Involve me and I understand…

Consulting Skills – Post 3


Tell me and I forget. Show me and I understand.
Involve me and I remember.

– Lao Tse

There’s another saying, I think, that goes something like, ‘if you want to learn something, try to teach it to someone else.’ Well, it feels like I’ve had a glimpse through that window in preparing for and presenting the chapters on the contracting meeting from Block. I had read the chapters and Tim and I talked about different possible strategies for presenting the info to the class. Finally, we decided that since each project team would be having a real live contracting meeting very soon, it could be helpful to do a practice meeting during our presentation with hypothetical scenarios given for client and consultant.

When we met over the weekend to further prepare things we did a practice run between us with one scenario. Wow! I was taking the role of the consultant and it really struck me that I hardly had an idea of the steps Block had laid out so very clearly, even though I had read the chapter and reviewed it several times. I did remember some steps and really tried to work in a collaborative way in the practice session. However, I was scrambling and searching for words and phrases to put into speech. And, I wasn’t really conscious of the discrete steps or their order. During the practice session, I went to my notes and even opened the book for reference and guidance. We had developed an outline of the steps, but what I needed at the time was some actual phrases I could use to articulate the various steps. I suppose that as I have more experience with a contracting meeting, I would become familiar with the steps and more easily be able to find the words and phrases that are comfortable to me.

This practice session we had really helped me gain insight into the process and also gave me incentive to go back and review the chapter further. And then there was the experience of facilitating the class’s learning of the topic. We could not really anticipate everything that happened and there were some things that didn’t quite fit in the sequence as we planned. It was a bit like riding a bicycle for the first time or maybe making bread or following a new recipe. You read all about it (or in the case of a bicycle, probably watch others and listen to what mom, dad, or older brother or sister say about their experience) and prepare (get all your ingredients ready) and then you push off the bike or start the recipe and be ready to adapt as you go along.

I remember making bread for the first time. I had watch friends make it – mix the ingredients, knead it, let it rise, knock it down, form it, put it into a bread pan, let it rise again, and then put it in a hot oven. Once I stood right next to a friend who was a baker and watched her quite intently. I had also read about it. And then I tried to make it on my own. I didn’t have the benefit of having an experienced baker right beside me when I actually baked my first loaf. I had decided to just try it. It was another kind of experience. All of my reading, or watching others was theory, in a sense; but I needed my own experience in order to really say that I knew something about how to bake bread.

So it was for presenting the chapter on the contracting meeting. We studied, prepared, and then we were in action and had to be ready to adjust and adapt. It was helpful to have Dr. Carter present, because neither of us really had first-hand experience of using Block’s approach to a process consulting contracting meeting. I’m sure it would be different after our first meeting (I think the whole class could then teach the session) and still further different if we presented/facilitated this material after several years of process consulting experience…

So the expression, “involve me and I understand” has some more background now for me.  I think this is how I learn best – being involved, engaged, and then, too, reflecting on the experience… (Is that what these blogs are for…???)

1 Response to “Involve me and I understand…”

  1. 1 michelle 6 October 2009 at 9:44 pm

    Wow! What a great quote. Your blog this week was wonderful to read. We can never anticipate what will happen, but practice will give us more tools in our toolbox and leave us better prepared. It reminds me of our students and the frustration they experience as they enter new situations for the first time. I watch other faculty get angry and frustrated when students don’t meet their expectations on the first attempt of a new skill. How can we have such high expectations until we allow them to practice, fail, struggle and try again. We bombard them with information and then act surprised when they don’t remember everything said, without allowing them any time to digest and use the information. My goodness, I do not remember what I had for lunch yesterday.
    Hear it, see it, do it and do it again.

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