Monthly Archives: July 2010

Learning from Friends and Muses

I also participated in Quinn’s muse swap.

I traded in my goof-off muse who kept convincing me to sleep late and go to the Farmer’s Market to buy her olive tapenade. I got Kate’s muse, Olivia, who would only let her think and not even talk to friends! What kind of muse is that for a collaborator?

Olivia was assigned to me on a day when I was having lunch with my friend Ginny Kravitz. Ginny is a great coach and I wanted to learn some new ways to focus on my most important priorities. Olivia was very impressed by the power of our conversation and is re-thinking her attitude about talking with friends to get fresh perspectives.

Plus, Olivia is going to take Ginny’s What is necessary? — What is possible? worksheet home to Kate. This is a great tool for planning realistically. Olivia got the hang of this very quickly and just kept asking me “Are you sure that belongs in the necessary bubble?”

"We just can't stay up any longer!" Shackleton

Olivia insisted I get up early each day so that I could make the most of mornings – my best time of day. On our last night together, she finally convinced me to get to bed early! She knew it was just a matter of time.

Collaborating with a muse

For the last 10 days I have become friends with a new muse.  In her Muse-Swap blog, Quinn McDonald offered me the opportunity to trade my regular muse in for a new one.  I actually didn’t even know that I had a muse but after thinking about how intensely I have been working,  I decided I in fact have been selectively listening to one of my muses, the slave-driver.  My slave-driver voice has made me too serious and obsessed with work.  Once I really thought about it I decided I needed a break from my own intensity.  Quinn offered me the perfect swap – a muse who giggles!

Laughing Goat from ingridtaylar at Flickr Creative Commons

Giggles and I have had a ball together.  She encouraged me to impulsively plan a 6-day get-away, driving up the coast of Maine with my sweetheart. We’re heading out next week.  When my teen aged son and I were handed a worksheet in a personal development workshop we were attending ( I know…sounds like a relapse into seriousness, but oh well…can’t be perfect over night!), I uncharacteristically howled out loud when seeing one of the listed tips for good communication as “Have a goat in mind!”.  The typo was inadvertent I’m sure, but my son and I are determined to think about goats now as our code for lightening up when we are struggling to connect!

Don't be low on coolant! Photo by tsja!

I could further tell you how Giggles turned my car leaking coolant on the Saw Mill River Parkway into a funny reminder that I have to drink more water.  She also encouraged me to take my shoes off in a furniture showroom and stretch out with my sweetheart to see how comfortable a couch was we were considering as a purchase.  Giggles certainly made me daring as well as light-hearted!

Although today marks the end of the Muse Swap, I am not turning my new friend back.  I think our collaboration is long overdue and I intend to keep listening to her encouragement to stretch beyond my overly attentive work ethic to have some fun.  As is true for many good collaborators, Giggles reminds me that sometimes we have to partner with others who are really different than our natural selves in order to find the answers we seek.   I may not be done being serious-minded, but I sure am going to listen for Giggles more often.  Thanks to Quinn and my muse-swap buddy for this fun time!

4 tips for becoming happier

peyri from Flickr's Creative Commons

I’ve been noticing how happy many of the members of my cancer support group seem.  Yes, we have fears about our diagnosis, strange side-effects from the treatments we elect and frustrations at our experiences with the many medical professionals we lean on for our care.  However, when we get together smiles abound and laughs flow freely. How does this happen?

1.  Reach out to others. We share our cancer experience. There are positive sensations  that come from social interactions.  When I step into our support group meeting room, I feel an instant lift of my spirits.  Many of us believe that these positive connections help to extend our lives.  Even outside of my cancer experience, I find  spending time with a friend or colleague to often turn a frustrated mood into a more relaxed one.   Connecting with others definitely raises my happiness quotient.

2.  Chose to act happy – Acting happy is likely to make you feel happy according to an article in   Psychology Today. I know this from coaching clients who are working on trying a new behavior.  Acting confident before you completely believe it can often result in your not only appearing confident but experiencing yourself in a new way too.  The more one acts in the new way, the more the behavior becomes the new normal. Many of my fellow cancer survivors have just decided to live their days being happy.

3.  Share what you  know. Offering what you have learned really make a difference to others.  As we share the ins and outs of our medical journeys,  we feel great to be in a group that cares and will listen to anything we offer.  The magic happens when the thing one person shares about their experience becomes the missing link of information or inspiration for someone else.

Alieness GiselaGiardino

4.  Be grateful.  Many who have been given a serious health diagnosis report that the experience gives almost instant clarity about what is truly important in life. The little things of life take on big meaning.  Gratefulness for each breath, each day and each moment of enjoyment is more easily expressed.  We say, “Life is precious” and really mean it.  Many of  us become savorers of life.  Life becomes juicy in new ways.  I am filled with a sense of contentment when I focus on the people, places and things for which I am thankful.  Being grateful makes me so happy.

What enables you to be happy?

