Welcome 2016!

The year 2015 has been a busy, slightly messy whirlwind for me – I got caught up in it and before I knew it it spit me out at the other end!

Looking back at the future - my fave place from which to watch the sea

Looking back at the future – my fave place from which to watch the sea

It is only now, in the very beginning of 2016, that I have started looking back in earnest, and am formulating lessons learned, do’s and most definitely some don’ts as well. Using the two questions I consider every year’s end:

  • what are things I would like to take with me to the next year?
  • what are things I would like to leave behind in the past year?


One of the things I very much intend to bring into 2016 is space for myself to develop professionally (and personally, certainly, also). I had given myself a present of two courses in the end of 2015 – on developing online trainings and on organising webinars, both by the truly inspirational Karin Hornstra. However, I was not able to get everything out of them as planned. Even though every time I spent time on either course I got really inspired and ideas jumped up and down in my head in their haste to get out first.

So – in 2016 I will finish these courses and give myself real time to develop ideas popping up as a result.

In order for this not to remain just a new year’s resolution I started the year by joining two massive challenges: the ‘Best Year Ever’ challenge (in Dutch, four weeks) and the ‘Passion to Profit’ challenge (in Dutch, one week). It is the first time I have joined a challenge. I was not sure what to expect but so far I can say they help me stay focused on my aims and priorities. I also learn from the stories other participants share with amazing frankness. And, last but not least, I also get inspiration from how the challenges are being set up and facilitated. I can see that once my ideas start shaping up I might organise a challenge of my own – and I have some ideas of how I might do that.

First question in 'Passion to Profit' challenge is spot on!

First question in the ‘Passion to Profit’ challenge is spot on and has me wide awake instantly!

And all this, in one week of 2016 only, basically!

Of course, the real challenge will be in keeping this up, once the work flow returns to ‘normal’. However, I am confident I can. I use this relatively quiet period to build myself a new routine, one that includes development time for me and my company. And I spend time to experience explicitly what this does for me, how this motivates me and gives me energy. I think that way I have covered my rider mind, my elephant heart and my habit path sufficiently to achieve successful change.

How about you? Do you also have a clear idea of what you want to bring into 2016 – and how to do this?


Book Impression: Are We Aware Of All Our Options?

In my previous post I already wrote about Eldon Taylor’s book Choices and Illusions, and about how I came to read this book and write about it in the frame of the Blog Tour to lauch the paperback version of the book. I shared the Chicken and Eagle story that got me thinking about how open we are to change. Change in perspective on our potential and our future, and change in how we go about our daily business.

As I said, I am not usually an avid (or in fact, any kind of) reader of such books, but I did find two of the many other stories Taylor shares compelling. Or better put: they resonated with me.

The Chicken and the Eagle story told me that if someone comes along with a proposition that suits us perfectly, we may not be willing to engage because of the self-imposed cage we are in that prevents us from becoming aware that this proposition indeed suits us.

If we would reach the stage where we can see a different future for ourselves, we would need to be able to see alternative ways of acting to reach that different future. Taylor uses the Flowerpot Story as an example to show that it is not easy to think outside our usual box. See below for my narration, or click here for Taylor’s own version.

I have to admit that the fourth option would never, ever in my wildest dreams have occurred to me. It still does not feel like something I could do, so this is not some ‘new’ and ‘different’ behaviour that I will copy to be on my way toward a new future.

What I do take from this story, however, is the idea to consider – before you act – which action will make you feel best afterward. And I agree, the fourth option would do that for me, contrary to the other options. I think this story resonates with me because it tells us that there is always a different path to take, and a positive turn to give to everything that happens (even though it may not be immediately apparent). So, while I do not think I will go and buy a new pot for someone whose flowerpot has dented my precious head, I do think I will try to consider all, and even the wildest, options before I will take action and will try to look for the real win-win scenario. Basically, I will try not to rely on routine reactions in cases of adversity or unexpected events.

This of course is easier said than done. How can you start seeing possibilities that did not exist before? Yes, sure, if a flowerpot cracks my head I will know an alternative, but what if something else were to happen that could not be dealt with by purchasing a new flowerpot? In other words, how can we cultivate the kind of open mind needed for this approach?

For me, the answer lies in cherishing my creativity. For a long, long time I have resigned myself to the idea that ‘sorry, I am not a creative person’. I would be that person who would write dull texts, and who would stick by the rules, and never go astray.

