A conversation with Tricia Conyers, Founder, and Facilitator at Island Inspirations.
“Why does change fail? There are so many reasons why change can fail. I think you could pick from anything. When working on change, change is very much a journey. It’s a reason why people call it a journey. The word journey symbolizes a lot of things. It symbolizes the up and downs that you’re going to go through, the fact that it’s not just going to be smooth. That it’s going to have challenges along the way. That it’s going to take time.” –Tricia Conyers
In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Tricia Conyers about her years of experience facilitating change, helping people shift mindsets, and leading reflections. She shares the importance of tracking the experience of change journies individually and collectively. We then discuss psychological safety, micro-changes, and liminal spaces. Listen in to learn more about helping people to get the most out of each other.
[1:30] How Tricia Got Her Start Facilitating Organizational Change
[14:40] How Micro Changes Lead To Big Changes
[24:00] Enjoying The Experience Of The Journey
[36:30] Learning About Change While Going Through Change
[41:10] Helping People Step Into Liminal Spaces
Links | Resources
Island Inspirations Website
Island Inspirations on Instagram
Tricia on LinkedIn
About the Guest
Tricia is the founder of Island Inspirations Ltd. She is a trainer, facilitator, meeting designer, and learning experience designer. She is passionate about helping people to ignite their best thinking and to create environments where people can do their best work. She has over 20 years of experience leading change and designing learning experiences. She is a Certified Master Facilitator and Time to Think Facilitator. She holds a Masters of Arts and Masters of Engineering from Cambridge University. She makes her home with her family in Trinidad and enjoys traveling, pilates and photography.
About Voltage Control
Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.
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Doug: Welcome to the Control the Room podcast, the series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control, and others are loose. So Control the Room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in, and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting.
Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us, live, for a session sometime you can join our weekly Control the Room facilitation lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques, so you can apply the things you learn in the podcast in real time with other facilitators. Sign up today at Voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my new book, Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings quick start guide, the free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at Voltagecontrol.com/magical-meetings-quick-guide.
Today, Tricia Conyers, the founder of Isle of Inspirations, where she is a meeting designer and facilitator. She is also the creator of Facilitating Engagement, a course available at Voltage Control Learn, and part of our facilitation certification training. Welcome to the show, Tricia.
Tricia: Hi, Doug. It’s great to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Doug: Of course. It’s so good to have you. I’ve been really looking forward to this conversation, and this recording comes right at the beginning of 2022, as we’re ending the holiday season, and getting the new year started. So it’s my first recording after coming off of break. I’ve been really looking forward to it. So I can’t wait to dive in.
Tricia: Excellent. I’m so honored to be at the top of your calendar for the year. It’s great.
Doug: Yeah. So let’s get started with just a little bit of background on how you got your start. How did you get into facilitation, and change, and just thinking about engagement?
Tricia: Sure. Well, very early on in my career, I joined a consulting agency that was focused around implementing change. So for the first couple of years in my career, I actually worked on the frontline, as a change agent, working with organizations to change their performance, and to help them see how they could achieve different levels of results to where they were today. A big part of working with them to achieve change was to do that in a way that was facilitated. I didn’t have, I wasn’t an expert in their content. So it was about facilitating ideas, and changes, and new ways of working through them. So facilitation was a part of how change was delivered. So to speak on how change was implemented. That was a big part, I think, of my introduction into facilitation is working in that way with others.
Doug: You know, I’m curious, as someone who was immersed on change initiatives, and helping companies navigate change, what did you find to be the most common reason for change to stall out, or not manifest in the ways that people had hoped?
Tricia: Yeah, good question. We often ask, we still ask clients this all the time. Why does change fail? There are so many reasons why change can fail. I think you could pick from anything. When working on change, change is very much a journey. It’s a reason why people call it a journey. The word journey symbolizes a lot of things. It symbolizes the up and downs that you’re going to go through, the fact that it’s not just going to be smooth. That it’s going to have challenges along the way. That it’s going to take time.
I think for me, part of why change fails is that there are some big obstacles that you face along that journey. At any point in time, one can be too big for us to get past. So that’s why I say it can fail for any one of very many reasons, right? I think you can start to articulate what those challenges are, like most often, the first challenge is the inertia challenge, which is just getting started. People not knowing exactly how to get started implementing change. That can be the first big challenge. Then just as that starts to happen, and they start to figure out what they need to, you get to that knowing, doing challenges.
