Creating Greater Connection with More Time… Part 1

Earlier in the week, I posted a piece on LinkedIn about my recent, delightful experience with delivering a session on Appreciative Living —Seeing the Positive in Life, for Agile Austin, Agile Leadership Network of Houston, Mile High Agile, and Agile SoCal.

In brief, the session on Monday was almost two hours in length, (half an hour longer than usual) with approximately 45 people. My session design created opportunities to learn about Appreciative Inquiry principles and apply them to our lives in that moment. Participants connected with each other by talking and chatting with each other in the large group, and in trios.

When a colleague asked me about the experience, I was surprised by my strong, heartfelt response. I started wondering what made this session feel markedly different.

I believe it was the intersection of time and connection that created a richer experience than previous sessions. I’ll admit, I love Venn diagrams though perhaps my thinking is better represented by a line graph or discussion of a causal relationship.

And as I ponder further, and think more expansively, I am struck by more variables that I will add to this exploration. Perhaps two variables, the nature of audience members’ working relationship with each other, and setting/occasion.

In this instance, we had a luxurious amount of time for interaction. That spacious container, the nature of the setting (a MeetUp) and the group (their collegial relationships—they did not work for the same organization) enabled us to have some deep conversations.

All these ideas plus my passion for creating interactive experiences have led to me to ask the following questions in my quest to design stellar experiential encounters:

  • Who are the people involved —literally, what are the variables I can discover in advance?
  • How will they be showing up—voluntarily, prepared, interested, preoccupied or some combination thereof ?
  • What atmosphere/container can be created through pre-work?
  • What are the dynamics of the group—power, gender, race, class, sexual orientation, ability/disability? What can I learn about these variables in advance, and how will I plan to be sensitive to them throughout the session?
  • How will the gathering begin?
  • Is there enough space/time in the session for creating  authentic connection among participants—time for reflection, talking with others in small groups, sharing in the large group?
  • What other challenges might arise to impact my guiding the conversation toward self-reflection, understanding, interpersonal connection, and engagement with the practices after the session?

The Appreciative Inquiry work I am doing in these MeetUps and in the Appreciative Living Learning Circles is such a delight. If you are interested in learning more about these offerings, reach out to me with your ideas or questions. You can learn more about the Learning Circle on blog page of my site.

Never underestimate the beauty of a great question

What’s your favorite check-in question?

Wait, maybe we should take a step back… What’s the purpose of a check-in question for you? How do you use the first few minutes of a meeting, experiential encounter, or coaching session to connect with folks? 

I  realized last night during my session, Appreciative Living, Seeing the Positive in Life for the Agile Austin Coaching Group, the Agile Leadership Network of Houston, and the Mile High Agile Coaching Group, that I love setting the stage with a thoughtful check-in question.

My favorite is question is,

”What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?”

What about you?

As you think back over the past week, what were your best experiences? What were the circumstances or situations, who was involved, what role(s) did you play? What else do you notice about those times?

I noticed that my roles were varied and I find that to be super cool! Whether I was…

  • engaged with my bikablo colleagues— partnering with Martin Haussmann, (the creator of bikablo) to develop the agenda and host the launch of  bikablo MeetUp, meeting with global team members to discuss moving the Advanced course online, or teaching  the bikablo Basic Day 1 course to participants in North America
  • collaborating with my colleagues from ATDNYC to create an interactive “Meet the Board” chapter meeting with breakouts of focused discussion
  • meeting with visual practitioner colleagues to create new offerings to those facing end of life issues
  • sharing my passion for appreciative inquiry with the agile groups or
  • in my one to one coaching sessions,  as I feel that I am working together with/supporting my clients as they build on their strengths and accomplishments, articulate their dreams, and design their futures.

What question will you ask yourself or others

to inspire reflection, gratitude, and perhaps deepen relationships?

Such a question, “What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?” is a wonderful way to start conversation (at a meeting or the dinner table) or even to end one’s day.

I am passionate about integrating Appreciative Inquiry principles and practices into my daily life—both professional and personal. In my effort to share my enthusiasm, I am offering an Appreciative Living Learning Circle starting March 1. I hope you’ll join me. Look at the calendar page to learn more and please reach out to me with your questions.

Finding fun and challenging ways to relax and connect with myself and people in my world

This is how it began…

Hello! Jill Greenbaum here from Airmont, NY. I’ll be making quilted postcards. I have a fabulous stash and love to write—and receive—postcards and letters from folks. Super excited to make a practice of sitting down at the sewing machine every day!

In fact, I started doing the 100 Day Project back in 2017. This is going to be my fourth year participating and I am jazzed!

Do you know about this event? It is super cool AND a real challenge!

The key for me is to engage in my project every day—it’s about consistent participation rather than the amount of time I devote each day.

In the past, I’ve chosen to burnish my Zentangle skills, and by the third week of the challenge, I am UNHAPPY with my decision. I always push myself to try a new pattern every day—and it takes more than 10-15 minutes to do good work so I feel overextended because I want to do well not just dabble… and not spend my entire evening tangling. I need conscious and consistent practice in bigger blocks of time to explore more complex designs…  I have learned that it is NOT a task for me to do for 100 days.

