent, learning happened and insights were gleaned and shared. Those that are not necessarily bloggable but prompt reflection and impact the next conversation, the next bit of planning, the next piece of facilitation practice. Thank you for the challenge.

 

Her 

She walks onto the train with purpose, and assertively asks the people blocking the walk-way to excuse her past after patiently waiting. Zero contempt in her tone, and she eases past and finds a seat alone. She gets comfy and opens her book, relaxes into her seat. Adjusts her hat. Reads. She looks… what is that? healthy! 

She holds all of her space with absolute grace. She is calm, confident and self-knowing. She doesn’t need a conversation with me. 

I miss you! 

Fluffy

When you describe me as fluffy…what does that mean?
Do you mean it derogatorily or was it intended as a compliment?

Do you mean I don’t get the hard stuff? Or I can’t do difficult stuff? I’m not assertive? I’m not strong or tough? Or scientific in the way I work?

Do you mean that I’m too nice when people need to be ‘told how it is’, ‘spoken to’ or given the hardline?

Do you mean emotional? Because I work with emotion, not against. Because I have a human brain not a mechanical one, with an amygdala and a wonderful neo-cortex waiting to be used to its full potential, and an endocrine system that will always keep me on my toes. Because I encourage people to feel something and notice it?

Do you mean that I think empathy is the most important thing in the world, and that I ask too many questions to try and understand more, and better? Like asking how someone is and persuing that line of inquiry with acceptance.

Do you mean fearless? Fearlessness in moments of complexity and discomfort, and choosing to go towards instead of retreat because you know however uncomfortable the physiological response gets, and however much my mind plays negative thoughts on a loop, the vulnerability will be worth what happens afterwards.

Do you mean compassionate? Compassionate towards people and in moments when it’s hard to be because you deeply disagree with the behaviours of that person and feel that turmoil in your stomach but you know compassion is the better choice.

Do you mean determined? Determined to create and design impactful learning opportunities that get people reflecting, and thinking, and feeling….and uncomfortable …way out of their comfort zone and into their stretch zone. Instead of the same theories again, and allowing adults to default to a student position which they arrive eager to do, just to please me(?) and to play the role they think they should, or rebel from it.

Yet in my fluffy state I’m too soft and weak for all this …I give up.

Do It Anyway

Unsure.

Bright eyes.

Look to hear more.

The micros.

The macros.

Seconds loom like minutes.

An empty stage.

An open mic.

A space.

To fill.

And you wait.

You wait.

You breath.

And you wait.

And your silence communicates everything we need to hear.

Unsure.

Bright eyes.

Short breath.

Delicious discomfort.

We do it anyway.

No pull.

No push.

A choice to follow.
#nationalpoetryday

Learn! Live! Baby!

[to be read, to the pace and tune of… Ice Ice Baby. If that means nothing, please complete this recommended pre-work by clicking here and watching for atleast 30 seconds]

Alright Stop! Collaborate, and Listen!

LPIs back with a another convention

Something, to make your mind shine brightly, Flow like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi  

Is it any good? You better go!

Interactive workshops, then you’ll know.

MC Don will rock the mic like a vandal. A personalised learning experience so you really get a handle.

Chance, rush to the speaker in that room, Sparking  your thinking with a knowledge boom. 

Ready, to soak up Masie and Wiseman, anything less than the best is not right man!

Live it and learn it, I bet you can’t wait, you better be ready for the second day. 

If there was a problem with OD you’d solve it.

Check out the website with this link that unfolds it.

Ok, ok, I’ll stop. It just felt like a perfectly apt tune that makes me think of Training Zone‘s Jon Kennard – not sure why!?

This September 7th and 8th will be my fourth Learning Live! The annual conference for L+Ders by the Learning and Performance institute, and I’m getting excited. This year I’ll be supporting the backchannel for those of you not able to attend, by brining the event to Twitter, blogs and probably a bit of Periscope.

The thing about putting on a learning event for people who work within learning and development, is that the expectations are high. Your audience are familiar with being the facilitators. Comfortable there infact. I’d make the assumption that they arrive eager to be engaged in learning. You might conclude that makes them the best and/or worst audience. I’d choose the former.

This year the LPI are offering ‘Personal Learning Experience’ with consultation and guidance to support you in embedding the learning in your organisation, and maximising your time at the event. For example if you’re looking at improving your digital offer to engage a national audience you might want to attend Jo Cook‘s session on virtual learning, or hear what VirtualSource Technologies have to offer. I’d like to know who is using an mobile app, how and what for!

