Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday, October 8, 2012

Collaboration Thanks.

I can live for two months on a good compliment - Mark Twain.

It’s Canadian Thanksgiving and a tinge of gratitude is felt in the Fall-time air and a notion of holding appreciation is infused in family meals and friendly gatherings. This spirit of thanks has us wondering what would happen if it was also infused within people’s collaboration and working together environments.  

In the book Heart at Work by Jack Canfield and Jacqueline Miller, entrepreneurial visionary Ronald E. Guzik writes of the benefits of praising your way to team success. He relates three ways to increase team confidence and sustainability:

  1. Recognize yourself and your own accomplishments.  (Doing this makes it easier for you to appreciate others)
  2. Cultivate the habit of looking for what people do right.  (Extend this to what groups/teams do right)
  3. Speak up when you see something good.  (Don’t just notice how others are contributing – tell them)

It seems quite simple really, to motivate and empower people to work together, make sure they feel appreciated!  So today, in honour of Thanksgiving, take a moment to reflect on team morale boosters. Stop and acknowledge what you bring to collaboration, what you notice others doing “right” in their collaboration and think of creative ways you can authentically praise one another.

As the above Mark Twain quote implies... there is something nourishing about being noticed by another. The appreciation payback is guaranteed to last longer than any turkey leftovers. Happy Thanksgiving all!

Village Raising Question:

 What part of collaboration are you thankful for? When will you tell others?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Collaboration Compass: Finding Direction with Strengths

Want a quick, yet impact filled way, to start your next team meeting or community gathering? Try this activity that what we facilitated in a recent strategic planning session.

The Strength Compass Activity:

Draw compass points on a flip-chart. Ask people to pick the ONE compass point that most describes or reflects their personal preference (with the understanding that people likely have some aspects of all of these strengths).

Read out the following descriptions:
North: You are a let’s get it done person. All about the action
South: You are a let’s look at the big picture person
East: You are about inclusion of everyone’s feelings and voice
West: You pay attention to the details.

Have people stand and cluster in groups, based on their chosen compass points, and encourage them to talk about the strengths they each bring in their chosen area. Although people cluster together under one heading, it becomes clear that each person approaches their strength in a unique way. After small group discussion - capture the collective strengths on a flip-chart (like in the photo). Use this as a visual reference throughout any meeting to keep the various strengths in mind that can help influence things like strategic planning, goal setting or initiative task appointing. These strengths can help any plan come to fruition! Each time we have facilitated this activity there is a resulting buzz of conversation and a claiming of personal strengths that fills meeting rooms!

Here are two more resources filled with strength based approaches and community building tools:

1. We LOVE this Sierra Health Foundation resource that is chock full of asset minded activities. In particular take a look at their capacity inventory checklist and asset mapping activity. They ask things like... What do we have that will help us get there? What are our assets, resources, strengths or capacities? What are the gifts people can bring?

2. A Guide to Capacity Inventories: Mobilizing the Community Skills of Local Residents by John P. Kretzmann John McKnight and Co-directors Geralyn Sheehan. This document focuses on individual capacities and collective assets. One of the main questions they suggest communities should ask is: How will the skills and capacities of local people be translated into meeting community-building goals?
This resource takes community planning from thinking about needs (issues/problems) to thinking about capacities (tools to promote growth and enhance quality). Check out the capacity inventory checklist:

All of the above activities and resources speak to the power of finding collaborative direction with the STRENGTHS of the individuals and whole. Try it!

Discover the strengths that fill your collaboration compass!

Village Raising Question:

What is a strength filled activity you have used?

* Note: Does this activity interest you? If so, the collaboration compass can be found in our new book Village Raising: Learn, Think, Innovate and Act Together. This book is chock full of 60 engaging activities for group leaders.

* See related blog:
Who is the ultimate team member? Using collective strengths. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

3 Questions that Lead to Collaborative Focus

Last week’s blog set the reflective stage for your organization to think about collaborative focus.

One approach that can help organizations find and follow through with a strong collaborative focus is based on Jim Collins hedgehog concept. The concept is based on a parable, whereby a hedgehog outsmarts a fox by doing one big thing, sticking to it and doing it really well. According to Collins this concept is what takes companies from Good to Great (also the title of his book).  While this book is largely written with big business in mind, the concepts can easily be adapted for any organization. In fact Collins wrote a follow up monograph to accompany Good To Great specifically for the social sector which is also an interesting read.

So what is the Hedgehog concept?  It’s where leaders can discover their capacity, competence and the consistent activities that will boost your organizations work.

 It’s all about reaching an understanding based on three core questions...
  1. What is your organization deeply passionate about?
  2. What drives your economic engine?  (For non profit organizations consider this two ways; what drives your resource engine? and what drives your socio- economic results?)
  3. What can you be the best in the world at? (This refers to your organization’s unique contribution and what it CAN be best at – not what it WANTS to be best at).

While the concept is somewhat simple, reaching collective understanding and focus takes time. Go over and over the three questions above (and do pick up Jim Collins book for more guidance of how to work through the Hedgehog Concept and to move your organization from Good to Great). Enjoy the dialogue and focused collaboration!  It’s through exploration of questions like these that you will unearth your core activities and strategic decisions.

Village Raising Question:
What is ONE thing that could bring the greatest single impact to your initiative?
(add more later). 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Distracted or Focused in your Collaboration?

The more choices we have, the greater the need for focus.  - Tom Butler-Bowdon

Is your collaborative...

