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Practicing Connection in a Complex World
49 minutes | May 7, 2021
Warm Collaboration (S. 2, Ep. 3)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Ep3-WarmCollaboration.mp3 About this episode “A word of warning: collaboration can easily become a mechanistic allocation of effort according to roles…Warm collaboration is not cloned, not a formula. It is built on values of what matters in life and the high value placed on life giving and life supporting values. Care and love matter.” – “Finding a Way,” Nora Bateson & Mamphela Ramphele In this episode, we explore the concept of warm collaboration. In Nora Bateson and Mamphela Ramphele’s article “Finding a Way,” warm collaboration and warm data are important parts of an approach to environmental and social change centered in relationship. These concepts offer a way of seeing the world that draws on complexity, instead of seeking to simplify. They show us a way of thinking in which people are not numbers and a way of working together in which people are not roles. Jessica and Bob reflect on warm collaboration with each other and with Sherril Knezel and Brigitte Scott, their collaborators on the Connection Communities in Asset-based Community Recovery project. Sherrill, founder of Meaningful Marks, LLC, was the graphic recorder for the project, and Brigitte, national project leader for the Military Families Learning Network, helped develop the project. Connecting Communities brought together military family service providers, Cooperative Extension educators, and others to discuss their COVID-19 experiences within an the Asset-based Community Recovery Framework. The stories shared in those discussions were brought together in a resource communities, organizations, and community leaders can use to help prepare for and recover from future crises. Links “Warm data is information about the interrelationships that integrate elements of a complex system. It has found the qualitative dynamics and offers another dimension of understanding to what is learned through quantitative data (cold data).” https://batesoninstitute.org/warm-data/ Small Arcs of Larger Circles “Finding a Way,” https://norabateson.medium.com/finding-a-way-3582b2e0c6a3, by Nora Bateson and Mamphela Ramphele People Need People Working With Communities Connecting to Change the World Spaces for Creating Learning and Collaboration The quote, “be prepared to bump into wonder,” is from James Broughton’s poem “not dawdling” from the book “Little Sermons of the Big Joy: Poems” Transcript [music] Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together, to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. To start our conversation, here are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch. Bob Bertsch: Hi and welcome to the podcast. I’m Bob Bertsch with Jessica Beckendorf. We’re super excited today to talk about a loose concept called warm collaboration. This was a concept that I ran across reading the work of Nora Bateson. We’re going to talk more about where it comes from and what we think it is. It’s really great and exciting, Jessica to be in an exploratory space with something where we’re not exactly sure what we’re talking about, but we’re going to hopefully find out together today. Jessica Beckendorf: Yes, this is a topic I’m still learning about. It’s really exciting to get to discuss this with you and with our guests but also to continue exploring it. Bob: I think it would help us to understand it a little bit better to back up a little bit and talk about another concept from Nora Bateson, and that’s warm data. Nora Bateson, by the way, is a filmmaker, and writer, and educator. She leads the International Bateson Institute, which includes her work but also her father’s work and her grandfather’s work in the fields of really the interconnection of the fields of biology and cognition and art and anthropology and psychology and information technology, all of these things working together to study patterns in our lives and see the whole picture. I first came across Nora’s work in her book, Small Arcs of Larger Circles, which really is a beautiful reflection and study of systems and of complexity. Through that book and through her blog posts, I learned more about warm data. I’d like to go ahead and read a quote from a blog post by Nora Bateson about warm data to set the stage of what she thinks this is. Nora writes, “Warm data is information about the interrelationships that integrate elements of a complex system. It has found the qualitative dynamics and offers another dimension of understanding to what is learned through quantitative data or cold data.” I’ve heard Nora described the contrast between cold data sort of a scientific data that we think about and warm data this way. That cold data is when we pull something out of its context to measure it and study it. Warm data is when we’re studying something in its context with all of the interrelationships and connections present. That was a pretty powerful image to me because I imagine that, like as somebody who’s done academic research, like we’re always trying to isolate [chuckles] situations, it seems like, especially when we’re doing quantitative or more hard science “research”, not necessarily social science research, which might be a little bit different. That idea of trying to control the variables right and explain something means pulling it out of context. Really, what warm data is saying is like, “No. If you really want to explain something, you have to explain it in its context. That’s where it exists. That’s where it is part of the ecology.” Jessica: Another way Nora Bateson has described this is in an article that we’ll have linked in our show notes. It’s called Finding a Way where she talked about the difference between a cold version of the lifeboat stories. The lifeboat activity gives you some scenario to deal with. It’s that there are 50 people in a lifeboat that can only hold a few more people, but there’s 100 people in the water. This activity is meant to take you through a series of how you decide who else is going to be saved and who might die and what the criteria might be? Do we save the elderly? Do we save the young? Do we save the frail? Whatever those choices end up being, how will the people who are on the boats be fed? Like is cannibalism an option is one of the questions that comes up. What she says is that those are really cold questions and that a warmer version of the lifeboat story is, there’s still 50 people on the boat and a few available spots yet, but there’s still 100 people on the water, so you start out with those numbers. This time though, the people in the boat work together and share ideas and start to figure out a way to make it work to try to save everybody. Rather than arguing over what kind of criteria who might live and who might die, who are they going to leave stranded. What might happen is people might start linking hands. They might start taking turns where some people will get into the water while others get into the boat and making sure that they’re all staying linked. What that does is it recognizes whole human beings and doesn’t reduce them to the numbers or the categories they might fall in. Like earlier I said, there’s the, do we save the frail or the elderly? No, it’s recognizing people as whole human beings with all of their experiences and all of their history, their culture. That’s the kind of the warm version of the lifeboat story, and I love the contrast between the two. Bob: That’s really powerful. I feel like there’s certain elements that are emerging for me as we talk about warm data. There is this element of seeing– especially people but also other living beings and other elements of an ecology as whole, as not just isolated, but their interconnectedness to everything and everyone else, so seeing that whole picture. There’s that part of it. I also think that there’s– If we start thinking that way, why in scientific research do we isolate things and pull them out of their interconnectedness in order to study them? Well, one reason is that it simplifies things. We don’t have to see at all. That idea of being able to see the whole complexity of a situation, all of the connections, and all of the individual beings in that system is another thing. That I think leads to uncertainty. It’s difficult to go forward or figure out next steps and some of those things when you’re looking at that complex scenario. Simplifying things makes it more clear and more linear, and looking at the full complexity makes things more uncertain. As we’ve been thinking about this– Jessica: Also more real. Sorry. Bob: No, that’s a great point. Go ahead. Jessica: I was just going to say that the simplifying, isolating, I think it can be helpful in some contexts but people are complex and the issues that we deal with are complex. Partly because people are complex too, and added complexity when you’re dealing with people of different experiences, but yet we’re interconnected. We all have different ideas. When you can look at an issue with all of its complexity and recognize that the complexity and the beautiful uniqueness that people bring to complex issues, then it’s just makes it so much more real. [music] Bob: Jessica, I know that you’ve been involved in an experience that is related to this kind of work and the idea of warm data and warm collaboration. Can you talk about how those elements, the complexity, and the interconnectedness have come up in that experience? Jessica: That’s such a good question, and I hope I can answer it [chuckles] well, because I will say that, as I reflect on it, I think it’s complex. I’m not trying to be difficult here. I was attending these online sessions called people need people. There were some trained facilitators through their Bateson Institute. I am not one of them. I was an attendee. Long story, I happened to connect with somebody who was a trained facilitator and she invited me to attend these. They were wonderful. I couldn’t attend them all. It’s on hold right now also and I’m very sad about that because as I got into it, for me each session, even though they were held early in the morning on Saturday mornings when I like to be in bed, I didn’t want to miss any of the sessions. I didn’t want to miss any of them because I could feel that we were all building something together. I would say we were building understanding while we were building relationship, while we were connecting in a way that allowed us to learn from each other not just be in conversation and listen to each other, but to actually really learn from these sessions. It’s hard for me to describe because it’s something that I felt. It hasn’t produced maybe some tangible results yet in my life. Not that it needs to but I learned so much. I felt connected not only to the people in that meeting but I felt connected to, with the risk of sounding cheesy, I felt connected to the world through these conversations and through I would say collaboration because really we were building an understanding together. Bob: Well, this is a good place to talk about Warm Collaboration I think because you brought up collaboration and the people need people experience, and this emerges out of the idea of warm data, that as people we’re more than just our roles and things like that. Let me read another quote from Nora Bateson and Mamphela Ramphele from the Finding a Way blog post that we mentioned earlier. Here’s what they write, “A word of warning, collaboration can easily become a mechanistic allocation of effort according to roles. Warm collaboration is not cloned. It’s not a formula. It is built on values of what matters in life and the high value placed on life-giving and life-supporting values. Care and love matter.” I think most of us can relate to that idea of what we might call cold collaboration or just the way we have done collaboration in the past of being a mechanistic allocation of effort and what we’re looking at and trying to define and discover is something more and something different. Jessica: Yes. I see that happen all the time in my community development work, where there’s an issue and people want to come together to find a solution. They get together, they all get in the room. Maybe they’ve even done some work to try to bring as many people in as possible, but they get together in the room, and then maybe they do a little bit of dreaming up front where they’re like, “Wow, if everything went perfectly and we were able to succeed in this issue, what would the outcome look like for us?” Maybe they’re able to do a little bit of that. Then they proceed to assign tasks to all the people and they break, go and work on their task. They come back together and give updates on their task. It keeps cycling from there. One of the things I’ve seen happen over and over again, and I wonder if this is partly where burnout starts to happen, the cycle just realizing that right now, because this thing that we were so passionate about in the beginning ends up getting reduced to some tasks in a role that we play. People are not their roles. They’re more than that. I’m not saying that we should get together every time and do new sets of dreaming together, but we also are not leaving room for just relationship or not leaving room for warm collaboration for lack of [chuckles] a better term. We’re coming together and we’re all playing a quick role. We’re doing some tasks. I think that it’s reductionist. [music] Bob: We wanted to share a story of a collaboration that we were involved in. We worked with Sherrill Knezel who’s a graphic recorder, illustrator, and educator in Wisconsin. She uses her expertise in visual literacy and expression and graphic recording to help organizations tell the heart of their story through images and texts. She’s the founder of the company, Meaningful Marks LLC, a graphic recording firm. We also worked with Brigitte Scott, our colleague from the Military Families’ Learning Network. Brigitte now leads the project and has worked on program development and evaluation and research for the network and has a great interest and insight into qualitative research and community change. We worked with Brigitte and Sherrill on a project where we invited others to collaborate with us in helping professionals from around the country, in the US here and some around the world as well, military families, service providers, and extension educators. We all came together and used an asset-based community recovery framework to try and elicit some warm data and do some warm collaboration centered around our COVID-19 experience. We assembled what we learned into the Connecting Communities in Asset-based Community Recovery Resource, which features the themes that emerge from the warm data and the graphic recordings of the stories and insights that were captured by Sherrill. We’d like to share with you our conversation with Sherrill and Brigitte about that project and about our collaboration experience to help get more at this idea of warm data and warm collaboration. Thanks, Sherrill and Brigitte for joining us. It was so awesome to collaborate on the Connecting Communities Project with you all. I’m really curious what parts of the project really resonated with you. Sherrill, you got to be there for all three workshops and capture what was shared in the breakout groups. Were there particular things about the process itself that stuck out to you? Jessica: Thanks for asking me. First of all, I’m happy to be here. I just felt the process throughout was such a connective and generative activity. Being able to be at all three conversations I think the thread that ran through for me was story that connected people. It was the common experience of it all and it really felt like people came to the space that we gathered in ready to share those positive stories. I think that was a credit to both of you for creating that kind of space originally to an invitation to bring people together like that. The stories of inspiration and I think what was most effective to me was just the positive things that people really want to use going forward. The discovery of gifts that people didn’t know they had or really only came to light because they were connecting with people in a new way, in a vulnerable way. The whole idea of mutual aid and working together was really powerful for me. Bob: Brigitte, were there things that stuck out to you and maybe a little bit about your background and evaluation and your perspective on these things? I’m really curious about it because when we’re evaluating we’re collecting data in a particular way, and this was maybe a little bit different than how people typically think about data collection. Brigitte: First of all, I just really appreciated, Bob and Jessica, your willingness to give this a try. I was very impressed by the educational and personal space that it opened up for everyone. It was a lot different from the typical programming that we do. We’ve tried several things before with discussions with folks and see how this goes. We’ve met varying degrees of success, but this one really stuck. This experience really stuck. I was just so excited that people were able to be there and open up and feel like they could be in professional development, but also just a personal learning space. It’s a little different from what we’re used to in MFL. I think from an evaluation perspective, I’ve been pursuing different aspects of developmental evaluation for MFL for eight years now and I’ve always followed Tamarac. They’ve done a lot of work with collective action and when this asset-based community recovery model came out, it really clicked for me. I was really excited we were able to bring it again into this educational space. Then with your creativity and brilliance, getting these workshops formulated and launched, the experience-type data that people were bringing forward was very new. For MFLN, we’re often focused on the types of things people learned and hoping that they’re willing to take that learning forward into their work. I think with the kinds of stories that people were sharing, the way they were sharing them, the ability to reflect with others, for me as an evaluator, I was sitting there thinking, yes, this is a formative experience. Having this social space to share is a formative experience and we’re not following up with people to say, “Hey, did this workshop change your life?” I got the feeling that it was a really valuable space for people and I hope you did too. I think that seems to be coming out in some of the evaluative questions you were asking. Jessica: Connecting with what you were just saying, one of the chat comments that came in was a person saying that they felt like they had a new community or they felt like they’ve found any community. Even if that only happened with one person, that just really affected me. It was a good outcome and that’s exactly one of the things we were looking for. Is to try to have that feel of community that we were all in this together, working together on our stories and learning from each other. Bob: I think it’s part of what the project revealed and this is partly a function of just my inability to control the scope and just add stuff in. There was sort of richness to it, and part of it started with what you mentioned, Brigitte, Tamarack’s Asset-based Community Recovery Framework as the scaffolding for that. Then the inclusion of our facilitators for our small groups. We had volunteers come in, who weren’t necessarily part of the planning process, they’re coming in with an outside perspective and bringing some freshness to it that way. Sherrill your work, I think, added that extra level as a graphic recorder for people to be able to get that sense of co-creation and collaboration because something’s actually getting created right in front of them that their ideas are contributing to. It’s not, “Hey, we’ll collect your data and we’ll write a journal article about it later,” or something like that. It’s happening right in the meeting. Has that been your experience as a graphic recorder in other contexts too? Sherrill: Yes. I again, credit both Jessica and you Bob for involving me from the beginning the process of curating the questions. Just because I have been in spaces all this time, listening to how conversations can either be generative or just not go anywhere, I appreciated working with you already at the beginning stages and working up with a template for the questions. What I’ve noticed in this space, when we were in the conversations, there was even different energy before the breakout rooms. Then when people came back and it speaks really to that community that happened and that connection that happened in those breakout rooms about the power of story. As a big group, they were sent off into these smaller spaces that they didn’t really know many people. They had to be vulnerable and share their stories. Then when they came back, a lot of times another person was sharing someone else’s story. It just was so many levels of connection and I think therein lies the power. The visuals are really just, again a beautiful way to feel seen and heard in a space that is digital and virtual. That co-creation, and seeing things develop in front of you is really a great way to do that. Jessica: Sherrill, I would add to what you said and they were coming back into the rooms, they were sharing what they learned from someone else’s story. I thought that was really a beautiful thing. Then sometimes the person whose story it was, would speak up and say, that was me, and here’s something that’s a little bit deeper for you all to chew on. Brigitte: I was only able to facilitate one session and I was struck by the vulnerability of the people sharing and the stories they were sharing. I just thought that was really special. I think an interesting thing was going on as well because we’re talking about warm collaboration, but you could probably transfer that a little bit over to something like warmer learning, maybe. We had two-part series on disaster and hazard management, and then many of those sessions were focused on the disaster management cycle which is in some ways cold. That might be unfair, but there are measurable things that have to get done. We need those things to be done. You bring in the asset-based community recovery, which is– I don’t want to beat this to death, but a very warm model. Everyone had exposure to that one version of it in the sessions, and then the workshops open up a deeper space for thinking. People have the opportunity to share in the breakout rooms, listen, and then a facilitator came back in. When you’re relaying something, in my mind, it’s a level of analysis. You’re breaking it down and sharing it back out. You get to hear that concept again. Then Sherrill, you widely accepted that writing is a level of data analysis. Well, art is too. As facilitators were speaking, we could see your mind at work and what got pictures and what did the pictures look like and how did you even write the actual word or draw the word I should say. All of those different exposures to a person’s story were iterated over and over and over again. I just thought that it was really unique and really special for our participants and I think for everyone who is involved. Great experience. Bob: I’m glad you brought up the warmness of it and getting back to that issue because when Nora Bateson writes about warm data and warm collaboration, it’s all about the relationship. Warm data is viewing that data that thing to be that is typically pulled out of context and measured or monitored. For cold data, is viewed in context. It wasn’t necessarily each of our natural contexts that we work in every day, we can come together to do that. We were able to provide a space for a new context and those connections between people, those relationships, and sharing the stories over and over again I think warmed it up, so to speak, because it’s about that relationship with each other. Sherrill: Jumping on that, it reminds me of Renee Brown’s work too, and just connection and courage and bravery but really using narrative data which is warm data obviously. When people can tell their own story or listen to another’s story, that again is powerful and true data. I also want to point out, maybe we’ll get to this a little bit later, but the process that the way that you used the visuals from each of the sessions and then chopped up and reassembled, and just use that to sift through the data was really unique and innovative. As a visual practitioner, that was great for me to see your creativity and the way that you worked with and delve into the data that way to see the big picture from all of those sessions. Then allowed us to collaborate again, to create the visuals that you used going forward. Bob: I think that was a way and Jessica, thank you for your work on that, but that was a way to keep the warmness, because Sherrill, you had created these beautiful beautiful graphic recordings of each workshops, so three different workshops. Then we wanted to come back and categorize and code those into some themes, find those themes evolving. I don’t want to call it typical, but the way my exposure to qualitative data has been in the past would be, we would put that into some spreadsheet and text or something and search out the most mentioned words, or try to see if we could figure out the themes. Again, pulling all that context and beauty and layering that got built up through the graphic recording and through the shared experience out of it. There was a little bit lost because we were, like I said, cutting graphics out and pulling them apart and then reassembling them into different containers or codes, so to speak. I think that was really important that we didn’t lose all that. Jessica: I did the initial pass of taking all of the little chopped up pieces from Sherrill’s drawings and putting it together, we were using the chopped up pieces of Sherrill’s artwork to arrange this, one of the things that was happening is I was remembering the discussion from that specific meeting because I remembered Sherrill drawing it on the board. Whereas, if I’d seen the same words in a spreadsheet, I would have categorized it sometimes in a different category. There were times when I took something that I think, to a lot of people may have looked like it would be very clearly in one category and I had moved it into a different one because the conversation that happened around that piece that Sherrill had drawn, the conversation that had happened around that was a little more related to this category than the one that it looks like in most. It only happened a few times, but it really was helpful to use the visual to do that arranging. Brigitte: I think that speaks again, to the iteration and the multiple points of contact everyone had with each other’s stories. The multiple ways the stories were shared or voiced, and then they were illustrated. Then Jessica, that you were able to look at a word that was maybe even taken away from an illustration, but you remember the story. I think that’s the deep learning and deep appreciation that happened as a result of that process. To carry it over and to strengthen your thematic analysis for sure. Sherrill: I agree with Brigitte in that that is– First of all, Jessica, that makes me extremely happy as a visual practitioner to know that. I love digging into even the brain science behind that, of why we remember, why visuals, they capture not just a word, but almost a feeling or the emotion that was going on around it. It’s like when we smell a smell that was in our and grandparent’s house, baking bread or cooked cinnamon, and it takes us back to that feeling and then environment. Visuals can do that and so that’s why I love to see them used in these ways. I work a lot in inclusion spaces, educational spaces as well. Just using, like Brigitte said, different modalities, making sure that you’re covering some kinesthetic stuff for some visual stuff, all of those layers help us remember and assign meaning. That’s why I think this is just such a powerful way to collaborate and work through a project. Jessica: I have a question that I’ve been wondering about, Sherrill, because I’ve been following your work ever since we started to get to know you. I see a lot of really cool, really meaningful projects that you’ve been working on. I’m just wondering if there are some overall observations or threads that you see that are happening with all the groups you’re working with, including ours, that have to do with– For instance, do you see a really big interest in wanting to be this vulnerable? What are some of those overall observations in all of the super-cool work you’re doing? Sherrill: That’s a great question and thank you. First of all, I have as a graphic recorder, definitely chosen to work in the spaces that I do and work with the groups and organizations I do. Absolutely. The overarching theme that I’m seeing in all spaces is that people are really wanting, when they come together, they’re looking for honest and authentic connection, so how to do that. The facilitators I work with, like you guys did work behind the scenes to make sure that that happens, that we’re creating a space for that. In conversation, what I’m hearing over and over is that we need to be making sure that we are providing access points for everyone. Scaffolding learning and also the asset-based view. Yesterday I just recorded for education and equity conference and it was really about, specifically with Black and Brown and indigenous students, making sure that we are seeing them through their asset, their strengths, and not their deficits. That’s the same that corporate clients talking about diversity and inclusion, it’s all about creating spaces where people feel welcome and they feel belonging and they feel okay to show up as their authentic selves. Which is a huge human thing. [chuckles] Bob: To me, that’s what warm data warm collaboration is. It’s getting back to the human. I feel like that’s where the connecting communities project itself as framing it as a co-creative project. We probably didn’t hit even very many of the benchmarks of a truly co-created project from the very beginning, but just by calling it that and thinking of it that way, we work towards present. The people who participated had input into what the end product ended up looking like and being. I think that education theory would tell us that enhances the learning. You feel involved. You’re not just consuming passively a curriculum that someone else thinks you should know. You’re involved in the learning by sharing your story with others. Brigitte: I think this project too, in my mind, it opens up different educational opportunities and we’re very focused on our live professional development events. They’re important spaces because they are a point of contact for others and connection. Referring back to what I mentioned before, about the participants in the workshop had these multiple opportunities to have contact with ideas, and thoughts, and stories. What if we can create some programming that provides those points of contact in asynchronous approach and then the live pieces could really focus on what’s important about those pieces to the participants, to the learners to bring forward, to talk through? Again, to give them that space, that time that allow them to take the driver’s seat, which is again, really important, meaningful for me, for professional development. Let’s see where this goes. I guess it just feels to me like real collaboration is so creative that if you end up where you thought you were going to end up, maybe it wasn’t really a collaboration because nothing new was created, being open to those iterations and not getting attached to any one iteration in the messy middle. I think the best projects have the longest and most complicated messy middles, but you came off the other side with such a really impactful experience and beautiful resource guide and new connections, Sherrill. I just wanted to thank you. Thanks for always asking new questions and bringing the network along for some really interesting and helpful conversations and growth opportunities. Sherrill: I’m going to jump on that visual of a messy middle because that has been my experience with so many things when it comes to graphic recording and working with facilitators. It starts at like, “This is going to be great. It’s going to be awesome.” They’re like, “Oh, maybe not, maybe not.” You go on to like, “Well, this is not going to work.” Then it goes up but back up the other side too. Usually, it ends up like that was great. That was fabulous. What I think makes it successful when we’re collaborating is that all parties are open to be surprised. That “You’re just expecting to bump into wonders.” Someone else’s quote, not mine. When you can be open to that, that’s a beautiful thing. I think just that’s how everybody approached this project and I think that’s why it was successful. I was honored to be able to just bring the skills of visualizing the conversations because I think whenever people are in a space together being able to feel seen and heard whether that’s through text or drawings is really important too. I think that was the measure of success for this project is that people felt that way. [music] Jessica: I’d like for us to talk a little bit about how we can practice