However, the fascinating world of social media has changed my outlook on myself almost entirely. I do find tremendous fun in creating cartoons, trying out animations (see above, my first attempt at PowToon), messing with pictures and collages, and so on. And I find I learn from these playful hours (and by the way, I do use some of the outputs in other people’s learning processes), and that they open my mind to new ideas and possibilities.

For me, some social media tools help me break my routines, reformulate my thoughts in simple visuals, and reconsider my qualities. This is why I encourage others to try out different tools, too: I would like for them to experience the same joy, and the same eye openers that make me so happy sometimes.

And I think that happiness is one of the true conditions for being able to see the ‘new flowerpot’ option. After all, if you are happy about your own life and satisfied with all the people and things and activities in it, it is much easier to share and give to others.


For more information

Eldon Taylor has made a lifelong study of the human mind and has earned doctoral degrees in psychology and metaphysics. He is president of Progressive Awareness Research, an organization dedicated to researching techniques for accessing the immense powers of the mind. For more than 20 years, he has approached personal empowerment from the cornerstone perspective of forgiveness, gratitude, service and respect for all life. To contact Eldon in response to the story, you can reach him via his website: http://www.eldontaylor.com


Eldon Taylor’s New York Times Best-Seller, Choices and Illusions, is available at all fine online and retail bookstores. However, to participate in the online event that Eldon has put together, including a chance to win a customized $500 InnerTalk library, please visit: http://www.parpromos.com/pp/it/14k/index/R.html


Book impression: Choices and Illusions

A small part of my book collection

A small part of my book collection

Not too long ago I moaned to my husband that I wished my job were to read books. (This was on a day when I desperately wanted to finish a book, obviously). The next day, I received an e-mail from someone asking me to participate in a blog tour. She would send me a book, I would read it, and write about it on my blog at the same time as all others taking part in the blog tour would. It felt like fate knocking on my door, so who was I to refuse?

That is how I came to read Eldon Taylor’s book ‘Choices and Illusions’ (published in paperback this week). I read mostly novels, detective stories and contemporary history, so this book is not something I would have selected myself for reading if I would have come across it. Fate again?

Taylor writes as if he is talking to you. He is full of stories and knowledge about research and connects these by way of meaningful issues and questions. Before you know it, the book is finished – and your companion gone.

Well, that is not entirely true. Some of the questions, issues and stories linger. I titled this post ‘impression’ because I do not think I could meaningfully summarise this intricate book. But I would like to share three things Taylor got me thinking about. Today I will write about the first thing, and tomorrow I will tell you about the other two things that keep me thinking.

The first thing (the one for today) is the fact that we cage ourselves by our beliefs of who we are, what we can and cannot do, what is appropriate and inappropriate, what is expected and not expected and so on. All those inner and outer expectations and standards limit us or at least hinder us in reaching our full potential – or even in being aware of what our full potential could be. Taylor makes clear that it is not just society that is holding us back, it is us ourselves, too, and the interconnections between us and society that prevent us from becoming who we are – or even from aspiring to.

In the book, Taylor tells the story of the Chicken and the Eagle. It is a bit more elaborate, and complex, than the one I share below:

In Taylor’s version, an eagle flies by the chicken yard and tries to convince the little eagle that she is an eagle like him. But she doesn’t buy it, and stays with the chicken that she knows. See here for Taylor’s version on YouTube.

When you read it, it is kind of a sad story. And yet, do we not all know one or too eagles that have joined the chicken in their yard? People that feel this is it, while we see so much more in them? And do we not in daily life shrug our shoulders and think it’s their choice? Or get annoyed with them, for making that choice like that? (If they are our partners, for instance, of whom we expect so much).

This story wants to say, it is not necessarily their choice. They may not be fully aware of their potential and you may seem like an eagle, coming down from the skies telling them lies. Or rather, you may seem like a salesman making a cold call. And, all the time the same may be true of you yourself. Have you met that eagle yet, who tried to tell you life could be different? And have you shown him the door – or have you invited him in? Have you made fun of those eagles you met – or have you shared your enthusiasm at new prospects with others, acknowledging the eagle for his contribution to your new insights?

When you think of it, it may seem that there were more eagles when you were young, and that at the time you tended to believe them more readily, too. Oh, those days when anything seemed within reach! Youthful optimism and recklessness – to risk the safety of the chicken yard for an uncertain adventure high in the sky! But those days are gone at a certain moment.