The keynotes each year have been excellent, and I’m really looking forward to this years. Elliot Masie is an author, speaker, columnist with masses of L+D experience to share, known for developing learning models to accelerate the spread of knowledge, learning and collaboration throughout organisations. He also publishes a Learning Trends newsletter. I’ve been a Richard Wiseman fan for some time, Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology. He’s written several pop-Psychology books including Quirkology, and the Act As If Principle. He makes psychology accessible and de-mystifies misconceptions, and I’m all for that! I particularly enjoyed the guided happiness diary concept of his ’59 Seconds’ book. The idea being you only need to spend 59 Seconds attending to something each day to have a impact and shift a habit or thinking pattern. I’m looking forward to hearing what he’s working on now.

Hope to see you there! not too late to book tickets here.

If you can’t make it, we plan to bring the event to you, via the backchannel. Here are the dedicated SoMe team you might wish to follow: @Michael_LPI @kategraham23 @PhilWillocx @ilikelearning2 @Jo_coaches @Amy_Brann @WildfireSpark @s0ngb1rd  Also, the crew behind the LPI and making is happen: Don Taylor (Conference Chairman) – @DonaldHTaylor, Colin Steed (CEO of the LPI) – @ColinSteed, Ed Monk (MD of the LPI) – @EdmundMonk  and the main account @YourLPI

Open Space II

My favourite people are those with whom I feel an ease and mutuality. Even better when it’s from the off.

Early 2015 part way through my academy journey where lots of my free time was happily spent nose first in articles and books about leadership, and coaching, and emotional intelligence and the like…a valued friend nudged me towards a ‘Coaching and Mentoring Research Day’ at Sheffield Hallam Uni.

He described it: a full day of learning about coaching and mentoring at a different uni to my place of study, with different people, different academics, a different space. And the best bit, it’s fully and completely open-space learning. No lectures. No presentations. Just coaches and postgraduate students in the topic. I booked a place and got excited.

Then as the day got closer, I wondered why I was going and whether I’d have something valuable to contribute. I’m new. There would be people who’ve been doing this for years, and some who have been published.

I was early and first to arrive, so I signed in and met David Megginson. I wasn’t expecting him to be here. My initial thought… ‘you are legendary both on paper and in person, I am so in awe of you’. And yet, his presence and way of being didn’t allow for that traditional educational neck-aching hierarchy (a barrier which I’d been experience on my MA course). He only knew mutuality, and without being able to tell you exactly how, he only allowed me to be mutual too. I use the word allow meaning a mutual giving of permission with every part of your communication without explicit command. When someone looks at you and in to you, and uses your name, doesn’t forget it, and means it.

Open-Space – based on the principles of Owen

The 16 chairs were in a circle. On the wall was a sheet of flip-chart displaying a blank time-table. 3 open spaces, per hour, with lunch in the middle. A pile of post-its and markers lay on the floor in the middle.

Paul Stokes lead us though introductions, and then set the scene.

The time-table is decided by you, now. Take a post-it and pen, and write down a topic or a question that you want to learn about today. Then place it on the time-table wherever you like. As the topic setter you are the Convener. The only commitment being that you show up and start the conversation. You don’t facilitate it, or present it, you just commit to being there to start it.

5 time slots, over 3 rooms, throughout the day = 15 opportunities.

Then, we negotiated. Moving post-its around so we could plan our preferred time-table and not miss the learning sessions we wanted to be part of. Once it was final, we took a photo or jotted it down so we knew what rooms we wanted to go to when.

With open space, when it starts it starts, when it’s over it’s over. Whatever happens is the only thing that could happen, and (my favourite and the most important part) whoever comes are the right people.

The Rules: only one, the law of two feet. If you want to leave a session, you leave.

The Roles: you might chose to be a bumble-bee cross pollinating from group to group, or a butterfly floating around on the periphery… you choose. Tea and coffee are free flowing.

The richness followed. Meaty, thoughtful, considerate discussions with challenge and curiosity. No echo-chamber. No seeking approval. No stage. No sage. Self-leadership and direction for own learning. Everyone, listened to everyone. It was tangential, and emergent and organic. Thoughts followed paths and opened up ideas and new thinking I didn’t realise was there. It didn’t matter if people agreed, or disagreed. In fact the latter was better. For the first time I felt fully respected, fully valued and fully appreciated as an adult learner. This is what it should be like.

Everyone, listened to everyone.

A space and way of being that honours thinking and values diversity.

I’m still in awe of David Megginson… for all the right reasons: ease, mutuality and brilliance. These open space days have definitely changed my learning and practice and remain my favourite most impactful learning days!

 

On 22nd Sept 2016 multiple @LnDConnect Unconferences will be held across the UK and abroad. They will be open space. I hope you can join us!