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I LOVE feedback! What about you?

When you finish a project, what do you do? Do you celebrate, reflect, plan for the next time/future, and…?

 In the past two weeks, I’ve had opportunities to engage in giving (myself and others) feedback. I’ve also considered how I want to receive it from others. These have been enlightening experiences. 

In what circumstances do you offer feedback, appreciations, observations, reflections, critique, constructive criticism or the like? 

What do you think, feel, and communicate before engaging in the activity? And how is it different when the sharing is one-way, a conversation with one or more people, or setting up an opportunity for people to share feedback?

In my practice
I have developed a daily art practice. One project took me into rather unknown territory—working with a combination of acrylic paints and pens, gouache, collage, gel matte as a fixative, and mixed media paper. While I’ve worked with almost all of these materials before, this particular sequence and the combinations were new and held challenges (the weight of paper was not quite right for all the media, using gel matte with gouache is tricky {there’s a story there!}, and more. I’m also the gal who follows the “recipe”/directions the first time I do something, and then I change it up. I tried to follow the plan this time but then abandoned part of it. (I gave it a good try twice and didn’t like the results, so I found my way.)

 

Working/Being with others
I am always observing people’s habits/how they give feedback to themselves and each other. As the facilitator of a recent experience, I sought to guide the reflections in a generative way—with a focus on appreciating aspects of participants’ work about the criteria of success and pointing to opportunities to try new and different techniques rather than viewing aspects of their work as mistakes or flawed. While I believe in recognizing mis-strokes in drawing and processes that didn’t achieve the intended purpose and impact, I always choose to “fail forward”/focus on future possibilities. It’s delicate work being a facilitator seeking to create a warm, open, honest, learning-oriented environment.

I was also part of a gathering of about 30 people interested in addressing climate change through art and activism. The organizers asked for feedback, and I shared my reflections using my simple framework of: 

  • asking about their intentions and goals—thinking about the complete experience for participants (before, during, and after the event)
  • what I appreciated/the processes that had worked well for me and as an observer (I never stop thinking of group dynamics)
  • what might be done differently next time and why I thought so.

The facilitators were receptive.

These experiences were instructive to me—personally (in my artwork), as the facilitator of learning experiences, and as a participant with a stake in the event. 

What do you enjoy, find challenging, or wonder about harvesting people’s thoughts and feelings about experiences?
I LOVE hearing reflections and always ask for them, even when time is short. Here are a few photos of quick feedback from students after several 45-minute sessions at a conference. They put the sticky notes on the chart paper on their way to the room. I asked them to share about their experiences: 

  • What did you like?
  • What did you learn?
  • How will you use your new knowledge and skills?

Their responses gave me a pulse check about their engagement, enthusiasm, and learning.

Here’s one last example of a feedback sheet I use during some of my Appreciative Inquiry sessions.

 

How do you elicit reflections on your work? What influence does what you learn have on future sessions? I’d love to know!

In praise of great teaching

It’s so important, I will say it again:

Great teaching, the right tools, experimentation, willingness to get it wrong to get it right, perseverance, and the pull of a challenge are essential elements of the learning experience and lead to success!

The Back Story

Acrylics, with and without Flow-Aid on raw linen, 33″ x 36″

I am venturing into new creative territory—color mixing. I have been playing with all different kinds of paint (acrylics, fluid acrylics, high-flow fluid acrylics, and gouache), additives (water, Flow-Aid, and mixes), and substrates (mixed media and watercolor papers, raw canvas and raw linen) for the past six months. While I loved taking a class in watercolor decades ago, I found it very challenging and lost patience with it (or maybe with myself?). The work and play this past half year have been (mostly) a delight!

Now I am in the process of learning color mixing with watercolor to make my work with acrylics (and the rest of the paints) more consistently successful—meaning achieving my desired results with greater ease. 