The fact that I kind of know what to do, but how do I actually create the space to do it? Because people get in this dynamic between the work that I have to deliver and the change work that I have to do. That there is, I have my day job still to do, but then I have all these other things, which means changing my day job. So that sort of knowing, doing challenges, and being able to cross that, so that you actually can start to do some different things is another big challenge that you see.
Doug: Yeah, it’s really fascinating. You touched on a lot of interesting points that I’d like to touch back on. Let’s talk about, first, the one around committing resources and time, because when I hear people say, “Oh, I’m too busy to dedicate this.” But then I hear leadership saying, “Well, this is the most important thing.” It’s like, where is the dedication, or where is the investment happening? I feel like so much change is just starved of oxygen.
Tricia: Yeah. I totally agree. You hear that all the time, right? This is really important, yet we don’t have anybody to work on it. Okay, it’s a bit of an oxymoron, right? In the sense of it can’t be both. Then if it is really important, can we create this space for people to work on it? The thing that’s changed as well is it’s not something that you can contract out. It’s your organization that you want to change. It’s the way that your people work, and it’s the results that you get, that you want to change.
So to say that you’re going to give that to somebody else to do for you, so you got this, well, we don’t have people to do it. So we hire these other people to work on change. But it’s not those people that have to change. It’s the people within your business. You have to create this space for them to learn new things, and to practice new ways of working, and to actually try new things. It’s not something that you can just carve out and give to someone else.
Doug: Yeah, I like that point you make around practicing new ways of working and trying new things. A consultant can help show you some techniques. Ideally, they’re not just importing best practices, because you might not be able to just forklift that thing in. Ideally, if there is a consultant, they’re showing you different mindsets and different ways to think about it. But if people aren’t practicing and trying these things out, and learning, reporting back, then you don’t build that capability.
Tricia: Right. They have to build the muscle, right? They have to build the muscle to be able to do it themselves. They can’t just … There is a great benefit of having external perspective, and consultants who can help you rethink things or see things a different way, right? That external perspective is a great catalyst for change, to see things differently. But ultimately, people have to figure out what works in their organization, their culture, and how it works for them. So they have to have the option to practice and try new things and build their own new ways of working and rituals around what they want to change so that they see the impact of it. They have to go through the learning loop for themselves of exploring, and trying, and reflecting, and seeing the connections. Which is my point about why you can’t contract it out. They have to be involved in it.
Doug: Yeah. You can’t completely outsource it. I would say one thing that is critical is that accountability piece. Where do we, or who is responsible for creating this moment of reflection, this check-in time, where we’re making sure we’re making progress?
Doug: If we are going to try this stuff out, how often are we going to reflect back and go, what’s working, what’s not working? What have we learned? Whether that’s a consultant that’s helping do that or someone internally, if we don’t have a dedicated resource that’s doing that, then it’s probably disorganized, throwing stuff at the wall. Not even checking to see if it’s sticking.
Tricia: Yeah. I mean, just like you said, that’s a big reason right there why change fails, because we don’t take the time to reconnect it to how we work and to embed that in the way that we work, so it doesn’t happen again. Or even to share these learnings outside of the team we work with so that others can benefit from it. We’re still caught up in the business of doing every day, and delivering things, so that, we don’t close the learning loop, which is a big reason why change fails.
Doug: I love this closing learning loop piece. I think the other thing to think about on the learning loop is can you tighten it? How can you make that learning loop faster, because the quicker that you have data, and data can sound frightening to some people? Knowing whether or not this thing worked or not, it can be as simple as did we enjoy that? Did we get good ideas from doing this? Was this painful? Was it easy? The quicker that we can measure and understand the impact of something, the quicker we can pivot and try something different.
Tricia: Absolutely. I think that just the word that you’ve used, the rhythm of doing that, the cyclic rhythm of going through the what are we going to try? Try it, and then reflect on if it worked, right? Being able to do that in a frequency that helps us move things forward, right? We always say when we work in change as well, it’s like, you can make huge improvements in a daily meeting so fast, because you got a chance to do it every day, and reflect. But that quarterly QPR session that you have, you get four chances in a year or your strategic planning, you get one chance every year. Right? So that frequency has a big impact on your ability to close that learning loop, right? To keep going through that.