warm collaboration, like what are the practices that would help us get into warm collaboration with others? I think for me, a couple of things come to mind first of all as a facilitator, maybe there’s a reason why I think of this first and that’s creating spaces that would be conducive to warm collaborations. That would mean that they’re inclusive, that they’re safe, that the facilitator or the person who convened the meeting models, vulnerability, they use powerful questions. There’s an article you shared with me on What Does Working “With” (Not “For”) Our Communities Look Like by Dale McCreedy, Nancy Maryboy, Breanne Litts, Tony Streit, and Jameela Jafri. Oh my goodness a lot of people wrote this article, a lot of great thought. It was probably a warm collaboration. [laughs] A couple of the things that they had, some recommended actions as well. A couple of the things that I thought were super important also is as you’re designing a space in the context of designing a space that you understand the cultural protocols of the community that you’re working with are of the people who will be in the room. and that you get together. When you get together, you formally articulate everyone’s values and goals so that we can clarify expectations together. There’s more actions that you can take. I think when it comes to setting up a space, those are really important to me. Bob: Yes, I agree. Space is really critical to doing this and space in all aspects including just the time that we allow ourselves as a group to explore relationships and bring our whole selves and figure what we want to do together. You know, when you’re talking about spaces, it brought to mind some, some work that I had done trying to organize categorize some educational practices and different educational practices and I was inspired by this idea of spaces too. I think some of these might be helpful. I think it might also be helpful to think of them, not just in terms of how we might design them as an organizer or a facilitator, which is super important, but also how we might help hold and create these kinds of spaces as a collaborator just as in the space. Whether you designed it or not, or you’re, co-designing it or whatever, but just as somebody working with other people, how do we create and hold space? Here are some of the ones that I thought were important space for people to think and reflect space for people to learn together and learn from one another space for people to connect informally with each other, that gets that whole selves idea. In something that we’ve brought up in the podcast before from Plastrik, Taylor, and Cleveland, about the bandwidth of information that we have about each other and how important that is in network building. Space for learners to find and express their own voice and not making the assumption that everybody has come fully formed to this conversation. I hope you’re getting that sense from this podcast today because Jessica and I definitely did not come to this conversation fully formed in how we’re thinking about in warm collaboration. Space for learners to develop as people, explorers themselves and develop new skills and, and new insights into themselves. Those are five spaces that I was thinking about in terms of educational methods or learning methods, but I think they can apply in this collaboration space as well. I think it’s important too, that whether you use those categories or spaces to think about them, that there are particular practices. There are decisions and things that you can do, whether it’s just a check-in question at the beginning of all meetings or something. You know what, but there are methods and practices that you can do in the space, in the collaboration space to create these five spaces. There’s also practices that we do that reduce the space for collaboration and learning. Consciously and intentionally thinking about those things. What am I doing in terms of “designing” the collaboration and meetings and things like that might create space for warm collaboration, or might actually reduce space for warm collaboration and what am I doing as a person sitting in those meetings as a collaborator to create and hold space for warm collaboration and what practices am I doing that might be reducing that space? I think that’s important. Jessica: I mean, I think this is a good time to continue this exploration with anyone who listens to this episode. We love to hear more from you about given what we’ve described on warm collaboration, how would you practice warm collaboration? What are some possibilities you see, or some ideas you have around that? Bob: We’d love for you to reach out to us. You can email us at email@example.com. We’ll put some contact information on the podcast page as well for this episode, which you can find at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/series/practicingconnection. Jessica, this has been super fun. Thank you so much for sharing this with me and exploring this idea of warm collaboration. Jessica: Yes, we should explore topics without having them fully formed in our mind as to what our understanding is more often, I like this a lot. It’s fun. Bob: If listeners, you want to weigh in on whether we should do that or not, you might have a different opinion, but it was awesome. We also wanted to thank our collaborators and our guests today. Sherrill Knezel and Brigitte Scott at four for sharing that conversation with us and for their awesome collaboration on that project that we discussed. Thanks to Nathan Graham who composed all the music for the podcast and performed it as well. Kalin Goble who recorded our episode in introduction, Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all. Their help with podcast marketing. Thanks to you as well for sharing this experience with us today, keep practicing. [music] [00:48:32] [END OF AUDIO]
38 minutes | Apr 12, 2021
How Networks Can Help Reduce Stress (S. 2, Ep. 2)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Ep-2-2-How-Networks-Can-Reduce-Stress-FinalMix.mp3 About this episode In this episode, Naava Frank and Ziva Mann, authors of the article “How to Reduce Stress and Increase Learning: The Power of Professional Networks,” join Jessica and Bob to discuss how our network connections can help support us in difficult times. Naava is the director of Knowledge Communities where she consults to foundations and nonprofits to launch and support the growth of networks and communities of practice. Ziva is the Director of Assessment and Development at Ascent Leadership Networks, where she assesses leaders and helps them and their organizations develop in the ways that matter most. In this episode, they talk about why they wrote the article, share stories of how networks have helped people support each other, and provide their unique insights into connection, community, learning, and more. Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Jen Chilek, for her help with our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing. You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list. Subscribe now. Extras Network Mapping Exercise https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Ep-2-2-Extra-Network-Mapping-Exercise.mp3 Listen as Ziva Mann leads Jessica and you through a quick network mapping exercise that can help you see your support networks and assess where they could be improved. Links How to Reduce Stress and Increase Learning: The Power of Professional Networks Network Weaver founder June Holley A Small Group restoring and reconciling Cincinnati by engaging the disengaged. Purpose Built Communities connects community leaders with resources and partners for racial equity, economic mobility, and improved health outcomes. Engaging People with Lived Experience Toolkit for engaging people with lived experience with inequity in making change. New England Hemophilia Association Transcript [music] Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. To start our conversation here are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch. Bob Bertsch: Hi, and thanks so much for letting us share this episode with you. What you’re about to hear was co-created with Naava Frank and Ziva Mann. Naava is the director of Knowledge Communities where she consults to foundations and nonprofits to launch and support the growth of networks and communities of practice that maximize their strategic impact. Ziva is the Director of Assessment and Development at Ascent Leadership Networks, where she assesses leaders and helps them and their organizations develop in the ways that matter most. Ziva spent over a decade working on co-creating change and building solutions with the people most affected by an issue, with a focus on vulnerable populations and inequity. Jessica and I invited Naava and Ziva to collaborate after reading an article they wrote on how networks can help reduce stress, which was a topic that we had planned for our season two of the podcast so it was really serendipitous to run across that article, Jess. Jessica Beckendorf: Yes, Bob. That article was pretty much a perfect match to the topic we had chosen so it was really evident that we had to reach out to them and invite them to talk with us. We read this article on networkweaver.com and originally it was published in eJewish Philanthropy. They had worked a lot on this article and when I saw that it’d been in more than one place and when I did a little bit of digging on Naava and Ziva, I was a little anxious about reaching out to them. They were the first collaborators that we had reached out to that we didn’t have any connection to whatsoever. In all of our other collaborations in the past, we’d either had some sort of a weak tie or even a stronger tie to the person we’d invited in to collaborate with us or to the people we invited in. We didn’t have any connection to them whatsoever. I was just reaching out and saying, “Hey, we really liked your article. Would you mind spending a whole bunch of time with us?” [laughs] When they agreed, I was thrilled really because I really do respect that people are busy. When they agreed, I was really thrilled and we ended up getting together. We had a rich, lovely conversation, but at the end a technical difficulty caused me to lose the recording. I was really bummed. I was really disappointed. I had all kinds of negative thoughts about it and about that failure but two great things came out of it. We got to have another conversation with Ziva and Naava, they were gracious enough to give us more of their time, and it led to a podcast episode that we hadn’t planned for our season, which ended up becoming episode one of season two, is called Celebrating (or at least dealing with) Failure. Bob: It was great to have those two things come out of that and I think, referring to what we’re about to hear the second conversation, I think the fact that we went through that failure together really helped strengthen our relationships, kind of tested the water some more with having to share that failure. If you listen to Celebrating (or at least dealing with) Failure, that episode of the podcast you’ll hear that whole story, but it really provided a better foundation for this episode too, I think, and for, hopefully, what will be future collaborations with Naava and Ziva. In fact, we had such a great conversation that we generated more content than we could fit into this episode so I want to encourage you to please go out and visit our show notes. You’ll find practices to build your network, links to more resources, and much, much more and you can find those show notes at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/series/practicingconnection, or just go to militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org and search practicing connection. Here it is our collaboration with Naava Frank and Ziva Mann, we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Jessica: Welcome, Naava and Ziva. I’m so excited to have you here today. Naava Frank: We’re really excited to be with you. We’ve been looking forward for this opportunity and we always have such a great time talking, thank you. Ziva Mann: Yes, thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here. Jessica: Well, wonderful. One of the things that I was excited about is how your story unfolded. It was a time of stress that led to your connection, which ended up leading to the article that Bob and I found and read, which led to us being here today. Naava, could you tell us a little more about what was happening at that time and how you two came to connect? Naava: Sure. I love the way you framed it, such a great story of the way connections move people. Most of us have a story about someone who we knew a little bit in our lives, and then later that person became really important and that’s the story of me and Ziva. We knew each other, we traveled in similar social circles, our kids went to the same school for a while, but we weren’t that close. Then, in the summer of 2019, we were both invited to a friend’s event and it was a 45-minute walk and we decided to take it together. As we walked, all of a sudden, we discovered like all these commonalities we had no idea were there. After that event, we said we got to keep in touch and we set up a short time to talk every couple of weeks whenever we could. When COVID started, I was seeing people struggling to cope with all the changes that they had to implement in particular leaders in nonprofits and I knew that Ziva was an expert in leadership. I saw people turning to networks for help. They needed to learn how to work with a remote team and all kinds of things that had to do with the beginning of COVID and it seemed like there were missed opportunities for networks at that point in time. Because I had a sense of who Ziva was and what she was capable of, when we next spoke I said to her, “We should put our heads together let’s write something. Networks are mattering more than ever and as people adapt and will need to continue to adapt, I’d love to do this with you. What do you think?” Jessica: Yes. I love the title How to Reduce Stress and Increase Learning: The Power of Professional Networks During COVID, that was the article that we ran across on the NetworkWeaver site. The title makes so much sense. You were thinking about the stress from COVID and the things you had been hearing, and you and Ziva had been connecting and talking on a regular basis and you guys had initially connected because of some stress. Ziva, tell us a little bit more about the rest of the story. Take us from there. Ziva: Sure. Naava is our resident expert on networks. We were looking at this from a very different angle. When she reached out, I had just been discussing a blog post that the President of Ascent, that’s the company I work with, had written about managing negative emotions in the workplace due to the pandemic. Things like stress, anxiety, isolation. One of the things that we found striking was the impact that stress has on learning. At Ascent, we specialize in assessment and development and we know some amount of stress is good. You need something to push you to learn a new skill, a new way of doing things, but the pandemic, everything that’s been happening in the past year, it’s just way too much. Too much stress means your cortisol levels, that’s a stress hormone that we produce, the cortisol levels rise and that actually inhibits the brain’s ability to build dendrites, new pathways, which means it inhibits your ability to learn. Then, of course, everything got worse over the past year. There was a recent report from the CDC that said that 40.9% of adults are reporting struggling with anxiety, depression, suicidality, substance abuse. That’s almost half of us. Which you can see how we got there, but it’s terrible for our capacity to learn how to do things differently. Over the past year, a lot of us had to learn how to work remotely, but then as the year went on, things that we know how to do in the office or we know how to do in our usual settings, we’ve had to reinvent them, it’s adapt them to make it work in COVID world. It’s like we have to be resilient but over and over again. We never reached out. I was looking at this problem from a different angle and I got really excited. I said to her, “Oh, yes, we should absolutely work on this.” Because now I can see the connection, one of the things that makes networks so crucial is it gives people a space to share their challenges in order to feel validated, to feel connected to the people who listened and supported. Essentially, networks have the capacity to unlock our ability to learn, our ability to be resilient and so we jumped in. Jessica: It’s so interesting, Ziva, because it makes me wonder if we can’t learn, if new neural pathways are more difficult to under stress, if we can’t learn, then it’s also harder to adapt. Adaptation, we need to be able to adapt in something like a pandemic. Ziva: I think that’s absolutely right. When we’re under stress, we tend to revert to old habits. These might not be the best choices for us if circumstances have changed around us. It pushes us back to essentially our comfort zones which may be exactly the wrong place for us to be in that given moment. Jessica: When we’re under stress, it can be super helpful then to reach out to people in our network because they can help challenge us to keep adapting and learning even when we don’t want to. [music] Jessica: Central to the work that Bob and I do is the idea of networks and connecting through your network, but I’m not sure that we’ve ever explicitly talked about what a network is. Naava, I would love to hear your thoughts on what is a network? Naava: Sure. It’s interesting cause the term is used in so many ways these days. I’m going to put my definition out. [laughs] I think of a network as a group of people that are connected to each other in some fashion that produces value for their members. By interacting, they increase the value. That’s the way I like to think of it. I also want to say there’s lots of networks. Even there are groups of people who share hobbies. There are network. There are business networks which is more traditionally what we know about people who share business leads. There are professional networks, whether it’s nurses or whether it’s teachers. All of those I see is networks of people who interact to produce value. I continue to see the tremendous impact that making simple connections can have in people’s lives. One of the things I like doing is asking people about powerful connections that they’ve made. People tell me the most amazing stories. Like they met their future life partner because of a connection. Somebody connected them to their current job. They hired their best employee. Networks can be really powerful. Networks can be large. They can be small. They can be really close-knit. They can be really distant. They can be really diverse. They can be homogeneous. They function in lots of different ways. As a network geek, I get a real kick out of thinking about the different network structures. Some networks are structured to create benefits. Like close-knit homogeneous networks provide emotional support and enable collaboration. Then the opposite is that diverse networks bring in new opportunities and spread innovation. The structure of a network varies in terms of what it can produce. Jessica: When I think of networks, that doesn’t have to start with a network that’s already in place, it starts with one person or it can start with one person. One person that cares about an issue and starts seeking other people who also want to create change within that issue. They connect with others. Then those others are like, “Yes,” they get fired up about it, or they at least are mildly interested in. [laughs] They want to continue to connect and talk about it and learn together and grow together. Then the connections grow from there. Pretty soon, you’ve got a group of people. It can be a small group of people. It can be a handful of people that are interested in making a change in their city or town. Here, we’ve got the handful of people now that are forging ahead with some change. Ziva: Some time ago, I’ve been connected to Tabitha, and she’s a military mom who has two boys who are very different kinds of learners. They’re actually really rare. There’s only about 0.1% of the population who are wired like these kids. They’re wonderful. They’re challenging as children so often are. In particular, because teachers, for example, are not trained to handle kids like this in the classroom. Parents find the usual approaches to parenting don’t work. Tabitha has these two beautiful boys. She’s trying to figure out what to do with them. What she actually did is she started an online community. She built a network of families so that they could meet each other, they could share experiences what works. I asked her about it. She said that she started her network because– I’m going to read her words here. “I was feeling very alone as a parent. I needed to find others like us both for community but also for comfort. We wanted our kids to be part of something even if distanced.” What she did was she made a couple of strategic decisions. First of all, she– they’re military family. They get posted all over the place. She didn’t want to be connected to any particular nationality or organization. That meant that she had– her network was able to reach a lot farther. It wasn’t geographically bounded. That meant that they also had more families of these rare kids who could share ideas and raise questions. She also thought very carefully about her target group. She made decisions based on that about how she was going to facilitate the network. Essentially, she thought about who was involved, what did they need, where were they, and how she was going to connect with them. She said, “I wanted to keep it a safe space that is non-intrusive.” Not too much demand on young families. Again, because she is the mom of young kids, she also knew she couldn’t do it alone. She found another parent who could share the work of moderating the group with her. It grew like crazy. Currently, there’s about 1000 members across the world. Energetic people are posting on a regular basis. They’re asking questions. They’re sharing stories. This is like a space where people will understand the milestones that they’re celebrating cause they’re very specific to this group. She said that one of the benefits that she sees is that the children are often too young for a lot of things. They still need support and connection. The parents especially, she said, need to know they’re not alone. There are others who have not just survived but thrived with these unique circumstances. I just love that. [music] Jessica: Let’s talk a little bit about how networks can support our resilience. Ziva, I’d love to hear your perspective on this. The story that you shared about connecting with Naava is one personal example. The story you just shared about Tabitha is another great example. How do connections like that help us be more resilient? Ziva: We talked earlier about how meeting with others who are facing similar challenges can lift an emotional burden. Isolation and stress unlock our capacity to learn. Capacity to learn, for better or for worse, is actually only one part of the challenge. You still need to find solutions, strategies, maybe people who can help you tackle whatever it is you’re facing, and then you have to use it, you have to take action. When it comes to finding solutions and strategies, my preference has always been to take an approach of maybe somebody has already solved this. Maybe there’s a wheel that’s already been invented and I just have to find it. Finding that answer has a lot to do with how effective your network is for the purpose. That depends on relationships. I’m just thinking because networks can be very big and complex, and as Naava mentioned, there’s a lot of different ways to structure and design a network. Why don’t we start with an example of something smaller, and a little bit more familiar to a lot of us, which is teams? A professor at NYU, once studied a group of improvement teams that I was working with and observed that the teams were more effective when they carved out time for the fluffy stuff at every meeting like getting to know each other, just starting the meeting by going around the table and say, “Hey, how’s everybody doing?” For a team, especially one with tight on time, it was really exciting to see this spending time on relationship building, what had a connection to productivity, those teams got more done, more ideas flowed. When disagreements happened, they were more likely to be constructive rather than destructive or derailing. It’s actually similar for a network. The relationships between the members of the network, have a direct impact on the network’s effectiveness in helping the members learn and take action. Naava: I love what you’re saying, Ziva. It just reminds me that one of the founders of the fields of network, her name is Julian Holly, she has a lot of detail about what she calls network weaving, which is very intentionally introducing people to each other, connecting them, and building relationship. Ziva: To give you an idea of how this could work, let’s say I have a network that’s designed to be a source of information and resources for the people in it. I could bring in an expert to share ideas and strategies with the network members. The expert’s knowledge flows into the network, which receives it. In this example, the members of the network are essentially passive recipients of ideas. Let’s say I want my network to be different. I want it to be a network that’s enabling people– has more of a focus on not just learning but moving to action. Sharing the experiences of what’s working and what isn’t working. In that situation, I could bring in the expert, people will receive knowledge, ideas, strategy, whatever it is. Then the folks in the network could be invited to share, tell us what you tried from what you heard before, tell us what’s working, what didn’t work. In this scenario, essentially, people are more actively involved, and they’re energizing each other with their own engagement. What you end up with is a network that is this live, active web of activity, with information and ideas and questions and support all flowing to and from different members. Jessica: A living, breathing, adaptive thing. Yes, that’s great. Ziva: Great, which it makes them more responsive and more resilient. Then that’s where you get the resilience coming in because when you’re able to respond to people, you’re able to give them what they need. I should say, at this point in time, something I see in my work a lot is we use cohort programs for leadership development which means you’ve got a group of peers who are listening to experts and then we’ve got peer support and action plans to help people move to action. We bring in these amazing, brilliant faculty and we ask them to teach practical hands-on life-changing things. We know that in-person trainings lead to roughly 25% of participants having some degree of behavior change. People learn, but they don’t use it, but it’s not what we’re aiming for. What we do is we essentially construct a network of peers helping peers within this cohort. They’re helping each other figure out how they’re going to tackle a problem or they’re holding each other accountable. In other words, you told me you want to do this, I am here to support you, and it makes people feel more verged to move to action. In our last cohort, we actually saw 100% of participants make progress on these long or midterm goals that we asked them to set for themselves, which is just jaw-dropping. In only seven months, we actually even saw 20% of them set themselves new goals, reach farther stretch farther. Peer-to-peer relationships are really just that powerful. They’ll help people move from considering something to actually acting on it, to trying that new skill, to moving outside of their comfort zone. It’s extraordinary. Jessica: That’s so interesting because I see the same thing in a community context. This reminds me of some asset-based community development approaches, in particular, this small group initiative out of Cincinnati, Ohio, that really focuses on a small group of peers, a small group of people in the neighborhood. One of the quotes that I love from them is, “More money and better leadership do not give us the community we desire. The next step forward comes from engaged citizens.” It really illustrates what you were saying and they continue to make goals. People who come together and connect about things they care about, will continue to be engaged. Maybe sometimes they’ll be engaged with this group a little more than the group that they started with. Maybe they don’t come back to the original group, because they’ve moved on to other things they care about, but no matter what, if you’re getting together with people, things are going to start happening. Ziva: You could say it’s the power of stakeholder engagement. You could say it’s the power of peer-to-peer connection. I just think it unlocks possibilities that weren’t there before. Naava: I love the stories that you guys are sharing and it really triggers for me, some stories of networks I work with, that have really had a positive impact. One of the things that I do is I am a consultant to a nonprofit called Purpose Built Communities. I help them convene a network of local leaders across the country who are focused on holistic neighborhood revitalization initiatives that create healthy neighborhoods that include broad, deep, and permanent pathways to prosperity for low-income families. It’s a really powerful place-based initiative. One of the things that we saw is that how these leaders share because they’ve built a trusting relationship over time, budget, advice, resources that help each other. One really powerful example is one leader won a grant for his neighborhood to do a major COVID stay covered mass campaign. He developed this beautiful campaign and he shared it with all the other leaders. Now 27 cities, have a campaign ready to go. Jessica: That’s a big impact. Naava, thank you for sharing that. Ziva: Naava, another one that I love is the example you were telling me the other day about the gym teachers? Naava: Oh, yes. I think as we started during this time of COVID, both as it first hit, now as in the midst of it, and now as we begin to transition out and think about hybrid meetings and meeting again, in person, our networks can be so powerful. A network of independent schools decided to help gym teachers convene at the start of COVID, because they had to figure out how to run gym classes via zoom. You don’t even realize what the possibilities are and how working with peers can help us figure out how to do our jobs differently. We’re in this time of transition where things are always changing. Once you have a trusted network, this is a group you can go back to. That’s what I think is so powerful about a network is, it’s being available over the long term and being flexible and adaptable so that you can deal with whatever is currently something that you wanted to achieve or something that you wanted, a challenge that you’re dealing with. The phrase that we talk about is Justin. Time Support. That’s what a network can provide. Jessica: I think there’s also something else in what you’re describing, Naava. I listened to it and I think– Naava: Absolutely right. Networks have pockets of untapped knowledge and experience in them. The other thing they do is, it’s almost like translating. Let’s say those PE teachers had experts who came in and they said, “Look, these are the three most important things you need to do. Here’s how you need to do them.” They still have to translate them to context-specific practices. What is going to work for me in my environment, given the resources, the constraints that I have available? One thing I think that peers do very well for each other is they help each other process and make that shift from expert-provided knowledge to internalized context-specific. Here’s how I’m going to do it and make it work . As a result of COVID, I think people are appreciating what a network can be and I’m seeing more people who are beginning to invest in networks creating new ones. I’m part of a group of people who write grants and so a colleague of mine decided she wanted to start up a group of people who do this. I think she appreciated that if we make the investment, now we’ll be there for each other. Jessica: What do you think gets in the way of people utilizing their networks? Naava: It’s a great question. I think it’s part of human nature that part of a sweet, we don’t want to bother other people. I’ll just sit in the dark. [laughter] I also think that when we are having a challenge, when we’re stressed, our first instinct is usually to isolate ourselves. We think, Oh, nobody else is having this challenge. It’s just me and in doing that, we miss an opportunity for empathy, connection solutions. Just talking out a dilemma with a trusted friend or a colleague opens up new insights and possibilities because we all see the world through unique lenses. We each have our blind spots and so just talking to someone who brings a different perspective, allows you to see things from a new angle. Simple conversations can be magical and I think that’s one of the messages that we have about networks. Another barrier that I see a lot is when we have expert networks, there’s the sense of like, I’m the expert. I have the answers. I can’t let on that. I don’t know. Professionals are very uncomfortable being vulnerable. If we can let go of that, it opens up so many possibilities for rich and deep learning and collaboration. I think the final point that I want to make is that not knowing who’s in your network and what other people might know because you haven’t taken the time to get to know them is also a barrier. Just like me and Ziva, just having coffee or virtual coffee with someone really makes a difference. Ziva, I remember you talking about how somebody who was facilitating a network during COVID understood the need to help people get to know each other better. Ziva: Oh yes. I love this, the story I actually got to watch it happen with my own eyes, which was fascinating. This is the New England Hemophilia Association. It’s a regional group that serves people and families living with bleeding disorders and they do a lot of providing education. Lots of expert speakers and a ton of community buildings so that people who have this rare condition or have a chance to connect to each other because that also supports them in learning new skills that they need in order to take care of their health. When COVID started, they had just hired a brand new program director, Sarah Shenkman. Sarah was new to the area. She was new to all things, video conferencing and she had this calendar full of events, gatherings with different areas of focus, and things like that. None of it was going to work. She had to change everything that she was doing and so they went online and they would have their expert lectures, extra expert speakers online doing the presentations. What she did was she arranged to get feedback regularly from participants to find out how it was going. What did you get from this? Did you learn what you needed to learn? Is this something that’s valuable to you in your life? She realized that what they were doing wasn’t working. She started experimenting. One of the experiments that she told me that was particularly successful were the zoom breakout rooms because it let people see each other see facial expressions. She said, “They had stronger connections,” was her phrase. The people, because they felt more connected to each other and I’m using her words here. It allowed people to be more vulnerable. They were just processing what they were learning. They were willing to be vulnerable and open and say, this is what I need. This is what I’m afraid of. This is what I hope for. Actually one of the things that she saw happening is new families, new people started joining these online events. People who pre-COVID would not have actually attended in person. The reach as well as the impact of the network just shot upwards. It’s really wonderful to see that growth, particularly at a time with people so badly needed to support and I give Sarah a lot of credit for choosing to be that responsive to the needs of the community, to choosing, to give people a space. Well, as Naava would say, they could build the trust that they needed. I think one of the lessons from Sarah is you don’t need gobs more time together. Sometimes it’s just saying, what is the most valuable thing that I can tweak. Of what’s already existing, what’s already present. It’s a lot easier than trying to invent more hours in the day, more emotional energy to do something. Jessica: Thank you both again, so much for being here. We just love talking with you every chance we get. I can’t wait to see where your networks take you next. [music] Bob: Thanks so much for joining us for this co-created episode of practicing connection in the complex world. Thanks to Naava Frank and Ziva Mann for their generosity, their trust, their collaboration. It was so awesome. Thank you very much. We’d also like to thank our announcer. Caitlin Goebel had a Hyde and Terry Meisenbach who help us with promotion and Nathan grim for composing and performing all of the music you hear on the podcast. Jessica: If you’d like to learn more about the practicing connection podcast, check out the show notes for this episode and a lot of other information about the podcast. You can find it on the military families learning network website at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org, just click the podcast button and then practicing connection in a complex. Thanks again for joining us. Keep practicing. [music]