Not so. No, not quite so. Those days can be here again – if you let them. And that is what Taylor’s book is about: making you aware that you are the one not letting eagles near you, and that you can change this, too. The first step is in becoming aware of those ‘chicken yard beliefs’ that you have. Things you take for granted to be true – but that are not facts and that can indeed be turned around. Mantras like “I am not good enough to do that” and “I will never achieve this”. Etc.

More than two years ago, I read ‘Switch – How To Change Things When Change Is Hard’ by Chip and Dan Heath (see here for my impressions). Their model for supporting change is built around a rider, an elephant and a path. I found this model to be very useful for NGOs I work with – who are all about changing their communities and societies in one way or another.

Taylor’s book adds an element to this model and that is understanding. Understanding why others may not be so ready for change – why in fact they may, consciously or subconsciously, not be able to believe any change is possible. Understanding that the targeted groups may consist of people who think they are chicken, when you are addressing them as if they were eagles.

The book gave me two insights into how to address eagles who think they are chicken – and I will go into those in my next post, tomorrow!

For more information

Eldon Taylor has made a lifelong study of the human mind and has earned doctoral degrees in psychology and metaphysics. He is president of Progressive Awareness Research, an organization dedicated to researching techniques for accessing the immense powers of the mind. For more than 20 years, he has approached personal empowerment from the cornerstone perspective of forgiveness, gratitude, service and respect for all life. To contact Eldon in response to the story, you can reach him via his website: http://www.eldontaylor.com


Eldon Taylor’s New York Times Best-Seller, Choices and Illusions, is available at all fine online and retail bookstores. However, to participate in the online event that Eldon has put together, including a chance to win a customized $500 InnerTalk library, please visit: http://www.parpromos.com/pp/it/14k/index/R.html


Warm Welcome for 2014!

The start of 2014 makes me think of Dutch painter Peter Klashorst who once explained that he could see a simple white wall as “One big abstract painting”. The eye of the beholder is a powerful thing!

I did hatch some plans for this year and I do have ideas of what I want to be doing. But basically I have no detailed mental picture of what I will be looking back on one year from now. I will let the year 2014 surprise me.

Of course one could say that any year can do that – and mostly they do, in fact. For instance, one year ago I had no clue that I would deliver trainings in Moldova and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2013 or that I would meet friends I had not seen in twenty years during a reunion in London. I did not expect to read up on chemicals management and I had no idea that trying out Instagram would lead to loads of new ideas and even form a basis for project ideas.

Still, the basic format of 2013 was clear from the beginning and many things I did or experienced were not wholly unexpected or surprising.

This year will be quite different, though. Only the first few weeks are firmly fixed. After that I will let my dreams come true by concentrating fully on the development of Changing Tides and my freelance work.

That means the biggest part of 2014 is still a big untouched canvas for me. It can still become anything and everything.

And at the same time, it already is something: a big abstract painting. To me, it looks beautiful, magical and full of unborn opportunity.

One big abstract canvas

“One big abstract painting!”

And what about you? Do you have some untouched canvases in your mental attic that fill you with anticipation? Or do you have a very clear idea of what 2014 will bring you – and of what you will bring the world in this year?

Whichever the case may be, I wish you an adventurous and successful year. May the seeds you planted in 2013 turn out to bear beautiful flowers and juicy fruits. And may you be able to look upon all those ordinary moments with the eye of an artist and see beautiful paintings all around you!


Celebrating Your Life

As happens to the best of us, I found myself at a low ebb last week. This nagging feeling that things could be much better, if only I knew how.

And just I was trying to figure what I could do to make myself feel better, the mailman brought me a nice old-fashioned snail mail envelope. Sent by someone I know online only.

LetterHe sent me an invitation to use the remaining 40 days of 2013 to take stock of what and who inspires me, touches me, or makes me happy or proud, and what my dreams are for 2014. To make this easier, he sent me a small notebook and a felt tip pen along with his letter.

This invitation in combination with his personal message about his appreciation of my engagement, drive and sense of humour simply made my day. All this, despite the fact that we have never met in real life.

This made me realise that I have absolutely no reason to be moping around the house. Because, I, too, have people in my life that I appreciate, things that I like and that inspire me, and touch me. And all these things and people together bring me dreams, for 2014 and beyond.

All this happened almost a week ago. So what did I collect until now?