Doug: Frequency of just occurrence, it’s an interesting phenomenon. There are lots of implications of that, right? We have these cycles for instance, like a business quarter, right? We’re scrambling to get a quarterly report out, it might impact the way we make a decision right now. Is that the right decision to make in this moment? Given everything that’s happening with our employees and our clients? But hey, it’s the end of the quarter, so we had to do this thing.
So it’s like, these cyclical drivers are definitely something that we had to pay attention to. But I think they can force us to make decisions we wouldn’t have otherwise. So I’m kind of curious, how have you noticed or experimented with maybe stepping out of the cycles, or even learning at a different rate than the cycle? Because you mentioned the quarterly meeting, how do you improve that quarterly meeting if it’s … You just had it, it wasn’t great. We’re not going to have it again until another quarter. How would you get reps in on that, and make sure that we’re prepped for next time?
Tricia: Yeah. So what that makes me think about is the, with so many meetings, whether they are the quarterly meetings, or the daily meetings, I mean, one of the things that I think I’ve learned or I’ve seen is that so many meetings just rely on the defaults of the way that we’ve always done them. Those defaults, for me, can sort of spread to many things, right? I mean, they can be as simple as we default to a 60-minute meeting because Outlook gives us a 60-minute standard option when we open to set a meeting, right? So people default to 60 minutes, or if you’re in a meeting, they default to having a presentation, and then having an open conversation, instead of anything eels, or they default to … You see it all the time, in your Outlook calendar, people default naming meetings to who is there, and how frequent, right? The weekly leadership team meeting, for example.
It’s the same thing with those kinds of because it’s a quarterly meeting doesn’t mean that we have to wait until the quarter to practice something or to pilot how it will work next time. If we can start to break the status quo of how we do things, and just assume that the default means that we can’t try this again until next quarter, right? It means that we’ll wait. But if we can get people letting go of some of those assumptions around defaults then we can start challenging, well, let’s try this. So let’s pilot this. Let’s role model it and see how it would work.
I think that’s the benefit to shifting that mindset that that’s the only time it can happen, or that’s the only way that it can work. I think that’s one of the big things in change as well is helping people to shift their mindset about what they believe is possible. They just go to those defaults all the time, the way it’s always been. The way we’ve always done it.
Doug: It’s interesting because it comes back to something we were talking about in the preshow chat and this notion that … I started thinking about it as in this notion that change can be almost [inaudible 00:13:32], right? Because you’ve got these tiny, little micro-changes that can add up to be a real big, big change. People tend to focus on the big changes, and almost ignore these tiny ones that can be the source of quite drastic change. I think focusing on some of that stuff can be really powerful, because those are the moments where we get to practice, and learn, and reflect, and make those shifts.
Also, specifically in the preshow chat, you were talking about change can actually start in the meetings, right? The way we’re changing behaviors, the way we’re talking about projects, the way we’re even imagining this big initiative, it’s going to impact how the initiative comes out, right? How even talk about possibilities and shift our mindsets. The thing I wrote down is that often change is scary. People are afraid of the big change. So if you normalize it, by making these tiny shifts, it’s not quite so scary. Then once people feel the momentum, and understand what it means, then they become more comfortable with it. So I don’t know, that was kind of what was bubbling up for me as I was listening to some of that. I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on these local micro changes and how that could benefit folks.
Tricia: I love how you said that. Because it makes me think of more often than not, isn’t that really how change happens? Many small changes that ultimately add up to something big. I know sometimes it does happen as dramatic, like major shifts, changes that happen. But many times, it happens with small changes that happen along the way. So much so that sometimes you don’t even see it happening. I can think back in my experience of working with clients where at the end they say, “No, this is the way that we’ve always done it,” when it was so different in the beginning. But they forget all the little things that we changed in this journey to get us to the point where it’s like, “No, our team works in such an amazing way now. We have such a problem-solving focus, and a culture of continuous improvement.” We do all of that, but they totally forget what it was like in the beginning. But it’s been all these small changes that happen.
I also feel that, like I was saying in the preshow notes, that meetings are a real tipping point for making change happen. You can really start making things happen there. I think meetings are really powerful cultural shaping moments. When you start to change some of those things that happen in meetings, and so many meetings are just bad, because they are always, that’s just the way they’ve always been done. Nobody has thought about how to make them better, or how to change them. When we can shift the meetings that we have, we can change the way that people feel about working with each other, how they work together to get different results. We can change the culture of teams in our organizations just through working on meetings.