35 minutes | Mar 1, 2021
Celebrating (or at least dealing with) Failure (S. 2, Ep. 1)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Celebrating-Failure.mp3 About this episode In this episode, Jessica and Bob discuss the idea of “celebrating failure.” While we know a healthy attitude towards failure can make us more innovative, failing still feels bad. How can we deal with those feelings and develop a practice helps us deal with failure? Jessica and Bob share some of their ideas. Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Jen Chilek, for her help with our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing. You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list. Subscribe now. Extras Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer Transcript [music] Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities and prove our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. To start the conversation, here are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch. Bob Bertsch: Hey everybody. Thanks for joining us for the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast for the first episode of our second season. It’s hard to believe that we’re into the second season already, Jessica. Jessica Beckendorf: Yes, it really is. We just ended season one in December and we thought we had this big break in-between the seasons, but it really wasn’t, and I’m excited about that. We spent a lot of time thinking about season two and planning out some of the topics and I’m really excited to get going with it. Bob: Today we’re going to talk a little bit about practicing I think, but also about failure. You and I were having a conversation about this idea that’s out there and I’ve heard a lot in innovation spaces about celebrating failure. That’s how we get into innovative organizations is to celebrate failure. I even had an acquaintance who referred to “flearning”, which is learning from failure. How’s that for a catchphrase? There’s a got to be a new business book out there somewhere, right? I give whoever permission if you want to write the next business book, you can call it “Flearning”. You don’t even have to credit me. We thought we’d talk about that because I think it is not as simple as it sounds. Jessica: There’s a couple of exercises that I’ve used when I’ve done some improv workshops for leaders. One of them literally is having people think about a time that they failed. Just think about a time you failed and that sounds really awful because nobody wants to remember those times, but we all have moments that we can think back to. Then you are supposed to just walk around the room looking everyone in the eyes and saying things like, “Wo-hoo, I failed,” and then everyone cheers you on and you’re high-fiving and doing all kinds of things. What that exercise is meant to do is help you move on beyond that feeling and that moment of failure and create a culture that’s more receptive to it. It’s still, I think, an overly simplified example of what you just said that we talk about it and I think we say a lot of times you should learn from failure, you should celebrate failure, but what does it really mean to do that? Bob: I like the example from improvisation. I’m glad you brought up improvisation because I think that’s the situation where the whole idea of doing the work in improvisation is about embracing failure and letting things go where they’re going to go. Most of our work isn’t structured that way. We have finite projects. It’s not maybe as flowy if that’s a word. I’m coming up with words today. We’ve got “flearning” and “flowy”. We’ll have to include a glossary with this episode. Jessica: They’re both F-words too. Bob: That’s right. I’ll try and control the F-words just in case. We don’t necessarily work on the same kind of flow. We have finite projects. We might have measurables for them and you may or may not reach the measurables and you may not be on time which is a big measurable that almost every project in the workplace has. It can’t really become part of the culture. I think that’s why sometimes when we talk about celebrating failure, it feels a little inauthentic because it is a little bit more like what the exercise was about, which is just like, “Hey, look, this project failed spectacularly, woo-hoo.” What are you supposed to do with that? How are you supposed to celebrate that? Trying to be in a place where you can embrace it I think is what it’s about. It’s about letting things go where they’re going to go even if that means that things aren’t going to work out the way that you expected, and maybe in that sense then failure’s the wrong word. [music] Jessica: I think a really big part of being able to let things go a little bit, and adjust and adapt as you go along has a lot to do with being able to be in the moment. Earlier when I mentioned that improv activity, I’m not trying to make this all about improv skills, but it’s another skill that improvisers are taught all the time, is really being in the moment and listening to what’s going on around you. Listening to your team, listening to what the conditions are, and being constantly aware of what’s happening. It’s really interesting, we’re moving forward at breakneck pace often, and then we come up against a little mistake, misstep, whatever you want to call it, we come up against something, and it seems like along the way, if we sometimes have been a little more aware, I’m not saying that the mistake still wouldn’t have happened, but it would have been easier to adapt. I think sometimes we’ll come up to that mistake and we’ll just feel all kinds of bad about ourselves. [chuckles] We’ll feel all kinds of bad about the whole situation, where we may have been able to adapt or at least take a look at the situation and adapt to the mistake that happened or adapt to what happened if we could widen our awareness a little bit as to what’s happening in the moment. I don’t know if that makes sense to you, Bob, but that’s something I’ve noticed. There’s still going to be mistakes even if you have a wonderful awareness and you’re always living in the moment. Yet, I feel like that skill helps us to be able to adapt when there is a mistake or failure, whatever, of “flearning”. [laughs] Bob: Yes, whatever that is and whatever it feels like. I’m really glad that you brought up this idea of mindfulness because I think if we are embracing the moment, then we get into potentially a space where we’re not even thinking of it as a failure. That moment of failure is just another moment of uncertainty. When we’ve done some work on networking and how networking can help us address complex issues and complexity in general, that’s one of the things that we talk about. In order to get comfortable with complexity, you have to be comfortable with uncertainty. You have to be okay with- “Hey, things are going to change.” The environment’s going to change, technology’s going to change, people’s reactions are going to change, the people in the room are going to change. All of that stuff is going to affect your work in different ways, and being able to ride that wave and be okay with that change is important. Part of that is being able to embrace the moment, to listen, and be aware of the moment, and be okay with that. I think what goes along with that, we’re going down the mindfulness path here a little bit, is also to be okay with the feelings that go along with failure. Jessica: Yes. Bob: I think that’s what maybe sometimes feels inauthentic to me about the off-handed comment of, “We should celebrate our failures,” is yes, but they don’t feel very good. [chuckles] Jessica: They feel awful. Bob: Yes, they awful. I’m supposed to push that down and go, “Yay, I failed”? That wouldn’t be a very good mindfulness strategy, to do that instead of have to feel it and be okay with those feelings, and get to the next moment which gets to the adaptation that you’re talking about. It’s the “So what? So what we failed?” It doesn’t feel very good, but what’s next, or what does that failure or that unexpected uncertain moment open up in terms of possibilities for adaptation? [music] Jennifer Chilek: I’m Jen Chilek from the Military Families Army Network. We bring you online professional development opportunities, like this podcast, along with webinars, conferences, and more, in support of those who support military families. Geared to Cooperative Extension educators, military families’ service providers, and others who support military families, much of our online content comes with continuing education credit, and all of it is free. Visit us at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org to find more content like this, geared to people like you. Jessica: Bob, I’d like to put you on the spot just for a second. I’m curious, do you have any practices that help you navigate those feelings, or help you navigate that initial moment when something happens, you have some sort of reaction to it? Do you have some practices, and if you don’t, just- Bob: I don’t have anything specific really. The practice or what I’ve been trying to practice is having a good meditation practice because I think a lot of meditation teaching is about mindfulness and being in the moment and being okay with things and just feeling your feet on the ground. I think cribbing from some other meditation teachers, that could be a practice. When you’re feeling that, feel it, or focus on the contact of your feet on the ground. That’s been really meaningful to me in another part of my learning. Recently, I’ve been reading a book called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer that’s about indigenous wisdom and scientific knowledge and the environment and ecology, and it’s a beautiful book, but this idea of being- as a human, feeling part of the natural world, and part of the earth, and part of a network of beings, and things like that. You could tell when I say, “and things like that,” I’m not really clear what I’m saying, and I’m also probably getting into territory that makes me a little bit uncomfortable. Feeling part of that is a perspective shift. It becomes mindfulness. To spread it out further, if you’re part of the universe, or you’re just one part of the living world, your momentary failure, this is not meant to negate whatever feelings you might have about that of sadness, or loss, or embarrassment, or whatever that failure has caused, those feelings are still valid, but it is just one tiny part of a whole network of living beings, or one small part of all the moments that you’re going to experience in your life. Hopefully, that helps that idea to remind yourself that you’re part of that, by feeling your feet on the ground, or your butt in the seat, or just feeling physically that your- Jessica: Toes in the sand. Bob: Toes in the sand, yes. Feeling physically what you’re a part of is a tiny reminder to me that, “Hey, this is just one tiny thing in a big, big world that I’m a part of, or my entire life, or career, or whatever,” and we’ll get past it. There’ll be the next moment. It’s going to come, whether you want it to or not. Something else is going to happen, and that’s a new opportunity for a different outcome than maybe what you got before. Jessica: I’m realizing now as we’re talking a little bit about the connection between having a growth mindset and being mindful and even a mindfulness practice, I’m realizing now that even taking a step back from all of that, and thinking about how I also see understanding even what you’re feeling in the moment is super important. I’m seeing all of this stuff swirling around as very connected to this. I’m not sure that I ever thought of it as being connected to growth mindset before, but there is– When you have a mistake, when you make a mistake, or when you have had some sort of thing that you’ve deemed as a failure, I’m going to put it that way, that you have deemed as a failure, there are a lot of feelings that happen in that moment. I’m a person that until I started to do a lot of work on even understanding my feelings and what I’m feeling in the moment, I would immediately just know that I was feeling bad. I would label my feeling as bad and I would try to get away from that as quickly as possible. I guess what I’m saying is that the practices that I’ve put into place actually started with me even just acknowledging which feeling I was having in that moment. Am I embarrassed? Am I sad? What is that feeling that I have? Then, rather than running away from it, because that’s my typical way of getting away from a feeling that’s bad, I stopped labeling that as a bad feeling. I just labeled it as what the feeling actually was. Now I feel like I can sit with it a little bit. I think that that’s a hard concept. When I first started to hear people say, “Lean into your feelings,” stuff like that, I didn’t understand it. Now I guess I get it because, to me, it was about not labeling the feeling as bad anymore and just labeling it as, “Okay, I feel embarrassed.” Now I feel like I even have a language. I can talk to somebody about it and say, “I feel really embarrassed about X.” It helps me accept that feeling and move through it, and then I can be more mindful. Does that make sense to you? I’ve worked through this as we’re talking. Bob: It totally does. I love that you brought up the idea of having a vocabulary to talk about it because I think that’s the next step. I was thinking about how this can be helpful or what are practical applications. I think when we’re talking about the– There is that personal practice. That is practical to be able to move on from a failure, to embrace the feelings around a failure. That’s definitely practical, but when we get out into the workplace, a lot of times our failures are not- they don’t happen in isolation. There’s other people, team members or clients, or bosses that are part of that in some way. That vocabulary I think is important because, to me, that’s sort of the next step, is that when I mess something up, that’s probably not the best way to put it in our conversation about healthy failure, but when there’s a mistake or I fail at something I have to deal with it personally, but then how do you deal with it in a social aspect with your colleagues? Maybe the project’s off a little bit now because of the failure or– That idea of being able to have that vocabulary about how you’re feeling I think helps us to deal with failure as a team or in groups because then we can talk about it in a vulnerable way and not fall into the finger-pointing or blaming or just not saying anything about it like, “I messed this up, I’m going to go home and work all night and through the weekend to fix it. Hopefully, no one will notice that I messed it up.” Those kinds of things that might not be so healthy. They’re not good examples of celebrating or embracing failure. We avoid those by being able to be vulnerable and have a vocabulary to talk about, not just the failure, but how we feel about it. Jessica: Sometimes a failure or a mistake or something actually ends up being a missed opportunity in that it’s not something that you can work 80 hours that week to make up for. Sometimes something happens, you miss a deadline and you can’t go back and try to fix that because the deadline was a hard deadline. It wasn’t an internal deadline, it was an external deadline for a grant or– I’ll give a simple example of a public notice. I used to work at a city hall, and one of the things we would do is there was a group of three or four of us that one of us would create an agenda that had to have public posting 30 days beforehand. Otherwise, you couldn’t hold the meeting. All of us would look at it and read it through. Even after all of us combed through it, occasionally, there was still a mistake. Then we’d get down to that meeting. We’d realize that there was a mistake, we can’t hold the meeting, the person has to wait another 30 days for the proposal to go through. That’s not a tragic mistake. In that case, that was definitely a missed opportunity. I say all of this to say that I think this is a really good opportunity to share a little bit about why we’re talking about this today and what some of the lessons that I’ve learned have been. I love that you talked a little bit about what you might do, how you might react when there’s been a mistake made because in recording this podcast, we were originally planning on releasing this February 1st. We were going to release our first episode, and we were really excited about it. We had gotten in touch with two amazing women that were going to talk to us about stress and networks and how your networks can help relieve some of your stress. We are still going to be talking with them. I recorded this lovely conversation, we had a wonderful time, and then the recording didn’t work. It wasn’t necessarily a mistake that I had made, but it certainly still felt like a failure. I knew I didn’t do anything wrong too. The reason why this failed was not because I did something wrong, but I definitely still felt this feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was devastated. I didn’t want to go back to our guests and say, “Hey, would you have another conversation with us?” Even though I was reasonably confident that they would be willing to do that, I felt like I had used up a bunch of their time, and now I was going to ask them for even more time, and we don’t have any money that we’re paying our speakers. All of these things are going through my head. That was done on a Thursday. I knew I was having trouble that night, like late that night, and I didn’t tell anyone about it because I just kept working on it every day throughout the weekend to see if I could make it work. It wasn’t until the following week that I finally said something to you, and I said something to Nava and Ziva, who everyone will meet in another episode. It took me almost a week, and it’s because of exactly what you’re saying. Sometimes what you end up doing is, you might have a language for how you’re feeling, but you still might not choose to use it. I have a language. I was embarrassed. I was devastated. I felt a little silly because it was a technical issue, and I feel generally technically savvy, so it was a little embarrassing that something had happened, technology-wise, and just having all of these feelings, it kept me from saying anything right away. I thought about it many times. The day after I thought about saying something to all of you. I had a language and I still chose not to use it because I was so embarrassed. I’m realizing now that I was not sitting with that feeling. Like I just said, normally now, I feel like I can sit with that feeling. I needed a little more time in order for me to feel like I could say something about it. Bob: When you shared that, I felt terrible for you, and I shared a similar story where I’ve done the same thing. I thought that I recorded something. My show was about a one opportunity face-to-face recording for a podcast, a different podcast that I used to do, that it just didn’t work. The technology didn’t work, and it’s embarrassing. You’re thinking about all the feelings. I think, especially, we’ve said embarrassment a couple of times now, that’s really something that is not necessarily about- that’s about feeling judged by other people or potentially judged by other people. John Stepper has said this before about making up- we make up stories in our heads. He’s not the first person obviously to say that, but I’m reminded of his work because he’s talking about it in the context of network building and saying if you reach out to someone and say, “Hey, I’d love to work with you,” or maybe you met someone the first time you had a great conversation and you follow up with an email and say, “Hey, let’s get together again,” and then nothing happens, you never hear back, he says sometimes we make up all the reasons in our heads, “Oh, I guess it wasn’t as good a conversation as I thought. I guess that person didn’t really like me and they must not really like my work. They must’ve just been pretending,” and all that kind of stuff. It might turn out– Jessica: Have you been in my head? I’m just wondering. [laughs] Bob: It might turn out that that person just is busy or forgot or has been looking frantically for your email address and can’t find it or something. There could be a million reasons. I think it’s the same thing when we’re thinking about these failures. It’s hard not to get caught up especially in the example- the stories that you and I shared of what are they going to think? What are other people going to think? I think a lot of times what we find out is, hey, other people, they’re humans, if they admit they are. Guess what? They’ve made tons of mistakes too. That’s usually been my experience. When I can get to the point of being vulnerable and okay with it and sharing the mistakes with other people, they’re like, “Oh, you think that’s a big mistake?” It turns into a contest, who’s got the biggest mistake. We’ve all made mistakes. I think that idea gets back to the connectivity. If we can be in teams, and we can’t always be in teams or work situations that are like this, I completely realize that, but if we can develop a practice ourselves and work with the people that we’re working with to model that and to give other people grace in the workspace and be forgiving, I think then you can get to that spot where we can feel okay with mistakes and feel okay with failure because we can share it and everybody can prop each other up. Anyway, I’m rambling now, I think Jessica: I think it’s great. I think I hear three additional practices. We’ve already mentioned maybe a little bit of mindfulness, a little bit of exploring what you’re actually feeling, but I also see connecting with somebody to share. Once you’ve realized what’s going on, how you’re feeling by connecting with someone that you can share with because when I connected with you and I needed to connect with you, because this is our podcast and [laughs] we didn’t have an episode like I thought we were going to, when I connected with you and I shared what had happened, you shared that story with me, first of all, it just took all of that embarrassment away from me, not totally away, but it took it away in that I felt like it was okay. I remember you sharing with me, sometimes it ends up being a blessing in disguise and I’m like, “Oh, well, that’s really interesting,” because I remember how nervous I was to do that interview. I’m like, “Hey, if they agree to talk with us again, I’m not going to be as nervous this time. I know that for sure because I’ve already done it. This will be the second time I’m doing it with the same people.” Then it gave me a little bit of confidence, being able to think through it that way, Bob, gave me some of the confidence to then go and share with our guests that, “Hey, by the way, I had some trouble and I’m not sure we’re going to be able to recover it. Would you be willing to talk with us again?” Not only were they willing, but they’re like, “I think this could be great.” They shared a couple of things with me that maybe it’s a relief because I wish I had thought about it later and I wish I would’ve said this, and I wish I would’ve shared this other story instead. They also saw it as a potential blessing in disguise and I’m so grateful to them for that. There’s the practice of– I don’t mean to keep summarizing this, but I’m seeing a lot of practices here. Acknowledging our feelings, engaging in a little bit of mindfulness or mindful activity, and connecting with somebody who you can at least talk to, if not, maybe they’re not in this situation or maybe they are. Then talking to the people who you need to talk to about it and having some gratitude for the whole process of what happened. Maybe it wouldn’t be the same thing, but in this case, they said, “Sure, we’re happy to record with you guys again.” Maybe it wouldn’t work out the same way, but when you think through all these different points along that journey that you went through, there’s going to be something in there to be grateful for. That’s what I was seeing throughout as we’ve been talking about it. I was looking at those as a set of practices for cultivating a growth mindset. Bob: I think those are great. I think they’re similar to what we would say to anybody who’s trying to practice resilience which I think is part of what we’re doing here is to have some perspective. It’s a good resilience practice, have a friend to talk to. That’s a good resilience practice. The other thing that I’m reminded of about what’s possible because I was thinking that too, that we have these stories that where the failure led to a new opportunity in a really obvious, positive way, but that’s not always the case. It puts me in mind of something that Robin Wall Kimmerer points out in Braiding Sweetgrass, top of mind obviously since it’s the second time I’ve referenced it, she talks about how in a lot of indigenous cultures, they don’t see time as a river. They see time as a lake. That really speaks to this idea of the opportunity might not be super apparent, but no matter what the failure is, even if it seems like it’s had a negative outcome, it has opened up different opportunities. We’ve changed something in the formula because we didn’t do it the way that we expected to do it. We didn’t get the exact outcome that we expected to get. Even if that’s a negative, it’s not a spot in the river that the water has already rushed by that we can’t get back to. It’s a point in the lake in which all the potentials, all the possible futures are already connected and existing. To me, that perspective can really help us not deal with failure, but also celebrate it in a way that something new has happened. It might be viewed by our culture or the world or whatever as a negative outcome, but it has opened another door to a different possible future. Jessica: Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. Bob and I would also like to thank our announcer Kalin Goble, Hannah Hyde, and Terry Meisenbach for helping us with promotion and Nathan Grim for composing and performing all the music you hear on the podcast. Finally, special thanks to Naava Frank and Ziva Mann, our gracious guests whose voices you will hear in the future episode. Bob: If you’d like to learn more about the Practicing Connection podcast, check out the show notes for this episode and a lot of other information about the podcast. You can find it on the Military Families Learning Network website at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org. Just click the podcast button and then Practicing Connection in a Complex World. Thanks again for joining us. Keep practicing. [music]
40 minutes | Dec 1, 2020
