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Facilitation as a Leadership Skill

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

By Paul Cummings, CPF, PCC

It used to be that leaders and managers could rely on the old ‘command and control’ methods of getting things done.  Back in the day, and standing atop a clear hierarchy, the boss was Lord (and less frequently Lady) of all he or she observed.  These were simple, predictable and in some ways, relatively comfortable times. It used to be that the boss could shine, taking all the glory for success (deflecting failure where possible) and where people had confidence in a job-for-life.  In today’s world of work, much has changed and those days are a distant memory.  The command and control approach to leading and managing is now as outdated as the weekly wage packet.  So what’s so different now?

  • Workforce enlightenment – today, the average worker is far more educated, both formally and informally.  Workers know their rights and how to exercise them.  More of them also know how to use their talents and exercise power and influence.
  • The information age – with the advent of the Internet, information is everywhere.  This shifts power from the boss across and throughout the whole organisation and beyond, empowering many.
  • We are globally connected – by way of social media; stories, events and campaigns can inspire and incite people (workers, customers, service users) meaning organisations no longer exist in their own discrete and predictable bubble.
  • Higher degrees of complexity – in a time of increased specialism, it’s no longer possible for the boss to be expert in everything.  Instead, today’s leader or manager must get comfortable at having people around them who are more expert in some other particular field/discipline.

The leader or manager who can facilitate individuals and teams through the challenges of these four contemporary realities has a better chance of succeeding.  Instead of commanding and controlling, it’s time to facilitate the workforce.

Facilitation is an often-misunderstood term. In the context of leading or managing, it’s about employing processes and ways of being that makes it easier for leaders to get more done through others. Facilitation is about running effective meetings, keeping people focused and arriving at decisions that lead to appropriate and timely actions. Facilitation is about setting behavioural expectations and holding people to account when expectations fail to be honoured. Facilitation is about making it easier for people to bring the best of themselves to the task in hand. It’s about welcoming resistance and conflict with genuine curiosity instead of seeing them as a nuisance to be overcome. It’s about having proven skills, knowledge and techniques that allow leaders and managers to confidently negotiate the challenges that inevitably occur when bringing teams together.

The key advantages to adopting a facilitative approach to leading and managing are:

  • Participation – with so much expertise and insight available in an organisation, its madness not to access it.  Maximising participation is essential – this means having the right people involved in the right meetings and making sure these meetings are conducted so that everyone, regardless of status, has a voice.
  • Collective thinking – reliance on just one person to steer an organisation means only one mind on the job.  Unfortunately, all of us are blinkered in some way or another.  Facilitating collective forms of thinking may seem complex, time-consuming and risky but using facilitation skills effectively can ensure any number of participants can effectively contribute their collective brainpower to the issue being addressed so that a deeper, more informed conclusion could be reached.
  • Ownership – when you create participation and facilitate collective thinking, you engender ownership for both problems and solutions – this is the magic of facilitation! People who are involved in decision-making processes early on can help shape thinking and prevent unnecessary resistance at the latter stage of implementation.
  • Processes that work – The success of facilitation as an approach in organisations is that it provides leaders and managers with proven processes that work.  Facilitating makes it easier to reach decisions that stick, explore ideas, share information, action plan, problem solve and foster learning.

If you know command and control has had its day and seek to promote participation, collective thinking and ownership for your organisations vision and mission, get yourself skilled in facilitation – after all it’s your job to make it easier for the people you lead to be as amazing as they can be!

 

Paul Cummings, MA, CPF, PCC, works with dedication and fun to facilitate organizations and people to think and act with greater confidence. He is a GISC Certified Coach and will be teaching Facilitation Skills at GISC in May 2016.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with facilitation as a leadership skill.  Please respond with your comments below.

 

BEING GREAT: An acronym for learning leadership

Friday, September 18th, 2015

By Nancy Hardaway

Listening 2 Leaders

How do you teach people how to manage (or become better at managing, depending on their experience) in 20 minutes? That was my challenge last spring when I gave a talk to a group of young professionals.

