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Busy is good, yes?

In Appalachian Trail, Coaching, Epiphanies, Leave Your Comfort Zone, Uncategorized on May 7, 2017 at 9:52 pm

I’ve been busy — hiking, studying Civil War history, plotting grand strategy, serving as a judge for tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, envisioning my next quest, and planning for a nostalgic reunion with a few old Army buddies.

And along the way …

  • I’ve picked up a number of new executive coaching clients,
  • entered into a new partnership to train another cohort of future leaders,
  • celebrated a key birthday, qualifying to draw upon my military retirement pay, and
  • have worked on a remodeling project for my Mom in the old house I once lived in as a very young lad.

When you find yourself too busy to figure out which end is up or what direction is north, pause to take a breathe and pull out your values-based compass. Orient yourself by determining true north. Set a new azimuth and calculate how far you’ll travel on this path.

Then take that next step.

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Anatomy of a Successful Workshop

In Active Learning, Aha!, facilitation skills, How To, Mid-Atlantic Facilitators Network, Uncategorized on February 2, 2016 at 8:05 pm

When you think of the word anatomy what images, thoughts, or symbols come to mind?

Okay, now pull out a piece of paper or a sketch pad and ponder on this question. Brainstorm a bit. Work fast. And then when you think you’ve exhausted all possible ideas, pause for a moment and think of a few more connections to this word. To help get you started, please, consider these images.

... a visual kick start for your brainstorm

… a visual kick start for your brainstorm

Now imagine yourself swimming in symbolism — much like that frog before he/she met his/hers educationally-inspired demise.

Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a professional development workshop sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Facilitators Network (a.k.a., MAFN). This workshop was one of the very best I had ever attended since becoming a facilitator. But rather than just make this claim and assume that you’ll accept my opinion as fact, let me tell you why.

Imagine you’re in a lab-class: Anatomy & Physiology 301. Let’s examine the structure and internal workings of what makes for an outstanding workshop.

... cleverly designed handouts should facilitate your note taking and engage you without distracting you

… cleverly designed handouts should facilitate your note taking and engage you without distracting you from the speaker

Set the stage or prepare the operating room for use.

There’s usually time to settle into your learning space, greet a few of your colleagues, and perhaps introduce yourself to the workshop instructor/trainer. I highly recommend that you arrive a few minutes early to do just that. Gather up any handouts which are made available and review them so that you’ve a good grasp of what’s to be covered and in what order topics may be addressed.

When preparing a handout should you be the presenter, avoid designing a handout that’s jammed packed with text. Use “bullet lists” and leave enough white space for note taking and doodling. Bibliographies should list online references and are particularly helpful for those who want to “dive deep” and learn more.

Create a learning laboratory for hands-on, experiential engagement.

... learning occurs in a sequential and progressive fashion -- in steps: 1, 2, 3.

… learning occurs in a sequential and progressive fashion — in steps: 1, 2, 3.

It is not my intent to re-create the content or attempt to re-teach this workshop. Kudos to Rebecca Slocum who was the featured presenter at MAFN. The credit for the design and facilitative instruction at this event belongs to her. That said, look again at the photos above. Contemplate how our group learning evolved, step by step.

  • The workshop leader/instructor tells a story about being stuck in Iceland … This story doubles as a self-introduction and opens the door to being genuine and personable.
  • The instructor uses several decks of Visual Explorer Playing Cards … Having us draw one card face up (representing our approach to facilitation) and a 2nd card face down (the mystery card) … We are up on our feet and engaged early in the program.
  • We share our first card with our neighbors / table mates … This serves as a purposeful icebreaker with those who are in the room and learning with us.
  • The instructor shares more of her agenda/syllabus with us … Covering the THEORY that behind the PRACTICE of our experiential learning.
  • The 2nd card is flipped and now we are challenged to create meaning from this unknown image … We learn that symbolism works in several ways … In the example above, that flea or “bug” is something that trips me up while I’m a facilitator. It’s the “nit that must be picked” that detracts me or someone else in the group.
  • The instructor leads more discussion on WHY USE SYMBOLS, WHEN TO USE THEM, and HOW TO USE THEM … More group discussion follows.
  • We are asked to draw a 3rd card (face up) … This image is to explain how our practice as  facilitators or our professional behavior might evolve and change in the future … I aspire to take a bird’s eye view of future situations yet understand that I’m at the mercy of the winds.
  • A two-part case study follows … We are encouraged to take notes using a worksheet entitled: A Symbolic Framework … Our learning has been re-enforced.