Promises, Promises: How Collaboration Helps Strangers Meet Goals Part 3

In this final post about Promise Partners, Ben Wood-Isenberg explains how eight strangers come together to support each other. It really works. I was there! Debbie

In my last two posts I described how I got the idea for Promise Partners and developed the program plan. So we came to the day of the program. Eight people came together at my friend Sharon’s house that were from all areas of life, age groups, and professions. The program of Promise Partners enabled the group to build an intense sense of community for a group of strangers. This leads to the next collaboration point:

Collaboration Point 4: The power of the circle and dreams. The evening began as we sat in a circle, choosing cards with a single word on them (i.e. Passion, wisdom) and telling about how it related to where we were in life. Although we had 9 people, myself included, the introductions took 25 minutes and really created the foundation for the community as we saw each other as real people. The space that made that possible was sitting in a circle. As we moved through the rest of the evening, we explored an area of life that would make the biggest difference if it were better or different. In this process, we focused on when this area was at its best and what it would look like in the future if life always looked like that. I watched as sharing the stories of past successes and the dreams people had for the future really built connections among strangers.

Soul Coaching Oracle Cards developed by Denise Linn

Collaboration Point 5: Sharing is the access to action. Although this process worked really well, I didn’t exactly know how to get people from what they saw for themselves to a place where they knew an action they wanted to take and were willing to ask for support from the others in the group. Naturally, I just asked people to start sharing with each other. This occurred in a couple different ways with a slightly different question each time that got closer to an action people would be willing to take to create the future they dreamed. So often we are jarred in the groups we work with because we move so quickly from a vision to action. The piece that we often leave out is the personal part, where people have the chance to step into the ownership of the vision and their future, and are internally motivated to act. Surprisingly, individuals in the group sharing one-on-one with each other made the difference in creating that motivation to act. By the time people had shared with about ¾ of the group, everyone was willing to move forward.

photo by deglispiriti

The rest happened organically. As we sat back in the group, we each had an area that we wanted to work on and a promise that we wanted to make. From that point, partnerships amongpeople naturally developed. By the end of the evening every person, unexpectedly myself included, was involved in at least one partnership with someone else in the group. Partners showed what they created by linking large sticky notes saying “The support that would make a difference is….” and “The Support I commit to give my partner is…”

As we came to the end of the evening, one of the members of the group said, “So we’re not going to meet again?” I responded, “Well, would you like to meet again?” “Yes she said, don’t you all?” Every single person in the group responded yes, and we set up a date to meet again and reflect in September.

The event itself was a true testament to the possibility of collaboration and community in any group. In barely two and a half hours, eight strangers from very diverse backgrounds and places in life saw each other as assets, built a strong community, and partnered in supporting each other. It was proof that collaborations can be created among anyone.

Ben Wood-Isenberg creates the conditions for positive change that help people and organizations accomplish their hopes and dreams. He is a new addition to Wholonomy Consulting llc, having recently graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Global Studies. Ben has worked with a variety of organizations across the state of Arizona providing training and curriculum development, community building workshops, facilitated community discussions, and system-change processes. In this capacity, Ben utilizes the approaches of Appreciative Inquiry,Technology of Participation, World Café, and Open Space Technology.

Promises, Promises: How Collaboration Helps Strangers Meet Goals Part 2

In yesterday’s post, Ben described how the idea of Promise Partners came to him. Today’s post continues with the collaborative design process. Debbie

I used a collaborative process to get from the idea of Promise Partners to the pilot group and here are a few of the things I realizedabout community, collaboration and working with others.

Collaboration Point 1: Share excitement. Many people come up with great ideas that just stay in their minds and don’t make it into reality. I was so excited about this project that I just couldn’t help but share around the office. The more people I shared with the clearer the project became and every step of the way, I inspired someone to take a part in the project. Every person that played a part in designing this project saw the possibility of this program and how excited I was about it. From this I learned that if you are genuinely excited about something and share with the people in your life, surprising connections happen. I noticed the distinct difference in the response I got between the times I was distracted or uninspired and the times where I was empowered and excited. The excitement I embodied and shared involved over 20 people in the design and implementation of the pilot group.

picture by Alphachimp Studio

Collaboration Point 2: Involve people smarter or more experienced than you. To build a program that would bring together strangers and transform them into a community ofpartners, I knew I needed some help. I invited a group of facilitators, coaches, and community development experts to participate on a call to develop the program together. Ironically, I had come in with a certain perspective of how it should be done, but I was committed to listening. To really enable myself to listen, I requested that a friend of mine guide the meeting and be accountable for a consensus. On the call an incredible program was produced that blended coaching, facilitation, and appreciative inquiry. New ideas came up such as using appreciative interviews to look at sustainable change in a person’s life, using the Wheel of Life to identify areas to work on, and a graphic method of displaying promises. All of these areas were brand new, and things that I never would have thought of. On that call, we thought through each of the pieces and developed a possible program from it.

