Sunday, May 3, 2015

Renting in Community

I recently worked with a community that wanted to tackle the issue of renting. Did they want to leave the matter solely up to owners, or did the community want to have say in how that went? 

It occurred to me that this was an excellent example of a topic that was both complex and potentially volatile, so the group and I put some effort into thinking through the kinds of questions that the group might usefully address in order to have a comprehensive policy. Following is what we came up with. While each question may not be potent, or necessarily challenging to answer, our aim was to generate a list that would cover the waterfront.

A.  How important is it that renting be in compliance with local building code and occupancy laws?
B.  Renters impact parking. To what extent should they have the same access to parking as owners?
C.  Should the formula by which homeowner dues are calculated take into account rental units? If so, how?
D.  In what ways should policy differ if the rental is whole house, or rooms in an owner-occupied house?
E.  To what extent should rental units be allowed because they make living in the community more affordable for the owners?
F.  Rental units in some houses increase the assessed valuation of all homes in the community. To what extent, if any, should the increased tax burden on homes without rentals be supported by those that have rental units?
G.  What say should the community have in who is being rented to?
H.  Do you want renters to be involved in community life? If so, how do you want to accomplish that?
I.  Should there be any limits on renters’ access to common facilities and community activities?
J.  What responsibility should the community have for orienting renters to community life? What portion of this can be expected of owners?
K.  Should renters be introduced to the community? If so, how?
L.  Is there a safety issue with renters? If so, how can that be dealt with?
M.  Should there be an upper limit on renters to protect the viability of the community? If so, what is it and how will rental options be rationed among owners?
N. To what extent does renter policy and expectations change by length of rental (say, less than 90 days)?
O.  Does whole house renting beyond a certain number impact ability to get mortgages?
P.  What are the positives about renters?
Q.  Impact on community resources
R.  How will we handle situations where renters are not compliant with community norms and agreements?
S.  To what extent are landlord/owners responsible for what their renters do?
T.  What is the community's liability with renters?
U.  How to balance community interests and private rights
V.  Do we want/need a community member to be a liaison for each renter?
W.  How to ensure that our renter policy feels good as a package?
X.  What does “renter” mean (as distinct from guest)?

Y.  How do we take into account lovers, guests, pets, etc that often accompany a renter?

Our plan for addressing these was to tackle one strand at a time, developing the best answer we could before moving on to the next. Recognizing that the answer to one strand might depend on the answer to another that has not yet been addressed, we agreed to assume that we have a satisfactory response to unaddressed strands when and then proceeding. 

To the extent that some strands seem more foundational than others, it may make sense to be deliberate about the sequence in which they'll be considered, keeping in mind that eventually they'll all need to be addressed. (Note: the order in which the strands are listed above is arbitrary.) Further, it may make sense to clump a few strands to be considered simultaneously, though I cautioned the group about the dangers of trying to take too large a bite at once—they can be difficult to chew and swallow.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Being Touched in Community

Being touched has many meanings.

1. Heart Connection
as in being affected by someone's plea or pitch

As humans, I believe we are hard-wired to want connection to each other. However, our societal conditioning doesn't necessarily reinforce this. In many ways, the hunger for community is fueled by this unmet need: both to be touched by others and to have others touched by us. I think we all want to be seen and held by those around us, and intentional community is, in part, an attempt to surround ourselves with people who care about the same things—making it easier to in touch.

This is more than others understanding and working respectfully with our ideas; it's about being seen for who we are and known for what matters to us, where meaning is deepest. I want to be clear that the essence of my focus is on being cared about and taken into account—not necessarily that you're agreed with.

2. Slightly Crazy
as in being influenced by wildness or spirit in mysterious or unbalanced ways

For most of us it takes courage to create or join an intentional community. It is far off the beaten path and looked upon as something rather exotic by most in the mainstream. In fact, one of the challenges for people living in community is being taken seriously. Many political activists, for instance, believe that living in intentional community is hiding out—creating a safe enclave out in the boondocks instead of engaging on real issues. (While I don't share that view, I've heard it plenty.)

I am an acorn that has wandered quite far from the tree from which I fell—so much so that my fellow nuts have a hard time conceiving of an oak growing out of my seed. As if the journey to new soil is not perilous in and of itself, I must also bear the stigmata of familial disapprobation or confusion. It is hard leaving the herd.

