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?

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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

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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

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Reflection Shows Differences Between People

Sometimes you do something for the umpteenth time without giving it too much thought. And then some insight hits you. Well, anyway that is what happened to me in Bangladesh recently. The day after a rather full meeting day I asked the group to write down what they remembered from the day before. Discussions, topics, ideas – anything that would pop up. They divided into three groups, and each group developed a tree with branches, twigs and leaves representing their memories.

I cannot say how often I have done this exercise with a group. Many, many times. And of course I continue using it because there is always something interesting that comes to the fore when looking at the different trees depicting the same day in the minds of different people. Because the memories show what made an impression – what is considered important, new, exciting or shocking. And they show how information and impressions are processed.

reflection trees

Trees

What was different this time is that the group divided itself more or less according to their positions in the organisation. And that became very visible in their products. One tree showed a management approach to the issues discussed and included not only what was actually talked about but also things that could or should be done as a result of the discussions. Another tree was made by the television production team – a creative team with people that are focused on relations and visualising information. This, too, was obvious from the tree. It was the only tree that contained a reference to feelings and it focused on the impact of the discussions. The third tree was made by the executive producer and clearly showed the meticulous way he works and his focus on planning. He remembered all discussions in chronological order and thus his tree showed the day before as a step by step process.

Usually I work with mixed groups and then again mix the groups that create a joint tree, so I never had the opportunity before to see three different parts of one organisation visualised by their memories of the day before. And to see so clearly the differences in thinking, feeling and acting between people with completely different positions in one NGO.

It was quite mesmerising – until the moment when one group started to lecture the other about what should or should not be in their tree. (I suppose you can guess which group criticised which other group). And then I woke up and knew why it would not necessarily be a good idea to continue forming groups for the tree exercise according to ‘organisational department’ unless your second agenda is to actually do something about the dynamics between the departments and the different people. Which was not really part of my assignment in this case.

The insight I referred to above was thus that possibly unwittingly I had been organising this exercise in the right way for my assignments so far. And that if I would have an assigment focusing on organisational culture in one NGO I might tweak the groups according to department to let the participants themselves show what they are good at, what their focus is and what the differences are between the different departments and the people in them.

Collecting memories

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Visualising What Was Important

As I have written before, I tend not to believe that much in traditional evaluation forms any more. The information you receive is to a large extent not usable for you as trainer or facilitator. For instance if it concerns issues you have no influence on like who is invited or able to come and who is not.

But what’s worse, providing the feedback is mostly not very useful for the participants. That in itself renders evaluations less useful – if there is nothing to gain from spending some brain space on answering evaluation questions in earnest I think it is fair to assume that most participants will just jot something down quickly in order to be off sooner rather than later.

If you can connect the evaluation to the participants’ feelings and to the steps they plan to take in future using the things they learned and developed during the training, you may have a better chance of getting quality feedback that they have actually spent some time on formulating.

In a recent training assignment I asked participants at the end of the training to take a picture of something that for them symbolised the most significant moment or insight of the training and to send this to me with one sentence of explanation. Here is what I got:

From these pictures and texts I conclude that

  • the training was lively and participatory, which was much appreciated
  • participants felt engaged in the team, as they all got tasks for steps to be taken after the training
  • participants gained more insight into the topic of the training and jointly developed an image of what they want to achieve together
  • participants felt hopeful because of the shared vision for the future

and thus that me and my co-trainer Gusztáv Nemes succeeded in creating a shared knowledge base on the topic (including new knowledge provided also by us), in supporting the group to use this knowledge as a basis for a common vision for the future, in mobilising the group to work as a team towards the shared goals and in creating an open atmosphere in which everyone could and did take part actively.

And so these simple statements and picture made me very happy about our performance – much more than a traditional happy sheet could have done, where I would have to guess what could be the reasons for the scores given.

But the main source of happiness was due to the fact that participants actually spent time looking around themselves and considering this and that item as a suitable symbol all the while thinking about what the main moment had been in the last two and a half days of work. Looking at the pictures sent, most participants selected a moment that connected the training to their future actions and work as a team. For me, those two things show the true value of this exercise.

rural development vision for Bosnia and Herzegovina

A picture is worth a thousand words

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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:

ThanksGiving

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Evaluations are Boring and Useless

As trainer I am always curious to learn what participants think of the workshop: was it useful? Will they do something with what they learned and planned? Am I the new role model in their lives because I was so darn inspiring?????

It has become custom to hand out so-called happy sheets at the end of a training, to collect participants’ feedback. Well, they don’t always make you happy, I can say!

Not because participants are negative, but because you so seldom get something useful out of them.

In answer to the question 'what could be better?' - made with Quozio

In answer to the question ‘what could be better?’ – made with Quozio

By the end of the workshop, participants want to get away as soon as they can. The happy sheet is a hindrance for their haste – a few more precious minutes down the drain! In order to leave as quickly as possible, most participants will use as little time and energy as feasible to score items on the happy sheet. Rarely do they take time to write something down for the open questions.