Research has found that over 70% of people in corporate America name their boss as their biggest stressor in their lives and that anywhere from 40-70% of managers fail. Obviously, people need help! In order to make the concepts easier to digest and remember in just 20 minutes I organized them with an acronym : BEING GREAT

Typically it’s not the content of the work or the tasks that cause problems for managers. It’s the people interactions. Every interaction between people is “co-created;” you are half of the equation so managing or leading others requires managing yourself. The first word of the acronym, BEING, represents ways to manage yourself:

B: Boundaries

E: Emotions

I: Intent and Impact

N: Nature

G: Goals

BOUNDARIES: Managers need to set and understand their boundaries. They have to find the appropriate place for themselves between the company and their boss, and their allegiance to their staff. They have to be careful about friendships past and present, and where the boundary is in what they disclose to whom. Promotions from within cause colleagues to become staff overnight, necessitating careful and explicit renegotiation of boundaries. Then there’s that tricky balance between work and home. Those boundaries blur too easily and you find yourself answering emails while playing with your kids – not successful or satisfying for either activity.

EMOTIONS: Emotions impact perspective, decisions, and affect interactions with colleagues or staff. It takes awareness to recognize your emotions in the workplace and skills to manage them successfully. Neuroscience research tells us that some of the most successful ways to manage emotions are labeling (putting a word to the feeling shifts the brain from feeling to thinking mode), reframing (looking at it in another way, or in Gestalt terms, looking for the multiple realities), and refocusing (turning your attention elsewhere).

INTENT AND IMPACT: How often does it happen that someone takes your message (words, body language, action) the wrong way? We need to know the difference between what we intend to convey and the impact we actually have. It requires knowing our intention. It requires paying careful intention to the way our message is being received and interpreted. And we need to check and verify – just plain ask.

NATURE: Managers and leaders need to understand how they are different from others: What are your biases and filters based on your experience, wealth, gender, family of origin, age, culture, occupation, etc.? What’s your work style? How are you motivated?

GOALS: Understanding your goals, your priorities, and your values is key to managing your time appropriately and knowing whether you are succeeding. You have to know your organizational goals (the big picture) and the goals of your role, which shift your focus from to-do lists to prioritization toward the bigger picture. And you’ll only know whether you are succeeding if you have some sense of your goals in life.

You can’t lead without followers – you would be a parade of one. So the second word of the acronym, GREAT, is about managing others.

G: Goals

R: Reviews

E: Events

A: Accountability

T: Teams

GOALS: Goal are so important, they show up twice. In this case it’s about knowing your organization or boss’s goals (make sure to ask and clarify) and then setting the goals for your team as a whole and for each individual. Express the “why” and express the “how” and express the “when.” The why is what inspires so make sure to spend time with it. The how and when create the basis for success and holding people accountable. Provide enough detail for clarity and enough space for innovation and independence.

REVIEWS: Massive research demonstrates that only 30% of performance feedback has a positive impact. Our Gestalt training enables more successful results. Build on the positive. Provide feedback on a daily and weekly basis rather than waiting for the annual review. Provide specific data – evidence and examples of what you mean. Provide support for new behaviors – assume if they could have done what you wanted before and knew you wanted it, they would have. Follow up to feedback (71% of managers never follow up on reviews – how unfortunate!).

EVENTS: I chose the word events (which typically involve a lot of planning) to cover meetings, important conversations, retreats – planned interactions where you want to accomplish something. Know why, who, what, when, and how for every meeting. Plan how much time will be needed for what you want to accomplish and know what a successful outcome would look like. Plan for good beginnings, middles, and endings – don’t skimp on those endings or overbook your agenda so you run out of time. Closure is important for effective results.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Start with clear expectations, and maintain communication. Be specific about what and by when, and the consequences to all for missed targets. Don’t wait – quick and frequent check-ins are better than big blow ups after the deadline passes. Be direct – too often new managers confuse directness with being mean, often because they wait until they are angry at failed performance to act.