3. Physical Contact
as in bodies together

I had an experience of this last Sunday, at the end of Men's Group. After sharing that I was planning to take a leave of absence from Dancing Rabbit and try living with friends in NC, the evening concluded with the group giving me a "cinnamon roll." Starting in a circle with everyone holding hands, I dropped my left hand and then spiraled inward while continuing to hold the hand of the person on my right. The results was a spiral with me in the middle. I was acutely aware of both the smells and touch of the other men—and how seldom I feel that.

Because our culture tends to overlay almost all touch with sexual innuendo, there is a strong tendency to discourage touch excepting across the bonds of immediate family or where there is mutual consent to enter into the realm of sexual exploration. The upshot of this taboo is that people are starved for touch. Even where there is scientific evidence that touch is a necessary feature of health, we physically connect with one another seldom and often as carefully as handling porcelain when we do—as if we might break.

Among the many things I miss as a consequence of being estranged from Ma'ikwe is her touch: holding hands on walks, her touching my shoulder lightly when delivering me a cup of coffee at my desk, cuddling as our last act of consciousness at night.

At its best, community is about everyone being in touch.

Monday, April 27, 2015


I'm feeling better.

In fact, well enough to offer up this essay as a triple entendre.

1. The start of a 22-day road trip
I'm typing this on board the Illinois Zephyr, en route to Chicago, where I'll catch the eastbound Capitol Limited for DC this evening. Tomorrow I meet with an FIC donor, and by Wednesday evening I'll be in Blacksburg VA, where I'll be working through the weekend with Shadowlake Village, an established cohousing community with whom I've worked before (though the last time was the weekend right before Katrina hit New Orleans, almost 10 years ago).

After that I get to enjoy four days with my dear friend, Ann Shrader, in nearby Floyd VA. Departing Virginia May 9, I'll get to Denver by Sunday morning, where I'll visit for two days with another long-term friend, followed by five days of FIC meetings at Wild Sage, a cohousing community in Boulder. Then I head for the barn.

This is a fairly typical trip, combining a little of all the things I like to do out in the world: professional facilitating/consulting, network organizing, and visiting with friends. 

So I'm outbound from home.

2. I'm moving to NC
While my going on a trip is not remarkable and neither is the mix of how I'll be spending my time, I realized only yesterday that I will miss the entire morel season without a single walk in the woods, and I'll also not be in state when Sandhill celebrates Land Day, May 9. These are significant omissions because it represents an unmooring of my connection to place—my home of 41 years. I used to schedule trips around morel season and Land Day, and now I'm scheduling through them.

As I reported earlier as a possibility, I've made up my mind to join Maria, Joe, and Mia (Maria's 13-year-old daughter) in early June, occupying their third-floor apartment. I'll be renting month to month and exploring a household scale community with close friends.

To frame this properly, I've taken leaves of absence and stayed for extended periods away from Sandhill a number of times before, so I'm not exactly plowing any new ground here. It's an experiment. If it works out I may move to the Tar Heel State permanently and start a new chapter to my life in community. If not, I can return to Dancing Rabbit, where no bridges have been burned.

Notably, this represents my taking a pro-active step to define what's next for me, after 10 weeks characterized mainly by my grieving the loss of my marriage and allowing for the dust to settle. I've realized in the handful of days that Ma'ikwe and I have both been in residence at Moon Lodge (our house at Dancing Rabbit) that it's awkward trying to figure out how to relate to my estranged wife. I still love her, but she no longer wants me that close and I don't know where the line is between between intimate and interesting. I was walking on eggshells and I need more oxygen.

So even if my NC adventure does not bear community, it will be an emotional respite from the tenderness of my loss. In time, I'm confident that Ma'ikwe and I can find a new balance point that will work for us in a meaningful way—but not just yet.

So in about six weeks I'll be outbound from Missouri.

3. Pain in my torso is finally easing 
After almost seven months of fairly constant debility in one part or another of my ribs and back, I can feel the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw a doctor last week who explained that my most recent malaise— very tender ribs at the point where they meet the sternum (that's costochondritis if you're diagnosing at home)—will eventually get better without my doing anything more prudent than avoiding heavy lifting and getting adequate rest. 

That was welcome news, changing my frame of reference. I no longer think of myself as broken, or maladjusted; just sore. I'm now turning my attention more toward deeper breathing and holding less tension in my back—essentially breaking the reinforcing cycle of tension and exhaustion.

It's interesting to think about how much my ongoing physical pain may be mirroring (or even foreshadowing!) my emotional pain and that I may not be able to heal the one without the other. The intersection of spirit, health, and energy is a very compelling focus for me right now, and I like to think I'm finally pulling in the same direction—toward health—on all fronts.