Practicing Reflection (Ep. 6)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Episode-6-Practicing-Reflection.mp3 About this episode In this episode, Jessica and Bob take some time to reflect on 2020 and look forward to 2021, sharing some of the questions they find most helpful for reflection and their answers to those questions. Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Jen Chilek, for her help with our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing. You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list. Subscribe now. Extras Radicalizing Education, Stephen D. Brookfield and John D. Holst Designing Your Life, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans Grit, Angela Duckworth Questions for reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the new year Questions answered on the show: Which of your personal strengths turned out to be most helpful to you this year? What future change did you lay the foundation for this year? If there were absolutely no limits, what would you choose to do in the next year? What lessons did you learn or insights did you gain this year? What is giving you energy? Zapping it? What limiting beliefs are holding you back? What are they holding you back from? What’s one thing you can do in the coming year to move forward? Additional questions we curated: What new things did you discover about yourself this year? What was your biggest breakthrough this year? What’s one way in which your view of the world changed this year? What is one way you want to embody your beliefs and values in the coming year? What thought, wish, or dream have you been holding close but are ready to share in the coming year? What roles did you play? What relationships are connected to those roles? How did you feel about each? What new relationships did you begin this year? How will you stay connected to existing important relationships as you cultivate the new ones? Transcript [music] Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in the rapidly changing world. To start our conversation, here are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch. Bob Bertsch: Hey, welcome. Thanks for joining us on the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast. Today, Jessica and I decided with the end of the year coming up, to come up with some questions that we could use to reflect back on what has been a pretty eventful year for everyone and also some questions to help us look forward to 2021 as well. Both Jessica and I do a lot of facilitation work, and so coming up with these questions and powerful questions that can prompt us to reflect and to think more deeply is something that’s really important to both of us. I hope I’m speaking for both of us, Jessica, that personally, we both find it helpful as a way to prompt that kind of thinking. What we’re going to do is just share some of these questions with you, but also with each other, and give you our answers and our thinking behind these questions. Hopefully, you can find something in the episode today that will be helpful to you. What do you think, Jessica, you ready to do this? Jessica Beckendorf: I am so ready. Yes, you were speaking for me also. Bob: All right. Good, I covered my bases. Thank you. I’ll start with one of my questions. This is a question that I thought was really good for reflecting this year, particularly. I’ll just share the question with you. Here it is. Which of your personal strengths turned out to be most helpful to you this year? I really thought it was a good question for this particular year because a lot of us have had to draw on all kinds of different strengths of ourselves and others to deal with everything that we’ve been dealing with throughout the pandemic. When I think about this answer for myself, I don’t know if I know the exact word I want to use and maybe just adaptability or maybe my willingness to go with the flow. It’s funny to pull back the curtain a little bit on the podcast, we were just talking about as we prepared for this episode, should we just wing it or plan things out? I tend to be a wing person, [chuckles] I tend to lead that way. It doesn’t always work out great. Sometimes, I wish I was much more prepared, but the ability to be willing to do that this year has been super helpful in dealing with all the uncertainty and the rapid changes that we’ve been facing. That’s not to say that I didn’t ever get upset or frustrated or sad like many people have about what we’ve been dealing with across the globe, but I felt pretty adaptable about it and willing to like, “Hey, let’s just try it. Let’s get through this part and see if we can get to the other side.” That’s my– I’ll call it adaptability. I decided that’s going to be my personal strength that helped me out most this year. Jessica: What a great strength. I would say for myself, I have the same strength of being able to adapt to different situations. I attribute a lot of that to you being a military kid, I had to adapt to my environment, every couple of years. I know, that doesn’t just happen to military kids. It’s, all kinds of people move every couple of years and as a kid, I had to adapt to new schools and new homes, new neighborhoods, new cities, new environment. There’s that but I’d like to add for me, I have this resourcefulness that doesn’t allow me to completely interrupt what I really want to do. Let me give an example of what I mean. The pandemic has kept us physically distanced and away from other people, people we love, people we want to hang out with, our co-workers, for many of us, obviously, not for all of us. My favorite thing to do is meet new people. I could have very easily just said, “Well, I guess I can’t do that.” Yet, I didn’t want to stop doing that. Rather than still trying to go out into public and travel and do all these things that maybe we shouldn’t be doing right now, I found other ways to meet people. I’ve been having some really rich conversations and new relationships that I really treasure have been coming out of the woodwork [chuckles] because I’ve been digging and looking for them and finding other ways to meet with people and to meet people. That would be my other one. I see your adaptability and would like to tack on resourcefulness. Bob: Yes, resourcefulness, that’s what I was thinking. There’s a term that Angela Duckworth has used and I can’t put the tip of my tongue on it right now, but “stick-to-itiveness,” whatever. Maybe stubbornness might be a good one. I’m just not going to accept the status quo, I’m going to find a way. I definitely appreciate that about you, Jessica, and agree that’s definitely one of your strengths. Do you have a question you want to share, have us think about? Jessica: I do. One of my favorite questions– Actually, I feel like I cheated on this one a little bit, Bob, because it came from a calendar that I use, every single week, and there’s also a monthly review of lessons that you’ve learned or insights that you gained. Believe it or not, there are lessons that you can learn and insights you can gain every single week because every week, I have things to write in those spots. I would like to ask, what lessons did you learn or insights did you gain this year? The things that popped up for me were the theme of validation kept coming up over and over and over in my past notes from this year. It kept coming up in the context of how connected I feel to people that take the time to see me and how connected I feel to people when I take the time to see them and validate them. Then it also came up in the context of balancing, balancing the– [chuckles] I don’t know, I’m going to jokingly call it the desperate need for validation because that is definitely something that I think can be hard for me that I do need to hear a lot of validation from people. I know that about myself so it actually helps me to not need it quite as much, but balancing the need for validation with a healthy understanding of my need for validation, if that makes sense. That was one of the themes. I think the other major theme on that was this idea of being overextended, came up over and over and over again. As I was reflecting on all of the questions that I’ve reflected on, I kept feeling this need to separate before pandemic and after pandemic or during pandemic. I don’t know if you felt that way too. Bob: Yes. I was commenting on that with a colleague just earlier about having a hard time just even thinking back as you’re reflecting on, for me, reflecting on the past year. Just trying to remember anything that happened before March was difficult. I was like, “Did that happen in 2020 or was that last year?” Whatever, it’s like a whole different era of life that, I don’t know, I seem disconnected from a little bit. I definitely feel that about the pre-pandemic, during pandemic separation. Jessica: I think that one of the things that was interesting about this is, there were a bunch of things I noticed that stayed the same no matter what. This idea of overwhelm, I was overwhelmed when I look back at my notes, and, frankly, I’m really grateful that I have built this habit, and I’m glad that this calendar makes me think about it because I was able to then look back and see what I was writing before the pandemic and everything I’ve written since and it feels like there’s a whole bunch of things that haven’t changed. Overwhelm, I was overwhelmed before this was declared a pandemic, and I would say worse so, during this pandemic, but that was still a theme, and it’s still a theme that hasn’t gone away, and frankly, I don’t know what to do about it, but here’s something I learned over the course of the last several months. I’m not alone in that. So many people are overextended, and I think just extending as much grace [laughs] to them and to yourself as possible, and just understand that many, many people, probably most people, are overwhelmed, and you’re not alone. I wrote a note to myself, “Stop apologizing for this.” Bob: As I think about your question, Jessica, I think one of the things that has been really important in terms of what I learned or an insight that I had this year, is that there are some things that I’ve viewed as values-neutral, that I think I’ve been dissuaded that there is such a thing. Part of this was a book that I read called Radicalizing Learning and learning is something that we might think about as, oh, it’s values-neutral. It’s just a good thing. Learning is good, it doesn’t have to have any particular direction, and that book by Stephen Brookfield really dissuaded me of that, that we have to define what we’re striving towards. Learning is not values-neutral, if you’re learning about something that’s destructive to society or destructive to others, then, that learning can’t be positive, and there’s so many things, and I think my learning about this was deepened following the George Floyd murder, and the protests around that. It’s just so many things, especially as a white man growing up and existing in American society. So many things I just take for granted and take as values-neutral, and they’re not. The systems and structures and things that we think about that way. That’s been just something that’s been really a big change for me and adjusting to this past year, and then I’ll reflect on and try and be cognizant of going forward that even, maybe the things that we cherish most or many of us cherish about our society and our country, even those things are not values-neutral, they don’t automatically have a positive effect for everyone, and may even be destructive in some ways. That was my big insight from this year. Jessica: Well, let’s go into another one of your questions, Bob. I’m excited about this. Bob: Okay. Here’s my next one. What future change did you lay the foundation for this year? I like the question too because it’s not just about accomplishment, success, failure, or what did I get done this past year, what were my successes, or anything like that? It speaks to the fact that all of this change, personal, professional, community change is on a continuum, and that we have to keep doing the work moving forward. That question really spoke to me about maybe I didn’t meet a goal or accomplish a certain thing this year, but I’m doing work to lay a foundation for future change. 100% honestly, I’m not sure what that change is for me. I think it’s something to do with being able to more authentically represent what I believe in more aspects of my life, and I appreciate you as a collaborator, Jessica, and our audience for maybe indulging that a little bit today, of being able to speak a little bit about what I value and what I believe, and bring that part of me to this work in the podcast. Hopefully, what I’ve laid the foundation for this past year is to bring that to more aspects of my work and my life. That’s the change that I hope I’ve laid the foundation for this year. Jessica: That is big. It’s something that I have also struggled with in the past, and I would say I’m probably in a similar situation but a little bit differently, and that what I’ve been laying the foundation for [laughs] was actually understanding my strengths and my values so much more than I have in the past that I think it’s laying the foundation for me to believe in my own strengths and to believe in my ability to share about what I believe in and what I think and what I value. It’s a little different than what you said but similar, and I do think that that is a huge foundation I’ve been laying. It’s been on my mind a lot and there’s this feeling of a blockage [laughs] that I can’t describe it any other way. I’m not really sure, but I was feeling blocked before where I’m not feeling so blocked now. I’m believing even in myself more and I know, this isn’t a therapy session or anything like that, but I really am, I’m getting it. I’m understanding where my strengths are, and I’m understanding where I can apply them best, I’m understanding how I can apply them in ways that will help me move the needle in the world in the way that I would like to start seeing it moved, and I can actually start publicly committing to that. Not that I don’t do that already, but I mostly have been doing it through my work, and given that sense of overwhelm I brought up a little bit ago, I haven’t really spent a lot of time publicly sharing as much but it’s something that I’d felt so blocked on for so long, and now I don’t. I’m excited to see where I take that next year. Bob: I’m excited to see where you take that, I think I see that a little bit. I think I’ve been able as your collaborator to see that happening a little bit and it’s exciting. What’s your next question for us? Jessica: This is one of my favorite questions. What is giving you energy or zapping it or sapping it? However, you want to put that. [laughter] Bob: I like zapping it. Jessica: I do too. [laughs] Bob: It’s more sci-fi. [laughter] Jessica: Yes, what is giving you energy or what is zapping it? I like to think this way. I started doing a reflection exercise based on the book Designing Your Life, and they have you take a look at the activities you’ve done over the past couple of weeks and assign sort of a is this giving you energy? Are you feeling engaged when you do it? They don’t have you look at what’s giving you energy and what’s zapping it but I changed this activity to an end of year reflection so that I could start to understand more about what I maybe need to start backing off from or saying no to as well as saying yes too more often. Some of the things that I found, this is one of those pre-pandemic and during pandemic ones because I will say that before the pandemic something that gave me so much energy was performing for live audiences. I’ve performed improv. I have done a minuscule amount of stand up. I was just starting to do open mics. I’d only done like three of them before the pandemic [laughs] and I was looking forward to trying to do more. I had done a roast and it was a lot of fun. Not only was it fun, though, it gave me so much energy to perform for a live audience. I’m still performing online, but it’s not the same and I love it still, and I’m not going to give it up but it’s totally different and it doesn’t give me the energy that it used to, for sure. Now, what’s been giving me energy is when– I’ve noticed that when I have time for thinking, writing, and creative projects, or just being able to be creative a little bit, it gives me so much energy. I can work until 2:00 in the morning on something like that and not even realize that that much time has gone by. Taking classes have always given me energy, and I’ve had the opportunity to take more classes since the pandemic started because everyone went online. Suddenly, it wasn’t having to pay for the registration for the class, and then also having to travel and get a hotel room or Airbnb for several nights. Now, I get to take the class from home, which means I get to learn more. That’s the kind of stuff that’s really been feeding me. Then, I mentioned this a little earlier, the fact that I’ve been able to continue to meet new people. You can network remotely, you can network with people that you’ve never met before when it’s all virtual. I’ve found that to be true, and it’s been feeding my soul. What’s been zapping my energy is– This feels awful but in order for me to enjoy connecting with people, someone has to coordinate it. Sometimes, the reason why I have social connections that are so few and far between is that coordinating, getting together, zaps my energy. [laughs] It’s a really terrible spot to be in because I don’t like to coordinate the get-togethers but I do like to get together. That zaps my energy and then, frankly, the overwhelm, having way too much on my plate. Even though it’s pretty much all been good stuff, it gets to a tipping point where it’s not so good anymore. I start to feel I have no freedom, even though I love the stuff I’m working on. It’s a weird spot to be in. [laughs] Bob: I feel that one definitely. This is a great question. What’s giving me energy is conversation of almost any kind. [chuckles] I guess maybe this speaks to the isolation of the pandemic and the importance of social support. Especially small group, or one-on-one conversations, obviously, that’s a large part of what we do on the podcast. This work gives me all kinds of energy, but yes, just other conversations as well. That’s been really important in keeping me energized. This is one where maybe a little too aligned on in terms of the zapping, I won’t go too deep on what zapping my energy with being overcommitted. Like you were talking about, Jessica, I’m just overcapacity, and where it really zaps my energy is if I let my mind go to the list. The list of all the things and not even the list of things that I should be working on today, but the list of things that I need to keep in mind going forward. “This has to be done, and this has to be done, and I haven’t paid enough attention to this thing.” That’s something that I had been trying to deal with and the more overcapacity I get, the less I am dealing with it. I had been trying to deal with it by practicing meditation, just training my mind to not fall into those traps of obsessing over the things, and letting those lists run through my head and zap my energy. That’s the curse of being over-committed, right? Then you’re like, “I don’t have time for meditation. No, I can’t do it.” I have to get back to making time for that, training my mind to not go down that road, and hopefully, I can have more energy to address all the overcapacity stuff. We’re doing the thing that I think both of us have mentioned before that we shouldn’t do, which is talk about how busy we are because everybody’s busy. We get it, everyone’s busy, but we’re busy too is what we’re saying. This is how we’re trying to deal with it. Jessica: I think the difference is, a lot of people say, don’t glorify busy. Our society glorifies being busy and I have tried so hard– I actually feel the opposite about being busy. I’m tired of being busy. I don’t want to be busy. I’m not glorifying it. No, that’s not true. I want to be busy, but I don’t want to be over busy. [laughs] I feel almost a little shame about being overextended. In part, I feel like there’s a weakness there in not being able to say no, there’s an ego issue. Somebody asks me to do something, and they’re like, “We really would like someone with your skills.” I’m like, “Oh, did you just compliment me?” [laughs] Bob: I’m guilty of that one. Jessica: I feel that there’s a weakness there, and I know that being able to– In my head, it’s like, you’re doing it all wrong, and that’s what I keep telling myself and it’s not helpful. It’s definitely not helpful. One of the things I’ve worked on is at least trying to communicate better and trying not to even talk very much about being busy outside of conversations like this. I’ve really just tried to take everything in stride as much as possible, and I’ve really just thought to myself over and over again, “Everyone is busy. Many people, not everyone, but many people are as busy as you are. Just keep going.” Bob: I got one more for us. This is one that’s a little bit more about looking ahead, I think. If there were absolutely no limits, what would you choose to do in the next year? This idea of getting rid of the limits, all of the reasons why not, right? Jessica: Does this include COVID? Bob: I need money. How am I going to make a living? What about the pandemic? Whatever, all those excuses, but if there were no limits, what would you choose to do in the next year? Just talking about all the energy I have gotten from conversation this year, I think that’s something I would recommit myself towards. Obviously, with you, Jessica, doing Practicing Connection in a Complex World, I care about how people connect, and if you’ve listened to past episodes, you’ve heard us talk about building community through relationship and working toward positive change that way. I haven’t been able to commit myself to that kind of work, of co-creating things with others, to make positive change in the world. With no limits, I would just do that. I would just, whether it was in small groups, or in larger projects, just go out and co-create with people to bring about positive change. I do want to mention about this, that– I mentioned some of the external limits of how to make a living right now, the limitations in gatherings and things like that with the pandemic going on, but there’s internal limitations too. It’s just like my level of comfort for doing that, my fear of potentially putting myself out there and just telling people that I want to work with them to bring about a particular change. I think it’s important to think about those limits as well, but that’s my answer to what I would choose to do if I could next year. Jessica: Wow, this question is always really hard for me and I’ll say why, just in case there’s someone out there that has a similar issue. I used to feel like answering a question like this, even though it was self-imposed, would pigeonhole me [laughs] into a specific goal, which is very silly, but a real thing that used to happen. Questions like this are often difficult for me to answer. However, I think if there were absolutely no limits, including limiting beliefs, I’m going to add that for my version of the question, I would choose to do more publicly for one thing. What I mean by that is whether that means I would try to become a YouTube star, I don’t know exactly what that means, but I would want to share more of my creativity outwardly. I don’t do a lot of that anymore. I love it so much. That’s one thing. The other thing I am choosing to do in the next year I’ll say that is, I have got to figure out how to stay connected to my existing really important relationships, people I really love as I cultivate new ones because I shared a little bit ago, I love meeting new people and creating new relationships and that’s a hard balance for me because I do have existing relationships that are really important to me and people that I really love. The more you spread yourself thin, of course, the harder it is to continue to stay connected. That’s my two things for that question. Bob: Awesome. You’ve got one last question or as I’m looking at our shared notes, maybe a set of questions for us. Jessica: Yes. It is a set of questions. They are meant to go together. I’ll give you an example of how I answered them to maybe help you see where I was going with it. The questions are, what limiting beliefs are holding you back? What are they holding you back from? What’s one thing you can do in the coming year to move forward? Those are all really big questions. I’ll just give you an example of one of the things I reflected on for this. I have more than one limiting belief [laughs] but the one that I’ll share today is one that we’ve talked about before. I have a pretty terrible imposter syndrome issue. I just feel like as soon as I start sharing that everyone will see that I don’t really know everything, which is really funny because to me, when you’re sharing in that way, it really is about learning. I think I’ve said this before, Bob, learning is never wrong. Share to your heart’s content. [laughs] At least in the context that I’m talking about sharing, I’m looking at sharing for the purpose of connecting and learning. If my limiting belief is holding me back from sharing, that’s a problem. It’s holding me back from sharing and it’s holding me back from– I should say it was holding me back because we talked about already how I’m feeling like this barrier is being lifted from me even as we’re talking. Honestly, I think it’s partly because we’ve been recording this podcast. Since we started to record this, and this is literally a way of sharing what you’re [laughs] thinking out with the world. Since that started to happen, this barrier has started to dissipate for me. This idea that I’m an imposter and everyone’s going to know that I don’t know everything [laughs] or they’re all going to laugh at me. I don’t know what it is that was holding me back because now that I’ve been sharing, I realized that it was holding me back from really being able to learn what I want to learn and grow in ways that are harder to grow when you’re just holding it all to yourself. One thing I can do in the coming year to move forward is I need to continue to share in different ways. Right now, I’m sharing through this podcast, but I think I need another way. I need to think about what that’s going to look like, but I’d like to do this in another way and in a way that energizes me. Like I said before, creative projects, writing, thinking, stuff like that. Bob: This is a good set of questions. Great job. It has me thinking, definitely. I think my limiting belief that’s holding me back, I’m going to call it a fixation on fixing. Going into situations, looking for what needs to be fixed, and assuming that there is a way to fix them and that I’m the person to fix them. [chuckles] That’s my limiting belief. It’s definitely holding me back and I think it’s holding me back from letting things emerge and even learning things about other people and holding me back from being totally co-creative in the way that I want to be, and that I think is important to be moving forward. How could I address that moving forward? Hopefully it’s just being more open to that, understanding that, accepting that I don’t have all the answers, that sometimes there aren’t any answers to have. Sometimes there’s not anything to be fixed. [chuckles] We had a conversation about that outside of the podcast, about assuming there was something to be fixed in a meeting that I went into. When someone said, “No things are good.” I was completely flustered and was like, “Oh my God.” I completely lost my ability to facilitate the meeting and Jessica came in and bailed me out big time. I just assumed, hey, that something’s broken here. We’re here to– Jessica and I are here to figure out what to do about it. When people were like, “No, it’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good.” That really threw me off and I think that was that limiting belief, that fixation on trying to fix things all the time that was holding me back from– In that meeting, maybe, hopefully, it didn’t totally hold us back but in the context of that meeting, it could have held us back from really seeing all kinds of new and emerging possibilities, starting with the idea that, hey, things are pretty good, how can we tweak it here and there and improve things? Hopefully, I’m going to work on that next year, and hold me accountable. Jessica: I will, I promise. I don’t think that it made the meeting any less meaningful. Just so you know. [chuckles] Bob: Thanks. This has been really good. Thanks so much for sharing your questions and answers today. Jessica: Same here. This was actually fun to go through. It’s getting easier and easier to share, I guess. [laughs] This was really exactly what I needed it to be and I’m looking forward to finding out what others think and if they go through some of the similar questions. Bob: I hope that everyone who’s listening, takes a little bit at a time, whether it’s these questions or other questions that prompt your reflection and visioning forward to 2021, which I think everybody’s anxious to do [chuckles] to get past 2020 and look forward to 2021. Just take a little bit of time to do it. We want to thank you as always for joining us for the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast. Jessica and I had come up with a few other questions. We’re going to put those in the show notes, and you can find those show notes and links to other things that we talked about including the books that we talked about today on the military families learning network website at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org, just click the podcast button and find Practicing Connection in a Complex World to find those show notes. We usually end with gratitude and we do want to give our gratitude to Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for helping us with promotion and to Nathan Graham for composing and performing all the music that you hear on the podcast. I think we talked about it already, how much we enjoyed this, Jessica. Gratitude is coming from me to you. Thank you for this season of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. Thank you for being such a generous collaborator, great friend, helping me get through this year. I’m so looking forward to everything that we’re going to do together in the future. Jessica: Thank you. Thank you so much, and gratitude back at you. I’ve I really enjoy working with you. This is some of the most rewarding parts of my work. Just being able to think about these themes and topics on the level that we’re able to do that. I feel very lucky, thank you. [music] Bob: Thanks to all our listeners as well. I hope that you’ll join us for the next episode, which, by the way, is coming up in February of 2021. We’re going to take January off, but we’ll be back, February 2021, with new episodes of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. In the meantime, happy holidays, happy new year, and keep practicing. [00:40:11] [END OF AUDIO]
30 minutes | Nov 2, 2020