TEAMS: It takes intentional leadership to create teams, even though our brains are wired for collaboration. But we want to collaborate with “friends,” not “foes.” Here’s where the Gestalt concept of intimate (relational) and strategic (work accomplishment) is so helpful – it takes a balance of both for good work to occur.

BEING GREAT takes work, important work. Being a great manager or leader is an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those who work for and with you rather than becoming the biggest stressor in their lives.

What’s mud got to do with it?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

It’s overcast today.  The snow and ice from multiple storms has finally melted leaving the ground exposed once again.  Mary, our office manager, prefers the ice on her driveway this time of year, “It looks nicer than the wet dirt and gravel.”  If I wasn’t so worried about slipping on the ice, I’d agree with Mary, but I’ll take the mud for now along with the inconvenience it brings, sticking to my shoes and tracking after me whether wet or dry.

It wasn’t always this way.  When I was seven, mud was a projectile.  Easily shaped into balls that fit my small hands and launched over the six-foot stockade fence into the neighbors yard where kids we weren’t allowed to play with lived and launched their counterattack.

When I was twenty-seven, mud was a serious matter.  I was working on a 25,000-acre cattle ranch on the Crow Indian reservation in southeast Montana.  Dryhead was a fitting name for the ranch, except after heavy rains when the dirt turned a slick rusty brown at least three inches deep.  My job as a ranch hand included vacuuming the carpeted dining area in the cookhouse before and after each meal and cleaning the bathrooms where the linoleum floors invited a mud slide, even with paper laid down to absorb the wet dirt.

Now, I live on the marsh where the mud is black and you can sink to your knees if you stand in the wrong spot.  Mostly, it’s my dog who gets covered in the thick smelly stuff of the marsh.

But what’s mud got to do with it anyway?  As a leader in transition, as a coach and as a human being, there’s so much that I can’t see.  So I lean into the unknown, the uncertainty, and much like stepping on the soft wet earth — boundaries become blurred when my feet merge with the mud.

Mud demands that I pay attention to the ground, not just the figure I’ve decided to move towards.  In this way, the ground acts on me and my experience literally, not “only” in a Gestalt sense of the word “ground.”  

Last week, I asked a CCTP colleague in the UK what I should be reading in light of my new position, she responded:  “Poetry.  The answers to your leadership challenges won’t be found in a book.”

I know she’s right because I already have a poem posted on my office wall that captured my attention in the first few weeks on the job.  It’s called “Spirit of Place: Great Blue Heron” by William Stafford and the last line reads “…feet that go down in the mud where the truth is.”

Luckily though, for all you can’t see, mud is really good at leaving tracks.  And if it’s Meetinghouse mud that means that you’re lucky enough to be at GISC and you’ll probably be tracking it in with the rest of us….

 

 

Why write a book about Gestalt leadership in fiction form?

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

By Nancy Hardaway

 

What does fiction and Gestalt have in common?

 

People have asked me why did I write my book The Awareness Paradigm in fiction, when I wanted to teach leadership theory and behavior.   Why write about Cesar and Fletcher, Mark and Redley?  Why write about their coach, Julia? It was a way of “showing, not telling.” A way of creating some of the feel and touch of a GISC program.

 

Whether as student or teacher, my richest learning opportunities contain only small bits of talking at, and lots of opportunity to experience new things through exercises and practicum groups.  Where I learn not only from different faculty with varied styles that I resonate more or less to, but also from participants, hearing their stories and sharing my own.  And… I have a bit of fun!

 

Further, I know that we rarely learn from being exposed to something once (okay, maybe being burned would be an exception).  We need to engage with it, chew on it, see it again in a different light or a different context, try it, hear it again, etc.