Drifting from project to project?
Feeling fragmented from multiple interests and passions?
Losing sight of where you are going as a group?

It happens!

This past week a networking group that I have been a part of has decided to fold due to lack of participation.  One of the group members questioned if living in an urban setting contributed to this. She wondered if people were so distracted and had so many options available to them that it was hard to focus  on lasting deep collaborative relationships.

 This got me thinking about what role (if any) focus and distraction had in collaboration.  

Think about the many interests your group or collaborative has right now. How many directions are your collaborative members pulled in? For example, are people expected to take action around literacy, marketing, housing, poverty, nutrition, and social capital (to name a few)? While on one hand being aware of a holistically developed big picture is fantastic, as is being fully informed before making decisions, as is considering people's interests. AND can multiple interests pull people into overload, fragmentation and in-action?  

Consider this an invitation to reflect. What have you noticed?
Please do share your thoughts on RTV's Facebook or Twitter pages. 

More next week - come back to read about one approach to aid a working together focus (it’s found in a hedgehog).

Village Raising Questions:
What (if anything) has your group currently distracted?
What role do you think rural and urban settings play in this?
How does your group find AND keep their focus?
How can multiple interests be celebrated?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

what can/will go wrong part 2

In part 1 of this blog, we uncharacteristically wrote that bad things are likely to happen, so be prepared!

Preparation, preparation, preparation - need we say more? Ok, we will. At Raising the Village, we promote paying attention to three key steps BEFORE any group process to set the stage for a positive experience for everyone.
a) know yourself - what's your style, what are you comfortable with?
b) know your group - who are your participants and why are they togther and what do they need?
c) THEN pick your process

Along the theme of things going wrong, however, we've highlighted two more common challenges when faciliating a group. Learn the signs that something bad is brewing, try the tips to help AVOID IT as well as know what to do if it does actually happen (without panicking).

    • the same person ALWAYS has an opinion, a story to tell or a question
    • other participants are silent/silenced
Prevent it!
  • regularly seek multiple responses for each question using a phrase like, "Another idea from a different perspective?" and directly asking what questions do (several) people have.
  • Give others a space to respond.  Silence can be uncomfortable but if you immediately defer to the talker, no-one will feel they have a chance to get a word in.
Deal with it!
  • try "What do the rest of you think?"
  • call other people by name
  • if it is REALLY bad, politely tell the talker that you are going to give other people a chance to add to the conversation.
  • invite the participants to answer the talker's questions (that expands the situation beyond just you and' the talker)
    • the energy is falling flat, fast
    • likely there will be some confusion
    • answers or deliverables don't match what you expected

Prevent it!
  • spend that time before the activity to get yourself clear on learning objectives or activity outcomes
  • don't rescue the group or hurry them along - with a clear purpose and instructions they will get there.
Deal with it!
  • be honest and describe what you were thinking and what was the outcome - have a dialogue about why the disconnect
  • focus on what they DID get out of the activity - perhaps it is just a smaller step towards what you had hoped.
  • try it again with a few tweaks if necessary
Other blogs you might like:
Group Process tips - how to prepare for TIME flow
Why Bother with Group Agreements
Facilitators practice the art of letting go

Monday, September 10, 2012

What can/will go wrong in a group activity - part 1

Not meaning to sound like a "glass half empty" type, but it would be short sighted for any group leader to ignore the distinct possibility that a group process can miss the mark. In fact, most honest facilitators will confess that they are not immuned to Murphy's law. Eventually, what can cause some challenges, will.  This reality check shouldn't scare anyone off taking some risks with a group - in fact it should only heighten your awareness and preparation for those bumps in the road.

Four COMMON obstacles for group facilitators are;
  1. participants resist participating
  2. participants don't understand your activity instructions
  3. someone dominates the activity debrief dialogue
  4. the final outcomes are not what you are hoping for the group
This week we'll tackle the first two, and check in next week for the rest. For each problem, learn some signs that something bad is brewing, tips to help AVOID IT as well as what to do if it does actually happen (without crying).

    • you might hear some side conversations
    • shudder to think, but be prepared for eye-rolling
    • outright refusal
    • suggestions to do something else
Prevent it!
  • be crystal clear with yourself about why you are choosing this activity for this group for your desired outcome
  • start the session with VERY CLEAR communication around the purpose of the gathering/activity
  • ease any stress by reassuring participants that you won't be getting them to do anything crazy or uncomfortable
  • if you know your group, check in with "resistors" before hand and even find roles for them to keep them committed and engaged.
Deal with it!
  • don't make a huge deal about it
  • create a role for "an observer" or "timekeeper" and ask them to help out that way
  • if you have some group agreements - you may need to re-visit them if any are broken

    • Dazed an confused looks
    • Chatter - everyone asking everyone (but you) what to do
    • Hopefully questions to ask for clarification
Prevent it!
  • make sure YOU understand your own instructions!
  • practice the activity before hand
  • chunk up your directions, repeat them slowly step by step and ask for a thumbs up as you go along

Deal with it!
  • stop and start again.
  • find out if anyone DID understand and have them help you explain
  • give an example, role play or demonstrate
  • whatever you do, try not to get frustrated, don't take it personally and DON'T make the participants feel dumb (that will always end in disaster)

These are adapted from author Brian Cole Miller, who, I'm sure has experienced these challenges.  Have you?  Tell us what you did to deal with them! Comment please, we'd love to swap stories!