VUCA and VUCA Prime (Ep. 5)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Episode-5-VUCA-and-VUCA-Prime.mp3 About this episode In this episode, Karen Pedersen, Dean for Global Campus at Kansas State University, talks about how the VUCA framework (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) has helped her better understand the world, and how the VUCA Prime framework (vision, understanding, clarity, and agility) has helped her lead in and respond to a VUCA world. Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Jen Chilek, for her help with MFLN promo and our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing. You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list. Subscribe now. Extras Additional Recommendations for Us Right Now from a Future – adrienne maree brown Emotional Intelligence Leadership Needed in a VUCA World – Relly Nadler Managing Yourself: Zoom In, Zoom Out – Harvard Business Review. A good read that includes some practical advice about how to know when you are too far zoomed in/out and reflection questions to help you zoom in/out where applicable. Transcript [music] Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. To start our conversation, pair Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch. Jessica Beckendorf: Hi, this is Jessica. Our world is rapidly changing and complex. Cultivating connection and increasing our exposure to different perspectives is more important than ever. Frameworks can help us do that in a way that is constructive, moving our individual relationships and our communities toward a connected and thriving future. I had the opportunity to talk with Karen Pedersen recently about one framework that looks at complexity both from what exists, so how complex we already are, and how we can navigate the complexity. Karen Pedersen: Hi, my name is Karen Pedersen and I currently serve as the Dean for Global Campus at Kansas State University. You may be asking yourself, “So, what is a Dean for Global Campus and what does she do?” Global Campus at Kansas State is the online learning division or unit that supports online learning for the university. My team facilitates all of our online courses and online degree programs. Today we offer over 120-degree programs online, and so my team is very busy working across the university to support all of those online learning activities. Since the start of COVID, it is only amplified the work that we do given that lots of courses at the university have moved online. I’ve been doing this work for 20-plus years. I love it, I love working with learners at a distance. I love just finding ways for individuals to earn degrees where maybe a college or a university is not close to them or their life and job doesn’t allow them to complete a degree in a more traditional way. That’s the work that I do every day. I’ve worked in higher education most of my career, and I’ve always worked in units like a global campus. Units that are rather entrepreneurial. Units that are forward-thinking. Units that maybe look at the world a little bit differently than others in the academy. I latched on to this acronym VUCA a few years ago, but VUCA it stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. It’s a concept that was borrowed from the US Army War College dating back to the late ’80s. In recent years, it has been applied to other contexts such as business, for me, higher education to describe how we need to navigate a very dynamic and changing environment. For me, VUCA is highlighted in those four terms. Volatility, when we think about fast, turbulent or unpredictable changes without clear patterns. Clearly, this pandemic has moved us to this sense of volatility. Uncertainty is the frequent disruptive changes where the past maybe isn’t a good predictor of the future that we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory with the potential for surprise. Complexity is when we have multiple complex intertwined interdependencies or confounding of issues amidst this global interconnectivity. Finally, ambiguity where there’s little clarity or distinction between opportunities and threats, between cause and effect, where multiple perspectives make it difficult to predict impacts of given action. It’s that haziness of reality. That’s the world that many of us in higher education have been living. Many of us at institutions focusing on how do we support learners in new and different ways? How do we support more learners that might be learning from a distance from an institution? VUCA really was an acronym for me that articulated where I saw us. That it was very volatile, very uncertain with a complexity and an ambiguity that many of us had not seen in our careers. I think that some of what we’ve seen in a VUCA environment prompts us to do some really great thinking. It prompts us to derive solutions that exceed expectations, whether it’s for a learner, a customer, a stakeholder. I would describe it as not on this good bad framework, but I would just describe it as needing to push ourselves. There are some future-ready qualities that I think about when I think about the opportunities in the career that I have chosen personally and professionally. Some of those future-ready qualities I feel position me in my organization to bring about change tend to be a leader of change initiatives. For many, that can be very helpful as they think about the work that they do every day. [music] Karen: If you flip the coin over and you think about VUCA but now the acronym is vision, understanding, clarity, and agility. When we think about vision, it’s about having that clear purpose that provides a compass point for others. You shift from strategic planning to maybe setting a strategic intent, and you’re very flexible in how you get there. Understanding is when you really, as a leader or as someone in an organization or in the impromptu world, you stop, you look, you listen beyond your areas of expertise. You dialogue with others before making a decision, before moving forward. You develop this perceptual flexibility which allows you to take in different perspectives. Clarity is that seeing through that confusion, that sense-making, where you create plausible understanding and context. You respond to what matters. You learn how to inspire others to follow through. Storytelling can be an incredible approach when you’re thinking about that clarity. Agility is that ability to build capacity to move quickly and easily. Rapidly prototyping a solution, experimenting, synthesizing, iterating where you anticipate risk, but you don’t spend too much time looking at that long-term strategic plan. You encourage creating networks rather than hierarchies. Just being in the moment, but very focused on what’s happening around you. Vision, understanding, clarity, and agility become the framework as we think about flipping that coin over and thinking about VUCA Prime. Recently, I had the opportunity to go through the CliftonStrengths. One of my top strengths is lifelong learner, but I think that is part of what I see as one of the future-ready qualities for that individual that really thinks about and continues to learn throughout their lifetime. They have this curiosity. That is critically important. I think when we are connected we’re listening to diverse perspectives, we’re collaborating with individuals that we may not collaborate with on a daily basis, we’re communicating our ideas, our perspectives, our insights with others, and we’re actively listening. I think for me, the idea of connected or connectedness is so critically important and probably more important today than really ever before because many of us are finding ourselves in a landscape that is different than what we are used to. Maybe you are on Zoom meetings for much of your day and so there might be those times when you zone out and how do you stay connected with individuals that you may not see in the office every day, or you may not have those same brainstorming sessions with them, those problem-solving strategy sessions? How do you do that in a pandemic? To me that connectedness is so critical as we think about where we are and as we pivot to the future and I believe that organizations are really looking at the opportunities for how do you instill greater adaptability because many of us sort of signed a physical piece of paper when we got our annual contract for the year and we would have sent it back through the mail in an envelope and all of these things. It looks different when you need to do that all electronically. It looks different for me when I have for years been serving learners at a distance and really wanted for those learners at a distance to have the same experience as that students on a campus would have, and now I’m seeing a career of services office that is doing a virtual career fair that supports all students no matter where they are, they are living in Manhattan, Kansas which is where I am today, or if they are living someplace else. I think that adaptability that organizations and individuals, when confronted with change, adapt, they are highly resilient and so the things that we’re used to doing in person, we begin to think about in a pandemic, how do we still create those experiences and how do they look different? That to me is just human nature, where we adapt and we’re resilient and we create opportunity. I was recently reading a white paper that was written by a colleague that works in the online learning space and higher education, and this white paper, the quote is, “The future is not a straight line from the past. It involves significant and substantial change and needs to do so if we are to respond to the significant shifts occurring in society, the environment, and the global economy, and thinking about the place where we are, the place we’d like to be and then how do we as individuals make a difference.” That’s where I focus myself is– I read this article about creating a vision to serve one million enrolled students. There are institutions around the globe that have a million or more students. That line alone for me, creating a vision to serve one million enrolled students, it opens up my mind to think differently about what we do, how we do it in my current institution. There’s no way that my current institution tomorrow or next year or five years from now will enroll a million students, but part of it is for me to think about what we need to look like if we did. That I think is how you begin to think beyond where you are, you think bigger, you think more impactful, you think about sort of a situation like I put myself in, and that sits in the back of my mind in meetings, as I’m going through what we’re going through. What are the big questions we need to ask and not get mired in some of the little details that keep us where we are? I think it’s about finding others that are thinking in creative ways, that are problem-solving, that are looking beyond themselves, looking beyond their community. They are doing things for their community but they’ve got this vision, they have this greater purpose, this understanding. I’m all about finding those connections, and you’re going to be in places where you don’t necessarily anticipate that they are going to be. It’s interesting just last week, my husband and I, we have three dogs, and we went out on a trail here, and we walked by a gentleman with two dogs and keeping our dogs down this side of the path, and his dogs are over there and he said, “Karen, is that you?” I was like, “Yes.” Well, this was a person that I’ve only met at the university online. It’s a person that his photo is there, and my photo’s there and we are on Zoom calls but I’ve never talked with him in person, and there we were with our five dogs total, three individuals, connecting on this trail. That’s what I see is we have to keep ourselves open to finding one another and making those connections. Jen Chilek: I’m Jen Chilek from the Military Families Learning Network. We bring you online professional development opportunities like this podcast along with webinars, conferences, and more, in support of those who support military families. Geared to cooperative extension educators, military family service providers, and others who support military families, much of our online content comes with continuing education credit and all of it is free. Visit us at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org to find more content like this geared to people like you. Jessica: One of the things that struck me about this conversation with Karen was, as she was describing the VUCA Prime, the vision, understanding, clarity, and agility, within all of those, there are things that we can do individually and there are things that we can do collectively as we are connecting with others, but when she talks a little later on about them, what are those big questions? Then you think back to the VUCA Prime, which involves individual actions and collective actions, it really made me think about this idea of being able to be zoomed in and zoomed out. Zoomed out to understand what’s happening in the world, what do I really care about, and then zooming in to match your actions and what you say, and how you connect with people to what you really care about. Bob Bertsch: I think that’s really a rich practice to explore, Jessica, because it takes practice to do that and I think it is important from lots of different frameworks who talk about environmental activism or community development or lots of different places we always have this conversation about global and local, big picture and small picture and that ability to, as you are saying, zoom in and zoom out to have some things that guide us from a global big picture, to put it in the VUCA Prime language, from a vision standpoint, so to be able to do that kind of thinking and be comfortable with that but also not get lost in that kind of thinking and be able to zoom in and focus on making things clear on that clarity and taking agile action is really important. I’m so glad you brought that up because it’s easy to take these two frameworks, VUCA and VUCA Prime, and be either too expansive with them, it feels so big and so uncontrollable that it’s hard to do anything with it or to be overly reductive where you’re like, “Uh, I know how to handle VUCA, I’ll just do VUCA Prime, boom, boom, boom, problem solved, I’ve done my four steps.” I think we need to be in both spaces and be able to move between those spaces as you described. Jessica: Yes. I started to think about this after this conversation I really- I’m not sure that I am as intentional as I thought I was about doing it, about thinking about what’s happening in the world, what I really care about and acting on that. I think that I just allow my day to day activities to rule what I’m doing and I hope that I’m acting and I think I’m acting in a way that [laughs] that honors what I value, but also, am I stepping back and looking at what’s going on in the world. I read the news. I do keep up with things, but I think it’s really important to add this as a practice. I already try to think about my values and I already try to do some reflection, but I feel like this wouldn’t be very difficult for me to add at all and to think about whether that’s on a daily or weekly basis. To think about how am I zooming out and then reflecting on how am I acting on what’s important to right now. What’s important to the way the world is right now? How am I addressing that in my day to day actions? Bob: I think it also is important to know yourself. We’ve talked about this many times. I think already in the podcast about self awareness and self reflection and how important it is to practicing connection in a complex world. Knowing what you might have an affinity for. For me, I have an affinity for zooming out. That tends to be where I gravitate towards and I struggle a little bit with zooming in. For me, when I’m thinking of a reflective practice that might help me do both, I might focus more on what are the things that help me zoom in. In our work we’ve done a few things that come to mind. You don’t like things like curiosity walks, where you walk around and you’re just intentionally noticing things. Noticing details of things. In meditation practice, I think that’s something that helps you notice details, tapping into your breath or a particular feeling and meditating on that. For me, I think that’s a reflective practice that you could concentrate more on for people who have the same affinity that I do, but for someone who struggles a little bit more to zoom out, to have vision and values behind their actions, you might take a different practice. Jessica: I’m actually only just now realizing that I might be living my life in a more zoomed-in way. [chuckles] I mean, there’s no good or bad here. I always thought of myself as a big picture person and I think that, to some degree, I am. I enjoy being able to live in that space. I’m actually- I don’t think I’m doing it as much lately. This has been really eye opening and interesting to me because ideally it would be nice to be able to zoom in and zoom out really on a day to day basis, and to be able to think in this way that is more wholistic if you want to- I don’t know if that’s the right word, but it feels right for now. I think I’ve been separating the two worlds. Bob: I think we all do that. I find myself doing that. It’s a struggle to not take it as binary. In the examples I gave before of environmentalism or community development, people often treat it as a binary, like, “Oh, we either have to be global or we have to be local.” Our actions need to be highly collective or we need to start at home and be highly individual or in small groups or something. I think that is a struggle. What you’re saying is to move from one perspective to the other and that’s potentially where VUCA Prime can be helpful. For me I think when we talk about VUCA Prime, vision and understanding, really are those big picture things. Do we have something that’s driving us and how are we making sense of the world through understanding? Then clarity and agility tend- for me, are the smaller picture, the more individual, local focused things that are centered on actions. Even within the frameworks there are some things that we can take away. Jessica: I think that one practice that could be beneficial for us all to give a try would be carving out sometime during a weekly or even daily reflection. Hopefully you are able to carve out some time, at least weekly, it’s a really, really good practice to have even if you’re only spending 15 minutes just to think about the past week. How did it go? How were you able to do things that invigorate you? That aside, if we could take a few minutes to carve out some time to reflect on, “Are you moving the worlds that you’re able to influence in a way that you’d like to see it go? How are you navigating the complexity, the uncertainty and how are you doing it in a way that is moving the needle in the direction you’d like to see a change in?” Bob: That’s great advice, Jessica. It reminds me of a quote I recently read from Adrienne Maree Brown, author of Emergent Strategy, such a talented author and positive voice in the world. I just will share this quote from a blog post that she shared. “Even if we don’t have a clear sense of the exact solutions to fix the future, we should have a clear sense of how we want to feel in ourselves, in our relationships with each other, in community and in relationship to the planet. Those feelings aren’t for the far off future. They are guidance to what we must be seeding and practicing now, right now.” [music] Bob: Thanks for joining us for this episode of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. If you want to learn more about VUCA, VUCA Prime, and everything else that we talked about in today’s podcast, you can check out our show notes on the Military Families Learning Network website at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org. I want to share our gratitude today with Karen Pedersen. Thanks so much Karen for the time that you took to share with us what you’ve learned about VUCA and VUCA Prime. We’d also like to thank Adrienne Maree Brown for her words of wisdom as well as Hanna Hyde and Teri Meisenbach for helping us with promotion and Nathan Grimm for composing and performing all the music you hear on the podcast. I hope you’ll join us for the next episode. In the meantime, keep practicing. [music] [00:29:35] [END OF AUDIO]
27 minutes | Oct 3, 2020
Working Out Loud (Ep. 4)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. Listen now: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Episode-4-Working-Out-Loud.mp3 About this episode In this episode, hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch explore john Stepper’s Working Out Loud framework in the context of building relationships for resilience. Jessica and Bob discuss five elements of Working Out Loud: purposeful discovery, relationships, generosity, visible work, and growth mindset. Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Sara Croymans, for her help with MFLN promo and our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing. You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list. Subscribe now. Extras Learn more about Working Out Loud Dive deeper into relationships for resilience with the Building Networks for Resilience learning experience Sign up for the Military Family Readiness Academy Transcript Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. To start our conversation, here are Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch. Jessica: Hi, welcome to this episode of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. Thank you so much for being here with us and for listening. I’m really excited about today’s topic because during our last session, we talked about trying to build relationships before you need them and, in the context of disaster readiness, that’s really important, but it’s really important for many other areas of our lives as well. So today we’re going to be going through a framework, one of many frameworks for relationship building, and this is one of my personal favorites. It comes from Working Out Loud, a book that was written by John Stepper. John came up with this really great way of framing out and going through really thinking intentionally about building relationships. This is a framework that Bob and I have used in workshops, several workshops, and in many different times and one of the things that is really cool about it is that there’s five pretty clear elements. There’s purposeful discovery, relationship-building, generosity, visible work, and developing a growth mindset, and we’re going to take you through each one of those pretty briefly but hopefully to get you started. Segment 1: Purposeful Discovery Jessica: So let’s get started with purposeful discovery. This is actually one of my,.. of the five elements, this is one of my favorites, because I really enjoy learning new things and I enjoy thinking about learning new skills and habits. So, Bob, I’m wondering, purposeful discovery, is this something that, you know, you would mind kind of taking us through? Bob: Sure. You know one of the ways we talk about purposeful discovery when we’re using the Working Out Loud framework is just to draw a contrast between how we, maybe, consume information in the normal world, in the everyday world, where it sort of washes over us. It’s in our face all the time, and in contrast, how we could be intentional about seeking out that information and then applying that to the idea of relationships. So some relationships we don’t get to pick, right? Your coworkers, you know, maybe you decided to take a job or not take a job but people get hired, and come in, and leave, and you don’t have a lot of control over that, but you have to have relationships with those people. Obviously your family, you’re born into relationships and maybe even extending to, you know, friends that are friends of a partner but not necessarily you, or something like that. So you don’t always get to choose, right? Your relationships kind of come in, some of your relationships come in and out of your life without a lot of control on your part. And so the idea of purposeful discovery is to really take some control over that and, at least in a domain that you select, to have control over the relationships that you want to establish. Jessica: This can apply to anything from, if you want to learn how to knit, you know, you want to learn how to knit, you don’t know anyone who knits, and you want to start to discover who you know and what relationship to develop so that you can learn. It can you can apply to things small like that, and it can also, in the context of disaster readiness, it applies to, you know, taking stock of who are some of those people you need to know. What do you need to know in the event of an emergency? And then you can start to kind of shape up who you might want to start developing relationships with whether they’re professional relationships or they’re relationships that you might need for your own personal reasons. Bob: I think that’s really a great point and thinking back to our last episode in our discussion with Danielle Swallow of Sea Grant Delaware, you know, Danielle talked about disaster readiness, part of that, really being to know what your risks are. And that seems to me like a good place to start when you’re doing purposeful discovery for, you know, finding those relationships for disaster readiness. It’s like what are my risks, what am I susceptible to, what’s my family susceptible to, what is my workplace susceptible to? Wherever you want to put your focus and then, you know, once you have an idea what those risks are, purposely going out and identifying those relationships, those connections, that you might need if, you know, a hazard or disaster arose. Segment 2: Relationships Jessica: That’s a really great segue into relationship building, the second element of Working Out Loud. Relationship building helps you see the value of connecting with others, and helps you practice establishing and nurturing relationships. And, you know, relationship building is very interesting. Everyone approaches it differently, and so it would also help, I think, it’s helped me to know what some of my, I guess, strengths and pitfalls are with relationship building. Like I’m really good at meeting a lot of people, but I’m not always really good at keeping the ties going, and so I know that that’s something I have to work on. So as I create..a lot of times with Working Out Loud… we have you create a relationship list. You think through, once you thought through the things that you might need to know or the topic that you’re trying to learn more about or the area of your life that you’re trying to develop relationships in, then you you can create a list of of people or list of types of people to try to get to know. And for me when I do that I might actually place people that I already know on that list, and make it make a point to keep making connections, and to not let those ties get weaker, because in my case that’s what I need to do, because I know where my weakness lies with relationship-building. Bob: Yeah, I am the same way, Jessica. And I think it’s completely okay, you know, and good to put people that you might already be aware of or know, so when we’re in that purposeful discovery phase, we’re not just always looking at new people or connections that you haven’t established, but will you pay attention to connections that need to be cultivated or deepened in some way. And that speaks to the nature of all of our connections, which get referred to as your network, and in this context of disaster readiness I would go further and describe it as your social support network. And when we talk about those networks, we talk about how important it is to not just have a lot of contacts but to have diversity in those connections both in terms of perspectives or certain kinds of information or support that they could bring to you, but also in terms of strength of connection. So, you know, if you are trying to get disaster ready in a particular area and build a social support network around that, it might be enough of a connection to just have a sort of low-level, or what we might call a weak tie, in terms of strength of tie, to somebody who has some information, right? So I know you know who the emergency manager is in my community, or I know who is in charge of the disaster plan in our building, and then maybe I don’t need to have more of a relationship than I just have to know that’s the person need to contact, and they know my name, and I know their name, and I have enough of a connection there. But in other areas of your life, you might need a much deeper connection, or at least somewhat of a deeper connection, all the way maybe to, you know, a deeper end of that spectrum, where you might think about, hey I’m going to be under extreme emotional stress in the case of a disaster, who’s that person that I have a deep enough relationship with that I can share that with them, and work through that with them, and then support them as well. So that diversity and variance, in terms of the strength of our relationships, is important as well. So I like the idea that you’re putting people on your list that you already know or that you already have a connection with, because there’s an opportunity there to cultivate those relationships further. Jessica: Yeah, I actually downloaded an app on my phone that allows you to…it’s called Cultivate I think, I’m not trying to advertise the app, but I really enjoy it… it has you list out the people you want to stay in touch with and then you can set reminders on a regular basis, and it’ll shoot you a reminder that you need to contact this person. I found that really useful, you know. I’m being completely honest, I’m still not very consistent, but those reminders like that really helped me to start to become more consistent and to be reminded that I need to keep in touch with people. So we all have to find the adaptations that work for us, right? Bob” Yeah, definitely. I think it’s important to think about, too, that there’s no shortcuts to it. You know, in an earlier episode of the podcast, we talked about transformational relationships and that this takes work, time, practice. Relationships matter and can keep you resilient and ready, and identifying those and being intentional about building them can help you become more resilient and ready in the face of disaster. Segment 3: Generosity Jessica: This next one actually gets a little bit into how we can deepen some of these relationships, and how we can even start some of these relationships through acts of true generosity. It seems like a really easy concept on the surface to understand, but there’s a lot involved in it. I’ll give you a quick example, then I’d love to hear your perspective on generosity. My example is that things like time and attention are on the list of generous acts that John Stepper talks about, but I would even say, it says time and attention but within the time and attention, I think there’s some listening, some real true listening, and being open to what the other person is saying, and being open to shaping your own thinking, and then continuing this cycle of sharing and listening, and being open to each other. And so, you know, obviously there’s lots of other things on this list of generous acts, and you can come up with a list of thousands of things you can do for somebody, but I really have just recently been kind of opened up to understanding that the gifts of time and attention include listening, and, you know circling back and continuing to interact. So that’s kind of my recent revelation. Bob: I think if we go back a little bit and talk about generosity and why it works, right? So we’re talking a little bit about the kinds of things that we want to be generous around, be generous with, but the reason that generosity works, especially in this context of disaster readiness and resilience, is that it helps us build relationships that are not transactional. And when I say transactional, I mean, you know, I do something for you because I expect someone to do something for me or expect you to do something for me. I do something for you, I expect you to do something for me, not just someone else for me. Jessica: I totally would though, Bob. If you did something for me, I would totally do something for you. Bob: OK. Awesome. Yeah so we want that level. And, in this context, I think it might be a little bit challenging, right? You know people might be thinking to themselves, you know, I’m not trying to have a best friend, here I just want to be able to, you know, work with my colleagues to, you know, do you what we need to do when there’s a pandemic, and we have to move all of our work online. But there is a depth of relationship that is necessary for that particular task. and for any kind of collaboration there has to be some connection and relationship, and the way that we get there is through generosity. And what generosity does. the act of being generous and not transactional, is that it builds trust, right? Transactionality does not build trust, because you are measuring somebody’s reliability based on their returning a particular action, and you can’t always expect them to do that if you don’t trust them, right? You have to actually open up and anticipate that maybe they will return the favor, maybe they won’t return the favor, but I have to, you know have this faith in the future that they will, and that’s trust. That’s what trust is, that we trust someone to act in a particular way, before we actually see it, right? Sometimes you hear that… I’ve heard people say this before, like, well I’ll trust it when I see it happen or whatever. It’s like, well, that’s not trusting, sorry. That’s just evidence, right? When you see it happen, there’s no trust necessary, no faith necessary, right? So trust is, without evidence, you know, expecting something from someone, right, or trusting them to do the thing that you think is the right thing, and that is an act of generosity, when you’re trusting someone, that is being generou, right? You’re not going to call them to the carpet. You’re not going to go and say, no, I don’t trust you until you do X for me. You’re saying, I’m going to be generous with my trust, with my time, with my attention, and when we trust people, they trust us back, and that’s what deepens the relationship. Jessica: You know, so Bob, I’ve done some…I’ve done a little bit of of teaching on, specifically on the topic of trust, and I will first admit I’ve done teaching on it, I’m not an expert on the topic of trust, but I have, you know, I’ve done some reading and I’ve thought through a few things, and one of the things I read that I found really interesting is that…so it goes to your point that trusting someone is an act of generosity…and so when you don’t trust someone until they’ve done something, I guess, quote-unquote “right” in your eyes or they’ve done something for you or they’ve consistently done a certain thing, when you don’t trust until they they’ve done that thing, it’s sort of like you’re playing a game. Because they don’t know what game you’re playing, because we all have different ways we approach relationships, and different ways we approach things like trust, and how we give it, and who we give it to. And so, you know, when you are holding out trust until someone has done something for you or they’ve done something in a way that you would like them to do it, then you’re sort of playing a game that they don’t know the rules to, and it’s a little lopsided. Segment 4: Visible Work Bob: So another element of the Working Out Loud framework is visible work, and John Stepper wrote Working Out Loud with a lens that was kind of focused on the corporate workplace and how to be more engaged and fulfilled in your work, so the term visible work sort of comes from that. But I think it’s valuable, it’s important. Like, that’s one way to unlock relationships that might not be on your list is making your work visible. Hey I’m interested in this area, I just want to let everyone know, or here’s something that I’m working on, does anybody have any comments? And, you know, things like that let people know, okay that’s a potential connection, and you’re making yourself visible, and that’s really how I like to think of it is it doesn’t necessarily have to be strictly work-related or have some work product attached to it but it’s the idea of making yourself visible, so that other people can can connect with you. It’s hard to connect with somebody who you can’t see or who’s moving around all the time, and so this act of taking time to think about how am I making myself visible can be really helpful in building existing relationships, people discover things about you that they may be didn’t know because you are making yourself visible and that deepens the relationship, and also establishing new relationships, because people discover you. They can see you and then see the opportunity to to connect with you. Jessica: I really appreciate the distinction between, you know, this does not have to be your work, because I think that I’ve had some people ask me like, wait you want me to share like an unfinished report with people? And, you know, I always have to kind of explain this one a little bit, because I like to say that it’s about sharing what’s on your mind, what you’re thinking, what you’re learning, and even sharing a little bit about the direction that you’re trying to go in. Because there are people out there that not only would see something like that and help you get to where you’re going or help you go in that direction that you’re hoping to