Okay … I’m assuming that you’ve got the idea. Understanding the anatomy of a successful workshop helps guide us in the following ways:

  • Be welcoming and friendly … Tell a story that triggers everyone’s curiosity.
  • Engage your audience as soon as you can, early in the workshop, and before you dive into the “boring, academic” stuff.
  • Lay out the steps — 1, 2, 3 — and explain each step as you go so that folks don’t get lost while “dissecting their frog.”
  • Allow time for the participants to share their stories, feelings, and experiences.
  • Test or challenge the learners with some sort of direct application of what they’ve just learned. Think: case studies, completing a worksheet, …, creating an action plan, etc.

I hope this helps. Good luck!


PS: Think of a way to extend the learning or build a sense of community with your colleagues and potential clients. For example after the MAFN workshop described above, our members and guests gathered at a nearby restaurant for networking and a social. There were free appetizers and a cash bar. But there was also a structured activity called the NAME TAG ICEBREAKER which I’ve attempted to explain below in a doodle/sketch-note.

... a name tag can be used creatively to enable purposeful networking

… a name tag can be used creatively to enable purposeful networking

There are 3 types of people in the US today

In Alignment, Luck, Uncategorized on April 15, 2015 at 5:10 pm

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m borrowing a title from one of my past blog posts to see if I get any near as many visitors or readers as I did when I wrote There are 3 types of people in the world. So here goes …

Check out the link to Tax Day Freebies  below.

Check out the link to Tax Day Freebies below.

Today is Tax Day 2015. And, I figure that there are 3 types of people in the United States:

Type 1: Those who have already filed their tax returns with the IRS and have either received a refund or have settled up with paying “Uncle Sam” what he is owed. I do hope that your refund was large enough for you to treat yourself, perhaps enjoying a good meal out with family or friends. For those who owe money to Uncle Sam, read on.

Type 2: Those who are weighing the PROs and CONs of requesting an extension. To whom I say, “good luck.” Do consult a trusted tax advisor and from what others have told me, it’s a wise two-part strategy to a) ask for the extension, and b) pay what you can as early as you can so as to avoid additional penalties and to minimize interest-related fees.

… For anyone who’s looking to eat free or enjoy a discount on Tax Day meals, check out: How to Eat for Free on Tax Day.

Type 3: Those who wish that the US Congress will cut the budget for the IRS. This may be so that the IRS cannot chase down the average citizen who avoids, struggles, or refuses to pay their fair share in taxes. Others may say that we should keep IRS staffers busy enforcing the laws that govern corporate tax collection.

… Where do I stand? Into which category do I fit?

At one time or another, I’ve fallen into each type. This year the return was filed early and a small refund was sent and received. Luckily, not all of it has been spent. In other years, my wife and I have owed Uncle Sam and/or needed more time to account for our taxes. And as for Type 3 thinking. I’m all for funding the IRS just enough to do their jobs — and not a penny more!

Yesterday’s Prayer

In Uncategorized on April 5, 2014 at 1:27 pm

TGIF

Thank God it’s Friday
and for all other days too.
Thank Him for poets.

Poets Think

In Aha!, Cool Ideas, Epiphanies, Facilitating Genius, Uncategorized on April 2, 2014 at 11:31 am

I am a poet
and I like people who think.
Please think for yourself.

Think for yourself.

Think for yourself.

Oktoberfest 2013

In Uncategorized on October 4, 2013 at 3:15 pm
"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." -- Ben Franklin

“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”
— Ben Franklin

Authentic Decorations make for quite a welcome. Blue & White bunting covered three houses in Nord Ashland.

Authentic Decorations make for quite a welcome. Blue & White bunting covered three houses in Nord Ashland.

The Neighborhood Set-Up Crew must sample the Bier before the Crowd arrives. The Bier was definitely fit for consumption.

The Neighborhood Set-Up Crew must sample the Bier before the Crowd arrives. The Bier was definitely fit for consumption.

… All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Enough said. Prost!

D29 Area Governors’ Leadership & Team-Building Training

In leadership, teamwork, Toastmasters, Uncategorized on July 15, 2013 at 3:36 pm

D29 Area Governors' Leadership & Team-Building Training

Leadership, Team-Building, and Public Speaking — These were the topics covered by Distinguished Toastmasters Juliette Brown, Carolyn Bledsoe, and John Lesko at District 29’s Area Governor training on July 13, 2013 in Loundoun County, Virginia.

2011 in review

In Uncategorized on January 1, 2012 at 1:42 am

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.