Archive for the ‘Book Review’ category

Book Review – From Contempt To Curiosity

April 6, 2014

Caitlin Walker has written a brilliant book recounting her own 15 year journey with Clean Language as applied to groups – a compilation of stories illustrating the models that she developed along the way which she now groups together and calls Systemic Modelling. This work builds on the work of others as well – the originator of Clean Language, David Grove, and his original modellers, Penny Tompkins and James Lawley, with whom Caitlin trained and learned. She acknowledges these and many others who assisted her in her consulting practice, Training Attention, along the way. There is a nifty appendix of the major influencing works at the back. (more…)

Book Dreams

April 10, 2013

2013-04-10 20.23.16Many years ago, I had a fantastically colorful dream. In this dream I had a space of my own that was both a bedroom and a library. Bookshelves stretched into every corner and nook of the room. The room contained all kinds of reading spaces and was rich both in its feeling of safety and its practical conveniences, such as microwave, refrigerator, and bed. The colors of the book bindings  matched even more spectacularly the quilts my Mom had made and all the colorful decorations in the room. I could have stayed in that room reading for days or weeks – without an unmet need – or so the dream went.

In 2011, at my second Amplify Your Effectiveness (AYE) Conference, my Korean agilist friend, June Kim, introduced me to Clean Language coaching. Clean Language questions allow one to develop a vision or solve a problem very quickly using metaphors. I was trying to find ways to accelerate my learning.  I allowed June to try a few clean questions on me, and within 5 minutes, in answer to one of his questions, I had a building with a grand library that had cropped up in my path of learning.  Since my kids were now more grown, and I had time, I began constructing my library and started reading voraciously.

So what is the connection between the library dream, the books, AYE and the present work I am doing?   The books provide me intellectual and motivational fuel for my journey.  The conferences and retreats are the place I make connections to new ideas and new people.  In my present work, I am passing along what people are ready to hear about.

I’ve compiled a list of SOME of the books that have MOST influenced me in the past year or so as it relates to the modality of coaching and consulting. I don’t include any Agile, Facilitation, or Lean books, though those  are important to me too.

Each of the following books has contributed to my understanding of the things I need most for coaching work and am most passionate about:
how listening affects thinking;
how mindset contributes to ability to learn, change, experiment;
how making direct and congruent contact with one another is the key  to successful teams, organizations, and products
My new career journey as coach may have started with a dream, AYE, June’s interview, and many amazing books. The  colorful reading den is the symbol of my refueling, so I can go out and reach  people with my heart, my learning, and my listening again and again.
What do you do, as a coach, to refuel for your next gig or goal?
 

The Fifth Discipline

June 26, 2012

The Fifth Discipline –  a comparison to 3 other books that address improving teamwork and communication

Here’s a compare/contrast of the following books:‘The Fifth Discipline’, ‘Discussing the Undiscussable’, ‘Creating Time’, ‘More Time to Think’. I align and compare the last three books/frameworks across four dimensions taken from ‘The Fifth Discipline’. The four dimensions are –

  • Personal Mastery
  • Team Learning,
  • Mental Models
  • Shared Vision

The Fifth Discipline contains the most comprehensive view of what it takes for an organization to become a learning organization. The other books provide detailed frameworks for improved communication in different and perhaps complementary ways. I am in search of methods that address organizational and team dysfunctions and promote learning. I seek to bring this knowledge to bear in my future work.  The dysfunctions described in the Fifth Discipline are:

  • I Am My Position – and I have little responsibility for overall results
  • The Enemy is Out There – and there is not much I can do about it [cousin to ‘I am my Position’]
  • Proactiveness – it provides an illusion of solving the ‘reactivness’ problem prevalent in orgs.
  • Fixation on Events – these are a distraction from seeing long term patterns of change
  • Parable of the Boiled Frog – Maladaptation to gradually building threats, we don’t see them.
  • Delusion of Learning – We learn best by experience, but never experience the consequences of our decisions (due to time lag effect of those decisions)
  • Myth of Management Team – most managers find ‘collective inquiry’ threatening. When was the last time someone was promoted or rewarded for raising difficult questions about policies rathan than solving urgent problems.

(more…)

I Listen, You Think and Resolve

April 8, 2012

Building on my last post about the power of being present’ in conversation, I am setting a new goal: to become a really good listener. This will take me a bit out of my comfort zone.  Heck, it would take most people far away from their analytical, interactive, interrupting conversational styles. As described by Nancy Kline in her book, ‘More Time to Think’, attentive listening allows the ‘listenee’ the thinking room to talk through and solve dilemmas and mental blocks largely independently.

