Engagement ~ What future will you stand for?

Summit 2038 Catherine Bachy, Graphic Facilitator

I’ve been thinking a lot about engagement these days.  In the upcoming elections in the United States we are seeing a dramatic rise in new political candidates running for office and more voter participation than in the last 50 years.  We see more protests and demonstrations of free speech, freedom to assemble, freedom to dissent.  Citizens are engaging in the tools of a democratic system that are guaranteed them by a Constitution forged by the vision and principles of those who came before us.

On the flip side there is also a trend towards dis-engagement.  The 24/7 news cycle and social media channels produce a fire hose of information that is ever more provocative and overwhelming.  If you are like me, you might need to press the pause button or put yourself on a “media diet” from time to time.

It can be challenging to find balance between creative engagement that generates new solutions and connections, and a complete disengagement due to the overwhelming impact of the news cycle.

These days I find hope for the world in examples and models of constructive engagement: people engaged wholeheartedly in the creation of the future of our society, our country, and our world.

This week I witnessed a group of community members, about 150 in all, come together in a day long facilitated summit to vision the future of their region and their county.  I witnessed, in my role as graphic facilitator, a group of people turn reality upside down and shift the often heard refrain of:  “we don’t know what the future holds,” to something more like, “we create and envision our future together.”  In this gathering I saw a group of community members from different backgrounds, ages, occupations, genders and races come together and enact Margaret Mead’s call to action:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Engagement—it takes grit; it takes putting down our cell phones; it takes getting uncomfortable in important and challenging conversations.  The results of engagement can be an opening to new ways of thinking and seeing, and the creation of a world that we can stand up for and champion—against all odds.  Our collective future is ours to create.  What future will you stand up for? And what small first step can you take to create that future today in your community?

Stillness Speaks

“True intelligence operates silently. Stillness is where creativity and solutions to problems are found.”

~Eckhart Tolle


Along the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Washington this summer I have observed herons—these graceful, slightly awkward birds.  They have such a talent for stillness, for waiting patiently, for listening, for detecting the tiniest stirs in their environment.  Nothing gets past them.   I have also been watching myself and others around me and how we fill pockets of time by whipping out our “smart phones” for a quick check of email or Facebook.  We are addicted to interruptions.  Ironically, we complain about how we have no time and how overwhelmed we are, yet it seems we scamper away from stillness.    I have been experimenting with being in stillness this summer.  Like the heron, it’s a deliberate and purposeful stillness.  Like the heron, my life force depends on it.

Take a breath; inhale.   On your exhale, relax your jaw and your shoulders.  Inhale again.  And ask yourself, what would it be like if there were just a little more stillness in my being right now?  Listen to your body’s response.

You are made of stars

compostella hiker

Walking to the field of your dreams is made lighter by letting go.
What can you let go of ?
Remember you are made
of the stuff of stars!

Take a breath.  Inhale and fill your being
with light.  Notice the space around you,
above you, and beneath you.
Notice the space within your cells.
You are made of the stuff of stars.
Walk lightly upon the earth.

Got trust? –the essential ingredient to high performance in teams

Trust is the bandwidth of communication.
– Karl Erik Sveiby

Change, restructuring, and “re-org” are common buzz words these days.  The rapid rate of change in organizations requires a nimbleness to regroup into a variety of teams and work groups that often transcend established reporting structures.  This demands of team members an ability to become high performing in ever shortening cycles of work and productivity.

In a recent workshop with the senior management team of a mid size, 25 year old nonprofit organization in the Puget Sound, I introduced the Team Performance Model (Drexel & Sibbet) to this newly configured team of leaders.  They had just come off of an intense strategic planning phase and had had to jump into being a high performing team in a matter of days.  In this two hour team building workshop, this group was able to take a deep breath and assess where they were as a team.


Using the visual model and framework for team building from the Team Performance Model (see image), the group made several important discoveries.  What they discovered about themselves as a team was that they, like so many teams, had jumped right into implementation of projects and plans because the environment demanded this of them.  They realized that they had more foundational work to do in articulating their purpose as a team beyond attending to the fire drill du jour.  Although they affirmed a core level of trust already present within the group, they realized that in the fast paced days ahead, this trust could wear thin without some intentional trust building along the way.  They agreed that trust building isn’t something that we do once so we can check the box and move on! 

So how do we intentionally build trust in a team?  With much of our time spent in meetings rather than in ropes courses or trust fall exercises, how do we weave trust building on a regular basis? Here are a few of the ideas that came forward in my work with this group:

start meetings with a “check-in”—a brief report (1 minute) from each person that reveals the overall state of being of that person so that they can be heard and then fully present in the meeting

-clarify agreements – prior to the end of the meeting have each person acknowledge and articulate what agreements they made and/or have heard the team make

at the end of a meeting, “check-out”—each person has a chance to say where they are with the content of the meeting.  Raise the level of trust by raising the level of forthrightness in the group.