Doug: I completely agree. It’s like one of the reasons why we took such a strong focus on meetings and the impetus for writing Magical Meetings, etc, is there is just so much that can be done in those moments just to shift how work gets done, how people feel about their work, etc. I wanted to come back to something we were talking about a little bit earlier because I meant to get your thoughts on this. I’m still curious around this idea around investing in change. The feeling that “Oh, we can’t invest, we don’t have enough time.”
It made me think about Ecocycle from liberating structures, how it’s such a great tool to look at your portfolio and map out all the things you’re working on. If you’ve got stuff in your poverty trap, and you’ve got stuff in your rigidity trap, it’s an immediate eyeopener, that, “Oh, what if we just divest this? Then we can free up time.” So I’m curious if you’ve used Ecocycle in these moments, or if there are other tools? Also, Peter Drucker’s calendar review comes to mind as ways that people can break out of this hamster wheel of just, oh, I’m in this rut and invest in change.
Tricia: Yeah. No, I love Ecocycle as a way of thinking about that as well. I think one of the things it makes me think about, that you were touching on before, is the fact that it is scary. Even when you use something like Ecocycle, the letting go of the things that you need to let go, and the thing with change is it takes a lot of courage. So we have to trust that we recognize that that is where it is, and we do need to let that go and create space for something else to happen. Right? It’s in that beyond the and the unknown that causes that scariness and the fear that we have. So it takes a lot of courage, and it takes a lot of courage as well for people to try new things.
I think that’s the thing with change as well, we started this conversation with why change fails? Like I said, so many reasons. So many reasons, because if you are not creating a space an environment where people are encouraged to try new things, and to learn from that, and to recognize that not everything is going to be a success, but we’re going to learn more from the things that don’t work than they do work, in some ways. But they have to have the environment to be able to do that. This is the thing with meetings and leadership as well, because when leadership shows up in a meeting, and they’re like, “Well, why did you do that?” What you do is you shut down all the courage that people have to try anything else, because if it’s seen in a way that isn’t encouraged, then you won’t take the chance to try it again.
So whether you’re using Ecocycle or anything just from changing the way that you do a meeting, for example, that requires somebody to do something new, which means stepping out of doing what they were doing before. I think for me, as well, that also connects to learning, because a lot of what people have done before, they’ve learned and it’s gotten them to this point in their career, and it’s what’s made them successful. Now you’re asking them, in a way, to let go of what’s made them successful and try something new. So you’re asking them to give up what they have been rewarded for that’s made them, that’s brought them to this point, and to explore something new. So there is a cost to learning something new. There is also, that’s scary, and there is a lot of fear in that as well.
Doug: 100%. I love that you brought that up because I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last six months. It’s this concept that change has this inherent sense of loss of identity because if we are shifting from on-premise hosted technology systems to in the cloud, and I’m a systems admin who knows on-prem hosing in and out, what does my world mean when we’re in the cloud? Is there even a place for me in this organization? I have to change identities. I have to reinvent myself. It’s really scary, and people just default to that fear goes straight into I’m going to lose my job. Tomorrow, next month, a year from now, I’m not going to be who I think of as myself. That’s existentially frightening.
Tricia: Yeah. I 100% agree with you. That is why we have to be able to create environments that have an element of safety for them. As facilitators, we talk all the time about psychological safety. But I think that extends not just to the workshops or the environments that we create in meetings, but it extends to how we think and how you create the journey for change. How you help people navigate that journey for change. They have to feel safe enough to want to go on that journey and to keep trying. Because there are going to be a whole host of different reasons why it gets hard and a whole host of things that we need to relearn. If we knew it, we would be doing it already in the beginning. It wouldn’t be a change journey, because we would already know. Right?
So the fact that it is just a change journey means that it’s something new that we have to change. The change isn’t always … I love the way that in these experiences, most people start off talking about others that need to change. Somewhere along the journey, they realize that I also need to change. To it becomes from external to internal, because as you go through the journey, you realize it’s not just about other people doing things differently. But it’s also about what you need to earn, and what you need to do differently.
So it is very much a personal growth and a personal challenge like you’ve said. You have to feel safe enough to step into that space, and that unknown, ambiguous, I don’t know, darkness, in a way, and come out the other side. The liminal spaces as we call them, the liminal spaces of entering and not knowing exactly what it’s going to look like on the other side.