So I'm outbound from pain.

It should be an interesting trip.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Facilitator Prep

One of the features of the Integrative Facilitation Training programs that I offer (see Facilitation Trainings on Tap for news about what trainings are available now) is teaching how to prepare for a facilitation assignment. Because training weekends are always compacted (we get a lot done in a short time, making maximum use of the three days we have together), the students don't get their assignments (for a one-hour chunk of live facilitation time) until Friday afternoon and sometimes have to be on stage as soon as that evening. (Yikes!)

While in normal life (whatever that is) it's far more common to have a week, or at least several days, to prepare for a meeting, we don't have that luxury in the training program, and thus, students need to learn how to get ready quickly.

In this essay I'm going to lay out a checklist for accomplishing that. The order is not so important as that each of these things needs to be covered:

1. Mind Set
This is about doing whatever personal work is necessary to set aside other things in your life to give yourself over as completely as possible to the task at hand (you're going for maximum free attention), and being as clear a channel as possible once the meeting starts. This is analogous to what athletes do in preparing for a game or an event, excepting that the work is generally not aerobic.

To the extent possible you're aiming for heightened awareness and an egoless state. In my experience this is not about vanquishing nervousness, so much as it's coming to peace with it, so that it's not distracting. As the facilitator, you are there to help midwife a great meeting, not to be the hero or the center of attention. While you should unquestionably prepare for the meeting and what you expect to encounter, you have to be fluid enough that you can adapt plans to fit emerging needs. Meetings are not scripted, and surprises go with the territory.

If you're worried about some aspects of your capacity to perform well, sometimes it helps to simply admit that at the start of the session: As a facilitator, I'm still learning my craft and the skill I want to focus on today is excellent summaries. If you think I'm missing something or am off base in my summaries, please feel free to suggest adjustments. It won't bother me a bit.

By owning this as a weak spot, it will be less scary and you will have enlisted the group as your ally (after all, they want a great meeting, too).

Getting your game on can look like a lot of things: meditating; lying down and closing your eyes for 15 minutes; going for a walk; making a cup of tea; journaling; taking a shower; sitting in a dark room; standing alone in the meeting space before anyone arrives, to feel into the space. Do what works for you.

2. Objectives
You need to know what's wanted on the topics that will be examined on your watch. Is this just a discussion, or is a decision expected? Will there be new data or research results presented in this session, or is all of that already on the table? What questions are we trying to answer? How clearly have the issues been articulated? Is this the first meeting on this topic or is this a follow-up meeting (if the latter, where were things left at the end of the prior meeting and what remains to be done)?

3. Background
Is there any prior work that the group has done on the topics that are on the agenda? This could be either recent or old. Are there any existing agreements that bear on the topics, so that everyone is clear what's already in place. You don't want to be scrambling in the meeting looking for old minutes. That should have been done ahead of time. Are there any relevant precedents in play?

4. Land Mines
Are there any known friction points relating to the topics to be discussed? I'm not talking about plain old vanilla disagreements; I'm talking about non-trivial distress or upset. If so, you want to know who has it, what those feelings are, what they represent, and whether they've been resolved to everyone's satisfaction. Nothing sinks a meeting as dramatically as bumping into an iceberg, where you suddenly discover a reservoir of intractable frozen feelings, ready to flood the floor once surfaced.

Of course, even good reconnaissance will miss some subterranean boulders. So you need to be prepared for field upset if it pops up, even if it wasn't on your radar at the start of the meeting. Although weather forecasting is imperfect, it's better than no-casting.

5. Formats
Now that you have the information you need about the topics (as a result of steps 2-4 above), it's your job to think about how to work them productively and efficiently in the meeting. Among other things, this means making choices about what formats to use to gather viewpoints. The default is open discussion, and that may work well some of the time. Yet you need to have in mind that no format works well all of the time, and you need to mix things up—both for the energetic boost that the group will get simply from making a change, and because different formats allow you to access different strengths in the group.

For example, Go Rounds are wonderful for equalizing air time and protecting entrée into the conversation, but they tend to be slow and repetitive, so you don't want to overuse them. If the meeting is long (three hours?), you may want to think about how you can incorporate physical movement into your format choices (so that people can get off their butts other than during bio breaks or to refill their coffee cup).