go in, but genuinely want to connect with you in the process. And they want to connect just because you’re interested in whatever it was you were sharing about or just because you hold maybe a different viewpoint than them, or a similar viewpoint, it happens both ways. And so I, a lot of times, like to share this as, sort of, you know think of it as sharing what’s on your mind, which is really vulnerable and can be really difficult for a lot of people. And I will say this isn’t, of the five elements, this is the one I think I have the most trouble with because I have terrible impostor syndrome, and I’m a little afraid that when I start to share those kind of unfinished thoughts in my mind or the things that I’m starting to to move toward that, if I’m being honest, I’m afraid I’m wrong. Which is so funny because it’s learning, and learning is not wrong, but, yes, that’s one of the ways I like to look at it, as sharing what’s on your mind, and sharing what you’re learning and thinking. The Military Family Readiness Academy Sara Croymans: Hello. I’m Sara Cravens from the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions team. I’d like to tell you about the Military Family Readiness Academy, a free professional development opportunity design for military family service providers working in any field with any organization. The 2020 Academy series will focus on the unique needs of servicemembers and their families, and the added stressors and challenges when disasters and emergencies strike. Join us as we explore this complex issue in two parts offered in Fall 2020 and Winter 2021. The 2020 Academy will provide an overview of disaster and emergency readiness information, tools, and resources for military family service providers working in any field as they help military families navigate the unique context of military life. Check out the Military Family Readiness Academy at https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/mfra/. Segment 5: Growth Mindset Jessica: So let’s get into the last element developing a growth mindset or cultivating a growth mindset. I think that when you’re able to…when you’re able to kind of notice what’s going on, and start connecting with people about it, and start to share some of that, sort of, thinking that you’re having with others, that is, I think, evidence of the growth mindset at work, or at least I think it would be for those of us who might be a little more hesitant to share our work out loud. And so as you continually cultivate a growth mindset, that builds the muscle for you to feel good about sharing what’s on your mind out loud. And so in case this is a new term for some folks, the growth mindset is really about understanding that you can always learn more, and you can always do more, and you don’t have to be perfect at anything, you really just need to keep moving forward and continue your learning. One of the phrases we’ve used before is that it’s not about being good at something, it’s about getting better at something, and it’s always about just getting better. Bob: Yeah, it sounds simple. I think, you know, most of us, if just we asked is like, hey can you get better at something if you practice it, we would say, yeah. But I still find myself thinking about, you know, our disaster preparedness and readiness as a family saying, yeah but I’m not good at organizing, or I’m not good at making plans. That’s an example of a fixed mindset. I’m not good at this, so I can’t do it. And so it takes work, I think. It takes, you know, being aware of it to cultivate a growth mindset and say, yeah I have not been the greatest at being organized or making plans in the past, but I can get better at it. What’s one small step I can take today to get a little bit better at it? And so some of those disaster readiness tips that you might have found at at ready.gov or heard Danielle and Chris shared on our last episode on community resilience, or if you’re been attending the Military Family Readiness Academy that Sara Croymans shared a little bit about with you today, take those little steps, right, and do one of them, because I think that opens up some of the possibilities in terms of a growth mindset is that, if I start here, maybe I can make a plan, or if I start here, maybe I can be better at budgeting, or I’ll invite you today, if you start here with making your relationship list for your own disaster readiness and resilience, you can be a little bit better at make at building relationships that support that resilience. Segment 6: Gratitude Jessica: Thanks for joining us for this episode of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. If you’re interested in taking your learning a little bit deeper, and you want to learn more about this framework, you can check out the Building Networks for Resilience learning experience on the Military Families Learning Network website. We will have a link to it on our show notes. Also if you want to check out more of the Working Out Loud framework, you can check that out on workingoutloud.com. Bob and I would like to thank Kalin Goble and Sara Croymans for sharing their voices on today’s episode. We’d also like to thank Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for helping us with promotion, and Nathan Graham for composing and performing all the music you hear on the podcast. I hope you’ll join us for our next episode and in the meantime keep practicing
34 minutes | Sep 10, 2020
Community Resilience (Ep. 3)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. Listen now: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Episode-3-Community-Resilience.mp3 About this episode: In this episode, hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch collaborate with Danielle Swallow and Chris Petrone of Sea Grant Delaware to explore community resilience in the face of hazards and disasters. Danielle and Chris have been integrating resilience into their work with Sea Grant Delaware for several years. They share their thoughts on community resilience, stories of peole coming together to address the impacts of disasters, and tips for how to start building your individual, family, and community resilience. Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Sara Croymans, for her help with MFLN promo and our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing. You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list. Subscribe now. Extras Get prepared for disaster with ready.gov Sign up for the Military Family Readiness Academy Watch Dr. Michael Ungar’s webinar on how community can affect individual resilience Learn more about the Create Community for Coordination for COVID organization that Danielle is involved in Transcript Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. Bob: Hi, I’m Bob Bertsch.My co-host Jessica Beckendorf will join us in just few minutes, as well as our collaborators for this episode, Danielle Swallow and Chris Petrone from Delaware Sea Grant. Danielle and Chris have been doing some great work reaching out to communities to help them prepare for and build resilience to the many hazards and disasters we all face. What you’re about to hear is an exploration of the intersections between Danielle and Chris’s work on disaster preparedness and resilience and the work Jessica and I do on practicing connection, starting with Danielle and I exploring the meaning of community resilience. Segment 1: What is Community Resilience? Bob: So this idea of community resilience is interesting to me really the idea that…not just that we could be resilient as individuals, but that together we have some capacity for being resilient as a community, or in community with each other. And it seems to have a lot of connections to, you know, not just our individual community or, uh, resilience as people in the community, but also, you know, our resilience as the community itself, socially and politically, even ecologically. So I’m really interested in this, Danielle, in the context of your work, of how you think of community resilience, you know, when we talk about disaster response and disaster preparedness. Danielle Swallow: I really think of community resilience as being very anticipatory, and really thinking about, not just the present day conditions, but about what kind of conditions will they be experiencing in the future. That might mean a change in weather patterns or climate change. It could be even demographic changes in the community. And when we can understand how the future might look, we can better prepare ourselves, um, and typically if we are thinking about climate change and weather it might mean certain disruptive events or changes that couldn’t be easily absorbed by everyone. We can take steps now to better adapt and mitigate, so that we can weather those changes and bounce back more quickly. You know in a lot of ways resiliency is about bouncing back. Bob: That sense of adaptation, whatever we want to call it, maybe flexibility, or just being…being comfortable or prepared for change, is that…I think there’s a lot of different ways to look at it. Like, what do you think the capacities are of a community? Like how do we, how would we describe a community that had that capacity or that was resilient. Danielle Swallow: It really varies, but you know we all practice adaptations on a daily basis. You know, we…we look at the weather report or we look at the sky and we see what kind of weather we might be having and we bring an umbrella, for example. But then there’s other types of situations that we have to prepare for. Maybe there’s larger types of adaptations that are needed; new roads, new infrastructure as the community grows. Um, maybe it’s modernizing our stormwater infrastructure because we’re anticipating more rainfall. There’s really just a scale of adaptations that are important to communities, and understanding how changes impact a community as a whole is important, but it’s also important to understand how it impacts individuals in segments of the population. Some parts of the population may be more sensitive to certain impacts than others, and so adaptation needs to be bright up in a very comprehensive way. Bob: Yeah, I’m glad you brought up individuals. You know, I keep…keep thinking a little bit about Dr. Michael Unger’s definition of…of individual resilience, about this capacity to be able to navigate to and negotiate for resources on an individual level, and I think there’s some work, I want to say it’s McConnell and colleagues, who talked about what community resilience really is, is a community’s capacity for making sure that individuals can navigate to and negotiate for the resources that they need to be individually resilient. Like, everybody can do that, right? Everybody can get the resources that they need, then we have a resilient community. So, um, like I said, I’m glad you brought the people in the equation because it’s easy to think about, well maybe it’s not easy, but often we think about, sort of, the built capital of a…of a community and maybe don’t pay attention as much to how we would be resilient in terms of the human or social capital. Danielle Swallow: Yeah, just think about what we’re living through right now with COVID-19. And in terms of individuals, all of us have been in the situation of having to find PPE, you know the protective equipment, the masks. We’ve all had to be, kind of, industrious and…and scrappy trying to find masks in those early days. Or I think of Clorox wipes or, you know your other cleaning supplies, um..or just like broadband that affects some individuals more than others, maybe they have more access or less access. And so, yeah, there’s all kinds of needs out there that affect different individuals in different ways. Bob: So what do you think…so when you’re working with communities on…on building resilience, especially to…to climate change or severe weather events, where do you ask people to start? Is it just by understanding the concept, or planning, or all of the above? Danielle Swallow: Definitely understanding the concept of resilience helps. That’s, sort of, like your goal is to get there, but I also believe it also starts with knowing what the risks are. And that can include really putting risks in context of future conditions. You know you have risks today in terms of weather and climate, but the risks 10 or 20 years from now are going to be different, you know, because of the onset of additional climate changes. And so, I start with knowing what your risks are, knowing what hazards you are potentially going to be exposed, and how sensitive you might be to those hazard, because those hazards could affect you differently than they do a neighbor or someone else in town. And then when you understand your exposure, your sensitivity, and overall vulnerability,you can take steps to help mitigate those risks. And by mitigating risks or adapting to them, you’re ultimately setting yourself up to be able to manage those changes, you know, maybe in a better sense than someone who has done that planning. Bob: So I think some of us might think that this is…when we think about community resilience, we might think of well, there’s probably a committee for that, right? Or our political leaders should be worried about that. But it seems like,..and I think, because of of the nature of the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast, that we also want to think about it in different ways, in how relationship figures into that. So can you talk a little bit about, on an individual or an organizational level, you know, inside of a community, how do people contribute to community resilience, or how can they think about community resilience in their own context? Danielle Swallow: From an organizational level, I think it really helps to understand where you can contribute to the conversation and the dialogue and the preparation. I think it also helps to really look inward at the organization, and first make sure that your relationships and networks within the organization are strong. Um, once, you know, if you’re strong then you can go out and help others improve. Because at the end of the day, resilience is about, sort of, networks of people working together to help prepare and adapt for future conditions. I think that it’s the strength of the networks that will get us through. Segment 2: A Collaboration Story Jessica: So if community resilience relies heavily on all of our networks, I think that it would be a good idea for us to share a little bit about exactly how this collaboration came about, because it came about because of a network. We didn’t choose this topic and then go and seek out speakers initially. It…it happened because we were looking for a completely different type of collaboration, and Chris contacted us. So I think that that was really cool. Chris contacted us and, from our conversation with Chris, we talked about a collaboration around this topic. Chris would you mind, kind of, chiming in on this, you know, why is community resilience important to you? And talk a little bit about, you know, I guess, how we came together in this collaboration and why it interested you. Chris Petrone: Yeah, so a few years ago, our parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, really took a hard look and encouraged us, as Sea Grant programs to look at resilience and start to incorporate it. We were doing a lot of that work anyway, but they really wanted us to focus on what that meant to all our different stakeholders, in terms of family resilience, community resilience, economic resilience, ecological resilience. And so, you know, it’s something that’s been our minds as a Sea Grant staff for many years. And so when you all were talking about how to do resilience from a military family standpoint, I think a lot of the things that we deal with in resilience here on the coast play into the inland. No matter where you are in the country, some of the same lessons that can be learned here on the coast can be applied, um, just about anywhere. And so when Jessica put out a call on Twitter for interest in podcasts, I raised my hand and we made the connection, and develop this idea of bringing in Sea Grant, an organization at least in terms of Delaware Sea Grant, an organization that hasn’t had a lot of interaction with military families, to talk a little bit about our view of resilience here in Delaware. Bob: Yeah Chris. There’s a couple things that really kind of sparked for me as we’re talking about this. One is there some serendipity to how we got started. And part of that was planned serendipity because Jessica and I had to say that we were interested in collaborating with somebody. We had to actually put out the call, right, and say, “hey, we’re working on this,” and sort of make ourselves visible to everyone that gave us the opportunity to kind of…to kind of pop into there. So that’s…that’s really interesting to me, and the other thing that’s kind of interesting, and Jess or Chris either one of you, you know part of the contact was built on familiarity between the two of you guys. You guys had at least the start of…of a connection before we got together to talk about this collaboration. Chris Petrone: Yes, thanks to the eXtension Foundation training we both had in Dayton, Ohio in 2017. That’s where Jessica and I met. We hit it off. We had similar interests, similar personalities, and subsequently followed each other on Twitter, and…and years later, here we are. Jessica: Yeah, really it was a simple tweet that…that kind of started this collaboration, but what what, I think, I’m excited about with this, as it relates to collaboration in general, is that we really tried to co-create this with the two of you. So, like I said, we didn’t start with the topic, but we started with the people and…and the relationship. And it and it kind of went then we got to meet Danielle, who knows a lot about resilience. So, maybe if I could just ask if you guys, and Danielle please do chime in if you have something to say, about what kind of drew you to this topic as well or to this collaboration? Danielle Swallow: So Jessica, I work on resiliency and work with communities to hel build that resiliency as part of my day job, but I have to say that I come from a military family myself. My husband is a retired officer. He started out his career at…with the Navy, and then transferred to the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. Um, a lot of people don’t realize that the nation has seven uniformed services, and the NOAA Corps is probably like the Public Health Service in that they’re not an armed service, but they’re a mission uniform service, and he has the same rank and structure as the Navy. And so, my husband spent his career being deployed on ships to different parts of the world to support NOAA’s science gathering activities, their core research. So anyway, I have a lot of affinity for military families. Jessica: That’s cool. You know I think that actually might be what got me interested in the idea of community resilience. I didn’t think of it in those terms until my…until I was an adult, and I started to understand resilience. But, Danielle, I also…I was a military kid. My dad was in the Navy, a career Navy. He retired, well. quite some time ago now, and I’ve always been super interested in place in particular and in connecting with people, right, because I had to do it every couple of years. I had to learn how to connect real fast. I have a bigger problem with staying connected, than I do with connecting with people right away. But I think that’s probably what helped get me interested in it is that background and I’m really interested in the idea of staying connected because I struggle with that. I think, you know in part because I got so good at meeting new people and doing it every couple of years. Danielle Swallow: Yeah, you know, I think being in a military family, especially when family members are deployed, or you’re moving around the country or the world, you really have to find new networks and find your local family, so to speak. Um, I know that when my husband was deployed… it was two years at a time. He was out to sea 250 days a year. At one point he was out in Hawaii, and I stayed back in Maryland, and that can be kind of lonely. And so I really…I really, you know, relied a lot on the (inaudible), and that really helps…helped get me through, you know, kind of that separation. So networks are really important, and I think that us military families can really appreciate that. Chris Petrone: Jessica, I don’t think it’s strange that you have this tough time staying connected. I think we all do because we are constantly meeting new people and making new relationships. You know, we get busy. We have other things going on, and so a lot of those ties weaken a bit over time, and we just don’t make the connections that we should or we want to do, just because we’re so busy. And so, I think that in terms of resilience, you know, as long as those connections get set up and are established in the foundational, like to start, when there is a need for a relationship they’re still there. They haven’t gone away. Jessica: Yeah, I’m glad I’m not alone in that, and also, Chris, I’m going to take that as your way of saying you’ll still be here for me when I need it. Chris Petrone: whenever you need a podcast buddy I will be here. Jessica: Nice, thank you. Segment 3: Practicing Community Resilience Chris Petrone: The key to resilience is, are you prepared? And I…and I think the more we can do now to prepare for the next big emergency, it’s all about muscle memory, and we do this, we start this as a kid in elementary school. Fire drill, right? You do the fire drill once a month or whatever it is. You know, if there’s a fire, I am supposed to get in that line and follow the teacher out this way, and we go to this door, and we meet up here, and check in, and everything’s good. It’s the same thing in sports. We practice and practice and practice, and in a game we have that muscle memory. We know exactly what we are supposed to do in that game to be successful, and I think that happens. We don’t do it as much as we probably should. I think a major part of this resiliency and emergency preparedness is understanding our role. What is our role in terms of emergency preparedness for resilience in our family, in our neighborhood, in our office or our work environment? Understanding our individual roles in resilience. Danielle Swallow: I’m involved right now with a really cool example of a local resiliency type of organization called Create Community for Coordination for COVID, CCC4COVID, and their website URL is ccc4covid.org. And this is a group that was started by a local business owner in March, right as the shutdown related to COVID-19. And she felt a strong need to try to help in the community, but she wasn’t really sure what the needs were. And she just started reaching out to her neighbors and contacts, and they formed a group. And they started meeting and sharing information about where the needs were, and over time it grew into a coalition of 70 different organizations and individuals, and they include organizations like the local school district, and mayors, and business owners, and local non-profits, and the farmer’s market, just a wide range of individuals and groups. And by banning together, they were able to get kind of a good feel for where local response activities were needed rapidly or where the needs were just outpacing the response. And so, one of the areas…they filled in a lot of different ways. They filled in as far as helping people get masks in the early stages of response, and helping to, um, get computers into the hands of children that were going to online schooling. But one of the other needs they had to do was food insecurity. The school district was mentioning that they were getting a lot of calls from people in the school district that had emergency needs for food. And there were different distribution points around the community, but not everyone knew where those distribution points were and what the schedule was. So CCC4COVID organized a flyer that pinpointed the different locations, and when the distributions would occur, and what kind of items were included. And then they went a step further and translated that into Spanish and Creole, and for some of our other community members where English isn’t their first language. And they printed hundreds of copies and started distributing them at some of these distribution points and giving them to the school district. And the school district credits it with significantly reducing the number of emergency calls they were getting. In addition, they took that same information, and they put it into an interactive, GIS-based map so it could be used by local and state planning organizations to help coordinate response. And it’s even been adopted by the Delaware Department of Agriculture now, extending it across the state. But one of the other things that really happened, um, is just that this network grew and on these weekly calls we would trade information about “my organization is seeing an uptick in people who are homeless,” and “my organization is an uptick in people who need meals.” We discovered that there was a local construction group, a housing construction group, that was doing some of their own food distribution, and there was also in our membership a foundation that had food and resources to provide food. So we ended up pairing the two together and said, “Hey construction business, you have a warehouse, you’ve got trucks, you’ve got volunteers and staff, and this foundation has money and it has a food distribution supply chain. Let’s merge you together.” And it ended up being this beautiful relationship that really blossomed. And so, over time, they ended up giving out hundreds of thousands of meal kits to the community. So, I think, you know, those examples just, kind of, illustrate the strength of networks. This is what Chris and Jessica were saying before. When we stand together we become a force multiplier and better the needs, and how to fulfill those needs. And so I’ve been really fortunate to have been involved with this group, and I’ve particularly plugged in to helping this group deliver services to senior citizens, who are really experiencing a lot of social isolation and who, in accessing information, are not always comfortable getting their information online. And so, how do we get information in their hands? And I’ve also been helping them with raising supplies that are non-food items. You know, your hygiene products, um, cleaning supplies to include that in some of the food distribution locations.And also working to really formalize this group because we think we’re on to something. I think that even though this started in a very ad-hoc way, it demonstrates the capabilities and also the need that was out there. And we realized that some of the needs that we’re filling don’t necessarily go away once COVID-19 is, kind of, in the rearview mirror. There’s ongoing needs of homelessness, and food insecurity, access to broadband, and we think this coalition can help elevate these needs, and sound the alarm bell, and help to coordinate the response to them. The Military Family Readiness Academy Sara Croymans: Hello. I’m Sara Cravens from the Military Families Learning Network Family Transitions team. I’d like to tell you about the Military Family Readiness Academy, a free professional development opportunity design for military family service providers working in any field with any organization. The 2020 Academy series will focus on the unique needs of servicemembers and their families, and the added stressors and challenges when disasters and emergencies strike. Join us as we explore this complex issue in two parts offered in Fall 2020 and Winter 2021. The 2020 Academy will provide an overview of disaster and emergency readiness information, tools, and resources for military family service providers working in any field as they help military families navigate the unique context of military life. Check out the Military Family Readiness Academy at https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/mfra/. Segment 4: Resilience in Action Bob: You know this is been such a great experience and rewarding collaboration on this episode working with you Danielle and with you Chris, and we’re so glad to have learned from you, but I want to get to some of the things like we can actually do. Like how do we put this in action? We’ve learned a lot and the podcast is called “Practicing Connection,” so what practices can we, kind of, put into play to build up to the idea of community resilience? Danielle, like what are the things that personally we should be doing, you know, to start to build that…that resilience and readiness practice? How do we get started individually and maybe at that individual and family level of being prepared for disasters? Danielle Swallow: I think, you know, I think it starts with first trying to understand what your risks are to your household or your area. Maybe it’s knowing that you’re in a community or state that has a high degree of risk of tornadoes. Or you experience droughts from time to time. Or maybe it’s understanding that you are in a household where there’s members of a household that have epilepsy, you know, or are hard of hearing. And so, we have, you know, certain individual risks. And then I think it’s kind of thinking about some emergency preparedness steps that you can take right off the bat to, kind of, be in a better position.One of the things I like to advocate for is signing up for emergency notification systems. They do vary, you know, from state to state, and locality to locality, but having…signing up for these messages, especially making sure your cell phones are registered, that will enable emergency responders in the state to send messages your way, for example, if a flash flood is imminent in your area. There’s a national system called Smart 911. You can go to Smart911.com. Not every community has it yet, although the website says 45 million people participate in it nationwide. I really encourage you to look into it. It basically populates the 911 database with more information about your household. So if you have a family member that has a severe allergy, you can note that in the database. If you have somebody, I mentioned before, that might be hard of hearing, well that’s good for emergency responders to know because knocking on the door isn’t necessarily going to be useful if they’re coming to the house. So this more information comes up on their screen as they’re in route to a house to respond to a fire or emergency, and it gives them that much more information to work with. So, I really encourage that. And, beyond that, you know, it’s important to have an emergency supply kit. And to always have extra copies of your prescriptions or refills with you, and to also have a communications plan with you and your family members. Sometimes we end up having to evacuate on short notice, or our power goes out, or we get separated. And having a communications plan ahead of time, gives assurance to certain family members because they’ll know what you are going to do in those situations. It lets them know, so here’s the rallying point that we’re all going to go to if we have to evacuate from our jobs or our schools separately. You can designate an out-of-town family member or friend to be a central point of contact. So that if power goes out and then comes back in a spotty way as folks are evacuating, you’re all sending messages, maybe through social media or eventually when they get home, back to that same individual who can triage that and keep track of everyone. And that really ensures that the family is not dealing with added stress during a really stressful time. Chris Petrone: Yeah, I think a key, you know, Danielle mentioned understanding your risk, and I think the key to resilience…preparedness and resilience is not only understanding your role but who are the players. Who do I need to know to make the situation better, and that applies to the family level, the community level, and also your work level. You know, I think about if there’s an oil spill here in Delaware Bay, my family isn’t necessarily impacted. We don’t have to have a plan for that. But with my job with Delaware Sea Grant, we need to be able to respond in some way if an oil spill happens. It is a major concern for the environment and for tourism, and for all the industries we work in, and so having a plan in place for all these different kinds of situations can only make us stronger and more resilient. Bob: Thanks for joining us for this episode of Practicing Connection in a Complex World. Jessica and I would also like to thank Kalin Goble and Sara Croymans for sharing their voices on today’s episode, Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbah for helping us with promotion, and Nathan Grimm for composing and performing all the music you hear on the podcast. Finally, thanks to Danielle Swallow and Chris Petrone from Sea Grant Delaware for their generous contributions to this collaboration. You can find out more about Sea Grant Delaware and find more ways to start building your individual, family, and community resilience by visiting our show page at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/series/practicingconnection. I hope you’ll join us for our next episode, and, in the meantime, keep practicing.