Doug: It’s really a strong point you bring up about ambiguity and the liminal spaces. It’s really critical that people are equipped with the tools, and the mindsets, and the encouragement, and support to move through that part of the journey. I think it’s really difficult for people to do that without an overarching purpose, or expectation, or reason why we’re even going about this. If that’s at all shallow, or ill-conceived, or poorly communicated, I think that really does a disservice to any of the work. Because if people are in that liminal space, and they start to doubt, and then they don’t have that bedrock of what’s unifying us, ooh, that’s treacherous.
Tricia: Absolutely. I think belief is one of the first things that we have to create for people to even want to go on the journey. Right? They have to believe not only the team, the organization that we’re going to be in a better place, but I’m going to be in a better place. I’m going to learn from this, and I want to see this be different, right? So they have to have a personal level of belief, that it can happen, and that even going on this journey is going to be a positive thing. Something that I want to do. So that belief and that purpose, like you said, that belief and that purpose, they have to have that to make it meaningful for them. So that in all of those difficult moments, like you said, that’s what you fall back on. That you remember that rock that you have that keeps you pushing through those difficult moments.
Doug: This is also reminding me of this elementary school that I did some work with, with one of my software startups. We had an application to make mobile safer for kids, and the school was doing a collaboration with AT&T. So we were kind of creating in classroom software experience using our platform, so the teachers could use these devices in the room with students. This was well before the pandemic. So it’s kind of funny that they were almost prepping for these days. They had a lot of really, really creative devices that they would use. This is a school that worked with Pre-K students all the way up to the 6th grade.
They started off as a mental health institute. Then decided that they could do more extended work with these individuals if they created a school because then they could be with them more often. Coming back to your frequency thing, they could have an impact, and change on these students if they spent more time with them, where there are these critical moments. So because of that, there were a lot of cool techniques. They used to saw throughout the daily interactions. I know this is a long story, so I’ll get to the end here really quick.
But one of the teachers had this really cool tool, and it was a thermometer. Like a thermometer that you might use on the wall to track your fundraiser. We’ve raised so much money this week, and then it gets higher next week, and so on. So when a child was misbehaving or just overheated, and just really emotional in that moment, they would go to the thermometer, and she would say, “Where are you?” They would place their finger on the thermometer, and then she would remind them, “We need to be down here.” They would sit with the thermometer as they transitioned down to where they needed to be.
So often, if we’re in that situation, the request is to calm down. It’s like, I want you to change right now, automatically, like a light switch. This thermometer is a much better metaphor because it depicts the journey. It’s something that happens over time, we can’t just flip a switch, we can’t just change instantly. I think that maybe, if I would be so bold, that might be the main reason that change fails, to come back to the original question, because you keep anchoring on this metaphor of the journey, or talking about a journey. People aren’t thinking about it as a journey, and expecting, “Hey, we’re going to put a plan together, we’re going to work this plan, and we’re going to change.” Versus realizing it’s a journey, we’re going to hit obstacles, we’re going to have to change protocols because we’re going to hit stuff unexpected, etc. So anyway, I know that was a long buildup, but I really, I wanted to just anchor back on that journey and get your thoughts there.
Tricia: Well, what I love about your story, Doug, is the recognition of the feelings that happen throughout the experience. It isn’t all going to be just smooth sailing. That we’re going to have really difficult moments which bring out that frustration, and all of that, that sense of difficulty, and whatever that looks like in terms of how we feel. What is so great about that story is using the metaphor of the thermometer, or I’d say, in my role, the model of the thermometer is what you can do, you can physically place yourself in it. By almost taking it, feeling outside of yourself, and you can say, “This is where I am.” Then I can start to think about, okay, where do I need to be? Right? So the fact that I can place myself in something else helps me to think about, what can I do differently?
In my experience, I’ve used a lot of models that help people do that. So whether you’re using any one of the change models, whether it’s a model or many, many different models that are out there. But Elizabeth’s stages of grief model is one that I’ve used very often, as well as to say, “Where are you? How are you feeling at the moment?” Recognize that because I’m here doesn’t only mean that I’m going to move forward. I can move back, and I can keep moving up and down because the feelings will change. I’ll have days of real success where I feel like this is great, and we’re making progress, and there is a great problem solving, and there is acceptance and excitement in that.
There are days where it just feels like nothing is happening, and I’m really frustrated with it. That’s why it’s such an experience for people because it is that journey of not only what we’re going through as a collective together, but recognizing that each person individually is going to have a journey in that as well. They’re going to have feelings associated with it, and just a reaction to what’s happening day-to-day as well.