 

For us, Gestalt learning occurs not just by doing but through reflection, as primary a tool as didactic, experience and practice.   With schedules so rushed, many leaders come to leadership training and are both discomforted and refreshed by the time set aside for reflection.  Research shows it is a primary skill of highly successful leaders.

 

In a recent Harvard Alumni Magazine, I just read about a task force called the Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT).  At a recent HILT symposium, psychologists and educators talked about new research on cognition and learning.

 

They emphasized the importance of learning how to think, and of practice and cumulative engagement (successive relearning of foundational knowledge).   One academic who studies strategies that promote durable learning said that students need to learn how to learn.   A professor from Harvard Business School explained that they no longer find its case method – talking about what to do – as useful as actually doing.  So Harvard is finally figuring out what Gestalt faculty have always known.

 

How could I create some facsimile of the Gestalt learning experience to teach Gestalt concepts in a book?  Experiences.  Connection.  Practice, repetition, reflection.  Fun. How could I create that support which is an important piece of leadership training? I first sought out support for myself as writer, from Joe Melnick – who asked me questions, and kept my going when I flagged.

 

I thought briefly about writing a book of theory with lots of exercises to try, but I was intrigued by the idea of stories. After all, down through the ages, people have learned through stories, connecting with the characters and internalizing the lessons.  We learn best when our whole brain is involved – intellect and emotion.

 

Most importantly, leadership happens not in a vacuum, but only in relation to others, and our growth as leaders happens in the way we relate to ourselves, so I needed a vehicle to demonstrate the space within and the space between us.

 

I also knew the characters would have to learn as we all do, incrementally and with fits and starts, defaulting back to old behaviors under stress.  This is especially true for adult learners who have fixed patterns that have been reinforced for years.  They get excited about something new at a program and then are return home to be bombarded with emails and crises and catch-up, and the new learning tends to slip away.  That’s why coaching and ongoing reinforcement is so useful, and why leadership training has far more ROI when that occurs.

 

I envisioned leaders with unique styles and challenges from different organizations, coming together to solve a common problem.  Those first wisps of characters came to life in a role play for which I recruited students in the first GISC coaching program. Although their efforts took just over an hour, that experience allowed me to interact with the characters and see them interacting with one another. They jumped off the page after that, diverging wildly from the participants who played them.   A surprise character came in and the story started to have the page turning qualities of a mystery – a bit of fun!

 

Just as I sometimes forget about reflection for myself, and often have to remind my leader clients to include it in their days, I almost forgot about including reflection for the reader, but it happened by accident.  Once the book was designed, there ended up being some blank pages because publishing convention calls for chapters to start on the right facing page.  I decided to take those randomly spaced blank left pages and use them as reflection points for the reader.   On Joe’s urging, I also added an appendix with a chapter by chapter summary of the plot and primary lessons so a reader or team could go back and reflect alone or together, as well as an appendix of theory for the layman (a bit of didactic, if you will).

 

There’s no way a simple book could possibly replicate the richness of a Gestalt program, but hopefully, this book will reinforce that richness for those who’ve taken a program, and introduce Gestalt learning and experience to those who haven’t.

 

The Awareness Paradigm: A Story of Leadership Success is available in GISC’s online bookstore and at your favorite online book retailers.

 

Nancy Hardaway, MEd,  is a member of the GISC faculty and internationally known leadership consultant, combining her experience as a serial entrepreneur and corporate executive with an avid curiosity in human behavior and neuroscience.  A former journalist, banker, and CEO, she is a certified leadership coach and holds degrees from Tufts University and Harvard University.  Follow Nancy on the Listening 2 Leaders blog.