44 minutes | Aug 1, 2020
Collaboration (Ep. 2)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. Listen now: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Episode-2-Collaboration.mp3 About this episode: In this episode, hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch explore different perspectives on collaboration. Is there a mindset that leads to collaboration? How can we encourage collaborations that create something new? What makes for a good collaboration? Jessica and Bob address those questions and more through: Dr. Robyn Keast’s presentation, “Why Blue Box Thinking is Not Good for Collaboration” The story of BRAVO Youth Orchestra’s collective composition, “Break the Cage” Shared collaboration experiences from our MFLN colleagues Robin Allen and Jason Jowers A commitment to practice something that they learned from this episode Special thanks to Nathan Grimm, who composed all of the music for the podcast; Kalin Goble, who recorded the episode introduction; Jen Chilek, for her help with MFLN promo and our podcast website; and Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach for all their help with marketing. You can stay in touch with us and connect with our Practicing Connection community by subscribing to our email list. Subscribe now. Extras Watch a video of Dr. Robyn Keast’s presentation, “Why Blue Box Thinking is Not Good for Collaboration.” Learn more about Networks and Collaborations from Dr. Keast’s website. Watch a video of highlights from the collective composition of the BRAVO Youth Orchestra’s “Break the Cage.” Learn more about the work Robin Allen does with the MFLN Nutrition and Wellness team Learn more about the “Kids Serve, Too” series Jason Jowers worked on with Sesame Street for Military Families and the MFLN Family Development team Transcript Segment 1: Blue Box Thinking Robyn Keast: If you don’t invest time and effort in building relationships, and I mean really authentic and genuine relationships. You’re going to to always have this problem that you will still be a blue box thinker. Kalin Goble: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World, a podcast exploring the personal stories and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. To start our conversation, here are.Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch. Jessica: The voice you heard at the top of the episode was Dr. Robyn Keast talking about collaboration and the importance of relationships, which is pretty much what this podcast is all about. Right, Bob? Bob: Definitely. That’s where we’re focused, you know, practicing connection in a complex World. Definitely the connection part connects…relates to that relationship that Dr. Keast was talking about, but it also, hopefully, I think for us, leads to something more than just those relationships, and…and that something more can be collaboration, shared work. Jessica: I’m really excited about this episode because we found some really great stuff to kind of talk about and to explore together. Bob: And we have great examples of collaboration coming up for you starting with a little bit more from Dr. Keast. We reached out to her, and she was really super kind in allowing us to use the audio from a presentation that she did in 2016 called “Why Blue Box Thinking Is Not Good For Collaboration.” Dr. Keast is a professor in the School of Business and Tourism at Southern Cross University in Australia, and as she talks you’re going to hear her talk about some diagrams and describe them. And just keep in mind, use your imagination a little bit, the boxes that she’s talking about represent people’s roles in these kinds of working relationships, and the blue box that she’s talking about is always at the top of that diagram. Robyn Keast: Collaboration is this wonderful, wonderful thing, right, but it’s not the only tool in your toolbox. There’s lots of other ways that you can actually work together, and they range from, I call them, the five C’s, the compendium of C’s, from competition at one end, right, through to consolidation at the other. And sitting in the middle is this little cluster of them cooperation, coordination, collaboration. And because they are kind of clustered together, we tend to use these words as if they mean the same thing. And guess what. They don’t. They mean very, very specific things. And there’s a problem if you start using cooperation when you really mean collaboration or you’re using collaboration when you’re meaning cooperation, because people have expectations about what these things might mean. So one of the things that…I did was I tried to work out so how can we make this work, and I tried to work it out in my own mind. So I created this diagram. And the boxes are to symbolize the relationships, you know, hey you kind of work together, what’s the structure of our relationships here? So you can see here in competition it’s a bit distinct because we’re not very friendly and we’re sharing things via our contracts. Right through to consolidation where you’re sitting in a unified body. The next thing I did was to add some little widgets that start to signify what’s the nature of the relationship, what are the processes, how do we do these sorts of things. So at the end down there in competition, you can see it’s about contracts, money, exchanges transactions. Here it’s about somebody sitting on top and telling you exactly what you’re going to do, because they’re the boss. Cooperation is really just information sharing, so you see people sitting around a table. Here this is about coordination, where you working to a plan, joint programming, working to a plan, aligning your resources. And in cooperation and coordination what you’re doing is you’re doing the same sorts of things, but doing it more efficiently. But in collaboration you can see there’s a lot more going on here. Collaboration’s something quite different, right. Collaboration is about what you do to create new things. It’s about systems change. It’s about breakaway ideas. But what was happening here is that, so I showcase this. I took it out to lots of the workshops, and there were gully people, and community people, and research people, and also industry people in these groups. And most of them got it, you know, you’re nodding your heads here like you understand it. But there was some in the audience who kind of scratched their heads and going,”…Yeah, but am I the blue box? Shouldn’t we be the blue box, right? I want to be the blue box. Right? I want to be the blue box.” And so what it made me start to realize is that these people really just don’t get it. That in fact, being a blue box thinker is quite contrary to what collaboration is really all about. Because as soon as you start thinking about being the blue box, being the top box, top dog, you’re not a collaborator. This is about position, and this is about power. Collaboration is not about power. It’s about shared power. More importantly collaboration is about a process. It’s about a process of working together. So to me, thinking about “Am I the blue box?” really starts to show the idea that this is the strongest connection to these people and how they think about it, and they haven’t quite got what collaboration could mean. The other thing is we know it’s between 50 to 70% of collaborations fail. And there’s a large body of research that suggests that part of the reason, in fact a large part of the reason, is that we don’t do process, that we are focused on “Am I the blue box?” right? So for me, what I started to talk about here is that if you don’t invest time and effort in building relationships, and I mean really authentic and genuine relationships, you’re going to always have this problem that you will still be a blue box thinker. So I think it really is important here that to understand that blue box thinking might work for the other five, in fact it’s probably a perfectly fine way of thinking for the other five C’s. But if you really want collaboration, you want genuine collaboration, blue box thinking is not the way to go. Jessica: Bob, there was so much about Dr. Keast’s talk that resonated with me, but I’d kind of like to start, obviously there was the big blue box in the room, but I want to get to the blue box in just a moment. I think I’d like to start with the fact that 50 to 75% of collaborations fail because they don’t do process. I know that I’ve been a part of a lot of collaborations that maybe didn’t totally fail, but they also didn’t live up to their potential. And when I think back about it, you know, those were the collaborations that, yeah, we didn’t…we didn’t do process. We didn’t even talk about how we wanted to work together. We just kind of…, frankly, we probably were thinking it was a collaboration, but working more in the coordination space, which you know coordination doesn’t involve as much process as collaboration. Bob: We need to remember that collaboration takes a lot of time. Dr. Keast talked a little bit about building relationships, obviously that’s a focus area in the work that…that you and I do together, but that takes time as well. And so figuring out who each other are, how we work with each other, and then putting in processes for doing that in a way that not only is effective in terms of what we’re creating together, but also honors each person’s contribution, their own personality strengths and weaknesses, all of that stuff, that takes time. And I think a lot of times we get tossed into these…these collaborations either by work circumstances or just a really pressing opportunity in the world… Jessica: A grant. Bob: … a grant, that’s a good external factor for a collaboration, and we jump right in, and start working together, and we don’t really…really address those processes. One of the processes, just a loose framework, that I love, and I know that you’re familiar with too, is Tim Merry and Tuesday Ryan Hart’s “Shared Work” model. You know, and one of the first things in the “Shared Work” model is “relationship is resolution.” So the way that we are able to work together, get through conflict, all of that stuff is all about the kinds of relationships we have with each other, and that means taking time to build those and having a process for working together that supports those relationships, instead of has a potential of tearing…tearing them apart. Jessica: I’d like to just add to that a little bit with something that I learned recently. I suppose it was probably intuitive, but I just didn’t think of it that way, is committing to the relationship too, even if the other person or the other people don’t think quite like we do, or maybe they’re coming at it from a different angle and they don’t care about all the same things that we care about. But still, like, committing to staying in it with these people is another form of kind of deepening relationship, and making sure that the collaboration can succeed. Bob: Yeah. and that’s difficult, I think, too, because of our sort of quid pro quo mindset. And here’s where we start to get into the blue box thinking is that, if we’re constantly comparing ourselves with other people or expecting the same input in return for our input from other people, we are going to have a tendency to have that blue box thinking, to think of ourselves as sort of above or different or other than the people that were working with. And it’s the same thing in relationships, right? It’s like what you’re talking about, Jessica, which is, “I’m willing to invest in this relationship, be vulnerable in this relationship, even if the other person doesn’t give me the quid pro quo or doesn’t return the same amount of energy.” That’s…that’s a description of not blue box thinking, whatever color you want to make it, it’s not blue box thinking. And so it’s obviously, as Dr. Keast said, that’s super important to collaboration. Segment 2: Co-creating with the BRAVO Youth Orchestra Bob: We know collaboration is important, but it’s hard to figure out how to bring a diverse group of people with different perspectives and experiences together to create something. The BRAVO Youth Orchestra from Oregon provides a great example. BRAVO seeks to transform the lives of underprivileged youth through music instruction that emphasizes collaboration, building self-confidence, and creating a community where children can thrive. Their collaborative composition workshops bring kids from a variety of experiences together to co-create original music, and it all starts with thinking together. (the sound of many voices talking at once as the kids in the orchestra get ready for rehearsal to start) Adult Orchestra Leader: Can anyone raise their hand and tell me what we’re doing here this week. Young musician 1: (softly) We’re here to explore and play different instruments in our community Adult Orchestra Leader: Definitely going to play different instruments in our community.. I like the first word you said though. What was that? (whispering) explore. Young musician 1: (softly) Explore? Adult Orchestra Leader: Yeah, we’re here to explore something. We have two concerts on Friday, but we have no idea what we’re going to perform because you guys haven’t come up with it yet. (the sound on many kids clapping and slapping their legs in different rhythms followed by the clapping sounds becoming more synchronized) (the sound of individuals clapping out different rhythms) (the sound of many kids stomping and clapping out a rhythm together followed by the kids and adult leaders singing together, “BRAVO. What’s up?”) (the sound of an adult leader leading kids in making a musical buzzing sound with their lips and humming as they warm up) Bob: The Bravo adults create a safe and open environment where kids can be themselves, share their ideas, and feel free to make mistakes. That environment allows kids to explore music together, and provides the foundation for even deeper conversations. Adult Orchestra Leader: …risk your life to see your people again? Yep, yeah, I just love what you said and I love the way you just said it. “Break that cage.” Say it again. Young musician 2: Break the cage. Adult Orchestra Leader: “Break the cage. Break the cage.” Let’s play some. (the sound of the youth orchestra playing a medium tempo, funky piece of music) (the sound of the brass section playing a slightly “off-sounding” note) Adult Orchestra Leader: (loudly) Let me hear you’re weird note. (the sound of the young musicians each playing a different “off-sounding” note) Adult Orchestra Leader: Gondi, you had a great idea. You went down. He did the first one, same thing, he went… (the sound of the adult orchestra leader playing the tuba to demonstrate what he heard Gondi play, a musical phrase with a single note repeated 8 times followed by a higher note when played the first time, then the same 8 notes followed by a lower note) Adult Orchestra Leader: Can we try it? Try learn it. Try it on the B-flat. One, two, three, uh. (the youth orchestra plays Gondi’s musical phrase described above) Adult Orchestra Leader: Okay, we got to stop there. Remember your parts. Young musician 3: They told us that we’re going to have fun, that we’re gonna make our own music, that we were going to compose our own music. Umm…and…yeah, music, to compose my own music. Bob: The music the Bravo kids ended up composing together, their shared work, was a piece called “Break the Cage.” (excerpt from the BRAVO Youth Orchestra’s performance of “Break the Cage”) Bob: You know, Jessica, I had a great time sort of assembling that piece about the BRAVO Youth Orchestra and…and “Break the Cage.” It was so much fun to hear the kids and to hear the process that happens in the BRAVO Workshop to come up with that collaborative composition. You know, that I really loved that they were emphasizing exploration. That there wasn’t like, “Hey, we have to have this done by X and here’s, you know, step 1 and step 2,” but they started by really exploring ideas with the kids. They really, you know, created a space, a safe space, for kids to feel comfortable sharing their ideas and were accepting those ideas. And I really loved, you know, there was a moment in that piece where one of the the Bravo directors said, did you hear what this kid did? You know, he went down on the end. So it really spoke to me about listening and the role that we have in collaborations for listening and validating ideas, and contributions, and potential when we’re working with other people. Jessica: Listening is for sure something that will probably be a lifelong project for me. learning to listen better. I have worked so much on it, and I’m so much better than I was 5 or 10 years ago or even two years ago. But it is so, so important that idea of thoughtful deep listening in relationship building. You know, I’d like to say, real quick, one of the things that I really noticed with this excerpt was that,,, So I played in band. I was in marching band. I was in show choir. I mean, I listen, all the music…geeky music things and one of the things that I noticed was I was asked to practice all the time, and I’m sure you have to know your instrument, so no matter whether you’re playing in a collaboration like they did or whether you’re playing printed music, you have to know your instrument. But at the same time, the energy that comes from this kind of collaboration is totally different, and I think, you know, someone like me might have been maybe a little more enthusiastic about practicing every single day if and learning my instrument, if I was able to kind of do this this level of creation where you’re all kind of coming together. You know…you know, I did get to participate in something like that last year. I was at an improv conference, the Applied Improvisation at Work Conference, and a group of us got together with some pretty cool dudes who taught us, if you can teach, I guess, how to do musical improv. We all had instruments, and we were just, we were just playing. And it came together at times and sometimes it diverged a little, but it was just, it was beautiful whether it was in that divergent stage or whether we were converging a little, it was just beautiful. Anyway, I get excited about this. Bob: Yeah, I mean, I think that there’s so many lessons, in the experience that you shared with others and in what they did in “Break the Cage,” about process and the kinds of spaces we would ideally like to create for really effective collaborations that create new ideas. And as Dr. Keast said in the…in the segment that opened the show, you know, collaborations are about new ideas, but it’s also about systems change. And that’s the kind of energy that you’re talking about. The passion, the energy, and the creativity that’s…those are the kinds of things that we need to capture in collaboration to really get at systems change. Jessica: I would say at the heart of of that is listening. I mean there’s a lot of things at the heart, but as I’m thinking about this and talking with you today about it, listening is one of the places that it starts. Segment 3: Collaboration Stories Bob: So speaking of listening, we wanted to not just hear ourselves talk, but to listen to some of our colleagues about their collaboration experiences for this episode. So we actually reached out to our Military Families Learning Network colleagues and asked them to share their collaboration stories. And we would love to share a couple of them with you right now, starting with Jason Jowers. Jason will introduce himself. He’s from our Family Development team within the Military Families Learning Network, and here’s the story of his collaboration experience. Jason Jowers: Hey there. So I’m Jason Jowers, a member of the MFLN Family Development team, and I have a story about a somewhat recent collaboration that went well. Recently we collaborated with Sesame Street for Military Families on a webinar series called “Kids Serve, Too.” From its inception, the “Kids Serve, Too” series was really just an idea about ways to share resources that Sesame Street for Military Families have created and cultivated. And what really gave this series substance and life was the contributions from the SS for Military Families team and from our own MFLN teams, as there were five of our concentration areas that worked on the series. Collaborating with such a large group or network of people across MFLN and Sesame Street really gave us the opportunity to play to our strengths. So for example, Sesame Street has a lot of content on various topics to help kids become happy and healthier. Rather than reinventing the wheel, we were able to connect their content to our larger MFLN audience and vice-versa. It really just boiled down to trying to harness the ideas on topics and issues that our audiences together really wanted to hear about. We utilized our marketing skills from both teams and came up with some really awesome flyers and graphics that helped get the word out about this series. It was really an effortless collaboration, in my opinion, because the groundwork of content and teamwork was already there. My experience working with Sesame Street for Military Families and the other MFLN teams was a great one. And I think it worked so well because A. everyone was pretty passionate about the work we were doing and the topics being discussed, and B. communication was really quick. I think one of the challenges of collaboration, though, can be having to have a lot of people be on the same page, and people get busy sometimes and communication or responses break down. Part of that is working with people across the country in different seasons of life that impact day-to-day operations. I remember being in a meeting where folks on another team were talking about being in a snowstorm, and meanwhile, for me, it’s 80-degree weather in sunny south Georgia. I mean it’s a strength that our network is as far-reaching as it is across the country and world really, but you sometimes don’t take into consideration specific people’s currently lived experiences, like the weather affecting someone’s ability to do their job or to get to work on time.. And that’s something that’s physically apparent and different, whereas when you consider people’s feelings and emotions and personal issues that could be going on that most of us just aren’t aware of. So yeah, that’s a challenge I see in just being aware of other people’s experiences and realities, because you never really know what someone could be going through or dealing with. Really though, collaboration is efficiency. So not only are we working more efficiently, we are able to serve our audience by providing information in one place, streamlining their access to resources that they need. And collaboration really is the lifeblood of the work that we do and can really help develop abstract ideas into some of the most rewarding projects and quality content for our various audiences. And much of our audience is comprised of people in helping professions and need access to as many resources as to serve diverse populations and inform their peers co-workers and clients. So yeah I think one of the reasons I enjoyed collaborating so much is team members play to each other’s strengths, and it really makes a good collaboration happen. You’re only as good as the network around you. Thanks. Jessica: Bob, one of the things I was excited about Jason mentioning was when you get this large number of people together on a collaboration that you’re able to play to everyone’s strengths. You know, what’s interesting is I love that in Jason’s collaboration they thought about that, because I think it doesn’t always happen. We might play to each other’s resources, all the resources that we bring to the table, which I guess could be considered a strength, but I think that this is something that…a conversation that doesn’t always happen. I know that in Asset-based Community Development, that’s actually one of the things that they try to draw out, they specifically will often have a conversation about, what strength all of the people in the room bring to the table, and then they’re not just, like I said, those resources. There…there are individual strengths and interests and what makes us a human being. Bob: And I think that’s such a great collaboration practice is to look at people as people and not just as how they can contribute to the collaboration or what work that they can do, right? And doing that allows us to see people’s real strengths, not just their capacity for doing work related to the collaboration, but what they really are passionate about and care about. And also when we see them as individuals, you know, it helps us deal with the thing, that Jason talked about, about seeing everybody as an individual and knowing that they might be in a different place than we are. You know, he talked about having colleagues who were experiencing a blizzard and having trouble, you know, making their promised contributions to the collaboration because of that situation and meanwhile he was comfortable as you can be in 80 degrees. I’m in North Dakota. so that’s kind of warm for us, but…but being comfortable in south Georgia. So what that really makes me think of is not, “Jason had a great illustration of that,” but just overall whether there’s something going on in someone’s life that you know about or don’t know about. I think a good practice in collaboration is to give people the space to contribute as much or as little as they’re ready to at the time, right? So you might have somebody who doesn’t have capacity to be pouring in a bunch of work into a collaboration, but they still have something to contribute, like the strengths that you’re talking about. And maybe it’s an awesome idea or maybe it’s something to do with the collaboration process, like “Hey I set up a space for us to share files” or, you know, something like that. Those are all great contributions, and we can’t have these preconceived expectations that someone should be always contributing to a particular level, even ourselves, because I think that’s too much to ask of ourselves, too much pressure to put on ourselves like, “Well geez, I have to be putting X number of hours in this collaboration all the time.” It’s just not feasible or reasonable to do that, and I don’t know that it makes for the best collaboration, because if you’re pushing that you might be turning into the blue box. Jessica: We shouldn’t underestimate the space that we can create by asking questions, too. When we see people and their strengths, and we start to see them as as whole human beings, it creates a lot of space both for the collaboration, you know for the potential of the collaboration, but also for building that deeper relationship, that authentic relationship, by asking questions and by creating space through…for the relationship and for the collaboration through asking questions. Bob: So let’s listen to another collaboration story. Here’s Robin Allen from the Military Families Learning Network Nutrition and Wellness team. Robin Allen: So here is my collaboration video, and this is my first time doing this, so bear with me. “Tell a story about a collaboration that went well and why you think it did.” Basically all my collaborations have gone well, mostly because the other concentration areas are so professional and thorough in how they do things. And so I haven’t seen any one go poorly. The…the only time is when we collaborate with someone who is not strictly geared toward nutrition, a lot of dietitians do not show. So that would be the only reason why I would say something wasn’t as successful, but the material has always been presented very well, and the contact between the program coordinators, and that sort of thing always goes well. It’s just dietitians don’t always like to attend things that they can’t put to practical use right away, but that’s just them. Something I learned from collaborations, I learned how other people prepare, and I’ve got good notes, and…and it helps me prepare better. I also see how other people do their webinar evaluations, and that’s also been very helpful and stimulates some more ideas for me. And then I picked up on how other concentration areas are doing their resource materials, and that’s allowed me to develop a little more professional materials to attach to our webinars. If a good friend is concerned about the success of a collaboration, my real advice is to over-prepare and over-communicate. So as much as you can prepare in advance and communicate with everyone involved in the collaboration, I think it really helps that…that everyone is on the same page. I think that’s all I have to say. That’s not very long. I hope it’s okay. Visit militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org Jen Chilek: I’m Jen Chilek from the Military Families Learning Network. We bring you online professional development opportunities, like this podcast, along with webinars, conferences, and more in support of those who support military families. Geared to Cooperative Extension educators, military family service providers, and others who support military families, much of our online content comes with continuing education credit, and all of it is free. Visit us at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org to find more content like this geared to people like you. Segment 4: Practice Jessica: For our last episode each of us chose some practices that we were going to work on, and I thought it’d be a good idea for us, Bob, to say a little bit about how it’s going for us. I’ll start by saying mine went weird or maybe the right word is that it just didn’t go the way I was planning, which is one of the beautiful things about life, right? What I did…the practice I chose was I was going to take a look at taking…doing some things for myself, so that I could set some boundaries, because I’m terrible at that. I don’t even know what they are. I have no clue what they are, because I just kind of go with the flow all the time. And so I actually started with learning. I didn’t start with the boundaries, which is what I mentioned last time, I started with learning about things that could help me identify and set them. So I enrolled in that Science of Well-being course on Coursera from Yale, and I also enrolled in a series of workshops called, check this out, it’s a very long name, Discovering Your Patterns and Introspective Deep Dive Into Blending Applied Improvisation, Interpersonal Neurobiology, and Therapeutic Frameworks from from Yes and Brain. Lacey Alana is a beautiful human being, and I very much enjoyed that program. And the biggest takeaways was that. surprise surprise, it takes time to take care of yourself and to be…to create a space for yourself, so that you can understand what boundaries to set and how to do it. And I don’t leave any activities, this is a huge takeaway, I sort of knew it but it’s really apparent now, I don’t leave any activities that I…I don’t leave time for any activities that I crave and need. The other big takeaway for me was, you and I talk a lot about growth mindset I’m sure it’ll come in another episode, I realized that you can engage in learning that supports a growth mindset, and when you engage in learning that supports a growth mindset you’re looking at going on a scale of learning from 1 to 100, you’re looking at going 1 to 4 and then when you get to 4, you’re looking at going from you know from four to maybe six or eight. You’re not looking at going from 1 to 100 right away. And I was very frustrated when I’m trying to learn something that I can’t just, like, buy all the tools for that thing and…and now know what I’m doing. Like, I have all the tools, right? I spent all this money. And so, yeah, those are my big takeaways. Bob: That’s awesome. I’m glad your experience practicing, first of all that it evolved and emerged in ways that you didn’t expect that…that surprise is always great, I think, and that it seems like you really got something insightful at least about yourself out of it. So awesome. Great job and congratulations. I had chosen one of the I’s from the transformational leadership 4 I’s that was talked about in Episode 1, and the “I” that I chose was individualized attention. And so, I was really trying to think about in my…in my relationships, what does that person need, what are their strengths, and what do they care about or what are their…what are their goals, what do they aspire to, and just be attentive to that in building relationships. And I can’t say that I was totally successful. I really have been focusing more on one relationship, on having deeper conversations with this person, because I know about things that they care about and it’s not something that I don’t care about, it’s just something that I don’t have capacity in my life right now to invest a lot of thought and time into. And the immediate reaction, I guess, is to be a little bit selfish, right, to be a blue box thinker, to focus on my own needs, and and say, you know, that’s great, but I have to think about this other thing. But in trying to offer that individualized attention, I really tried to leave space for my friend to…to explore that, right, and explore that area of interest with them. So, at least in that one case, I hope I was a little bit successful, but it’s something I’m definitely going to have to keep working on because, yeah, it’s hard not to just put ourselves at the center of things, especially when we’re stressed or…or when we’re working over our capacity to work. So my practice for this episode is going to be the listening thing. I was just so inspired by the “Break the Cage” experience and that moment when one of the directors was listening so intently to, who…who knows how much sound was going on in that room, right, so you got 60 or 70 kids, and they’re all playing instruments, and they’re probably talking to each other, and and who knows, in a big echoey gym or concert hall and, but somehow they picked out that one moment that really became the theme, that one kid played, that really became the theme of that collective composition. And so I want to really practice that, and tune in, and not let myself get distracted by my own thoughts or what I’m going to say next, and with the idea not just of respecting what other people are saying, I know it’s…it’s respectful to listen, but with the idea that something special could come out of it. If I just honor my role of being a good listener, I might be able to highlight, validate something that maybe would have gotten lost in the conversation, but turns into a spark for something great. Jessica: Let me know if you want me to give you any improv exercises because, I’m telling you, improv’s all about collaboration and listening, so you know let me know. The practice, I actually chose two small practices, the first one is I’m actually going to commit to having at least one one-on-one conversation with someone that I’m currently in a either coordination or cooperation or collaboration with. I think that there’s one in one group in particular that I’m thinking of that we haven’t spent that kind of time with each other, and yet we’re embarking on this journey together that we started last year, and it’s currently been, you know, thrown, just like everything has been, it’s kind of been thrown into chaos because of COVID, and now we’re trying to figure out and allow something else to emerge. And we never really spent that relationship building time together. I’m going to commit to doing that and then the second practice I want to…I want to start noticing a difference between coordination, cooperation, and collaboration, not to…not that any one of them is negative. I think they’re all necessary, and they’re all needed, and I think within a collaboration, there’s coordination happening, cooperation going on. But I’d like to start noticing it more, so that I can figure out how to wield each of them in the best…the best possible ways, so. Bob: That’s awesome. I’m excited to talk with you about how your practice went in the next episode. And thanks, Jessica, that’s an awesome conversation, and I really appreciate you as a collaborator. Jessica: Thank you, I appreciate you as a collaborator, too, and I appreciate all of the many conversations we have as we try to truly explore. And that’s, to me, one of the things with collaboration is that the people are willing to explore together, rather than, you know, try to make sure that we choose one path and if we only go on that one path are we really are exploring? So I appreciate that. Thank you. Bob: We also want to thank our other collaborators, those who explored with us in this episode and those who inspired our exploration, including Robin Allen from the Military Families Learning Network and Jason Jowers, as well, from the Military Families Learning Network for their incredible collaboration stories that they shared today. Thank you to Dr. Keast, again, for her talk and for her permission to let us use that talk, and we want to thank also BRAVO’s executive director Seth Truby for allowing us to share their story and music with you. And if you want to learn more about BRAVO’s incredible youth program, go to oregonbravo.org. That link and links to information about all the other things we shared today will be on our show page or show notes for today, and you can find that at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/series/practicingconnection. Thanks for being with us. Keep practicing.