Doug: It’s so important. You kind of touched on another thing I was thinking about with regards to the journey, which is this notion that it’s difficult to get started. A lot of times, people have issues, you mentioned the inertia earlier, their startup energy. How do we even just get out of the gate? But I feel like maintaining that momentum, once you do manage to build it, which is no small feat in itself, but gosh, when it’s the 25th hour, and you’re just beaten down when it’s two years into the pandemic, and we’re like, “Wait, there is another variant?” How do you respond in those moments, and support each other, and just keep moving through the obstacles, knowing that we have that end in sight? I don’t know. Do you have any go-to advice, or models, or tools that help people when they’re in that disillusionment or just the … It’s like this, wow, more obstacles?
Tricia: Yeah, I think part of that, for me, is just helping people remember how far they’ve come. So because it still feels like, it always feels like there is so much farther to go. But we forget about how far we’ve come. You’re midway up the ladder, but you forget that you were all the way down at the bottom before, right? But you’re that much closer to the top. So remembering how far you’ve come. I think that’s the benefit, as well, in change of having a community of people that work on it, because we support each other in those moments. So you have people that bring the energy, and the positive belief, and the way of, “No, no, don’t forget how far we’ve come. Let’s just keep going.” Right?
If you’re all on your own all the time, you can give into that kind of … It just feels like it’s endless. I’m not, I don’t know how to continue to make progress. So I think an important ingredient in change as well is having the community of people together that are bought into this, we’re all here to make it happen. Some days, I feel like we’re not making progress. But you’re totally like, “Come on, let’s keep going.” Right? I think that’s really important in those moments as well. I’m sure there are lots of models, and tools, and things that people can do. But I think it just comes down, sometimes, to the emotional support that you get from the community when you’re there, and people are giving the encouragement, they’re sharing the positive mindsets, and they are sharing the motivation to keep going, and to keep the momentum going.
Doug: Yeah, that positivity is really important. I think that oftentimes, especially when it’s a big change initiative, and we’re focused on the big prize, it can be easy to forget to celebrate the small victories. That can, to your point, looking at our progress to date is really important, and if we’re celebrating along the way, then we’ve got our trophy wall that we can point back to, and say, “Hey, this is good.” Maybe even some failures were defined too, rather than having this feeling of, we’ve been beat down by all these failures. Look at how much we’ve learned. So how do we frame what’s happened as a lens towards where we’re trying to go.
Tricia: Yeah. Absolutely. I think the learning like we said earlier, the successes and the failures are so important, and just recognizing that they’ve all been part of bringing us where we are. Right? I think what you hit on there, as well, is that again because we’re often just so busy in our lives and in our work, there is so much to be done, we rush past the celebrations of how far we have come. We don’t take the time to recognize what it means, and what the significant change is that’s happened. Which is what you were saying earlier.
It’s about all these little changes that happen along the way. But sometimes we don’t even recognize that they’ve happened, because we haven’t looked back at them to see where we were before that. Right? So the recognition and the celebration of just seeing where we are at, and the pausing to do that is so important in the journey. Otherwise, it just feels like it’s only … You’d only see the big mountain that you’re trying to climb ahead of you. You don’t see how far up you already are.
Doug: Yeah. It reminds me, too, of liberating structures, to come back to that. In complexity, also. If we’re celebrating and taking the pause to acknowledge, it means we’re also reflecting. There is so much power in that reflection. I feel like oftentimes, people miss out on that because they’re just executing the plan. They didn’t take the moment to just say, “What do I think about what just happened?” We might readdress the plan. So I’m wondering how much reflection and debriefing plays a role in the work you do?
Tricia: I think that’s very critical to the work we do. Coming back to what we were talking about before in terms of frequency, that is on all of the frequencies in the sense of like, working with people to change meetings, debriefing after every meeting, about what went well, and what would you change in the next one, right? So debriefing on the micro-level of the event that just happened. But then debriefing on a more macro level in terms of how far we’ve come. So you have to debrief at different levels. Debrief or reflect, I would say, at a different level. On the thing that just happened, but also on where we are in the journey so far. So making sure that you’re reflecting on the different horizons, so to speak, to help bring it all together.