6. Time Estimates
Although the time needed to deal reasonably with the topics chosen should have already been taken into account by whoever drafted the agenda, in the meeting it will be up to the facilitator to manage time. In service to that need, you generally want to map out (at least roughly) how much time each segment will take so that you have a running sense of whether you're on target, ahead, or behind.

Your job is to bring the train into the station on time (end the meeting at its allotted end point) and you should think through ahead of time what adjustments you might make mid-course to help ensure that result. What could you cut short or delete from your plan without sacrificing quality? If you're running ahead, is there an extra step that would enhance the consideration, or is it better to end early?

7. Coordination of Support Roles
There are many roles that support a good meeting. While that of facilitator is likely the most visible, there is typically also a notetaker (who should not be the facilitator), and there may be others, including:
o  time keeper
o  vibes watcher (person alert for ruffled energy and stepping in when they find it)
o  door keeper (person bringing late arrivals up to speed on what's happening)
o  scribe (person writing notes on a flip chart or whiteboard)
o  back-up facilitator

All together, this collection of players is an orchestra performing in service to the meeting, with the facilitator as conductor. With this in mind, it's up to the facilitator to take responsibility for discussing with each person filling a support role how they'll coordinate during the meeting. For example, it is relatively common that a well-intentioned scribe will do their best to capture the highlights of a conversation, yet not organize their work in such a way that the facilitator can use it easily. Ugh! This awkwardness can be avoided if the facilitator and scribe discuss this ahead of time.

Some facilitators choose to handle many of these support roles themselves, in part to avoid the challenges of complex choreography, but you have to know your capacity—it's a mistake to try juggling more balls than you can keep in the air.

8. Visual Aids
In a typical group there will be a number of people whose primary information intake is visual and you can help make everything easier for those folks by offering visual reinforcement of what you'll be saying. I'm thinking of things like:
o  schedule
o  agenda
o  ground rules for meeting behavior & the facilitator's authority
o  key questions
o  themes from a discussion
o  factors to keep in mind when developing a proposal
o  draft proposals
o  end-of-meeting evaluations

When you know you'll want these, write them up on flip chart paper ahead of time to the extent possible.

9. Setting up the Meeting Space
While this might be handled by others as one of the support role (step 8 above), the facilitator is the bottom line on this and may want to direct the set up to suit their preferences. If people have to move tables and chairs at the last minute you'll probably start late and be somewhat frazzled. Not good. 

Where do you want the visual aids (hint: not back lit by bright windows)? Will you need wall space for posting flip chart pages? If so, do you have the supplies needed (markers that are not dried out; with ink that's dark enough and broad-stroked enough to be seen readily from across the room; with ink that isn't cloyingly offensive to the scent sensitive)?

Where will the facilitator stand? Is there a good spot for the notetaker, so that they're not blocking other people's sight lines and yet can see the flip chart (or whiteboard) easily? Is it close enough to a power supply if they're taking minutes on a laptop?

10. Wardrobe 
Last, do you have appropriate raiment, so that everyone will be comfortable with how you're dressed and your clothes will not be the center of attention. You can get this wrong either by overdressing (suit and tie for men; skirt, hose, and heels for women) or underdressing (clothes that are dirty or with unmended tears; provocative, skimpy clothing).

• • •
If you thought that the facilitator only needed to show up on time and decide who was going to talk next, think again. Good prep often takes as much or more time ahead of the meeting than you'll spend in front of the group in the meeting—especially for neophytes. As a professional I can do this a lot faster, but I've been doing it for 28 years. You have to learn to walk before you can run.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

When Sharing Doesn't Build Trust

I regularly tell groups that there's a strong correlation between sharing information and trust (why wasn't I told; don't they trust me?). However, I was recently in a workshop where it bubbled up that there are times when too much information (TMI in process argot) degrades trust and relationships.

While I believe the principle of information=trust still obtains in most situations (see my blog of Sept 20, 2010, Building Trust for more on this), here are exceptions:

1. Outing someone without permission
This applies when you are privy to private or delicate information about others that they prefer (for better or worse) be kept confidential. If you choose to share this information without getting an OK from people about whom you are speaking, all hell can break loose. At the very least, the people you outed are likely to trust you less in the future. At worst, they'll feel betrayed.

2. Swamping the boat
This is when the volume of sharing exceeds the capacity of the listener to hold and understand. While it may not result in a loss of trust, it will not help build it either, and will teach people to be wary of offering to listen to you. Whence the phrase, "talking one's ear off," which is not a pleasant image.

