Today I co-facilitated an industry lunch for the Calgary Change Management Think Tank using a unique work method called Anecdote Circles.
What are Anecdote Circles?
Anecdote circles are a process and a work method that can be used for a wide range of purposes. It can be used to gather data about what’s really going on in your business, solve sensitive organizational problems, for lessons learned, or as a process for team building. Anecdote circles are NOT about giving opinions, debating, judging or dialoguing. They are about story telling and story listening. WARNING for extroverts – there will be silence. I self identify with this group and reminded myself and the participants to relish the silence. To let it flow, as if it too is a part of the conversation. And to control one’s urge to jump in and fill the open space.
The questions used for our forum were meant to be simple and easy for participants to identify with. The luncheon was more about experiencing this work method. Our dichotomous questions demonstrated that with introspection one can draw upon one’s own life experiences for learning in another area. In this case, we used past vacation experiences to learn about how we handle change. This in turn influences our own change management methods when we are working with others who are also experiencing change they did not initiate.
What’s the Result?
The resulting stories were emotionally powerful and moving. Feedback varied from “the silence was uncomfortable”, ” to “it was peaceful, I didn’t feel rushed, and I felt really listened to” and “I felt like I really got to know these people in a meaningful way in under an hour”.
One courageous gentleman shared that he found if challenging to reflect and learn from his own actions in near time. That it took some time to build the self-awareness and uncover the lessons from a past event. His question was “How do I speed this up?”
“The most empowering skill is the ability to look inside and gain awareness of the origins of your reactions.”
– Learning in Relationships, Ronald Short
Resources to Building Self Awareness Faster
There are many methods to building self-awareness and like any new skill it takes practise. The method I use in my coaching practise is called Moments of Awareness (MoA) by Peter Senge. Here’s an example of this tool.
I used this exercise when I was trying to create my own marketing plan; something clearly out of my comfort zone. I had been talking about it for weeks but dodging the real work of putting something on paper. Pressure was building and I had to find a way through the resistance. Then I “remembered my Ma” and asked myself:
What is happening? “I’m procrastinating.”
What are you doing? “Well, I’m talking about my marketing plan, I’m asking people I run into to review it and give me feedback and I really have nothing to show them. I’m working on everything but; my house has never been cleaner and the cleaning lady arrives tomorrow.”
What are you feeling? “I’m scared. I’m worried.”What are you thinking? “I’m realizing I’ve never done this before. What if I can’t get it right? Ahhhh I now see how perfectionism and fear of failure are holding me back.”
“I don’t want to have this hanging over my head much longer; it’s occupying a lot of unproductive, verging on obsessive, mental capacity. I don’t want to look like a fool and not have anything to show next time I meet the people who’ve volunteered to help me. I don’t want to clean my house or file papers in the office; I want to get on with my new business venture. I want to focus my energy and create a draft marketing plan that I can share with a confidant for first review.”
What am I doing right now to prevent myself from getting what I want? “I’m following every distraction put in front of me or that I can create instead of focusing on what I’m saying is important. I need to give myself permission to create a less than perfect product on the first go round.” “I choose to make time in my calendar every day to work on the marketing plan, one section at a time, and to ask for help if I get stuck.”
Deep breath, move on.
What happened next was a physical and mental sense of relief. I chose one small manageable task. It was like the dam broke and I could get on with taking the first small steps that were going to lead me to conquering this mountain. I now know that if I come to that wall again, I will repeat this exercise.
Another method is Short’s Inside-Out Inquiry for sharpening your “observer”. He contends the secret to learning is to be as aware as possible of what is now by using your elusive and invisible observer. For more information you can consult his book called Learning in Relationship: Foundation for Personal and Professional Success. Last warning. This book is not an easy read the first time round but it is short and has some good practical examples and exercises.
As always comments, stories, and other resources are welcome.
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