Category Archives: VCU Adult 610 Fall 2012

The importance of your space

I appreciated the additional reading this week for Block, Chapter 31 Caring about Place.  While chapter 17 of our text did lend a little to the topic of the setup of the room, this section definitely goes into greater detail.   My Director and I both have toyed with the set up of the room often, especially when it is a class that requires dialogue and interaction in order to be meaningful for the students.  At times however we do not have the choice and arrive to a room that has been set up by others, often in classroom style.  When the room is set up in this fashion, I tend to pace and was told once by someone that they appreciated that about my teaching style.  A habit that I feel at times is more due to nerves than anything else, I reflect now on the fact that it does also bring me closer to those in other areas of the room besides the front row.  I’m also curious about the possibilities that chairs on wheels and no tables could provide.  Perhaps something to consider the next time we experiment with room set up…


A connection?

As I read Nancy Dixon’s Perspectives on Dialogue, I had a sudden thought.  When consulting, you are very focused on perspectives, feelings and enlightenment.  You want to help them understand things from another perspective and see what may be going wrong based on your expertise.  You also want to ensure that when you leave, what you have left them with is something that they can continue.  So I wonder, should the consultant also consider the feedback meeting and any work after as a learning opportunity(s) for the client? Reflecting back, Block has given insight to the importance of being authentic in the relationship with the client.  Dixon too stresses the importance of being authentic, but with a slightly different emphasis.  “It is (…) necessary to speak authentically and fully about all which bears upon the subject of the dialogue” (the problem).  “To do less is to mislead others who are trying to learn, and to prevent oneself from learning as well.”  For the first time I think I truly see the connection between being a facilitator and an internal consultant in the organization in which I work. When you take on a consulting project, you are using your expertise to examine a process and it’s opportunities.  But you are also using your abilities as an instructor/facilitator to guide the individual or organization through the process of development for the change that they seek.  You are, in a sense, their partner in diagnoses and teacher in change (if they choose to move forward with it).  Dixon also provides further insight into the another aspect of the meetings with the client, again aligning with Block as well as Schien.  Dixon stresses the importance that listening can play in the dialogues with the client, something I am wrapping my head around as we prepare for our upcoming meeting on Wednesday.  I so quickly, as I’ve eluded before, try to fix what I perceive to be the problem.  But the role I am playing is not to fix really, it is to facilitate change.  “When individuals say more than they know they lose the ability to hear the perspectives of others, and others, hearing that person’s certainty, refrain from offering their conflicting thoughts, which might widen and enrich his or her perspective.”

A few tips to consider prior to the next meeting

As part of our consultation project, Shannon and I decided to survey each volunteer to get their feedback on the recruitment and onboarding processes for the department.   We’ve received a great response thus far and, as I reviewed a few the other day, I found myself excited that so many had wonderful ideas and very complimentary thoughts that were going to be a joy to share with the client. Sometimes the best ideas can absolutely come from within!  It also struck me that the “not so complimentary” comments were going to be part of the same conversation.  Perhaps I should be grateful that there will be more good than bad, but I can honestly say that I am not as excited to share these statements as they may strike a sensitive cord during our next meeting.   So as I consider the best methods for possibly sharing this information with him (shall I get Shannon to do it??:), I am reminded as I read Schein’s text of the importance in preparing myself for his reaction to what I share as well.   Explicit questioning for instance is an essential tool suggesting that you should paraphrase and ensure that you have understood their statement/reaction correctly.  This could be extremely helpful if the response is somewhat defensive.  Taking a moment to restate their words and how they are being perceived can, at times, help the person understand how their words may really seem as opposed to what they intended.  It can also help me ensure that I really understand what they are trying to share.  A mention of silence causes pause, as mentioned before, this is not a strong suit for me.  I so readily want to share my own thoughts and feelings, especially if I am responding to a defensive reaction, but I forget the importance of giving them enough time to explain theirselves as they should.  So as I gather my plan I reflect on a quote from Schien, “Just as the artist must study the characteristics of what she is going to draw or paint, the helper must study the clients, the situation, and her own responses to it in order to form as clear a picture as possible of the realities.”(p 98)