picture by Pat Castaldo

Collaboration Point 3: Find the strengths in the views of others. Nonetheless, I was in an interesting position by listening. I didn’t agree with everything that was in the program or see it as the best way to get the outcome we wanted. My first reaction was to throw out the ideas and go with my own. But, as I looked at what was talked about in that meeting closer, I saw that there was value in every idea that was suggested. If we could tweak to the Wheel of Life to use it as a base for conversation rather than an self-evaluation we would have an excellent start to the conversation. If we used appreciative interviews instead to look at where this area worked well, then we’d have an open exploration that could guide us towards action. And if we did depict the promises visually, it would be very captivating. By looking at each of the ideas suggested and finding the strength at the core of the suggestion, we were able to use them in the best possible way for the program. By coming from a place that the ideas of others are essentially valuable, then the real job was to find the core of truth in that idea that would best contribute to the project.

Tomorrow I’ll post about what we learned during the pilot event.

Ben Wood-Isenberg creates the conditions for positive change that help people and organizations accomplish their hopes and dreams. He is a new addition to Wholonomy Consulting llc, having recently graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Global Studies. Ben has worked with a variety of organizations across the state of Arizona providing training and curriculum development, community building workshops, facilitated community discussions, and system-change processes. In this capacity, Ben utilizes the approaches of Appreciative Inquiry, Technology of Participation, World Café, and Open Space Technology.

How can you collaboratively develop your great ideas?

Promises, Promises: How Collaboration Helps Strangers Meet Goals Part 1

Guest blogger Ben Wood-Isenberg collaborates as naturally as other people breathe. I was delighted to be involved in his program Promise Partners and asked him to write a few blog posts on it. I hope you enjoy his energy and enthusiasm as much as I do.  Debbie

Ben creates the conditions for positive change that help people and organizations accomplish their hopes and dreams. He is a new addition to Wholonomy Consulting llc, having recently graduated from Arizona State University with a B.A. in Global Studies.Ben has worked with a variety of organizations across the state of Arizona providing training and curriculum development, community building workshops, facilitated community discussions, and system-wide change processes. In this capacity, Ben utilizes the approaches of Appreciative Inquiry, Technology of Participation, World Café, and Open Space Technology.

Collaboration always opens new doors and unexpected possibilities. It was barely two months ago that I was sitting in an office with a friend of mine who told me that she was about to start a new job but was unsure of how to stay present in the job she had. Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Well, what do you have to do?”
Her: She listed a litany of jobs and ended with, “and most important I have to do this presentation.”
Me: “By when?”
Her: “By tomorrow.”
Me: “OK, when do you want to get it done by?”
Her: 9 tonight
Me: “OK expect a call from me then”

As I walked out of the office, I thought to myself, what if we could live in a world where we could do everything we dreamed because there was a person supporting us. I called her at 9 and she’d completed the report. From this call sprung the project of Promise Partners, a program to bring together people to support each other in areas of life that would make the biggest difference for them.

Getting from that call to the pilot group itself was a process that embodied much growth and collaboration. In the process, I realized quite a few things about community, collaboration and working with others which I’ll share in tomorrow’s post.

Has a simple phone call ever helped you to accomplish something important?

Do you resist collaborating? Why?

That “I can do it myself” voice seems to show up now and again,  and when it does,  I sometimes feel like the shoemaker who neglects the holes in her children’s sneakers! That kitchen caper I wrote about last time sure is a good example of this for me, the blogger about collaboration! So what can we do when we feel resistant to collaboration?

Lone Ranger - from a4gpa on Flickr's Creative Commons

I think the first step is to wonder  about why the do-it-yourself voice  shows up at all.

Do-it-yourself reason #1 – It takes too much time to ask someone else for ideas or input. This could be true sometimes but thinking it is always true keeps us from discovering the gems in someone else’s ideas. When  a hospital PR client of mine was called by a member of the press to make a statement on behalf of her organization she had to respond immediately.  However, when she was preparing a summary for her Board of all the items happening within the hospital that might get attention by the press she canvassed all of her direct reports for what they knew.  It’s about making the best choice for the task at hand.

Do-it-yourself reason #2 – I already know how to accomplish the task.  We can sure be know-it-alls!  Remember me with the sureness of where those kitchen items best belong when moving into my new kitchen?  The truth is my partner has discovered a much better placement of the pots and pans after preparing a few meals there.  Showed me, didn’t he!

Do-it-yourself reason #3 – It’s too taxing to resolve the inevitable differences of opinions that result from involving others. Who wants conflict anyway, right?  Wrong.  Sometimes these differences of opinion mix together and transform into a brand new possibility.  Check out the blog of Frans Johansson, the author of The Medici Effect where he relates “intersectional stories”; examples of where innovation comes about from the synergy of differing views.

Maddie Hunter is a business coach who is passionate about exploring the power of collaboration with  her clients.