May was hugely busy for me, as I spoke at various functions for federal trainers, breast cancer survivors, corporate managers and attorneys. The goals of each program varied, but I used the same tool in each experience, i.e. guided observation. When used as a sequence of questions, it leads to personal understanding and effective analysis for problem solving and building consensus:

  • Describe what’s happening. What are your perceptions and beliefs about it. What do you know for sure, i.e. what are the facts?
  • Share words or metaphors that come to mind when you think about the situation. Why did you choose them in relation to what you’re facing?
  • How does this situation make you feel? Why do you think it makes you feel this way?
  • Why do you think we are talking about it in today’s program/workshop?
  • Are you comfortable going deeper about what’s happening and working to resolve it, or not?
  • What questions would you like to ask others in the room about it? Can you guess at the answers to any of them, or discuss them with others?

frog peeking out of pond with butterfly resting between its eyes

Oftentimes, first impressions are strong but not necessarily true or the whole story. When I gain a larger context about them from the attendees, I learn more about what their experiences have been in the past and the lenses they are using to interpret the current situation/happening.

As momentum builds and dialogue expands, I recognize misunderstandings, areas of conflict and various examples of communication break-down.

Building trust and active listening require a lack of judging, an openness to the process and validating each other’s feelings, thoughts and perspectives.

Sometimes the real nuggets lie in what is not being said or dissected by the group. That’s where the opportunities and solutions can be found!