Monday, September 19, 2016

Reacquiring Warp Speed

This past weekend I was conducting Weekend IV of a two-year facilitation training in the Pacific Northwest. It marked the first work I'd done as a process consultant in three months—since co-trainer Ma'ikwe Ludwig and I conducted Weekend III of the same training.

As you can appreciate, this was an important marker for me as a cancer survivor who wants very much to be also be a career survivor, albeit on a somewhat modified (read humane) schedule. While the travel out (by train) was somewhat tiring, I came out a day early to arrive on site with enough breathing room to rest well before going on stage.

Under the model we use for the training, three-quarters of each weekend is devoted to preparing for, delivering, and debriefing real meetings that the students facilitate for the host group. The concept is that students learn faster facing live bullets than by hearing the trainers tell stories or conducting role plays. While I'm convinced that this is sound pedagogy, its efficacy hinges on the trainers being able to teach the moment—each of which is unscripted.

Thus, a training weekend presents a serious test of how far along I've come in recovering my cognitive agility. While the results in June were so-so, it was highly gratifying to be able to perform again at a professional level, to be able to come in and redirect sensitively as dictated by the situation. Whew. Thinking that I can do it is not the same as showing that I can do it.

An important teaching element is being able to demonstrate to the students how to make effective choices in the complexity and chaos of live meetings. In the most delicate moments this can mean being able to access any or all of the following skills:

o  Sorting the wheat from the chaff—extracting the essence of statements more or less as quickly as people speak.

o  Having a working memory of what has happened previously that bears on the current moment.

o  Phrasing comments such that the meaning is clear and requests are within the capacity of key individuals to respond positively.

o  Being ready to offer a deeper, cogent explanation of why your requests or observations are pertinent in the event the audience is confused.

o  Recognizing quickly when the group is heading in a dangerous or unproductive direction, offering a constructive redirection.

Describing such moments isn't nearly as powerful as witnessing them, so it's up to the trainers to be able to carry the mail.

While it's undoubtedly useful to be able to function on impulse power, there is nothing quite like achieving warp speed. It's nice to be back.

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