Video and transcript from Lynda Baker’s talk at Austin’s 2nd Annual Facilitator Summit, Control the Room
This is part of the 2020 Control The Room speaker video series.
In February we hosted the second annual facilitator summit, Control The Room, at Austin’s Capital Factory. We launched the summit last year in partnership with MURAL to create a space for facilitators to gather, break down the silos, and learn from one another.
The three-day summit is a rare opportunity to bring together an otherwise unlikely group of highly experienced and skilled professionals across various industries and crafts—from strategy consultants and negotiators to Scrum Masters and design thinkers.
Anyone interested in deepening their knowledge on how to successfully facilitate meaningful meetings and connect with other practitioners is welcome. Together, we dive into diverse methodologies, expand upon perspectives, and learn new insights and strategies that enrich our expertise.
This year we had the pleasure of welcoming 24 speakers, all innovation professionals, who shared their insights and strategies of successful facilitation.
Lynda answered the enticing question, “Why is it that people crave community but hate meetings?”
Lynda spoke to where facilitation meets feng shui and the purpose it serves in removing tension and blocks that appear in a meeting so that the energy in the room can flow freely across the metaphysical, metaphorical, and practical planes.
Lynda went on to break down the eight principles of feng shui bagua, a yin and yang energy map, and how they relate to the roles of a facilitator by sharing her meeting bagua.
Watch Lynda Baker’s talk “Why is it that people crave community but hate meetings?”:
Read the Transcript
That was nice.
So how many of you would say you’re pretty familiar with feng shui? How many? How many of you would say not so familiar with feng shui? How many of you saying I’m not sure where to raise my hands? Anybody?
Okay. Well, I’m going to, you know what? I’d like to get a volunteer because this is participatory, and 20 minutes to talk to you is not what I usually do because I usually… So I’m going to go to my comfort zone. So is there anybody here who really like scribing? You don’t have to write everything. Okay. Come on. Tell us, what’s your name.
Can we hear that again?
Haley. So Haley, could you just grab a marker? And if we need to agree on any important words, kind of in the spirit of my colleague, Roger Shores, we like to agree on what important words mean. So feng shui. That would be a good thing to agree on because just want to make sure. So feng shui. F-E-N-G. I think I can advance the slide.
So feng shui means, does anybody know what means? Wind and water. Facilitation. We all know what that means, to make easy, right? That’s why we’re all here because people hire us to make things easy.
Well, I would say… The runaway slides. I would say that why is it that people crave community, but they hate meetings? You ever notice that. That’s why they hire us. I think that that tension is really where facilitation meets feng shui because there are inevitable blocks in these meetings that we facilitate. And our job is really not to bring more stuff into the room, but how do we clear the way? How do we get rid of those blocks? Or whether they’re in the living room or in the meeting room, how do we deal with those elephants?
Well, the complexity that we all deal with, and each one of us is dealing with complexity in a different way, regardless of what your context is, or you’re meeting. This gathering of people, even if you just look at one table, even if you just look at yourself, there’s lots of complexity. And yet we’re called upon to bring some sense, sensibility, productivity to that space. And that is where I believe facilitation meets feng shui.
Now, many people are probably thinking, I suspect, because I’ve had this conversation before, that I’m talking about how you arrange furniture in the room because the practice of feng shui does have to do with creating harmony in space as a result of the arrangement of furniture. And for those of you who’ve ever facilitated a room with poles that are blocking your view of other people or those really beautiful stone walls that you cannot put a piece of sticky paper on, or maybe it’s the fact that you’re facilitating in a room that’s actually a storage closet. It has a lot of old furniture that, okay, nobody’s done some work with government here. But you get the idea.
That’s significant. But what I want to talk to you about is energy. Now, the energy, yes, it’s the energy of a dynamic conversation. It’s the energy of people scribing excitedly, or finding out that they can draw an image. But the energy that I’m talking about is when you’re sitting at a traffic light, and you’re minding your own business, and you just have this feeling that somebody is looking at you. And you turn to the left, and it’s either some weird person or a kid in the backseat, and they are looking at you. And then they get busted, and they look away. Your peripheral vision is not that good. And yet we do get this sen So when I want to remind you of is there are things that are going on around us all the time that we can’t really see. We don’t really know what it is, but we know that it’s there. The Hindus talk about prana. The Jews talk about ruach. And the Taoists talk about chi. And that’s what that is a symbol for, in case, is there anybody who can read that in this room? I think it’s chi. No, I’m pretty sure it’s chi.