These are the people and things I am right now thankful for:

  • Roel Rotterdam, for sending me this invitation and message at the right time, among many other things
  • Ecaterina Melnicenco, for letting me dabble in social media coaching
  • Lidija Pavic-Rogosic, for taking one of my previous posts as a start for developing a very nice project proposal and also – on another level – for sharing a very nice Instagram video
  • Gerdi Keeler, for our cooperation as nul100 which brings me new ideas and inspiration almost daily
  • Barend Barentsen, for letting me ramble on about online tools in learning and all the things he could do
  • this week’s online tools: PhotoSnack and GoogleForms
  • ……

…. and there is so much more!

As it is ThanksGiving today, I would end by thanking Roel Rotterdam for his wake up call and inspiration! I wish all of you out there a happy ThanksGiving:



And here is my baggage from 2012

One year ago, at the start of 2012,  I reflected on two main questions:

  • What are the 3 things or persons that you will definitely leave behind in 2011 and not bring with you to 2012?
  • What are the 3 things or persons that will flourish because of you in 2012?

While these questions remain useful and valid, this year I started out reflecting on what I have learned in 2012. After all, inevitably, I will bring whatever I learned with me into 2013.

What I learned in 2012

What I learned in 2012

So, what is the baggage I am bringing from 2012?

For starters, I learned about motivation. Motivation is a powerful force whether you have it or lack it. It definitely helps to have a clear vision of where you want to find yourself or your organisation at a certain moment in time from now. And it helps if you feel ownership of both that vision and the actions needed to realise it. For that matter, it is certainly helpful to have a clear view of which steps you need to take to achieve the desired situation. And to make sure that those steps are concrete and realistic and meaningful in terms of the set goal.

Personally, I have found it rather challenging to maintain a high level of motivation at certain moments in 2012. I full well knew where I wanted to end up, and I was very much aware that the only way to get there would be for me to take action. I also had a grasp of what possible steps I could take. But somehow, it was not that easy to kick my own butt and get going in the right direction.

I found that I was easily distracted by things that seemed to need more immediate attention than my own long-term goals. In other words, my actual priorities in daily life were different from the priorities my mind was set on. So while initially my plan was clear, I let life get in the way. Naturally, I would prefer to say that life got in my way but of course the simple truth is – I let it get where it got in the way. It was just easier that way, it seemed, even though it did not feel right.

Some time mid-year I realised what was bothering me and decided to create more space for myself to focus on things I had classified as important for me in 2012. I created this space by freeing up time for my focus and by setting small goals for those slots of time. A tool that helped me a lot in discovering my focus was on the wrong things and after this realisation helped me monitor if I managed to do better by myself than before was I Done This. This is a very simple tool: it sends you a daily e-mail, at a time of your own choosing, asking you “What have you done today?”. You reply to the e-mail, and your answers are collected online, and you are reminded of them via e-mail as well. After a couple of weeks I could discern a clear pattern – I had done lots, which was good to see, but most of these things were not really the things I had wanted to be doing. Nowadays I am still using I Done This, but I am reading the daily question now as two questions:

  • What is one thing that happened today that you are happy about?
  • What is one thing that made you proud of or happy with yourself today?

A simple tool, that helped me get back on track. And through that, helped me regain enthusiasm and creativity. And, ultimately, helped me get back to the core of my motivation.

Of course, a tool is just a tool. Its impact depends largely on what you do with it, and how you use it. But sometimes it can give you an insight that is helpful, that simply clicks at that moment in time, making things more clear and easier to tackle

The second thing I learned in 2012 is related to friendships. I learned it is not always easy to be a good friend. I mean, first you have to figure out what a good friend is, according to you. And then, reconsider this picture: is that just the kind of friend you want to be or also the kind of friend you want to have? Surely you know what I mean: that mantra that true friends ask those awkward questions that need asking but that none of us want to hear. It is not self-evident to speak your true mind always, and it is far from sure that you will still be friends with the person who does, after he or she has been open with you. There are times to speak up and there are times to keep quiet – and how do you recognise one from the other? This dilemma, too, is related to motivation: what is your motivation for being friends with someone? What is your motivation to say something or not to say it, after all? I have struggled with those questions in 2012 and have not found the magic recipe yet, although I feel I am getting closer.