3. Bad timing
This is insisting on sharing at a convenient (even compelling) moment for the speaker, without checking to see if it's a good moment for the listener. This can land as annoying and disrespectful.

4. Too much intimacy too soon
The workshop leader confessed that she used to have this syndrome, especially when dating. She had gotten into the habit of going deep right away as a way to screen people for potential partner material. It was only later that she realized that her pushiness was driving people away, not her positions relative to what she was seeking from an intimate partner.

5. Ability to stretch is exceeded
Sometimes the information is awkward for the listener to receive. If they aren't able to stretch that far, they can rubber band into shut down mode—something they won't thank you for, and which you won't enjoy either.

6. Malicious gossip
Talking trash about someone behind their back. Listeners may be worried that you might do the same about them when talking with others, and thus become more guarded about what they share with you.

Note that all of these instances revolve around the theme of being unmindful—either of your audience, or of the people you are talking about. If you keep in mind that one of the primary goals of good communication is enhancing relationships, you'll probably be less likely to inadvertently damage trust when your mouth is open.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Quo Vadimus

The title for today's blog was borrowed from the final episode of Sports Night, that aired May 16, 2000—a terrific comedy/drama/sports show written by Alan Sorkin that (tragically) lasted only two seasons, because Sorkin was unable to stay on top of both it and West Wing simultaneously. Sometimes you have to make choices when your plate overfloweth—of which more anon.

The title is Latin for "Where are we going?" This could mean as a species, as a culture, as a group trying to figure out where to eat, or for me personally—who thinks in terms of the community "we" (as opposed to the royal one).

A couple months ago the bottom fell out of my "we" when Ma'ikwe announced that she wanted out of our marriage. Now, cut loose from the foundation of my primary relationship, I am also trying to figure out where home is. Ma'ikwe has invited me to continue living at Dancing Rabbit, and that's a viable option with many pluses, not the least of which is that many people here have told me that they'd like me to stay.

Yet where's the bedrock? I've dedicated almost two-thirds of my life to community building and I believe in it, both personally and societally. While I can imagine a life alone (in a studio apartment where I'd have a large desk, filing cabinets, book shelves, a comfortable chair, a small kitchen, enough open floor space for yoga, and a good bed), it would lack flavor and stimulation.

My work can travel with me wherever I go (as long as I have a reliable internet signal I can compose reports, maintain correspondence, and bang out blogs just about anywhere), and often I travel for work (teaching, facilitating, and consulting). While it's thus helpful to be based reasonably near an Amtrak station, that doesn't eliminate much of the country (well, maybe South Dakota and Wyoming).

So what are the elements of home that are most precious? At root, community is about relationships and human connections. It is being there for each other in time of need; sharing the joys and sorrows of life; eating together; exchanging observations of the day; bouncing ideas off each other. There should be a lot of laughter.

I'm clear I want to keep my life rooted in community, where relationships will be my primary security and base of support. Thus, I want to make a choice where the relationships are strong; where I feel seen, respected for my work, and able to give to others in proportion to what I receive. It would be a bonus if I could discuss my work with community mates, though not essential. While Dancing Rabbit has the potential to be that place, I have compelling connections in a number of other places across the country, and I'm leaning toward exploring what's possible with dear friends I already have and trying to build community with them—rather than trying to build the relationships in the community in which I'm already located.

This means taking a break from my residency at Dancing Rabbit, to see what's out there. Because I came to the community (in November 2103) as Ma'ikwe's guest and was focused on our relationship and our home, I never got around to applying for residency and thus have no official standing in the community anyway. So it's a natural point to pause and consider reconfigurations. Though I have opportunities now that I wasn't looking for, they are opportunities nonetheless and it's up to me to make the most of them.

Two other factors here are:

a) My tenderness at sharing Moon Lodge with Ma'ikwe while we're both home (which has only been the case since Thursday—for the first 10 weeks after Ma'ikwe announced her decision to dissolve the marriage one or both of us has been on the road). This building is filled with memories of our being together, and those have come alive with Ma'ikwe's presence. Though she's doing nothing provocative, tears are never far from the surface. Exploring community options elsewhere would help me heal.

b) I feel reasonably confident that I can return to Dancing Rabbit and start my residency fresh if that seems like the best choice. (Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, and the full value of assets of where you are does not emerge clearly until seen in the rear view mirror.)

