Posts Tagged 'trust'

Reflection, Dialog, and Supportive Environment Key to Adult and Organizational Learning

A digital story reflecting on my experience of the VCU MEd Adult Learning Program 

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Philosophy of Practice – Consulting

Consulting Skills – Philosophy of Practice

What can I say about my philosophy of practice for consulting? Hmmm… There is really so much I think that I’ve learned about consulting this semester with the study of Block and Schein, class discussion, and our projects themselves. But what can I say about the values and assumptions I now hold about consulting?

One of the first and perhaps simplest things is that a consultant-client relationship is a helping relationship. I may have expert knowledge, but in all likelihood I do not know the client’s system and culture to fully asses the situation. I will need the insight and help of the client to define the  problem and help me discover the situation and collect the data.  I’m also not so interested, for the most part, in becoming just an extra pair of hands to get something done for someone else that they didn’t want to do. Really being of help is not such an easy thing to do. So much of my own biases, beliefs, and assumptions can sneak into a situation unsuspectingly and skew the data, or analysis, or maybe the recommendation.

collaboration_babesIn this regard, another thing that strikes me is that it is the client who owns the problem and the solution. And as a result of this, I have to figure out a way to help work with them so the problem gets solved, permanently, if possible. That will come if the client is committed to the solution. And, the client will be committed if they are involved in the whole consultation process on a collaborative basis (50/50,  client/consultant) as much as possible, from first defining the problem, to planning and doing data collection, to analyzing the data and making recommendations for implementation.

And this way of working will take some skills or approaches that are not  so much in practice or rather not ones we have an opportunity to readily learn in all of the learnin’ we’ve done. The main things I’m thinking of are inquiry and dialogue. Inquiry is simple in concept – just listen actively and maybe give a few prompts, or ask some exploratory questions. And then there’s confrontive inquiry. That’s a bit more risky, but I can see the value in it. I think the key to this is that the confronting is through asking a question to encourage the client to think in an alternate way about the subject at hand. And then there’s dialogue, really having an open conversation where i suspend, for a while, my judgments and biases, and check to see how I’m reacting to what the speaker is saying..

What else?

Helping, collaborative, authentic, curious, inquiring, in dialogue, build trust, feedback when asked or open, maintaining respect, accessing my ignorance, what does the client want? What do I as a consultant want from the client? if I don’t ask, it probably won’t happen just by chance…

understand resistance – it’s mostly just control or vulnerability issues…, confront it and be silent, yes, be silent…

look at how the problem is being managed…

how’s this for an organized, systematic philosophy? And refer to Block, and Schein whenever needed. otherwise, ask somebody – share the problem…

don’t worry, you’re going to make mistakes, that’s part of being flawless, isn’t it? or is the flawless piece that i fess up to my mistakes with the client and see what to do next? be authentic… be authentic… and be authentic…

Engage, get everybody in the room for dialogue, otherwise, it’s less likely to really happen.

Leadership and culture

Org Learning – Post 4

What whirlwind the past 2 weeks! After a long, slow decline my dad passed on, two weeks ago to the day. I can’t say that I’ve fully digested it. I know it will take time to adjust. I will miss him.

It’s interesting that one of the companies that Schein has selected in his text on org culture and leadership is DEC. My dad was quite an advocate of their computer systems and equipment and used them from early in their advent. Even today, the business he was involved in continues to use a DEC computers as a basis for their system. They also use PCs now for quite a few years, but the DEC has been an extremely reliable and stable computing platform for them. I have frequently heard praises of the quality and reliability  of their machinery and systems for years. I remember hearing about Ken Olsen and his visionary leadership, however, not so much about the DEC culture, except how they were innovators, and often on the leading edge for many years. My dad never talked about why or how they lost their leading edge. I guess we’ll uncover some of the factors in Schein’s exploration of their culture.

It’s fascinating to consider the roots of culture in an organization, even how culture is formed in the experimental T groups and how it is related to the early actions, attitudes and behavior of leaders. How so much of culture is tacit knowledge based on assumptions that are unrecognized and therefore, often unquestioned. When I think of organizations or even societies that I’ve been a part of or of which I’ve had a glimpse, I often recognized outer aspects and artifacts and even espoused values and norms. However, the underlying assumptions were not always clear to me. I can also see how culture is related to underlying assumptions.

At one time I worked in an organization where the leader was often very distrustful and there was an overarching fear that permeated the workplace and extended to other parts of the organization. I can see this evolved due to the behavior of the leader and underlying assumptions that he/she had that the workers could only be trusted so much, but they were more likely to ‘not understand due to their ignorance’ or something like that. The result was that there was very little trust which also impacted motivation, creativity, etc.

There were times when that when this leader trusted someone, it really impacted their ability to work in a positive way. The workers were then very empowered, enthused, creative, etc. I think the leader thought that he/she was thinking of doing the best for the organization. However, I don’t think he/she was aware of how their behavior and examples affected and influenced the entire organization. After some years, the leadership and structure of the organization changed and the culture also changed dramatically to be more open, inclusive and collaborative.