Even the scoring can sometimes be misleading. A colleague of mine once inquired what the rates 6 and 7 on a scale of 10 (perfect) meant for the participants. One of them replied: “The training was useless, but the trainer was friendly.”

And this is only natural. After all, this happy sheet doesn’t have any purpose for the participants. They hand it in, and that’s that. It is no use for them afterwards, at their work place. What do they care to remember how good I was as trainer, or how good the accommodation was, or how much they exchanged. However good the workshop was, it is history by then.

So if you want to have useful feedback on your training you should make the evaluation meaningful or fun for the participants.

One of the things you can do is to connect the evaluation moment to the future: let participants think about how and when and with whom they will use what they learned and planned. If you then ask them to visualise this you ‘force’ them to spend just a little bit more of their time on this question. After all, they will have to develop an idea and will have to come up with a visual representation of this idea. They need to make or look for a photo, draw something, shoot a video, make a cartoon…. All this will make them think more deeply about to what extent the training was useful to them and how they will actually apply their new knowledge, skills or insights.

In addition, they will have their own visual idea with them, physically – it will be in their own camera, phone, tablet or computer. It is not that happy sheet that disappears in a big black box.

If you want to remind them of their ideas and plans you can collect all the visuals and present them in a booklet form (easily made online and downloaded as PDF) one month after the end of the training.

And that could be a great time to also ask them about their thoughts of the training: what was the best working method used? What was the most significant moment, and why? What was the most novel insight they got? Which remark do they remember still? Etc.

The most significant moment

The most significant moment, made with Quozio

Of course a lot more can be said about evaluations: what are the best type of questions, the best tools to use and the best moments in or after your training to ask for feedback.

I will certainly write more on this topic and am also going to organise workshops about evaluating trainings and learning processes together with my colleague Gerdi Keeler. If you are interested, please feel free to contact me!

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Online Polling

Whether you are working online or face-to-face with a group it is useful to know what is going on with the people in your group. Are they getting new insights? Are they satisfied? Are they still engaged?

If you are working face-to-face you can of course easily check by taking a look at the group. However, we all know that there are always some people that are hard to read or that hardly speak up. With an online tool you might get them to talk and express themselves.

View only the mood of those you are following

View only the mood of those you are following

A funny tool you can use during a (face-to-face) meeting or workshop is Moodpanda. Participants can rate their mood and provide a “reason” for the grade. It’s easy to change your mood status, so participants can easily keep their status up-to-date.

 

The downside is that you need an account to use Moodpanda and that you will need to follow the people in the group if you want to keep track of the group only. Otherwise you get a feed of everyone using Moodpanda at that moment of which your group is a difficult to discern part only. If you follow others you can choose to have a feed of people you follow only.

Once set up, you can react to other people’s status or simply “hug” a person in need of some TLC  (If in real need, the Moodpanda comes to the rescue, too!, see picture below). Moodpanda can provide insight into what your participants are willing to share regarding their current mood and can add a new level of interaction to your activity. It can show you relations and interactions within the group, as well as the relation between a mood rating and the activity you are doing with the group at a certain moment. Thus it can be a powerful tool to check if you are still on track or if you need to make changes in your plan.

Moodpanda to the Rescue

Moodpanda to the Rescue

Another tool you can use for getting a grasp of participants’ opinions during an event or afterwards is Polleverywhere.

Poll in Polleverywhere

Poll in Polleverywhere

You can start a poll with or without having an account. If you do not create an account your poll will be saved for 2 weeks. People can reply online (phone, computer) or via sms. A poll can consist of one or more grouped questions, and questions can be open or multiple choice. It is possible to post replies more than once from the same computer, which can be practical if not all participants have their own device with them.

Overview of responses

Overview of responses

Results can be shown in different ways, and if you take out a paid plan you can even export the results.

More visual ways of sharing the results with your group are the live text wall and a word cloud.

Live text wall showing replies

Live text wall showing replies

 

Results in a word cloud

Results in a word cloud

Polleverywhere is different from Moodpanda in that you can prepare a poll beforehand, there is no live interaction between participants (although you could show the results as a moving, live text wall) and participants answer anonymously. Results are kept, and not lost in a feed that you would need to scroll through.

Polleverywhere is a bit easier to set up than SurveyMonkey or FluidSurveys, but the type of questions and answers is more limited, too.

The possibility of showing a live text wall of results of Polleverywhere during an event can be a very nice way of sharing inputs and using these as a basis for further discussion, same as the word cloud way of presenting feedback that makes very visual which are the main key words used by the group.

I used both Moodpanda and Polleverywhere for the first time last week and found both of them useful – and easy to use. Try them and see for yourself how interaction with your group may change!

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Hello 2012!

Almost a week ago, a New Year started for many of us. Time for a bit of reflection on the past year and for looking forward to 2012. A coach friend of mine posed me two valuable 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?

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