Essential to trust building is taking the time to connect with each other.  Our mile long to do lists seduce us into jumping to task.  Yet the whole of our human experience responds better when we connect first.  We know this from our interactions with animals and children; adults have often developed a habit of overriding the need to connect first before jumping into action.

As a leadership coach, my work with this group confirmed that the Team Performance Model supports the work of a group in making key discoveries that help move their work forward because of strengthened connection and trust.

Why pictures?

75percent.cbachy75% of our meaning making comes from visual input (Roam, 2009, p.22).  By visual I mean both physical and cognitive vision like dreams and inner vision:  both the STOP sign you see while driving and the inner vision you have of your car coming to a stop.
David Sibbet’s new book (2013), Visual Leaders speaks to a visual renaissance in business and organizations.  “Leaders, more than ever need to know how to use visual tools, manage visual practitioners and their work, and understand how to help their entire organization be visually literate,” writes  Sibbet (2013, p.xiii). The increased visual quality of our technology and the ease with which we share and manipulate images, pull forward our natural visual instincts.  Digital images, video, digital drawing are becoming as common as notepads and staplers.  Information sharing is increasingly rapid, colorful, and interactive.  Our brains love the variety of visual stimulation and have an insatiable appetite for more!
While the left side of our brains thrives on sequential activities like writing, language, reading, and analysis, the right hemisphere brain3cbachycompliments our thinking with holistic reasoning, pattern identification, non verbal and emotional comprehension (Pink, p.14, 2006).   While the left hemisphere feasts on words and numbers, the right hemisphere adds the texture, flavor, and imagery.   No one way is best.  It takes two to Tango!  Words+Pictures , explains Dan Roam, make an exponential difference in comprehension, recall, reasoning, and problem solving (2009).
Remember those chunky text books in college that had no pictures?  Finding a picture in those text books was like finding a lemonade stand in the middle of the desert: something to savor in the long traverse across black and white type face.  Comprehension and retention increases dramatically when you can map out, draw out, diagram, or simply take notes on what you read or hear.
It’s really okay to use pictures.  They don’t make our meetings or our content trivial or less important.  Pictures don’t “dumb it down.”  Pictures offer more opportunities for brain neurons to fire up and release our capacity for integrated, high level thinking.
Pink, D., (2005). A whole new mind: Why right brainers will rule the future. Riverhead Books: New York.
Roam, D., (2009). Unfolding the napkin: The hands on method for solving complex problems with simple pictures. Penguin Group: New York.
Sibbet, D., (2013). Visual Leaders: New tools for visioning, management, & organization change. John Wiliey & Sons, Inc.: New Jersey.

What does doodling have to do with leadership?

My father was a doodler.  In the home where he grew up, I saw his doodles and cartoons etched in ink on the surfaces of his childhood desk and dresser.    After hours, in the fancy French restaurant he owned, he huddled in conversation with his favorite dinner guests and doodled, not only on the back of a napkin, but on the white linen tablecloths!  He doodled caricatures of local politicians, design plans to improve the restaurant, landscapes from his memory, the next week’s menu and recipes, his retirement projects, you name it!!    He was doodling long before Dan Roam could hold a pencil.  (No offense Dan.  I have all your books!)
Doodling and drawing to explain what we mean is as old as the cave paintings of our ancestors.
In 2012 we are experiencing a doodling renaissance.  Even the Wall Street Journal is talking about doodling. (See Doodling for Dollars) So what’s the big deal?  Why should leaders care about doodling?  Here are five reasons to start doodling:

  1. Brain Power Multiplied:  The combination of drawing and words (which are also graphic images) integrates the right and left hemispheres of our brains for increased vision and clarity in thinking.  It’s Vision + Details.  It’s the why + the how.
  2. Engagement:  Doodles, colors, funky print and stick figures make us smile!  They engage us in a way that volumes of text in reports and memos don’t.  We have important work to do and tough decision to make.  Let’s stay awake for them!
  3. Making complexity visible:  Einstein is often quoted these days:  “We cannot solve the problems of the world with the same thinking we used when we created them.”  Pictures, story boards, graphics invite us to think differently about complex problems.  They invite imagination and innovation. 
  4. You already know how to draw (yes, you do!):  Notice what your hands are doing when you are explaining something verbally.  They wave around.  You make circles and lines and arrows in the air.  Why invent a new communication widget when we already embody communication in our movements?
  5. Whoever tells the best story gets the worm!  When decision makers understand your compelling reasons for more money, resources, time, they will say yes.  “Whoever best describes the problem is the most likely to solve it and the most likely to get funding to solve it,” said Dan Roam, in his key note, at the most recent Non Profit Technology  (NTEN) conference.

To sum it up, doodling helps leaders work smarter, capture attention, bring clarity, use their natural abilities, and get the funding. What are we waiting for?
If you’re interested in a doodling consultation, give me a call. I can have you up and sketching in no time.