So maybe you know about chi because you have been to an acupuncturist. Anybody here have experienced acupuncture? Yeah. And how many of you would never in a million… Okay. We’re not going there. So what an acupuncturist does is they, we all recognize the Chinese philosophy and Chinese medicine, chi is a big part of that philosophy of medicine. And there’s a belief that, and understanding that there’s the flow of chi through the human body. And when there are blocks to that flow of chi, you’re not at your optimum health. So through the insertion of needles through the body, the acupuncturist helps to clear the way for good chi to flow. So removing those blocks.
Now there may have been meetings that you’ve been in where either you’ve been a participant or a facilitator, where you can clearly see that good chi is not flowing here. I’m not suggesting that we necessarily put needles into these people’s bodies, although that might be helpful. But what I am suggesting is that there’s an understanding that instead of putting more things into the room, how do we clear the way? How do we clear the space so that good chi can flow?
Well, this session is really about the integration of three areas, part of which I’ve already introduced. The one is the metaphysical, the metaphorical and the practical. So metaphysical. Metaphysical, actually, I believe Aristotle originated that concept. Meta is beyond. Physical is physics. So the metaphysical is that stuff that’s beyond science. So that’s sort of like the feng shui way stuff that you say, well, does it really work? And what’s that really about? Why is it that people in Hong Kong pay thousands of dollars? People bring feng shui. I’m not a feng shui master. I don’t claim to be one, or play one on TV. But the notion that there’s something else there that we don’t understand. The metaphor is how you take a symbol or a context or a word and use it for something else to help enlighten it. How many of you have used metaphor in facilitation or training?
And the practical is, okay, I’m here at this conference all day. How am I going to apply what I learned? How does this all fit into my practice as a facilitator? Well, this symbol is at the core of feng shui. What’s the symbol? Anybody?
It’s the yin yang. And what is yin yang about? Anybody want to throw out? What’s yin yang about?
It’s about balance, duality…
And the integration of opposites.
The integration of opposites. I suggest that the real interesting thing about this symbol is that line, that line that goes in between the two, because it’s a dance between the seen and the unseen. It’s a dance between the known and the unknown. And that’s what we do in our meetings. There are things that lots of people know, and there’s things that lots of people don’t know. And what are we doing in our meetings? We’re moving from the unknown to the known. And if you’re not getting to something that people know at the other side, then there was no chi, and people were napping.
So how does this all relate to feng shui and the practice of feng shui? Anybody familiar with this symbol or this word, the Bagua? What’s the Bagua? Anybody want to throw out a definition?
It’s kind of like the areas of your life.
It’s related to area. It’s a map. And if you practice feng shui, you would take this energy map that’s referred to and lay it over a space, a room. Lay it over a plot of land for citing a purchase of a home. And each one of areas, they come from, they’re trigrams actually. They come from a Taoist background, the I Ching. If you were a child of the sixties, you might have a copy that’s just like this.
And each area of this map response to a different part of your life. Those areas, if carefully nurtured, if good chi is flowing to all of those areas, then you will have healthy, harmonious experiences related to those areas.
Well, what does this have to do with a meeting if you’re not arranging furniture this way? Well, I would suggest that each one of these areas relates to an aspect of our role as a facilitator. Because for me, when I facilitate a meeting, that meeting takes on a life of its own. This gathering is a life, and there’s a path and a process that’s involved in this meeting.
Now my suggestion is that we realize that every meeting we hold has some kind of sequence related to it, some kind of path, some kind of journey. And while it’s not the career of an individual, it’s the career of that group. It’s what has come before it, what’s going after it. It’s the processes that you choose in the meeting, a sequence of events. It’s the events within those events. So a recognition that there’s a path.