The third main thing I learned in 2012 is that it is rather tiresome to learn about yourself. Much as I like the term personal development, it seems that the process of developing one’s skills and knowledge is far more pleasant than the process of developing insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and subsequently acting upon those insights. Yes, I learned a lot about myself in 2012, and I am convinced those insights are going to be helpful – nevertheless I wish myself a quiet 2013 when it comes to personal development and hope this new year will be more focused on professional development.

In all, 2012 has had a lot to offer to me, and I think I have taken all I could handle from the opportunities it offered. The three things I took with me from 2011 – freelance freedom, social media tools and inspirational people – have all played an important role in my life in 2012 as well. I remain grateful for all of life’s opportunities and challenges, and especially for all the people that have helped embellish my year by being great friends, inspirational colleagues or enthusiastic mentors, whether in real life or online. I will put the things I have learned in 2012, most notably the above mentioned lessons, to good use in 2013 and hope these will help me be a great friend, inspirational colleague or enthusiastic coach to those that I hold dear.

I wish all of you time to reflect on what 2012 has brought and taught you and

New Year’s wish for 2013

New Year’s wish for 2013


On Safari With Social Media Tools

At the IAF the Netherlands annual conference in June this year, Simon Koolwijk, Gerdi Keeler and I conducted the workshop On Safari with Social Media Tools – how to embed lessons learned in your learning process. In two hours we tried to share experiences of using social media in learning processes and communities as well as to give the group an idea of some of the tools we referred to. To start up the conversation we introduced a social media bingo with a variety of questions, like “Find a person in this room who has made 10 or more tweets“, “Find someone who knows possible uses of QR codes” and “Do you have 3 or more apps on your smart phone; which ones?“.

During this short exercise it became clear that we had quite a diverse group on our hands. Several participants already were quite experienced but were looking for more in-depth insights into best practices, while others were not so experienced and wanted to practise.

After a short Prezi presentation we therefore decided to split up and work in 3 smaller groups, in order to meet the different needs.

To check to what extent we had succeeded, we invited participants to share their opinions by answering 3 questions on Polleverywhere.

The main insights and ideas participants gained were:

  • There is much more possible than I thought!
  • Possibility to create a community for small groups in a learning process
  • Importance of blended learning & change (mix of online and offline learning)
  • More online meetings!
  • I want to get to know Yammer
  • To plan for use of social media tools in learning processes
  • Ideas for online and offline activities before and after face-to-face events
  • I will need to practise – I am lagging behind in the field of social media
  • Better to be proficient in a few tools, and to use them well than to try to use them all at once
  • Variety of social media tools available that can help embed results of my workshops

Tools that participants were interested in using were:

In order to start using these tools most participants indicated they would need time and patience. A few participants mentioned that they would search for more information online and just try out the selected tools. Overall, participants were satisfied with the workshop and felt they gained new ideas and inspiration to use social media in their work.

And what did I learn? It became clear to me that while there are many tools out there not that many facilitators are familiar with them or are using them in their work. Some are making use of the possibilities social media offer, but are not always satisfied with the return on their time investment in this. This may be caused by the learning process involved in getting to know tools and discovering their possible uses. But it may also be caused by a feeling that dabbling with social media is taking away precious time from the real work – and the fact that social media use is not perceived as a genuine part of that work, yet.

This attitude will change only as and when professionals will see concrete examples and best practices of how social media can actually facilitate their work and how social media make them more effective on the job. Though it is relatively easy to try out different tools on your own, it is not as easy to successfully deploy them within your organisation or learning processes. Exchanging experiences, ideas and fears in combination with practical tips on how to use certain tools, tailor-made advice regarding suitable tools for your specific situation and practising in a small (online/offline) group over a period of time, may help bridge the gap between knowing about a tool and effectively applying it. With our workshop we wanted to give a peek preview into what social media can do for your work and how useful further “training” in this area can be, also for facilitators. Looking at the positive reactions, I think we succeeded in this first step. So now – on to the next!


Giving Up

As some of you may already know I am crazy about watching cycling and currently happily enjoying the Tour de France. Of course I try justifying the many hours spent on watching the Tour de France and the stage aftermath in the 3 daily talk shows. Is there a link between real life and cycling? A meaningful one? I think there is.

One of the main characteristics many riders share is their stamina. Stamina to persevere under dire circumstances. And I don’t mean rain, wind and even snow whilst they are racing. What I mean is racing with a few broken ribs, a broken hip or punctured lungs. Not giving up despite feeling lousy. It seems that giving up is simply unthinkable.

