Become an expert Net-Map facilitator: Next training in DC June 27-28

influence towers from sideWe are are planning 2 Net-Map workshops in Washington DC this year. There are some more workshops planned in other parts of the world (e.g. Kenya in May)– so stay tuned. And, if you are interested in a workshop catered to your organization and at your location, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

The next workshop in DC is scheduled for June 27-28. So please mark the dates. This is a two day workshop in which you learn the basics of how to use Net-Map to improve your ability to understand and navigate personal and professional networks. The workshop will have a strong focus on learning-by-doing and you will be able to bring your own questions and map them out.

The location is George Washington University. Please sign up here

Make your own oracle – or just use mine

RWS_Tarot_02_High_Priestess

I am fascinated with card decks that help you think, discover, work in groups, get unstuck. I have talked with some amazing people about their cards: Keith McCandless one of the creators of liberating structures,  Dave Pollard of the team behind group works deck, Tom  Wambke who is in the process of turning the compass online facilitation resources into a card deck – in an great google hangout facilitated and convened by Nancy White of full circle associates.

What brought this conversation on is a card deck on network structures that can be helpful or harmful to the success of a project, which I am working on the moment. An unintended effect came a few nights after the hangout, when I had one of those moments of inspiration (of the “rainy season in Namibia type“) and created a daily question deck. It’s extremely simple and – as I am observing my first guinea pigs – quite powerful all the same. Each card has a question for you to ponder. That’s it. The way I am using it at the moment is: Every morning you draw a card and that is your question of the day. You put it in your pocket, on your desk, on your kitchen table and while you are going through your day as you normally would, the question is there, sitting there patiently, waiting for answers to bubble up. These are a whole range of questions, such as:

  • Who has your back?
  • What would happen if you said the truth?
  • What would a 4 year old recommend?
  • What would you do if you knew the answer?
  • What don’t you see?

I have formatted them so you can download them here (daily question cards) and print them on standard pre-perforated business cards and start playing right away. Go ahead: Print and play. Add your own. Tell me how you use them. What you learned. Do you work with other facilitation card decks that you find inspiring? I’d love to hear from you.

Own it – with a smile

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(Picture by Alan Cleaver on flickr)

How do you deal with situations you are not 100% comfortable with? How do you approach your work and your family life when it gets stressful? Are you quick to blame others for whatever goes wrong? Are you inclined to focus on all the different ways that you have messed it up?

How about owning it with a smile?

What does that mean? I started thinking about this last week, attending an amazing creative facilitation training by Retreats that Work (or, more specifically, Merianne Liteman and Sheila Campbell). They highlighted the power of an honest smile, how it can light up the room, make the most difficult group processes more bearable and convey to participants that you approach them in a positive, inviting manner. As a German I come from a culture where you only smile if you have a reason – and even then, you often don’t. My German friends think I have become Americanized… I am not sure my American friends would agree. There is still a lot of room for adding more smiles, with or without concrete reason. So I just started trying it out: What would happen if I smiled more? Not a “I’m sorry I’m in your way” kind of smile but rather a “I own my own space and invite you to join me here” smile.

At the end of the training I realized that “owning it – with a smile” is a powerful guidance for dealing with things beyond group facilitation. So I have looked at a number of issues both in my professional and private life and asked myself: What would happen if you didn’t blame others or yourself for this, but own it with a smile? If feels like breathing in – in a way that makes your lungs expand and fills you with fresh spring air. Now I’m curious where it will get me. And I’d love to hear from you: Do you own it with a smile? What does that mean to you? And what happens if you do?

Facilitate! Don’t be a Clever-Bully

Clever-Bully (picture by Diamond Select Toys)

I’ve been teaching Net-Map a lot, lately. And while my participants probably think it is most difficult to find the right Net-Map question or define good links (and yes, those are challenges), what is most difficult to do and most difficult (impossible?) to teach, is to facilitate a Net-Map session well.

So many things can happen in the group that maps, they can misunderstand instructions, get stuck in analysis paralysis, launch into conflict and, oh yes, they can get it all wrong! Or can they? Well, maybe… or maybe you are just being a clever-bully instead of being a facilitator.

What is a clever-bully? Someone who does not help the group to develop their own insights, think things through in their own minds, walk their own winding path to deeper insights but is so impressed by his or her own quick and impressive assessment of the situation that they have to tell the group the “solution” before the group even had the time to think. To be a really good (i.e. obnoxious) clever-bully you have to be so stubbornly sure of your storyline that you try to convince your group of your logic, even if they disagree. Remember, they don’t disagree with you because they maybe know their own story better than you do or they have a different perspective than you. They disagree either to be difficult or because they just don’t get it. So you have to push harder against the difficult ones and explain in more detail for the slow ones. Because what is the value of groups doing their own thinking if the solution you can present is so much better than what they ever could come up with?

How come I know so well what the clever-bully thinks? Maybe because I have one sitting in my head too. And I have to sometimes hold him back, take a deep breath, keep my mouth shut and remind myself that I know nothing about other people’s problems and that watching someone swim has never saved anyone from drowning…