Doug: So debrief, reflection, definitely popular, or very common techniques when you’re thinking about creating learning environments and systems. This is something that we’ve talked about, and you’ve mentioned that this is part of your journey in the work that you do. It made me think about the relationship between learning and change, and how if you’re going to experience any kind of change, you have to learn, right? Because the definition of change is things aren’t going to be the way tomorrow the way they are today. So if they’re different, we got to learn this different thing. If we’re not creating environments or systems where learning is encouraged, or the conditions for learning are not established, then we’re kind of doing a disservice to our goal.
That’s what led Eric and I to develop the workshop design canvas, because it’s like, let’s apply learning and experience design principles to workshops, and meetings, and anything we’re doing so that we can kind of create these learning environments and whatnot. So I’m really curious how that’s shown up in your work because our experiences and what I have been noticing seems to align with a lot of stuff you’ve been talking about. So I’m really curious to see how that’s shown up around the need to support learning, even when people aren’t specifically trying to skill build.
Tricia: Yeah. I think like you said, the whole change journey is built on the premise that we’re going to be learning new things along the way, right? The thing with learning for me, I think in the spirit of that change journey is it’s contextual to the moment that you’re in. So it’s different to education, or that’s why I would say it’s not about sending people, necessarily, to, “Hey, go and learn all about change.” We’re going to learn more about change by going through the change journey itself, and by taking moments in time where we say, “Okay, well, what do we need now? What is it that’s missing now that we need? Let’s figure that out. Let’s apply that here.” So there is a connection with what’s actually happening that I think is important to make to create the environment for learning. Right? As opposed to an artificial construct for learning. I think it’s relevant to what’s happening in the journey. So I think that there is a connection between that personal need that you have and the learning that’s happening throughout the journey. Does that make sense?
Doug: No, absolutely. The thing that I think about is how often times folks will look at a situation like this, and they think, “All right, well, let’s just train everyone on design thinking, or let’s just train everyone on how to be better product managers, or let’s train everyone on this new way of thinking, or this new technique, or cloud computing, or whatever it is. Then once they’re armed with that knowledge, they’ll just go apply it.”
Tricia: Never happens.
Doug: Yeah. It’s that thing you talked about, the knowing/doing gap. Right? I guess what I was getting at around, I think everything you said is really spot on. The thing that I was just really laser-focused and think is so important is if we’re going to have the change, then surely we might give them the knowledge. But we also need to be working through applying it, and then reflecting, and rinsing, and repeating. It’s that journey you talked about, because if the journey is not happening, then it’s not being monitored, and we’re not setting up the conditions in that journey for really good learning, then it’s going to set it up for failure.
Tricia: Yeah. Like you said, I think more often than not, you send people on these courses, and they come back and things are exactly the same. Because there is no connection between the work that they’re doing and the application of that knowledge. Those things need to come together. So learning, in a way, has to be at the right moment. Right? It has to have the personal agency in it, that I have to need it. Okay, now, I understand this thing. Now I’m going to go away and try it, and I’m going to see if that works for me. So I have to have that kind of relationship with the need to learn it, for it to shift for me. Otherwise, I’m gaining knowledge, which is a very interesting thing to do as well. But I don’t know that I’m necessarily learning something new in the way that I think you and I are talking about it, and the way that it’s needed to achieve change.
Doug: Yeah. It’s like, coming back to the knowing/doing gap, you’re gaining knowledge, but you’re not changing behaviors.
Tricia: Right. Because right after that knowing/doing gap is the doing/being gap, right? Right after you know it, but now I do it, but have I really … Do I really understand it? Can I be it? Rather than just knowing what to do. So right after that knowing/doing movement is that shift into the being space, and the living space, which is where you’re really bringing that learning into how you work, and how it’s changing. In a way, it’s changing the beliefs that you had before about what was possible. Now you’re doing it in a different way, so you’d believe something different about it.
Doug: It’s almost like these layers, right? We got to understand how to integrate it. Then once we understand how to integrate it, then we had to internalize it.
Tricia: Absolutely. We have to get to the point where it is like you say, it lives inside of us, so that it becomes, in a way, a new way of being, so we use it to almost thrive, and continue to go forward. That it becomes that, the new baseline in a way.
Doug: Yeah. You mentioned Kata earlier, and I feel like, to me, that’s such a powerful model for making some of these shifts. Just because it’s got that cadence built-in of, we’re going to set this destination, and then let’s just regularly, on schedule, just see what’s going on. The whole point is to just constantly see what’s going on. So we can be proud that we did that thing that we were supposed to, which is to see what’s going on. So the whole process is designed around integrating. If you do enough integration, actually internalizing, being is like an artifact the more and more you rehearse it.