As I noodled around the 100 day project site, I found an interesting idea, quilted postcards! I love making art quilts and have a serious stash of fabric. This seemed like the perfect choice—a small, very do-able project, playing with my beautiful fabrics, and reducing my stash!

Long story short, I have learned a few things in just the four days since this year’s project started.

Having:

  • fabulous materials is a start—though organizing them in some way is critical to avoid being pulled into the vortex of colors
  • a plan for the design each is critical—it is easy to become overwhelmed with possibilities
  • a flexible idea as to the desired outcome enables adjustments without upset—while I, conceptually, love a paper backing for writing to folks easily,  I don’t like the feel of it against the quilting.

So, if we move beyond the obvious learning from the actual work with fabric, batting, interfacing, pens for writing on fabric, etc. there are bigger lessons here…

I have learned again that I love…

  • engaging in a challenge that stretches me yet does not overwhelm me
  • having a clear focus
  • consistency/doing a task that has elements of fun and “new-ness” every day
  • getting into a pattern (hahaha) of working so that I feel I am using my time effectively and efficiently
  • being part of something larger (#100dayproject/posting my work to instagram)
  • to learn more about how I learn best
  • that I can walk away from something I don’t (yet) love and say to myself, “I’ll look at this again tomorrow… I might just feel differently about it then!”

Truth be told, I have only completed one quilted postcard so far. I have two more quilt tops sewn and a third in the design stage. I feel good about starting off my 100 days strong. I can’t wait until I have more cards done so I can begin to send them out to people. Who doesn’t love receiving a handwritten, and in this case, also hand-sewn postcard?

I imagine that I’ll make close to 40 of these darlings over the 100 days. Let me know if you’d like to receive one, I’d be happy to send one your way, just be sure to email me with your land address!

Food for Thought on a Friday Afternoon

When’s the last time you declared who you are to the world?

This question of vision, mission, values, capability, and capacity came up for me just this week. I have become a member of a small group of women who are seeking to explore and discover, ways to meet some of the needs of particular underserved populations.

We are graphic recorders, authors, illustrators, facilitators, and educators with the passion and skills

for helping those facing end of life issues through making visible their thoughts and words as they face death.

The Back Story

Long and delightful story short, we have found our way over the past few months to sharing who we are, how we come to the subject matter, and the project that we are co-creating (with what questions, interests, and skills). We are learning about each other and imagining how we can each contribute to creating a more multi-faceted endeavor. Last week we realized that it was time to craft a manifesto/vision/mission statement to share with the world, or perhaps a little less grandly, with colleagues and new contacts, potential partners, and funders to help them understand what we’re doing and why.

When have you recently paused to reflect on who you are and what you stand for personally and/or professionally? If someone asked you about your values and why you’re doing what you’re doing in your life, how easy would it be to share your thoughts?

Several years ago I created a simple process —PRISM—for writing a manifesto, to support my coaching clients (parents) in getting clear about themselves and who they wanted to be in relation to their children. I had written a manifesto for myself, about who I wanted to be in the world, and I had written another about the parent I wanted to be… These creations were both based on who I was at the time and were aspirational.*

PRISM

Pause

to create the time/space in your schedule and environment so that it becomes easy to do this work and play

Reflect

on questions that resonate for you at this time (and find sources to help you do so)

(Who do you want to be? What are your values and how do you live them? What are your hopes, dreams, and priorities? What aren’t you addressing because it’s not comfortable, and how will you do that? What will stretch you?)

Imagine

all the possible answers to your questions and how you want to capture them (sticky notes, narrative form, drawings or…) so they are at your fingertips

Select

the constellation of ideas and desires that inspires you to commit and act

Manifest

your vision of yourself by making time to plan for the transformation you desire.

We began our meeting this week with an appreciative eye toward what we enjoy about our plorking (play and working) together. Everyone’s answer to the check-in question was uplifting and strengthened our foundation.

The language and imagery we used to describe our best experiences crafting such statements were exciting, generative, and surprisingly similar. When we shifted to our wishes for what we saw ourselves doing together and the content of the manifesto/vision statement, we saw many different possibilities.

Our next step, on our own, will be to visualize and share our ideas for our manifesto—what will it say about us and what we want to do in the world? I can’t wait to find out!

Finally, we will draft our manifesto.

 

* If you would like a copy of the ebook I created for manifesto writing, let me know and I’ll send one your way!

Life Lessons —Learned from Flower Arranging

In arranging flowers earlier this week, I found surprising parallels to endeavors in life!

Have a vision

Bring your tools

  • scissors, vase(s)

Be open to the reality of materials at hand

  • be flexible

Cut as necessary

  • length of stems to create bouquet

Choose

  • use everything in one arrangement or making several

Manage frustration when challenges arise

  • no leafiness/fullness, imperfect blooms, having to switch vases after initial dissatisfaction

Think about next time

  • learn/remember that different flowers require different resources/vase, materials/greenery/baby’s breath

Be resourceful

  • consider greenery from the backyard

Tap into ability to sit with disappointment

  • not realizing initial vision and to shift to contentment in the present

Know when to walk away

  • Re-encounter/look at the arrangement with fresh eyes the next day

Clean up the debris of the creative process

  • Sweep away the cut stems and leaves

 

Ulitmately, I liked it—even in it’s difference from my expectation…