Opening day of a new Leadership 2020 cohort yesterday: 35 emerging, experienced and legacy leaders from the human services sector in British Columbia and now our fifth blended cohort with folks from the Ministry for children and Family Development and community sector agencies. They are beginning a 10 month journey together with this five day residential.
Yesterday we began with a short World Cafe in the evening before dinner. This is designed to have people get to know each other and just download a little, all the opinions and ideas and stuff they just want to say. It’s a threshold ritual for me, providing a place for downloading – the kind of talk you do to establish your status and position rather than really listening to one another. Every group goes through this, and so it’s good to give a container to let it happen and to make it at least a little productive as well.
The question we asked for a couple of rounds was about the stories people are seeing that gives them a clue about the kind of future the community services sector will experience. It’s about tapping their sense of why they stay in the work, why they are interested in developing their leadership and why they see themselves staying in the sector. After 45 minutes or so of mixing and matching, we have them stop and reflect on what they have been hearing, to drop into a few minutes of silence and answer the question “What are you here to learn that will help us all develop?” They are asked to write that on a post it so we can see what is top of mind in the group and so we can use the data to structure the invitation to storytellers and the harvesting frameworks for the Collective Story Harvest later in the week.
This is also the first Leadership 2020 that is getting the benefit (!) of everything I learned at the Cynefin workshops in London last month. One thing I’m committed to doing is providing multiple ways that data from various processes can be harvested using basic sense-making practices. As a result I’m challenging myself and the groups I work with to do more than just theme post its. In this case, I have everyone draw a small triangle on their post it, then write the answer to the question and then signify on the little triangle, where that learning objective lived in the tension between stuff that will help me “in my personal life, do my job or make change.” As always it is important when you do this that YOU DO NOT GIVE EXAMPLES, but merely name the three triangle points and invite people where to place the dot to signify the data. After that they cam and put the post its on the big triangle.
With this simple hack we now have data to work with in multiple ways. We have a quick idea of the cohort (interesting that people are not here JUST to do their jobs better) and a good indicator that folks see their leadership as being more than just a professional duty or a personal luxury. And it’s interesting too that not everyone is high on making change. Also what’s interesting is the little clusters of outliers because that tells us something about a lack of actual workplace leadership practice (turns out it has to do with confidence).
Today at lunch time we will be taking the post its and reclassifying them based on themes to help discover five or six learning themes that we can build into the collective story harvest process on Thursday. This has been our standard practice to ensure that what we are offering in the program is responsive to the needs of the participants. The advantage of having the marks on the post-its themselves is that we can always return the notes to this signification framework because the data contains the meaning making meta data. Visualizing the data this way helps the groups to see that connection and helps us work with.
A simple advanced harvesting practice!
UPDATE: By the way, the cluster in the lower right, about “Making change” reveals a lot about the view in the room about how change is made. Roughly speaking these post-its point to personal resilience, learning, patience and health, becoming good at collaboration and leading people to a common vision. Interesting…