Making Contact Easier

As a 14 year old growing up in Southeast Texas, I never imaged that as an adult, I would be invited to businesses and communities around the world to help them be more effective, find solutions and build stronger relationships. But that is exactly what has happened and still happens today. I’ve worked in over 20 countries throughout Asia, Europe and the Americas. I’ve facilitated workshops on a remote island in Japan, led T-Groups in China and India, and facilitated leadership conversations at the most senior levels of American industry. In all of these cases, one need is clear: the need for humans to overcome the built-in challenges of human to human communication.

Every interaction we have with others offers a wealth of possibilities: deep connection leading to emotional fulfillment; generative conversation sparking new ideas; and creation of a positive relationship foundation on which can be built stronger communities. And, every interaction we have with others offers a vast minefield where the communication and relationship possibilities are lost: misunderstandings allowed to fester; lack of follow-up on words from another; misinterpreted behaviors and attitudes that drive individuals apart; and avoidance of one-on-one thought intimacy. Human to human connection can be challenging for some, and easier for others.

As a professional facilitator, I’m focused on making human to human contact easier for everyone. I can’t take away the anxiety, struggle and fear of sharing thoughts, truly listening to the points of view of others and suspending my own judgments to stay open to possibilities. There’s a lot of unknown there for everyone. But I can help everyone in the conversation find their unique voice and have it heard. I can be a mirror showing the group the best of it’s interactions and building on those. I can find the common thread of purpose running through a diverse group. I strive to make contact easier so we can all benefit from the endless possibilities that spark from cooperative communication between people.

Welcome to Rumble

Every accomplishment and lesson, both personal and professional, I’ve experienced in my life has been proceeded by a time of doubt, frustration, exhilaration and exasperation where I have had to climb a mountain to overcome my self-imposed limiting beliefs. I see this same phenomena in my friends, colleagues and clients with whom I have the privilege of sharing deep professional and personal relationships. We talk about these rough spots and try to learn from them as we moving towards some predefined goal. I’ve come to find talking about my rough spots helps me overcome them. I liked talking about these rough spots so much, I decided to give them a name. I started calling these my Rumble moments - a time I’m facing a choice to do something that will move me from where I am to closer to where I want to go, with only myself in the way.

I’m going to share how my point of view on these rumbles of my life shape my work as a professional facilitator, leadership coach and as a friend, family member, partner and dog owner. For the past 20 years, I’ve focused on making choices to build my own capacity to pursue the exact work I wanted to do. I dreamed of leading workshops on human development and potential internationally - and I’ve done it. I hoped to be a member in and leader in a world-wide community of practitioners committed to pursuing the art and science of group process facilitation - and I’m a part of it. I’ve aspired to serve as an evangelist for living every day as the opportunity it is to connect human to human in service of humanity - and I’m doing it right now. Whether I’m leading an innovative leadership development program at a major US based manufacturer (I am) or leading a one day introduction to drum circle facilitation workshop in Seattle (which I am in June), I’m facilitating every group and every conversation with the willingness to encounter, share and learn from all our rumble moments.

Contact

It’s about creating contact. Ideas rubbing together, friction, a spark, igniting a flame, erupting into an inferno – a co-created, diversely shaped idea. Innovation. Progress on the path to success. For this contact to happen, humans must engage in behaviors, choose attitudes and believe in mindsets that, I believe, are the hardest for humans to sustain: connection with another person; true listening; genuine collaboration and staying in the here and now of the discussion. Not deflecting, directing or rejecting but being open, curious and connected to themselves and the others in the group.

As a group process facilitator, I have worked with thousands of individuals and groups striving to accomplish a goal, learn a new skill or identify new strategies and opportunities. Time and time again, I see knowledgeable professionals meet in groups, but never become more than the sum of their parts. They use collaboration tools, they follow process flows, they engage in brainstorming sessions but at the end of the day, the sought-after inferno of momentum is more like smoldering disillusionment.

Why? Because working with other humans to accomplish innovative breakthroughs is difficult. It requires us to work at two levels: the content of the task and the peculiarities of the humans involved.

First off, we discuss and engage each other on the level of our subject matter expertise, experience and interest in the topic at hand (engineering, finances, marketing, etc.). We are there to use our expertise to support the group’s goals. That level is complicated, and often gets most of the attention. It’s the work we love to do and why we are together in the first place. It’s where our passion lies and where we believe we can contribute the most.

The second level is the human being inside each of us. We are a group of flawed, insecure, overconfident, partially aware and overly stressed individuals trying to impress, survive, and find joy in the work we are doing. This human level, while given the least attention, is often where the biggest challenges lie in getting the group to become more than the sum of its parts. We get in our own way and in the process, we miss connecting at the human level. Instead of listening to the other and allow ideas to boil like gumbo, we dominate with our single ingredient soup. Instead of participating in a generative discussion building upon the best of each of us, we organize around the loudest voice and leave out the rest. Instead of feeling inspired by our human collaborators, we become resentful of the unfulfilling process.

It is this challenge, the challenge of sustained, present, curious and open human to human contact necessary for truly reaching our potential, where an effective group process facilitator can increase your chances of a collaborative success.

Humans present in the here and now of a moment have access to critical information that is only available in that very moment: their own thoughts, feelings and wants. Human contact in the here and now offers a place to learn, grow, adapt and deepen connection. It is in this sustained connection where hidden potential lies and where unknown possibilities are overshadowed by doubt, bias, story and fear. Those willing to step into the unknown and face ambiguity with courage have access to their potential. Those willing to offer true curiosity, empathy and sincerity can bring out the potential in others. Those willing to find the resilience to make those choices again and again are most likely to lead into the future.