39 minutes | Jul 1, 2020
Transformational Relationships (Ep. 1)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. Listen now: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Transformational-Relationships.mp3 About this episode: In this episode, hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch explore the ideas and practices related to transformational relationships. What makes a relationship transformational? How is it different than other relationships? What can we do to make our relationships more transformational? Jessica and Bob address those questions and more through: A discussion of their individual reflections on transformational relationships, recorded in audio journals A conversation with Ellie (Anderson) Sheldon focused on learning more about transformational leadership and the actions that can lead to it A commitment to practice something that they learned from this episode Extras Listen to the full interview with Ellie (Anderson) Sheldon (43 minutes) Learn more about transformational leadership as part of the Full Range Leadership model from this Nebraska Extension publication. Transcript Segment 1: Discussing Our Audio Journals Jessica (from her audio journal):I feel like transformational relationships are kind of like going on a journey together when everyone is open to being changed through the process and okay with not fully knowing exactly how you’re going to get to the final destination, and everyone fully understands that there will be changes along the way. Bob: Hi I’m Bob Bertsch Jessica: and I’m Jessica Beckendorf Bob: Welcome to Practicing Connection in a Complex World. In this episode we’re going to be exploring the idea of transformational relationships, and as part of our exploration each of us recorded an audio journal and you just heard an excerpt from Jessica’s audio journal talking about transformational relationships as a journey. I really love this clip, Jessica, because I think there’s a lot to be explored there and unpacked in terms of relationships as a journey and the fact that we’re sharing things together and changing as individuals and maybe even our relationship is changing at the same time as we go on this journey together. Jessica: That’s exactly why I started to think about relationships as a journey, and I think for me that I have always been invested in constant change and it has definitely affected my relationships, so even if the other person isn’t going through gobs of personal revelations and at least through our relationship there is some change occurring and I think that we’re still changing each other whether or not the other person is involved in their own personal journey. So it’s a personal journey I’m going through, but also the relationship is going through a journey, because it’s sort of being forced to. Bob: Yeah, and you’re kind of exploring this together kind of over time. It’s like…when we have contrasted this idea of transformation relationships, you know, with other kinds of relationships and sometimes we use the term, “transactional relationships.” That’s one difference, right, is just that the time. I guess you can have a transactional relationship that’s recurring. An example that I like is, you know, someone you see everyday but you don’t really have any depth of information. You know, the person where you get your coffee or something. You see the same person everyday, but it doesn’t really, it’s not necessarily a journey because you’re staying in oneplace, right. There’s no change happening. The relationship is exactly the same every time you repeat it, as opposed to this idea to have a relationship that can transform us both over time. Jessica: Yeah, and I think that’s one thing that we forget about is that it takes time to really build relationships. We can have tons of relationships with people that are, even if they’re not transactional and they’re just sort of that surface I think we use that term a lot to describe relationships, but to really build relationships a lot of time and I think that’s something that we don’t often consciously put into our calendar for lack of a better term, you know. We really don’t think about it that way. We allow, kind of, convenience to rule. We allow our calendar to kind of rule the amount of time we spend on relationships. Bob (from his audio journal): Do we feel authentic and are we…are we presenting our authentic selves in that relationship? And how often are we allowing ourselves to take off our masks? And how dedicated are we to saying things that are true and again not in a factual way, true in terms of this is authentically how I feel or what I think or what I believe. Jessica: This idea of authenticity, our authentic selves, I think this comes up over and over again in my conversations with friends and in my reflection. I have gone through a ton of personal work in self-awareness and self-understanding, and I still have a ton of work to go because I’m constantly changing as if I go through life. And I think that somewhere in this self understanding really has to be part of this journey and part of transformational relationships. Really understanding why am I thinking this, why do I do this. Bob: I think that opens you up to the change, right. How can the other person in the relationship…how can they affect change in you, if you’re not trying whenever possible to be your authentic self? When you’re trying to pursue a transformation relationship, you have to do your best to be as authentic as you can, so that I’m real with you and that means that I’m just open, I’m open to the change that we might experience together. Bob (from his audio journal): And it’s diversity. If we’re always talking about work or always talking about our kids or always just talking about whatever, you know, this one thing that we have in common, that it seems it’s less likely to lead to the kind of relationship that we’re…that we’re talking about. What we need is diversity of information, right? Multiple points of possible connection. Not that we have to share everything or that we have to agree on everything, that we have to have commonality on everything, but that…that…that we’re sharing diverse information with each other, and we’re open to it, even if it’s not not our thing or that we don’t find it as a point of connection. Jessica: Yeah, we don’t have to share everything. We don’t have to agree. We need multiple points of connection. This really interested me, because I’ve run into this a lot and I’m naturally a pretty curious person. I love talking with other people. I love meeting new people, and so I love asking people a lot of questions about themselves, and I love to go beyond our societal roles. What I’m really interested in here is not just the diversity of information, it is also the quality and quantity and just wondering if you can talk a little bit about what each of these pieces are, because I think they all contribute to building relationships with people. Bob: Yeah, this idea comes from a book called “Connecting to Change the World,” which is really a super important book for me. How do you deepen relationships? You increase the quantity, quality, and diversity of information that we have about each other. And I just found that just really meaningful just in thinking about how to maintain and build relationships with other people and just in regular practice. You asked me about quantity and quality, just the sheer amount matters to. And that doesn’t mean that we should be… especially like, when we think about Facebook it’s like I sometimes I have enough information about you in my Facebook feed, right? Thank you, we’re good on quantity maybe. We could pursue a little bit more quality, right, in that information. But other times, like in work situations which don’t have quantity of information. Every time we’re talking or most times we’re talking about getting something done or the next step in the process or what’s our take…you know our takeaways, what are things to do. We don’t have very much information about each other. We have, maybe, a “how am I doing” at the beginning of the meeting or, you know, a joke that somebody makes before things actually start get rolling. So…so when you really think about that, about how we develop relationships, and just think about the status of a relationship, that’s one thing to think about. Just like, what’s the quantity of information I have about this person? Jessica: I think it actually can work the opposite as well. What quantity of information and what quality of information, what diversity of information are we sharing with others? Are we sharing with others or are we just trying to get information from them? Bob: Great point, Jessica. Those are the ingredients that we need to bring into that relationship to make it something more, to make it deeper, to make it a transformational relationship. Jessica (from her audio diary):Throughout my life, I have constantly moved on to the next person, to the next person, to the next person seeking something without really even knowing what I was seeking. It often has offended my current friends and relationships, because I love connecting with new people, I’m always seeking to connect with new people. And I think that that’s not necessarily unhealthy, but I do tend to not take care of the relationships I have. And I think it’s difficult to maintain a transformational relationship, if you’re not tending to it. Bob: So I love this clip for a ton of reasons, Jessica. First of all because it speaks to sort of your nature, how you push yourself to be outgoing and seek out new relationships, but it also brings up this idea of balance, right, that not every relationship has to be a deep transformational relationship. Jessica: Yeah, thank you for recognizing that, because I am pretty hard on myself when it comes to this. I recognize this about myself, that I love, you know, meeting new people is one of my favorite things to do, but I’m pretty hard on myself when it comes to following through on all of my new relationships and following through on my existing relationships and feeling…continuing that this feeling of excitement and cultivation, wanting to cultivate my existing relationships, while I’m out there meeting new people. I get caught up though in wanting to be part of everyone’s world and wanting them to be part of mine, and it just is not…it’s not practical, it’s not feasible, it’s not going to happen, no matter how much you both might want it sometimes. Bob: I think that’s important to remember, right, every relationship isn’t going to become a transformational relationship, and that we need that diversity and strength of relationship and just remembering to tend those relationships that are transformational and and just keep working on it and be intentional about it I think that’s really what we’re getting to here. Segment 2: A Conversation With Ellie Anderson About Transformational Leadership Ellie Anderson: I’m currently a second-year master student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in their leadership education program. I’m also a graduate teaching assistant for the ALEC, Agricultural Leadership Education and Communications Department at the University and that’s where I teach undergraduate leadership classes specifically about the dynamics of effective leadership within organizations. And that ties in big time to a lot of my interests. I’m hoping to get into certain careers in different fields in terms of the organizational development, organizational leadership and leadership development practices. So, currently on the job market, on the hunt, but looking to get hired here soon in terms of leadership development, trying to be a specialist in those types of fields. Jessica: That’s Ellie Anderson. Ellie’s passion for organizational leadership led me to reach out to her to explore the connection between transformational leadership and transformational relationships. We talked during the COVID-19 self quarantine, so we started by discussing leadership during that uncertain time. Jessica: What are some of the things that we might be needing, our society might be needing, from leaders right now? Ellie Anderson: Yeah, that’s such a great question. And that’s been on my mind as I’ve been applying for these positions and these jobs. I just, I can feel it. And I think we all know that they need to be able to manage change and move forward and stay true to the path we’re on. It’s going to be so needed especially now, and moving forward I don’t think that we’re going to be able to adapt to the situation that we’re having, that we’re experiencing, in a week or you know figure it out once we got the virus under control. I think this is kind of a new normal that we’re going to experience and uncover something that might redirect some actions and directions that leaders and organizations take. And I think specifically tying it back to transformational leadership, because I really identify with that leadership style myself, one of the key parts of transformational leadership is this idea of vision or mission; that the leader is driving the follower in the organization towards. And I think that’s going to be really key in this time of change right now, too, is what is our purpose, what are we here for, and what are we going after, and how do I get people on board, and staying true to that path. And you know not letting the scary thing that’s happening in our context get in the way, but know that I have trust with my leaders, that they’re here for me, that they’re going to support me and motivate me the way that I need, in order to achieve and get done what I’m being asked to do. And I think that these kinds of transformational behaviors are going to really challenge leaders and organizations to take things one step further than normal leadership models, where it’s just a transactional exchange we’re looking at, and really thinking about how can I transform people in this process. Because, to be honest, people might be hurting right now. They may need that. There may be this more…you can’t just get away with this basic exchange of you do this for me and I’ll leave this for you. It’s a higher level influence that I think there’s a need and call for right now through all of this. Jessica: It feels like, in the past anyway, that a lot of organizations sort of expect trust, expect trust and loyalty from employees, when they haven’t done anything to build that relationship. And I think that this is a good time for organizations, leaders in organizations, to build relationships with people. And I know that they talk about it a lot and they do a lot of work toward it, but I’m talking about relationship, I think, in a different context, like you said it’s not transactional. This is a real relationship that we need to be building, especially in the times now, where there’s not enough workers…I’m sorry, not enough workers for our jobs. Yes that is exactly what I was trying to say. Ellie Anderson: Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. And there’s fact to what you’re saying, too, within this model. So, transformational leadership actually lives within the full range leadership model, which also includes transactional leadership. And so sometimes people think, you know, transactional’s bad, there’s no time and place for that. But actually, what we’re finding is leaders, to some degree, demonstrate all of these leadership behaviors, both transactional and transformational. And it’s good, because when we’re talking about building this trust, these transactions have to take place initially, right, because that’s what we’re talking about when you say you’ve done nothing to deserve my trust. Those transactions are where we can show, here, you can trust me. You do this for me, I’ll do this for you. I’ll deliver on this demand or this ask and from there, this foundation for trust is built and that’s when leaders can truly grow and have this transformational respect because it’s above and beyond what we’re used to having. So when you were talking, I was like, yes exactly, trust is the key and it takes time, you know. It’s not going to happen immediately, or hey I got hired and I really have a good feeling about you. You know, it takes some time to grow and demonstrate that, before people know this is a…this is a worthwhile investment, and I can trust you. and it’s reciprocal. Jessica: I’m wondering, transformational leadership has lots of different types of actions and and different, I guess, components. Could you walk me through…one of the components…four of the components would be the Four I’s: idealized influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration. Could you walk me through those? Ellie Anderson: I’d love to. So I’ve done a little bit of, I guess we can say, informal research, if you will, on how do we differentiate these four I’s. I went to the Association of Leadership Educators conference back in 2019 and had a roundtable discussion with other educators, and I said, what are some of the actions or language that we can use to demonstrate these in the classroom and just in general, and that influenced a lot of other work that I did for my Master’s program, but a lot of it has informed and given me some clarity around what is the difference here. Because a lot of people see them as the two different sides of the same coin, if you will. And so starting first with idealized influence, some of the most basic ways that I explain this is this idea of role modeling behavior. So this is someone who, you know, is demonstrating to their followers, here’s some of the behaviors or actions that I’m expecting from you as well. So maybe, I’m not too great or too big that I can’t demonstrate or role model the behaviors that I want to see from you as well. And so, this leads followers to identify with the leader and want to internalize their vision or mission themselves. So because of these role modeling behaviors this is what leads followers to want to emulate or become more like this leader. There’s something about him that I just would run through a wall for or, you know, you ask and I’ll do it, because I am just here, I trust you, I admire and respect you, and I want to be part of what you’re doing. Jessica: That’s a lot of power. Ellie Anderson: Yeah, yeah, so it starts to sound like this charisma component. A lot of different scholars conceptualize idealized influence as having this charisma/charismatic component. Which is tough in terms of development, because can we develop charisma? I don’t know, you know, is that possible or is that something you’re born with, necessarily. And so, when we talk about the massive influence that transformational leadership has, it really falls into this idealized influence because some people start to wonder, is it blind influence? Are we just following along, like you said, this power blindly? But I like to come back to this role modeling piece, where it’s ethical. It’s us demonstrating, you know, I’m going to demonstrate the same behaviors that I’d like to see in return from you as a follower, and so that’s how I start to see it being, yes this is profound influence in something that you know maybe could seem dangerous, but we’re keeping it guided because its role modeling. It’s this kind of ethical piece of where we’re increasing the morality here of our followers. So yeah, you definitely hit on that part for sure. The next one is inspirational motivation. This hits on, kind of, the other key outcome of increased motivation of followers, and so this is where you really start to give your followers’ tasks, the things they’re working on, meaning and purpose. So they don’t feel like, wow, why am I sitting here doing payroll, but I am doing payroll because I am making a difference in this company. So that’s the type of motivation they’re going to feel, because they know that I bring something special to the table, I’m really serving a key part of this organization, and I’m pulling my weight. And so they also create some optimism through these behaviors and they’re inspiring the followers through their actions. So inspirational motivation is pretty much exactly how it sounds. With a lot of that comes from high expectations that are set by leaders that, because they really have this trust and identification with their leader, they want to do that for him. They want to chase after those high expectations and achieve it. Kind of like what we were talking about with, we can go after anything, let’s reach the impossible. I really think that I can get there because you have faith in me that I can do it. So that’s I, the second I, I number two. Moving on to our third one, it’s intellectual stimulation. This is also similar to how it sounds. It really involves challenging the status quo, looking at old problems in new ways, trying to take on a new perspective potentially, and just looking at situations in different perspectives and from different angles. And the coolest part about this is that it goes both ways, so it’s not just the leader challenging and asking for the stimulation of followers, but followers can also say, hey boss so and so, we’ve always done things this way. Have we ever thought about changing it up? Maybe we want to tackle this problem from this perspective or have we thought about it in this way? And so that’s the coolest part for me is that it’s not just what the leader says goes. It’s both ways. It’s this collective trying to challenge the way we think about things. And so we kind of find this innovation through the process of intellectual stimulation and some creativity as well. Jessica: It sounds like a partnership. Ellie Anderson: Yes. Jessica: You know, it sounds like there might be someone in there who has the formal power, right? The leader because of their position has been given this formal power, but it seems like this is really pushing toward a partnership, a relationship in a way, and it’s not ever going to be an equal relationship but a more equal relationship if that makes sense. Ellie Anderson: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I think that relationship, the…the word “relationship” identifies it perfectly. And what transformational leadership is after specifically, because you can’t do these things unless you have a relationship with people and that takes being equal on some level. You know, it takes two to make a relationship, and so that really brings us into the fourth and final “I” which is individualized consideration and this is noted by those coach-like and supportive behaviors. And so I really think about it in terms of the follower knows me as a unique and individual human. I am Ellie to them. I’m not just the role or position that I hold within this organization. They know what I do really well, but they also know what I might need to be supported. So, you know, we think about maybe languages of appreciation, or love languages, or things like that. This leader might be more in tune with, “Ellie likes words of affirmation and wants to hear when she’s doing a good job,” or you know that’s a really simple example but it can go beyond that way. They also may know that I liked outlines and a little bit of structure when I’m starting projects, and so they can help provide that for me before they let me loose. So you start to see how the leader starts to know each of their followers uniquely, and so that relationship between leader and follower is not going to be the same as the next person on the team or the next. It’s completely different, individualized just as the name sounds, and unique to them. And one of the best parts, I think in a way I like to describe this, is that the leader has an individualized development plan, almost, for each follower. So they know, “I know this about you, and I know your goals, and what you want to get after, and here’s how I can see us getting there, getting you there and getting you to achieve that.” And so it’s…there’s just a personal investment in you, and who you are, and what you’re after. And so there’s been some talk and questioning of is individualized consideration, maybe where it all starts. Maybe that’s where we have to go before the rest of these other things can happen. And there hasn’t necessarily been much to support that quite yet, but you know that’s starting to be a thought of it sounds like this individualized component almost plays a role within every dimension. Jessica: How do you think the actions of transformational leadership can translate into some other everyday relationships and everyday relationship building? Ellie Anderson: That’s a great question. I love that we’re talking about this because, I mean, us being leadership folk who probably see leadership everywhere, all the time, everyday, it’s so fun to boil it down to, “Okay, but really here’s how it works.” And, you know, I like to kind of preface this with, like we talked about in previous conversations, there’s no correct way to do leadership, and there’s definitely no correct way to do transformational leadership. And as I’m sure you probably picked up on you know as I went through these four I’s, they’re still kind of broad and general. And it allows, you know, every shoe to fit, so to speak, or for everyone to figure out, what does this look like for me. And so, I think that’s a key thing to people,listening to this is, don’t think that maybe because you’re not extroverted or outgoing that you can’t do these things. It’s just, what do they look like for me. How can I provide this to someone else? I think that’s a really broad first step of what can that look like in relationships is know yourself but also know who is in this relationship with you, who is that other person. And so for instance, when we look at idealized influence in those role-modeling behaviors, if you come into a relationship with certain expectations of this is what I need from someone to be able to get the depth out of a relationship, get to know you, know whatever it may be that you have expectations about, what you’re looking to get out of that, or you know outcomes or whatever it may be, role-modeling those behaviors of here’s what I expect from you, so I’m going to demonstrate that myself. I think that right there is demonstrating idealized influence because you’re role modeling. It doesn’t matter if it’s leader-follower. It’s just person to person at that point, of I expect this and I want this frankly from you, so I’m going to demonstrate it myself because I’m not bigger than or above being able to do that myself. So I think that’s a really basic level for that one. Jessica: I wonder if some of that is also understanding how to…how to know what your boundaries are and set them as well. Like… Ellie Anderson: Absolutely. Jessica: …in a healthy way obviously. Ellie Anderson: I love that. So that next “I” was inspirational motivation. And, I think, this one really gets to be individualized in terms of, you know, valuing what your partner, or friend, or whomever it is in that relationship is doing, and really giving it purpose and meaning. So I’m trying to think of an example, but you know if someone always makes the effort to schedule the reservation, or I don’t know what it is, and you just…they feel that that has purpose and meaning, and that they’re doing it for a reason with in this relationship, I could see that being a really small detailed way of showing this motivation of…it has meaning, or creating optimism, you’re inspiring these actions, these high expectations as well. But I think on a really individualized level just knowing how to motivate your peers. So, if that means a workout buddy or trying to stay diligent working from home and having an accountability partner, that’s very relevant right now. How might we in a motivate our peers, or our friends, or our partners to stay true to their goals and what they’ve said. And I think that’s individually knowing what do they need from me that’s going to make that feel individualized, but also it’s actually going to be intrinsically motivating. They’re going to want to do that, and not just go, “Oh, here they go again, trying to make me do this.” Jessica: And you can ask them, too, what they need. Ellie Anderson: Right. Jessica: You can ask them how you can communicate with them about it. I had a friend recently where I said, “will it push you away, like, if I haven’t heard from you for a while and…and, you know, I really want to know how you’re doing or whatever, does it bother you if I’m, like, checking in on you?” And she said, “No, please do!” On the other hand, I specifically asked my husband if he would tell me, you know, help me stop biting my nails once. And so, unfortunately, I maybe don’t even know what I…what I need myself, because now whenever he tells me to stop biting my nails, I just get mad at him. Ellie Anderson: You’re like, “Hey now. I know I asked, but still…” Jessica: So, apparently that’s not what I need, and I need to figure that out, but anyway. Sorry, that was a little off track. Ellie Anderson: No, I think you bring up a great point. There’s probably a misconception out there that I’m just supposed to know what I’m supposed to motivate people on and what I’m supposed to be doing or whatever it is. But it’s totally okay to ask. And why do we think that we shouldn’t have to ask, you know? I think that’s also taking the time to say, how can I help you or how can I best serve you in this, or you know pull my way in just saying how can I best motivate you? There is no shame in asking, and I think people are going to feel really valued and that might actually result in motivation just by you showing this interest in trying to know, how does this happen for you, what does that look like. Everyone wants to be known, and seen, and loved, you know. So anyway, I liked that. And that brings up a great point and made me think about that. When it comes to intellectual stimulation, I see this as like your advice-giving friend, the one who, you know, maybe when you’re mad it feels like devil’s advocate, I don’t know. But the person who can sit back and go, well have we thought about it on this way or have we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes to think about maybe what else is going on in their life right now? Or just all these other perspectives that, when were so caught up in the the thick of things and we’re feeling all the emotions which is totally okay to do, but when someone brings another perspective and says okay I totally see you, I feel you, and I know where you’re at, but have we thought about it from this way. I could absolutely see that being intellectual stimulation in terms of, you know what you’re starting to ground me right now I didn’t think about it that way. I’m just feeling emotional but really there’s a lot more behind-the-scenes that I’m not even aware of about the situation or whatever it might be. And so that one is such a clear connection to what that can look like in relationships for me, because I think those are the moments when we really become better and we start to become our best selves. And that’s something that, you know, ties into an outcome of transformational leadership is engaging the full person, developing them, and having them exceed expectations. And I think that can also look like exceeding our own personal development goals. And so, you know, I would say that in a relationship I would feel that I was my best self or I was becoming my best self, or you know whatever it is, if these types of behaviors were demonstrated in a relationship. So that brings us to our fourth and final “I,” individualized consideration, which I think is going to be a really broad answer, but it’s all about… it’s individualized, right. And so I think maybe you start to see some of those motivation pieces in this one as well. But who is it the person that you’re developing this partnership with or you’re in a relationship with? Who are they? What do they need? What are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? What are their differences that make them awesome? You know, what is it about them and how can you then support them through all that, and recognize them, and say, “Oh maybe I’m a terrible organizer but Susie Q, my best friend, is amazing at that.” And so I might ask to enlist her help, which is going to make her feel so supported and encouraged, because one, she’s being seen and she’s being seen in a context where, “I do this really well and it’s a talent and strength of mine.” And so that leaves them feeling empowered and like “I can take on the world after that.” And so it’s also individualized because you’re saying this is my friend and the one person I thought of in this moment, and who doesn’t feel good when someone says, “Hey, I thought of you because of XYZ.” That makes us feel all warm, and fuzzy, and great. We love that. And so I think, you know, being able to recognize who’s in front of you, love that person in front of you, who are they, but also like how can I coach them up and support them. Same thing when we talked about how do we motivate people, this is kind of what is their love language? What is their appreciation language? Maybe what are their top 5 Clifton Strengths? Whatever it is that they maybe identify with. What’s going to work for them and how are they going to feel loved, supported and encouraged, motivated through the actions, the things that I’m saying to them? I think that’s all how these can look in a relationship through individualized consideration because that’s the beauty of two really different people, that there’s no one like them in the world, coming together in a relationship and you get to figure out who is this other person I’m in a relationship with, what do they bring to the table, and it’s just like how can we work together then and then bring this to make an even more unique relationship. And so, I mean, I could go on all day but individualized consideration sounds as individualized as it is. You know, and there’s going to be no correct way or one way to do it. It just starts with who are you in a relationship with. Like, who is the person right in front of you? And so, like we’ve talked about as well, one of these key influences of transformational leadership is helping people achieve and reach their full potential. So not just, “Hey, great you met the bar right where it’s at, but you just exceeded and you became everything that you’re meant to be. And I think that…that touches something really relational for me in terms of maybe this person makes me a better person, makes me my best self, or I’m best when these types of things are happening. And I think that’s when all that’s…that’s the door for these transformational leader behaviors to come in and play. And I think that’s the impact you can have on someone in a relationship whether that’s leader-follower, boss-subordinate, co-parenting, just you and your partner, whomever it is. I think it’s that feeling of you make me better. A Message from the Military Families Learning Network I’m Jen Chilek from the Military Families Learning Network. We bring you online professional development opportunities, like this podcast, along with webinars, conferences, and more, in support of those who support military families. Geared to Cooperative Extension educators, military family service providers, and others who support military families much of our online content comes with continuing education credit and all of it is free. Visit us at militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org to find more content like this geared to people like you. Segment 3: What We Intend to Practice Bob: That was an awesome interview, Jessica, with Ellie. I just really appreciated everything that she had to say about transformational leadership, and really kind of opened my eyes to some things, and really also gave me some things to think about practicing in that context. You know, when…when Ellie talked about, you know, really individualized attention to people, you know, I think that’s something I could use in my own relationship-building practice. I don’t know if I always do that. There’s that Golden Rule, like, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but really, maybe it’s about what they would want, not what you would want out of the relationship. So I really want to start practicing thinking about that. So I’m going to pick three people, you know, that I…that I have a relationship with and would like to have a stronger relationship with, and I’m going to try and think about for each person, maybe, one thing that they might need from me or I think they might need, one thing that I really value about them that I see as a strength or an asset that they have, and one thing I know about them or one thing that I think I know that they aspire to. And use that to really be individualized in our interactions, but also to, kind of maybe, reveal some of the opportunities where I’m like, I don’t know what that person aspires to and maybe I need to get that information and deepen that relationship. Jessica: What a great idea, Bob. I’m actually though going to be working on exploring my boundaries, and…and setting some, maybe strengthening my ability to kind of stand in them a little bit, in order for me to have healthier transformational relationships. I tend to be someone who will…I want to connect with people so badly that I will say yes to every opportunity. And so, I need to be able to…to work on that a little bit, so that I can always be authentic in my yes’s, and I can…I can always be authentic, and kind, and loving in my no’s as well. So I’m going to explore some boundaries related to relationships. I’m going to choose three things that I need to set boundaries around in order for me to have healthy relationships, so that I can tend to my existing relationships better. Bob: So we’d like to express our gratitude to Ellie Anderson today for joining us and sharing so much great information and her passion for transformational leadership. Jessica: And we would like to share some gratitude for Nathan Grimm, our awesome musician who wrote and performed all of our music. Bob: And also to Hannah Hyde and Terry Meisenbach, our marketing gurus. Jessica: And for our MFLN colleagues for helping us build the foundation of this podcast. Bob: And finally we want to express our gratitude to everyone in our networks who have informed this conversation and to you for participating in this episode. Jessica: For more from this episode, including the full interview with Ellie Anderson, go to our website militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/practicing connection.
5 minutes | Jun 5, 2020
Practicing Connection Together (Ep. 0.5)
Subscribe on Apple Podcasts (iTunes), Google Podcasts, or Stitcher. Listen now: https://militaryfamilieslearningnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/mini-episode.mp3 About this episode: In this mini-episode, hosts Jessica Beckendorf and Bob Bertsch introduce the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast and invite participants to join them in practicing connection. Transcript Bob: Welcome to “Practicing Connection in a Complex World,” an exploration of personal and collective practices that empower us to work together to help each other, our families, and our communities improve our resilience and readiness in a rapidly changing world. I’m Bob Bertsch. Jessica: And I’m Jessica Beckendorf. Bob: And we’re the Network Literacy team from the Military Families Learning Network. And we’re so excited to be talking with you about our upcoming podcast. Episode 1 is on the way as we launch in July of 2020. Jessica, what are you most excited about sharing as part of the Practicing Connection in a Complex World podcast? Jessica: I’m just really excited about exploring these concepts. They’re something that I explore regularly, but I’m really excited about exploring the concepts with other people who are also interested in learning about connection, and about all the different ways that we can build connection and do it in ways that really supports ourselves and supports other people, and not just kind of leave it all to chance. Bob: Yeah, I mean I think we’re really focused on working together, you know, trying to co-create with other people, and I’m really interested as we go on this journey with everyone who’s listening, in working with other people and co-creating with them as we practice connection together. Because I think the more voices that we have involved in the podcast, it really reflects how we feel about this work, which is we’re connecting with each other, you know, to build diverse networks that can start to address some of the complex challenges that we all face. Jessica: At one point we even talked about calling the people who are interested in listening to this podcast, participants, because that’s what we’re hoping for. We’re really hoping that anyone who listens will become a participant in the community of people who are… who are practicing connection. Bob: I’m glad you brought that up because I think that’s how I feel, and I think we both feel about this podcast. You know, when we talk about practicing connection, we’re not telling people how to practice connection, we’re practicing it. We’re works in progress as well. We want to do that together with everybody, all the participants, and…and build a community around that. And you know one of the ways I hope we could do that is by sharing what we have learned and what we are currently learning, and also sharing our own practices, you know, to give people permission and ideas and energy to practice themselves, right? Practice working and thinking differently in ways that are going to increase their connections with people and hopefully lead to, you know, shared work of some kind. Jessica: When you keep bringing up the word “practice” and…and how we are in this also practicing with everyone else, we aren’t experts in connection. We are on a journey just like everyone else is, learning together. We have done a lot of work and a lot of reading and a lot of a lot of thinking about connection and a lot of thinking about connecting with each other and connecting with our world, but we aren’t necessarily experts. Which is why we’re looking to practice with others. Bob: Doing it together is…it not only fits the theme of what we’re talking about, you know. It’s going to make the podcast better, and it, and hopefully it’s going to make the…the community around this idea practicing connection in a complex world even better as well. So I hope that, you know, if you are listening to this, you’ll make sure to take the chance to subscribe to the podcast. The first episode, which focuses on transformational relationships, will come out in July 2020. We’ll be talking about collaboration and community resilience and so many more topics related to this idea of connecting with each other, collaborating with each other, and working together to make a better, more fair, more just world. So join us for Practicing Connection in a Complex World. We’ll talk to you soon. Jessica: Can’t wait!
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