Successful step forward in the contracting meeting

The first meeting with the client actually went really well. Albeit that a consultant would assume that the client would receive help with open arms as opposed to with reservation, the reality is that this is not always the case. As Block states in the chapters reviewed as of late, there are several things that the client may be feeling as the consultant first steps into the picture. How will this make them look? Is it a sign of failure that I’m reaching out for help? And of course, let us not forget those that are receiving the help even though they have not asked for it. How would you feel if you we’re told by your superior that they were bringing in someone to review and critique your processes? But, as Block states, it can be all in how you say things and just how well you listen. Resistance was not something that I encountered (thankfully) but the real test will be perhaps when it comes to delivering the findings…

Beginning considerations for initial project meeting

As I read the text in regards to Block’s advice on preparing for your first meeting with the client, I had to pause on the part about the importance of using short statements. Reflecting back on my own experiences, I do find at times that it’s difficult for me to wait long enough for the client to be able to really tell me what’s on their mind. As a fixer I want to immediately launch into everything that I think I can do for them as well as anything additional that may help with their needs. So far I don’t think I’ve been to off-base, but I do wonder if I overwhelm? It also hit home a bit when I was reading some of the examples that he gave where the consultant was responding with an almost dissertation like statement. But then, further down you would see his corrected example, for instance “I would like for you to also attend the course on handling difficult conversations.”I have actually had these types of conversations before, but I cannot honestly say that my responses have ever been quite that short. In what I thought was my effort to help them understand, I may tend to over explain. I wonder if in fact I have ever lost any credibility by giving too much justification….So as I head into my initial meeting with the client next week, I will have to make sure that I have some very well thought out open ended questions as well as perhaps a pieceovertake for my mouth.

Readings reveal a name for my experience?

As I continued my reading today of Schein’s text on process consultation, I discovered that my experience the other day was actually considered to be a form of active inquiry (?). Perhaps I was in effect building the client’s trust and gaining their confidence without knowing it in order to get the full story. Which, as Schein suggests in chapter 3, is a good way to get the true story from the client. As mentioned in the blog written yesterday, if I had truly taken what the client said in the beginning at face value I would have provided assistance in a very ineffective direction. Perhaps it could be labeled as “exploratory diagnostic inquiry” as mentioned on page 46? He essentially seems to say that we look for feelings and reactions and continue to question until the full story has been provided….As I read somewhere, at the moment where exactly escapes me, “sometimes, no matter our wisdom, we must humble ourselves to what we don’t know or haven’t yet discovered.”

Beginning Blog for Adult 610

If you ask anyone that works for a hospital why they choose their profession, they will more than likely respond by saying “I like to help people”.    Although I am not there holding a heart in my hands or administering medications,  I can say that what I do for the hospital is still because I like to help people.  What I attempt to do is to help and empower those employees that can do those things for you.  So I honestly smiled a little when I saw part of the title of Schein’s book for Adult 610 “Building the Helping Relationship”.  That is what I do.

As I sat in my Director’s office the other day, I found myself thinking back to the Monday’s discussion of possible reactions of a client being helped.  A beginning conversation that I had just had with an internal client for a project had started out with a very “rose colored glasses” kind of perception of her department.  Every question was met with a “we really don’t have a problem with that” or “we all get along great”.  So as the conversation continued I began to question why I was even pulled in at all.  Then on one question there was “well…there is this one thing.”

During a second conversation a few days later,  the Director had began to open up about issues within the department and (I think) the reason that I was asked to help in the first place.  Why did it have to take two conversations before she felt like she could even begin to tell me what was truly going on?  Did she not trust that what I could provide would meet her or their needs?  At the conclusion of conversation number two,  I couldn’t help but walk over to my Director for some advice on whether or not to continue to dig deeper or to just relent and stick with the topic suggested.

What did begin to make sense more than ever was Schien’s belief that there should be an emphasis on the process, “how things are done is as important or more important than what is done.”  If I had gone in to do education on the proposed topic from the beginning, I would have been way off base.  Based on the conversations that I had had up to this point, my recommendation was to go in a whole different direction.  So why did she paint such a rosy picture as opposed to giving me the full story from the beginning?

I could only guess that it also aligns with Schein’s mention of the initial status imbalance in the helping relationship.  I had been asked to come in and do some consulting and education for the staff based on some issues within the department.  The manager in turn wasn’t straightforward at first because she may have felt like she was admitting a failure?  Did she possibly withhold some of the information in the beginning because she didn’t want to draw attention to what she felt like she should have been able to “fix” or “control”, in essence admitting to what she believed was her own personal weakness as a manager?

I can’t wait to see what is uncovered during the actual discussion with the employees….