I started an online course over the weekend and discovered a few key factors to my success and happiness with my effort:

  • A great teacher makes a HUGE difference! I love learning from someone who goes step-by-step—the mark of someone who teaches with learners in mind, who can step out of their own level of expertise to meet us where we are.
  • The right tools are very important—from the light (a simulation of good daylight), the right paper and paints (I have several sets of watercolors and it took a bit of playing Goldilocks to find the one that worked best), and the best brush for the task (easier said than done).
  • I had to let go of a desire to get it right the first time—I know (in my mind/logically) that it’s critical to experiment AND there are only so many hours in a day so I want to get “there” fast. My heart needs to be involved in this journey as I want to enjoy—and not just learn from—my results). Experimentation and “stick-to-itiveness” is essential. 
  • Ensuring that I use my new skills consistently, so they become second nature is critical. The teacher I am learning from has developed a 14-day challenge in which we use our new skills—I LOVE it! It’s a great investment of my time and money.

Whether I’m focusing on training, facilitation, or coaching, these same concepts and practices are foundational to growing my knowledge and skills and those of my clients. While my example below is a deep dive into the world of visualization skills, if that’s not your world, how would you adapt the ideas to your work and your clients? I would love to hear of your modifications and expansions upon my ideas—I hope you will be in touch!

Aha! Drawing the Connection to Our Plorking* with Visualization

As you reflect on your journey with bikablo—whether you have completed the Basic course (Days 1 and 2), the Advanced course, Extraclasse or coached with me to elevate your work—what are you doing right now to consistently broaden or deepen your skills?

In thinking about visualization, most recently, I am thinking of my practice and my clients through:

  • offering the students in the Gonzaga University course, “Visualizing Meaning and Purpose,” a list of prompts for every day of the week—we share our drawings on our Miro board.
  • working from a list of prompts with several of my Drawify colleagues, to add to the platform (working in .svg format/Concepts)
  • reviewing a beautiful card deck over the weekend and being inspired to create new drawings based on the figures in the deck
  • being part of an international graphic recording team—and brushing off my sketchnoting skills to make “mini-stories” to capture key points shared during presentations at the Stanford University-sponsored Me2We conference last month.

* plorking—playing and working

Here’s a Query!

Are you interested in consciously and consistently improving your visualization skills? If so, how will you do it? While there is a world of possibilities, which is the right match for you at this moment in time (or planning for the future)?

  • Are you seeking a live class—in-person or online? 
  • Would meeting up for 30/45/60 minutes once every two weeks or once a month be the right fit for your style of learning and schedule, based on daily prompts? It could be a place to share your work, ideas, questions, and challenges.
  • Do you like the intensity of a 10-day Challenge—with the opportunity to post your work, see others’ work, and receive encouragement and/or feedback?
  • Is the new Procreate Starter Set package from bikablo the direction you’re moving? What interests you about it? What questions do you have?
  • Is one-to-one coaching a better use of your time and resources?
  • What other ideas are percolating for your professional development?

I hope you will consider the questions I raise in several ways: 

  • answer them, if building your knowledge and skills in the bikablo method is part of your professional or personal development plan—and let me know if I can be helpful as you design your path
  • re-write them to meet your needs and desires. What are you dreaming of learning now (and how does it fit into your plans for the remainder of the year or longer)?
  • tell me what you’re thinking about what I have shared and your plans. I find sharing my plans with the world (wisely, to those who will nurture nascent ideas) brings a different level of commitment from me.

I hope to hear from you!

The Delights of Teamwork!

Mere words cannot express the fun, the collegiality, and most importantly, the impact of the work we accomplished at the #StanfordLEAD #Me2We2024 event last week. (Perhaps that’s why I’ve included a visual to represent my gratitude for the experience of being a member of an international team, in which each individual contributed something unique to the dynamics of the team and the event.)

The team, assembled by Drawify founder Axelle Vanquaillie, included Alexandra Oporto d’Ugard, Ben Crothers, Erin Nicole Gordon, Filippo Buzzini, Olina Glindev, and me. We hail from six different countries, yet we were on the same page, bringing the impact and influence of visualization to a conference already brimming with big names, big ideas, and participants hungry for engagement.

While we all played several different roles—as grocery shoppers, chefs, dishwashers, errand runners, schedulers, graphic recorders, presenters, and illustrators—I will say that I felt luckiest. The conference committee, h/t to Raphael Auwerkerken for his work in bringing us to the event, and to the conference committee that provided us with a gorgeous space in which to set up our array of analog recordings, were true partners throughout the experience.