Tricia: Yeah. The thing that you were making me think of, which is a little bit different to what you were saying. But where we started this conversation off around facilitation is I think facilitation is a really important part of making change happen. Because it isn’t … just like we’ve talked about, the need for learning inside of change, and the personal agency in it, and people going, having the courage to try new things. It’s all about can you create a space where people will step into that unknown? Will step into those liminal spaces. I think for me, that’s where facilitation has really played a key role because it’s not about telling people what to do. Right? I don’t have the answers, you don’t exactly know how this is going to pan out.
You can’t tell people or force them to go on this journey. They have to want to be there, and they have to want to go through the personal discovery that’s going to happen in it as well. I think facilitation is such a powerful, let’s call it a tool, but to make that happen. Because it’s about what we do as facilitators is create the space, I think, where we can really ignite the thinking of other people, where they can start to think about how they can see things differently. They can, as a group and individual, have these moments of ah-hah and discovery that make them feel excited to go forth and try something new. Right?
I think when we’re at our best as facilitators, that’s what we unlock in people. We unlock that new thinking and that passion for action, and excitement. Very much for me, facilitation is a part of making change happen, because in a role as a change agent, as well, you’re never the leader. You have no authority for anyone. So it’s about how do you create spaces and engage people so that they are excited and encouraged to want to go forward and try new things?
Doug: So awesome. I couldn’t agree more and think that facilitation holds so much in respect to where the future might go, and where we might see things unfold. It’s really fascinating, too, because I think so much of the discipline and the community around facilitation is somewhat of an emergent thing. The word has been around for a while. But a lot of these techniques and a lot of this thinking is building upon skills that people have built through different routes, and different roles, and different perspectives. But we’re starting to see them emerge as a new discipline of their own, which is really fascinating.
So I guess I’m curious, I want to segue that to a question, which is as you think about facilitation, as you just defined it, and perhaps this trend, that it’s becoming more popular, and more of a known resource, where it’s companies will eventually hire facilitators, and give them those titles, and it becomes a much more accepted and known role within organizations, what do you think that unlocks? What do you think that creates and opens up for organizations, and even just society as a whole?
Tricia: Yeah. I think for me, it really, what it means is about getting the best out of everyone when you create that. If organizations think in that way about having facilitators, whether it’s for meetings, or workshops, or whatever, or as part of the change experience, what it means is we’re getting the best out of everyone that has come together. That’s the intent of the facilitator, to sort of [inaudible 00:44:55] the group, and to help them emerge what’s best for them to move forward. That can change as time goes on. Right? But the facilitator isn’t bought into what they decide to do like you said, it’s an entirely for the group, and it’s [inaudible 00:45:11], they don’t know where it’s going to go either. But they trust that they can help the group think differently and see things differently so that they are motivated to try and do something new.
So I think that’s what it unlocks is it unlocks the capacity and the potential of the whole organization. If we can get everybody working at their best, what would that be like to work in an organization that was like that? When everybody was at their best, not only individually, but we were at our collective best together, what would that mean in terms of how an organization performed and what it felt like to work there?
Doug: Yeah. That’s so many layers. I love this concept of collective best.
Tricia: Me too.
Doug: So I think we’re coming up on our time here. So I wanted to make sure that we gave you an opportunity to leave our listeners with a final thought.
Tricia: Well, I think my final thought would be that we’ve spent our time talking about change. I think change is inevitable. As we’ve seen huge change in the last two years in the world, alone, in terms of so many different things, and in the way that people work, and the way people feel about so many different topics. Change is inevitable. I think we just have to recognize that the process of change is not easy, and it’s not just a get on the bus and then get off at the next stop, and it’s all change. It is a journey. That’s why we often refer to it like that. So I would say change is inevitable, and change is the journey. I do really believe, I personally believe that facilitation is really important, if you want to call it, tool or skill that helps navigate that process of change. So I think that is a really important success factor to helping you be successful on your change journey.
Doug: Fantastic. Well, it’s so awesome to have you on the show and chat with you today. I certainly enjoyed it, look forward to talking again soon and getting the course launched, probably by the time this airs it will be launched. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you, as always. Hope to talk to you soon.
Tricia: Thank you so much, Doug. I appreciated being here. It’s been great.
Doug: Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want more, head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together. Voltagecontrol.com.