Remember how Pedro Horillo fell down a ravine in the Tour of Italy a few years back. He ended up in a hospital, and when he woke up from his coma the first thing he asked for was his bike to continue the race. In the end, he never raced again as a result of the injuries sustained.

Remember last year’s Tour de France and the big crash in the first week. I wrote this about it at the time: “So you find yourself in a little ravine. You’ve broken 2 of your ribs and a shoulder blade, and have pneumothorax. But here’s the thing: you do not know this. No-one’s told you yet. So you pick up your bike, climb out of the ravine, and ride another 600 meters. And then you realise you’ve seen better days. It may not be possible to continue to Paris after all… Hat off to Jurgen van den Broeck of Belgium who lived this incredible tale yesterday.”

Remember the car that threw Johnny Hoogerland and Juan Antonio Flecha off their bikes and Johnny into a nasty fence of barbed wire. Johnny continued, 33 stitches in his legs and buttocks and all.

Remember Wout Poels, who crashed last week. He had been put into an ambulance already when he decided he could not – just could not – give up. So he climbed on his bike again. And rode 10 km. His manager did not much like the way he looked and started talking to him. 5 km later he had convinced Wout that it might be better to quit. Wout is now in ICU, with a ruptured spleen, a destroyed kidney, a few broken ribs and lung damage.

And this is just a small selection.

So what can we simple mortals learn from this heroism?

For starters – not to give up too easily. Things may not go smooth, they may be painful, they may look hopeless. But maybe if you survive this one day, the next one will be better. Maybe the next stage will give you that opportunity for success that you have been looking for. If you quit now, you will never know. So you’d better make sure that giving up is the right thing to do. The inevitable thing to do. So you should check first – are these feelings, thoughts, emotions or facts? Do I just feel shitty or do I have a punctured lung? Should I medically be in ICU or can I continue trying?

But we can also learn another thing. Sometimes giving up on something is indeed the right thing to do. It does not make much sense to stay in a 3-week race if your shoulder blade is crushed. You will achieve nothing that way, except endangering your health. Sometimes we, non-physical labourers, hang in there for longer than is good for us. We may not medically be ready for ICU but we, too, can exert ourselves too much for something that is simply not worth the sacrifice or the risk to ourselves. We, too, sometimes get lost in the mantra that we should just continue for now, that things will be better, less hectic, less frustrating tomorrow. While all along we could know that this is very unlikely to be the case as long as we do not change anything in or around ourselves.

What we can learn, too, is that giving up on one thing can create space for another. Pedro Horillo can now focus on his writing and has written a book. Bradley Wiggins crashed last year in the Tour de France and had to give up, but took his revenge in the Tour of Spain where he rode well and ended up 3rd overall.

However, this does not happen by and of itself. You first will have to accept fully that the thing to be given up needs to be given up entirely. And you have to actively embrace the new thing that comes in its place. This is not easy, certainly. Accepting that a dream cannot come true in the way you had envisioned never is. Nor is getting joy out of something that may seem second best at first. This requires practical closure as well as a versatility of mind that not all of us can find easily within ourselves. The same goes for riders. Some of them cannot let go. Let’s use those as a living example that sometimes giving up can make you more successful than hanging on. And while we are at it, let’s thank them for this lesson and for their heroism that is at the heart of it.


What I Learned from Trying to Introduce Social Media in 2 Organisations

In the last 6 months I have been busy with 2 failed attempts to help 2 organisations work with social media. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Well, if you like to learn, then it was!

So why did I fail?

Basically – who knows! But I have a few ideas that I would like to share.

Again Yammer!

Again Yammer!

What I tried to do was to introduce different social media tools that would help these organisations to share information, ideas and experiences, to collect documentation in one place, and to collaborate on joint strategies and plans. In both cases there was a genuine task to be carried out, which could benefit from using these tools and which had a limited time frame with an upcoming deadline. Really a hot idea. Or so I thought. And at the start, they liked it, too.

But then – nothing further happened. In one case, the task was postponed to some future date as yet unknown, and in the other case a Yammer network was set up which was used by only few people who used it only to send out ideas and information but were not really aimed at two-way communication, collaboration or engagement. The task did not get done.