As host of the table and showcase space for the first day of the event, I had the opportunity to meet so many of the attendees, share information about Drawify—our purpose and intention for being at the event—and encourage them to share their appreciation for their professors in their program. (They wrote on file cards, which were made into a gift for each of the professors in the program.) As you can imagine, people were curious. I loved sharing my passion for visualization with those who wanted to have a conversation.

Digital graphic recording has become a go-to practice of mine. The four sessions I attended were a pleasure to capture. One of my favorite memories is attending a workshop on improv, sharing my recording with the two presenters immediately afterward, and seeing their delight. They had no idea I was recording the event and were astonished to receive the visual summary. Kesinee Angkustsiri Yip told me that they had just incorporated three days earlier and she was going to print out the digital recording, frame it, and put it on her desk. It was a gift to have the time to connect with Kevin Weinstein and Kesinee after the session.

 

While I had never created tags with snippets/key phrases from the sessions, I loved it! The opportunity to capture a key idea for a session, draw and letter quickly on the Neuland Tag It, and offer it to others as a remembrance was a kick!

Perhaps the highlight of the three days (for me) was my presentation, Re-envision Yourself and Design the Life You Desire. I am dedicated to infusing Appreciative Inquiry, into every aspect of my work. The room was bursting at the seams— there were close to 100 people in a session that was meant for 80. Everyone was all in. We learned together—sharing thoughts, questions, plans, and insights. My role was truly as a facilitator, creating the environment and offering an experience that each individual would make their own. I felt almost guilty that my colleague Erin, who was graphically recording the workshop, had huge swaths of time in which participants were talking with each other. (Maybe a pause during a graphic recording is a blessing?) Of course, she became very busy as they offered up their thoughts. I was thrilled when one of the participants said, “This is exactly what I came for!” Participants left with plans for their immediate next steps for the future they desire.

These new experiences stand out for me (and may provide a few ideas, for graphic recorders, facilitators, and event organizers): 

  • a mid-size international team brings diverse, fresh energy to an experience
  • professionals from different backgrounds and with various skill sets enliven the processes used and the final products
  • hosting a space—being available to explain our work was an amazing opportunity for participants and increased engagement
  • space for showcasing the work, and enabling people to engage with it easily increases the impact on participants 
  • the creation of mini-stories/meaningful takeaways was an additional opportunity to connect with participants—we were surrounded by interested people, and some requested key phrases be “sketchnoted” for them live and in the moment
  • having my session graphically recorded was a gift I don’t often receive—give that gift to all presenters 
  • offering the opportunity for the students to show appreciation for their professors and to give the professors a gift was heartwarming and impactful.

My thinking? Let’s do this again—the results were tangible!

PS: If you’re curious, I posted this piece to LI with the use of Gemini (AI) and a little light editing afterward… Check out the differences

 

Like salt in a recipe… participant engagement is everything!

Quick, tell me the first thing that pops into your head when I say, “You have an opportunity to facilitate a session on the topic of facilitating sessions at a virtual conference.”

What areas immediately come to mind?

Logistics

Number of people, length of session, time of day/time zones, platforms and apps, tech partner, end-of-event survey

Content

Philosophy underlying personal practice, the universe of possible topics to address, resources to share

Processes

Dependent on: group size, platform, participant knowledge with platforms and apps, familiarity with each other

Personal expertise

Philosophy re: facilitation, knowledge of models and methods, strengths and preferences re: content and processes — including participants’ autonomy, methods for tracking participant engagement (with the understanding of the impact of differences re: communication styles and learning preferences and differences on participation), personal need/desire for knowledge about an understanding of participants learning.

Setting

Conference session not participants’ own work environment (which might run the gamut from consultant to corporate) which may impact participant commitment and engagement

Participants

Range of knowledge of the  topic, background (academic and  experience in the field), ages, races, genders, cultures, and classes, (i.e., the reality of power dynamics in the room re: areas of DEI), degree of interest in the topic, and accountability

Where do you begin?

Maybe it’s not so much about where you begin, because all of these factors are important (and it’s not an exhaustive list, of course, there are more factors and variables). Perhaps, it’s more about your priorities and how you effectively integrate these different areas to create stellar experiences.

What’s your vision?