 

 

Welcome & Remembrance from Cape Cod, 2012

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

By David Tunney, Executive Director

In 2011, GISC co-founder Edwin C. Nevis, PhD, passed away on his 85th birthday. The memorial service held at the Center included an outpouring of condolences and support and occurred between the launch of Professional Associates and the first annual Community Gathering. A fine tribute indeed to Edwin’s life and legacy. Many fond remembrances of Edwin also appeared in the last issue of the 2011 Gestalt Review, GISC’s academic journal co-founded by Edwin. One reflection in particular seems appropriate here: “He was huge in the ways in which he touched and impacted so many lives through his friendships, consulting, teaching, writing, and especially his mentoring of so, so many people.”

A founding father of process consulting, Edwin taught at MIT’s Sloan School of Management for 17 years and served as director of the school’s program for senior executives. He also launched dozens of study groups, conferences, and programs at GISC. Edwin had a passion for lifelong learning and leading, and so does GISC. Though Edwin is gone, his legacy continues as strong as ever, evidenced by upcoming programs and successful initiatives. In 2012, we are pleased to offer Roots V: Gestalt Organizational Development in honor of Edwin. The conference will be held in Stockholm with co-sponsors Gestalt Academy of Scandinavia and Perlan Dialogue and Leadership.

The Education Initiative is one of many undertakings inspired and fostered by Edwin. GISC faculty are now working with school systems from Cape Cod to Maine, ranging from elementary grades to colleges; and in 2012 there will be two programs at GISC specifically designed for educators.

The Healthcare Initiative is going strong after the successful design and delivery of a customized leadership and mentoring program for physicians and their teams at an Alaskan native, relation-based, healthcare organization. We are also honored to have two healthcare industry experts as co-faculty in one of the leadership programs.
This 2012 program catalogue reflects the extraordinary efforts and capabilities of GISC Professional Associates, faculty, and guest faculty in transforming the way we live and work in the world. Whether for leaders, practitioners, or individuals, all program tracks have many new exciting offerings and faculty.

For Leaders, we offer a new series of Executive Forums starting in January with Setting Up New Worlds:  Organizing Our Futures. The outcome of the January program will help shape the agenda of the May and September Forums. In addition, we now offer a program that will integrate Gestalt-based leadership principles with proven methods for creating a continuous improvement culture. Another new program will help leaders improve virtual work team effectiveness. This year we also welcome two new co-faculty for the popular cornerstone program for senior executives, Leadership in the 21st Century. Three other highly successful programs will be offered including Leadership Transitions which will be conducted in New York City.

For Practitioners including consultants, coaches, change agents, psychotherapists, lawyers, healthcare providers, and other service professionals, the Cape Cod Model programs continue to be successful, well-attended anchors for GISC. Most of our programs are eligible for continuing education credits by the American Psychological Associate (APA) and/or the International Coach Federation (ICF).

In 2012, the renowned Cape Cod Training Program will be offered in Stockholm, Sweden, in association with the Gestalt Academy of Scandinavia, as well as in Wellfleet. For organization development professionals, we continue to offer a series of programs for fulfillment of the Advanced Practice OD Consulting Certificate. And for existing and prospective coaches seeking new skills and ICF certification, we now offer the Competency Development Program for Coaching Certification, with accreditation expected in 2012.

For Individuals, we will continue to offer the popular Next Phase program along with Women’s Wisdom and several other programs. In addition, we are excited to offer a new Summer Series 2012 of workshops for personal growth and exploration on diverse topics for mind, heart, and body. We will also be hosting our second annual Community Gathering in June, an event where newcomers and old-timers attend free workshops to explore the latest research and theory development, new program offerings, and GISC initiatives.

Nestled in the woods of Wellfleet, a short distance from the world-famous Cape Cod National Seashore, GISC offers a retreat-like training facility in an ideal location. Many participants return year after year not only for the programs but to reconnect with a world-wide community dedicated to lifelong learning, teaching, consulting, writing, coaching and mentoring.

And when you become a member of GISC, you will receive an annual subscription to the Gestalt Review. Please contact us if you have any questions. See you on Cape Cod!