Thinking of time and space, a friend from New Zealand shared a perspective on time he developed from getting to know people from the Maoris, a Polynesian culture that pre-dates European culture in New Zealand by 500-1000 years or so. The Maoris had two notions of time – Polynesian time and European time. Polynesian time, my friend would say, was the time it took for the sun to set, a flower to bloom, to be with a child as it played. Whereas European time was considered the time to catch a train, to finish a project, to be somewhere or another… It’s not that one view of time is wrong or right, but that having a perspective of both views could really help to add quality to life…

Consider the unwitting…

Consulting Skills – Post 2

One of the things that strikes me from this week’s reading on consulting is how important is is to really get clear on who the client is and what the issue/problem is. Sometimes it seems clear, but sometimes I can see it’s not so and if you don’t take time to get clear on who the client is, then it can lead to confusion down the road.

In our assignment for “Who is the client?” I really began to see how important it is to keep in consideration unwitting clients as well as ultimate clients. Particularly, it seems unwitting clients may be easy to overlook. One of the challenges I can see as an internal consultant is that a client may come and ask for help in working with an unwitting client. If there is no intention to involve the ‘unwitting client’, then it could turn into a political situation. In this regard, it would be a subtle challenge for the consultant to keep a neutral and not take sides. One of the most challenging things is to help the client see their contribution to the issue/problem. There often seems to be a tendency to look outside for cause and put blame elsewhere.

I can see that it’s really important to establish a equilibrium in the relationship and build the trust. I have found that only after the sense  of equilibrium and trust have evolved, is it possible to confront a situation directly. It seems important that when confronting this is done in a respectful way.

Well, I keep coming up to where things sound good in theory, but putting them into practice always seem to be another matter… However, I do think it helps to pursue clarity about what sound theory is and then it’s possible to reflect on the difference between theory and practice…

There’s an expression from a person of wisdom that comes to mind, “Right understanding precedes right action.” As such, then right understanding would have to be in accord with the personal values and vision or personal philosophy that one chooses to adopt as a guiding light.

learning within learning…

decisions, decisions…

It’s fascinating to really build and work in a team while at the same time actually study the many factors that impact a team and the and the varied aspects, elements and perspectives involved. For instance, to study the different kinds of decision making, I can see, yes, there are perhaps 3 main kind – democratic, consultative and consensus. And we can discuss these in class to understand the theory and share our past experiences. …It’s helpful to look back in my our experience and also hear what others experienced. And then, our team is faced with making decisions. hmmm… and that’s interesting to observe. And it’s interesting to observe myself – how i respond the process…

I’ve had experiences where there is a more consultative or even democratic decision making process and I’ve felt that afterward there was something that was missing in the quality of the decision as well as acceptance. Sometimes it is a more expedient process for a leader to make a decision, for sure; but in situations where a high level of commitment is needed to realize the outcome, my experience is that it’s worth the extra time needed to bring everyone on the same page. The leader of one facilitator workshop I went to said, “Go slow to go fast.”   Something like what Dr Carter said today – was it, “don’t just stand there, do nothing” ??

there is really so much learning going on for me in this process. all the paradoxes of belonging, engaging and speaking – some more, some less. and it seems that some of these are going on for others in the our group. i wonder when the day will come that i might consider myself learned? ha, ha! the dance of human development. i guess if i were learned, things might be boring!! it’s just that sometimes the learning process can be a bit painful – when I see all the stuff where i’m still out of harmony with. how to find the balance of of being able to maintain some degree of harmony amidst the disharmony that still swirls within and without???

to disclose or not disclose, to speak or not to speak

For me, I also think it also involves trust in the group and being curious about what everyone has to say. The paradoxes of group life are also fascinating. Not only is this about group life, but it is clear that these paradoxes also affect the individual. Do I lose my identity if I join a group? Or will my identity become more individuated as I accept the identity of the group. Disclosure seems to be such an important issue. We could see in the video examples of ‘group think’ and the Abiline paradox, that in both kinds of situations members of the groups did not speak up. In a group think situation, there is really a fear to speak up. I’ve been in situations like this. It’s just not OK for the group culture to speak against the leadership or the culture, etc. And as a result, the quality of decisions is less and at times i’ve seen significant mistakes or errors. Fortunately, nothing so tragic as a blown ‘o’ ring on a space shuttle launch

So, there is a real risk to disclose – a risk to feel rejected by the team or group and thus perhaps feel dejected or unappreciated. But then, there is the other side of the risk which is probably not to far from rejection/dejection, except that it doesn’t come from the group, but rather, from ourselves. If i don’t speak out, I will often wish that I had and could feel dejected that I didn’t have the courage. An of courage… Berg and Smith say, “to be courageous, one must act in fullness of doubt an uncertainty, affirming that which seems not affirmable.” …not really trying to be courageous, but rather in the midst of uncertainty, doubt and confusion, acting to one’s fullest capacity

paradoxes are a deep pool which we seem to spend a lot of time bathing in…