And, what is a stellar experience? I believe there’s not one kind of stellar experience because of all the variables listed. The creation of facilitation is both an art and science from my perspective, and every experience is different! I will say though, as  I wrote about on LinkedIn earlier this week, I believe that participant engagement is like the salt in all my recipes—the essential ingredient!

Just this week, Karina Antons, Charles-Louis de Maere, and Yasmine Corda and I discussed a few of these variables during the bikablo Meet up on the subject of autonomy in facilitated meetings. Of course, we wanted people to not only discuss the topic of autonomy but also to experience it. Participants had the opportunity to experience degrees of autonomy within the two breakout sessions and in the larger group. our 90 minutes together flew by and we just scratched the surface of these topics. We will be continuing the conversation in a few months with more ideas and methods to share. I hope you’ll join us. You can sign up for bikablo Meetups here!

Searching My Treasure Chest for Gems!

When’s the last time you had the opportunity to re-discover a delightful aspect of your work?

Last night was ATDNYC’s Volunteer Connection &  Happy Hour—what fun we had!

I offered to develop an interactive activity that would introduce folks to each other. It’s been a while since I’ve kicked off an event with more than a well-crafted check-in question. I do love my check-in questions yet I wanted to provide a deeper experience. A few different ideas came to mind and then, I had it!

Several years ago, I crafted a networking activity for the inaugural event of the Women’s Leadership Center of the American Management Association. I suggested a storytelling and storycatching experience, in which the women created their own fairytales to introduce themselves and to learn about their colleagues. (A story catcher is a listener with a special intention—who illuminates the gifts and attributes of the storyteller. As listeners, we can become a force for deepening relationships.) The experience was a smashing success.

How often do you make the time to scan the landscape of your past and polish off a gem for a new use?

So I dove back into my materials and created a new fairytale to share as an example. Materials were sent in advance, just in case folks wanted to think about the story they would quickly create during the activity. I had just a few minutes before the meeting to draw a visual capturing the essence of the fairytale—the past, coming to a crossroads, and making a choice. The event arrived and I set the stage by talking about storytelling and story catching, helped participants understand the tasks, and then prepared them for the fun by reading my colleague’s poem, Once upon a time…

Once upon a time…

Once upon a time, she said, is a very good place to start.

It takes you very far away, yet stays close to the heart

Of things that were and things that are, both difficult and true

And yet, if you can look this way, they seem outside of you.

 

Start right at the beginning, when someone gave you birth

And tell a bit about the frame of sadness or of mirth

Did you come into a castle, a village or a shack?

Did you have everything you need or did you live with lack?

 

What were those gifts, given there, that stayed with you since then?

What have you used, what have you left, what have you to befriend?

What was it in your character, your nature or your play

That pulled you to the centre or made you stay away?

 

Of course a child, must grow up soon and leave the family home

So did you find a place to be or take to the world and roam?

What were the challenges you met, what was the love you found?

Where was the world a swampy mess and where was solid ground?

 

What lessons still remain in you, what have you had to shed

That makes you who you are today, with all the life you’ve led?

What brought you to the crossroads, the place where you now stand

And by what name are they called, that place of sacred land?

 

Who stands there now to challenge you, what message have they brought,

About that which now could lie ahead, the calling that you’ve sought?

So take courage first, and take a breath and then pick up your pen

And craft a story for us now, the journey can begin…

 

Mary Alice Arthur

30 April 2011

 

It was awesome! I had a partner too and discovered so much more about her in the few minutes she shared her story that I had learned over the last half-year we’d known each other. Several of the participants spoke about the experience and others wrote about it in the chat…

“I loved listening and learning about my partner in this creative, fun way. You could learn about the person in a deeper way through this storytelling format.”

“We learned so much more than in a typical intro!”

I closed the activity with the thought that we are the authors of our stories… let’s be sure to write the ones we want.

 

What activities have you created over the years to amplify the experiential nature of the events you design?

What are some of the best experiences you’ve had as a facilitator, trainer, or participant? I’m guessing that you have your own treasure chest full of ideas, and just a few might have been buried for a while. Time to polish those gems and share them!

If you’re seeking to get more in touch with your story, or have a desire to start a new page (so to speak), let’s get together!