The next aspect in the Bagua that talks about inner knowledge, when we think about knowledge, how does that apply? How does that metaphor apply to us in meetings? Well, clearly there’s information that we all need. There’s information that I need when I sit down with a client. Where, when, who, what, why? All that kind of interview information when we collaborate with clients. And then of course, there’s what information do they need? What kind of information, what kind of pre-work do they need? So really being sensitive to that objective, the what, the data.
This next section is about, sometimes it’s referred to as family, it’s referred to as ancestors. And when I think about the relationship of family and ancestors and history for a meeting, it really helps us understand that there is wisdom that has come before us. If those of you who’ve done strategic planning and sit with a group and say, how do we look back before we look forward, or looking back in order to look forward? How do we recognize that when you walk into a room, and somebody’s worked for that company for 20 years, versus someone who got there 20 minutes ago, how do we honor that context? So that’s that wisdom component that then feeds into the obvious abundance section.
We talk about abundance in one’s life. If we are not helping our organizations, our groups, our teams, our meetings move towards some deliverable, some objective, some bigger picture, then we’re not serving them. We all know, this is the bottom line.
Now recognition, this one you might think is related to the person. People call these people by various names. I would say the over-enthusiastic participant. There are other names that some people have used to describe that person. Sometimes it’s me in a meeting. I told my colleagues last night that I think I became a facilitator because I was such a difficult participant. But I’m not talking about those people who need that recognition. I’m talking about the big picture and the recognition that the group gets. In other words, what’s the point of this meeting? What kind of documentation is going to be produced? How are you going to put wheels on what people are doing in that meeting and drive it out the door? And who’s going to drive it?
And then there’s my favorite one, relationships. Now, sometimes in the Bagua, they refer to this area as marriage. And while there may be some, I don’t know about the meetings you’re facilitating, there could be lots of romance that could occur. They’re very kinesthetic and exciting groups. But what we’re really talking about here is this whole idea of participation. It’s the reason why people hire us instead of a parliamentarian. The engagement and investment of people in an organization is critical in order for what goes out the door, becoming part of the organization or the team.
Creativity. We saw a lot of that in the experience that we just went through this morning. I think that we are now pressured more than ever before to discover ways to unleash the creativity of our participants in order to push for innovation. And the way in which you unleash that creativity could be through colored markers and could be through music and could be through play. But what’s important is to recognize that there is the experiential and rational aim in that group. How are people going to be different as a result of their experience with you? And how are you designing meetings both for the rational, as well as the experiential?
And then of course, last but not least, is this area that they refer to as companions or travelers. And I think about how every meeting needs champions, companions, fellow travelers. And I think that so do we. How do we leverage the learning, the insights, the fears, and the excitement that we have here today with one another? How do we recognize that we are fellow travelers? And what’s at the bottom line of what we’re trying to accomplish?
So as you think about all those pieces, I want to share with you this graphic that was created by a colleague of mine in Bangkok. He lives in Bangkok. I presented this conversation to the International Association of Facilitators in Hualien, Taiwan. And had the pleasure of meeting lots of Asian colleagues who did a graphic recording, and every session was graphic recorded. And he captured this. And I think about this meeting Bagua kind of like the Baker Bagua checklist in that if we are sensitive to the path and process of our teams, how we nurture and foster interaction and participation, how we leverage community wisdom, be sure that we are mindful of deliverables, understand that there are knowns and unknowns, and dance between those two, how we nurture and develop and foster creativity in our participants, understand that we all need information and knowledge, and recognize that we’re leaving some kind of a legacy and a reputation for those individuals and the collective, then we are, in fact, introducing facilitation to feng shui in a way in which we’re expanding our own capability and expanding the capability of the participants in the room.
So I want to invite you to expand your understanding of that overlap, the overlap between metaphor, metaphysics and practical. And I challenge each one of you to be thinking about not only the Baker Bagua, but the metaphors and the metaphysics as you work today to think, how are you going to bring more good chi into your meetings and into your experiences? Because each one of us are very powerful people when you’re in front of a room. And what you can make happen and facilitate by getting things out of the way can really make a big difference. So thank you very much.