Most people don’t give the act of listening much notice. I didn’t until I started reading about Clean Language questions developed by David Grove. The Clean Language questions made me realize how much of ‘ourselves’, our values, our opinions and solutions we inject into every conversation. The power of not injecting our responses and substituting instead Clean Questions along with selected words used by the person you are listening to – is magical. It allows the other person to blossom and open up in ways they couldn’t have imagined.

The book More Time to Think takes a slightly different angle suggesting that most people are not doing their best thinking – because they are not given the space, encouragement or safety to finish talking through what they are thinking. By introducing Listening Environment and Listening Sessions, special guiding questions and the use of several other techniques–most requiring the listener to keep his/her mouth closed, but not allowing them to lose attentive focus– the thinking person will find and fix their own problems and/or enable new creative solutions to form.

As with Clean Language – the coach (listener) is not viewed as indispensable to the coachee (thinker)– because the coachee (thinker) finds his/her own solution. This is great stuff!  Simple, but powerful. Indeed, some of this may simply be used in natural conversation, once you have mastered the general techniques.

How do you give your loved ones, and your co-workers sustained attention when they speak to you? Please feel free to add your comments.

And if you would like additional information on Clean Language, please visit Judy Rees’ new site: www.learncleanlanguage.com. It is free with registration and teaches much of what is in her book through short video clips and other material.

Being Present: Extending Your Capacity for More Effective Communication

March 6, 2012

I once had a doctor that amazed me every time I visited her. When she entered the room, she was fully present and ready for me. She would welcome me warmly and ask about my family life. This opened up a conversational space between us that allowed a bond of trust and closeness that made me feel comfortable. In doing so, she was thinking of my person, physical and social in an integrated fashion.

Contrast this with a typical doctor’s office visit now in which the doctor enters the room, shakes your hand and says: What symptoms are you having today? or What can I do for you today? Directed questions right off the bat make me feel a little uneasy and do not allow for that feeling of mutual respect. The second doctor chose a question to elicit just the response needed to identify the supposed one problem that I came in for.

What do you prefer, an open ended question that is inviting to the larger picture or a closed-ended question that demands a specific answer? Think about the knowledge work you do or the issues you need to resolve with people: do you stop first to reflect on the larger picture of the work you are doing and the person you are interacting with before delving deeper?

No matter which knowledge industry you are in, creating interactions that are as deep, broad and open as they can possibly be is not easy. It is my belief that individual developmental coaching can help people to change their approaches to problem solving and thereby improve results in their own careers and in those they serve.  Let me tell you another short story – again in the medical field.

Recently, I had asymptomatic diagnosis of a 3.5 cm gallstone after an ultrasound. Two doctors, a general practitioner and a gastrointestinal specialist told me in no uncertain terms that I must go to the surgeon and have my gallbladder removed.  When I went to the surgeon, he told me that he would not touch me with a knife as I had no symptoms.  He was thinking about the bigger picture, where as the two others were not.

Think about how easy it is to put your trust in a specialist in a field you are not familiar with. Do you instinctively trust their opinion, diagnosis, problem-solutioning approach?  How would you know that they are considering the full picture? What assumptions do you think they are holding tight? And how can you stay in a conversation to probe their assumptions when all non verbal queues indicate they have to move on to their next patient? From the point of view of being a patient (or being a member of a software team being assessed on your performance), how do you ‘hold presence’ to ensure your views, issues, and questions are heard?

This week I have been reading Presence-Based Coaching: Cultivating Self-Generative Leaders Through Mind, Body, and Heart. If you want to cultivate a more effective mode of communicating, you can benefit from the practices of ‘being present’ as described in this book.  An excellent coach will help you to cultivate the skill of ‘being present’ when you engage with your client and teams.

I wondered as I read this book whether the wonderful doctor who habitually invited me into a conversation about the larger ‘picture of me’ had had a good coach to help her relate to her patients. I also wondered whether she would have taken the time to make a better evaluation of my gallstone issue before sending me off to the surgeon.  Most knowledge workers, who have vast quantities of information and expedient seemingly viable solutions close at hand, would benefit from slowing down, testing their assumptions, asking open ended questions and establishing trust before attempting to solve the problems ahead of them.

As usual, I welcome your thoughts and stories!