While I'm going to sit with this idea of exploring elsewhere for another couple weeks, that's the way the wind is blowing right now. My good friends Maria Stawsky and Joe Cole live in Chapel Hill NC and have a third floor month-to-month rental unit in their house that becomes available the end of May. I think I'll try there first.

Friday, April 17, 2015

How to Write a Report

There are all manner of occasions where people who are trying to function together need to share information, and this occurs in a wide variety of ways—including plenaries, committee sessions, staff meetings, one-on-one conversations, notices on bulletin boards, memos, informal chats around the water cooler, and even graffiti on the bathroom wall. In today's essay I want to focus on one particular kind of communication: a report. It's something that is relied on a lot, yet often with indifferent results.

One of the reasons why reports may be weak is a lack of clarity about what they're trying to accomplish, which can be any of the following, in almost any combination.

—What's happened; what have you accomplished?Put yourself in the shoes of the person reading the report. What level of detail is appropriate? Let me give you three examples of an annual report from Customer Service.

Example A
We resolved all complaints that came to us in the last 12 months.

Example B
We handled six complaints last year. Four were from women under 30; two were from men over 55. Three were from the East Coast; one from the Midwest, and two from California. Three came in the winter, two in the spring, and one in the fall. There were multiple complaints about sexist language on our website, and multiple complaints about our new 800 number. Four of the complaints were resolved within 30 days; one took 90 days; and one is still pending.

Example C
We fielded six complaints last year (one more than the year before, and well within our capacity with current staffing levels). Two trends were noteworthy: 

a) Three young women reported that they were offended by the sexist language on our website: using "he" for the third person pronoun when the gender was unknown, and an instance of "guys" when referring to unknown persons. We recommend that we make it editorial policy to use "they" for the third person singular when the gender is unknown, and eliminate "guy" from our vocabulary unless it is known that we're referring to men.

b) Three people reported that it took 15 minutes to reach a live person when using our new 800 number with automated voice options. As this comes across as institutional and impersonal (the very opposite of our customer service commitment), we recommend offering callers an option of speaking to an agent within a maximum of five minutes.

While A is obviously the quickest to read, it doesn't offer enough information to be useful as a management tool. Example B had a good deal more detail yet no discernment was used in winnowing wheat from chaff. Example C, while the longest, honed in on the data that was actionable. Reports are not meant to be a brain dump; they are meant to capture the highlights.

—Identifying issues
This could be problems, unexpected opportunities, or simply confusion. Perhaps something came up that calls into question whether you have sufficient authority to handle it it on your own and you'd like clarification. Maybe you need an adjustment to staffing levels, or your budget is inadequate to finish the year. If you want a response, be sure to ask for one, labeling it clearly (rather than burying it deep in the report).

A good report will not just identify issues; it will summarize relevant background information:
o  any current agreements bearing on this matter
o  the reasoning behind the current policy (if there is one)
o  how urgently is a decision needed
o  the budgetary impact of the suggested change
o  who are the identified stakeholders on this issue (so their input can be solicited)

—What's ahead
Sometimes a report will include analysis of trends, letting everyone know the consequences if things continue. By looking ahead of the curve, the group can look at the issue and consider a response before it's a crisis.

It can be important to know if a manager or committee is happy in their work. If not, where's the problem? (Management can hardly be expected to fix what they're not aware of.)

—Intra-organizational concerns
Often, managers or teams are expected to collaborate with other managers and teams within the organization. If so, is that going well or are there problems? If there are difficulties, what are they?

—Have you learned anything new?
Occasionally, people learn things that are revelatory but not necessarily tied to issues (that is, they don't require a response). While there is nuance about how much of that to include in a report, it can happen that someone outside the team will recognize an opportunity that the manager or team members will fail to see. Because of that possibility, it's often a good idea to report (briefly) on what you're learning in your area. You never know from where inspiration will arise.

—Compelling writing is clear, concise, and to the point
The opposite of this is rambling, wordy, and poorly organized. Sloppy reports are often glazed over and not thoroughly digested. While you may not think that word choice, grammar, and sentence structure should matter that much, they do.

For what it's worth, I find concision to be the very last skill developed in people learning to communicate effectively.

Does the report contain information or opinions that might be embarrassing if the wrong people saw it? This is most often the case if you're evaluating personnel, or discussing a delicate negotiation. If so, you need to mark the report clearly as inappropriate to share without express permission… or wear body armor.

• • •
At this point in my career as a consultant and nonprofit administrator, I write a report (or its equivalent) every day. If I skip one day, then I compose two the next day. So I've had a lot of practice.