Many Great Reasons to Give

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

For GISC, 2010 has been a year of transitions, awards, successes, new opportunities—and challenges. Like you, perhaps, I believe there is an enormous need in the world today for the programs and services offered by GISC. Fortunately, we are well positioned to expand into new areas; however, we need your financial support. Therefore, this year’s annual campaign is about Funds for Growth!

In the years since Edwin and Sonia founded GISC in 1979 for study and research, GISC has grown to serve individuals and organizations worldwide. Our current momentum is exciting and puts us at a crossroads familiar to many organizations: the need for funds to ensure our ability to keep up with increased demand and opportunity. This year especially, we need your donations to support our growth. Here’s what we’re doing and how you can help.

This year’s biggest story is the extent to which GISC is expanding its base of operation from Wellfleet. We have a substantial new venture at a healthcare organization in Alaska and momentum to fulfill 2011 growth goals elsewhere in the US, Canada, and Europe as well. We are – as our name states – a truly international organization.

In Alaska, the GISC Healthcare Initiative is working to transform a major healthcare organization into a team-based, collaborative medical practice. An on-site, GISC-trained consultant is working with other GISC practitioners to provide a better model for medical care for Native Alaskans.

On the educational front, we have two new ventures. We will begin teaching GISC courses in the Leadership and Organization Development MS Program at

St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA. This strategic education initiative gives GISC greater impact and visibility and will position us to extend our programs into other colleges.

Second, the GISC Education Initiative – and its extraordinary team – is preparing to launch a “demo project” in 2011. The goal is to teach teachers GISC methods and demonstrate the results: improved skills and reduced dropout rates. This exciting project could be replicated and make a major impact on education.

In leadership – where GISC already has a well-established reputation for quality – we are preparing to offer programs in Toronto and/or Ottawa. Because our Leadership Consortium members have been so pleased, several members now want us to bring our proven, successful programs to their employees.

In Europe we have been asked to develop a strategic alliance with a leading Gestalt center and with Gestalt-based consulting firms. We expect to offer several courses – including the Cape Cod Training Program – throughout 2011 and beyond in many different European countries.

As you may be aware, the core history of GISC is based on the creation of new methods and theories, so in 2010 we honored our roots and launched the Leadership and Organizational Development Initiative (LODI). This effort will analyze GISC’s unique approach to leadership and result in a new Gestalt-based offering that will help us work even more effectively with large and small systems.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that this year also saw one of GISC’s own founders and leaders, Edwin Nevis, receive the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Organization Development (OD) Network! This award honors an individual whose commitment to the field of OD and achievements over the course of a lifetime have made a significant contribution to the OD profession. Please join us in congratulating Edwin on his many and remarkable achievements, now formally acknowledged by the professional community.

The remarkable history and past success of GISC combined with our current growth opportunities offers exciting expansion prospects for 2011. However, we need your financial support and ask that you donate to position GISC for sustainable growth. Here are a few examples of donation needs and dollars at work:

· The Nevis Scholarship Fund: provides financial support for participants to any program.

· Program-Specific Scholarships: provides financial support for a program of your choice, such as Leadership in the 21st Century; Nonprofit Leadership; or Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions.

· Education Initiative: supports development and delivery of GISC courses and methods in education.

· Donor’s Choice: Is there something particular you would like to fund? Last year, a donor provided funding for a survey to understand the impact of our programs in the lives of participants.

“Be generous, it’s good for the heart.” Sonia March Nevis

If you donate $125 or more, you will receive your annual GISC Membership benefits. If you donate $500 or more, you can allocate that money to a specific program or initiative mentioned above. If you donate $1,000 or more, you are invited to attend a special event with Edwin and Sonia next spring.

Please give today according to your means and intention to sustain and grow the impact of GISC in Wellfleet and throughout the world.

David Tunney

Executive Director

   
Gestalt International Study Center
P.O. Box 515, South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: +1 555 123 4567