Very rough "assessment" of the two organisations

Very rough “assessment” of the two organisations

What I found interesting when I started to identify reasons why was that both organisations had quite a lot in common. They both consist of  “loose parts” that work independently based on a clear task division and very clear “stay out” signs for others, with only one of the parts being focused on the organisation as such. The part having the organisation itself as a main task is working on things like strategies, policies, fundraising and the like, whereas the other parts implement activities and do not commit a whole lot of attention to strategising and such.

Within the organisations there is limited informal communication and limited personal contact between people, especially between people from the different sections. Perhaps as a result of that, there is a limited connection between both people and the functions being carried out by the different sections, and it looks like people do not feel safe enough to share freely. They may feel judged by others, they may feel that others cannot be trusted with certain information, they may be afraid of meddling by others.

In short, internally all signs for open communication through social media or otherwise are a fiery red.

No wonder nothing happened!

Hand Heart Head

Hand Heart Head

So what did I learn from all this? A lot! And probably more than if everything would have worked out perfectly!

  • Whether you can successfully complete a joint task using social media depends a lot on to what extent you can complete the task without social media – social media can make your life easier, certainly, but if it is impossible to get people to work together offline or via e-mail, then social media may not do the trick.
  • Collaborative capability depends on the level of development of an organisation, network or community and on its internal organisation and culture. The fact that there are common tasks does not necessarily mean that such capability exists.
  • The role of a facilitator is limited – a facilitator can definitely smooth the path but cannot from the outside in “enforce” a collaborative environment, especially not within a very limited time frame.
  • That is not to say that a facilitator needs to be completely helpless in the face of such a situation. A facilitator can perhaps more easily than the organisation itself notice what is going on and can re-group; try to find another angle and another path to achieve the learning, change or strategic objectives set by the organisation or individual.
  • A facilitator needs to keep his or her cool at all times! Patience is key to getting there. And getting there is key. All the rest is just what happens on the way.
  • It helps a lot if a facilitator can stay enthusiastic and motivated, even if a new path needs to be cut out through the jungle.

Thankfully I found that I was able to remain enthusiastic and optimistic and that in the few moments that I was not, I had a variety of social media networks and tools available to me through which I could share my experiences and questions. Or through which I could play my way back to optimism!


What Are Your Needs

Last week I wrote about giving wholeheartedly and freely – or deciding not to give at that point in time – and tried to give some pointers as to questions you can ask yourself to check whether you can actually give freely what is being asked.

This time I want to share some thoughts about the other side – the asking. It seems this is not as easy as we may think. How often do you actually clearly ask for what you really need? The catch is of course in being clear when asking and more importantly in being clear with yourself what it is that you need, what you actually want to ask for from someone else.

So as a first step you should take time to consider what your need is. You may think this is easy. Take something in mind, and then ask yourself why you need this. What is the purpose of getting this? Then you will see that your need is not that your husband/wife does the dishes. Your need may be that the other acknowledges in actions that the household is a shared responsibility. Or your need could be to free time (by not doing the dishes) to do something for yourself (reading that book, going for a stroll). Or your need might be recognition: that the other, by doing the dishes, realises that this is a “job” and sees your investment. Or something else entirely. As you see, your real need may not be so self-evident as you may have thought before.

What is it you need?

What is it you need?

Being clear about your need will help you identify what it is you should ask for. In the above example, it is not about today’s dishes (or as happens in my household – yesterday’s dishes…). It’s very possible that the other person could do the dishes as requested and still leave you dissatisfied. It is also possible that this person could meet your needs by doing something entirely different as your needs are more about dividing tasks (and sticking to the division), setting priorities, or being seen and honoured for what you bring into the relationship. For example.

Once you’ve got this cleared up, it’s important to be clear in your request, too. Don’t assume that the other person understands things that you haven’t actually said, and will act accordingly. Invest a little of your time in phrasing your request, make sure that it is clear and understood the way you meant it to be understood. Keep it as simple as “Pass me the salt please, would you?”. And keep it positive. After all it is a request, not complaining hour. If you want someone to hear your request and fulfil it, it does not help much to start out by telling them they are not worth a shit, and never have been. At least for me that kind of opening would not be a strong motivator to give my time freely to doing the dishes … Instead I might become highly motivated to give you, wholeheartedly, a piece of my mind in return!

More on the difficult territories of phrasing requests later. For now, just try to find out the why behind what you are asking people and see if this helps to at least ask for the thing you really want – even if it may not yet be phrased perfectly! Good luck!