Happy New Year to all! Please enjoy our annual calendar.
This year, our calendar illustrates one of the most basic and effective facilitative practices—the sticky-note brainstorm. We designated one wall in our office to the activity throughout the month of December. Armed with a spectrum of sticky-note colors, staff members were asked to supply images and words that they associated with each month of the year. Like any successful brainstorm, we came up with similar and disparate ideas and, most importantly, ideas that built on one another. These visual poems evolved through the final weeks of 2019. One word on a sticky note sums up this process: FUN.
For three years, The Grove has supported the creation of a Global Learning & Exchange Network, or The GLEN, to promote evolving the art and practice of collaboration across disciplines, organizations, and cultures to better face the problems of our times. This learning community has been growing steadily, currently boasting 80 members worldwide. Grove workshop graduates, consultants, facilitators, artists, and activists from around the world are members. We are happy to announce that as of this month, The GLEN is a non-profit organization, administered through Inquiring Systems in Sonoma, CA.
There are several reasons for this shift.
- The GLEN supports social and environmental action projects that represent learning and development opportunities for members and a non-profit structure to manage funding for some of these. Please review our GLEN blog post on one of the projects we have had the opportunity to support: Cebu (Philippines) Farmers Market: Toward Communities for Alternative Food Ecosystems.
2. The GLEN will begin soliciting donor help for scholarships for younger practitioners and others who cannot afford the $1,500 annual membership contribution. Our GLEN members are very intent on embodying real diversity in the membership and will need this kind of support to achieve this.
Why do teams so often fail to achieve the results they were created to accomplish?
We sat down with Laurie Durnell, The Grove’s director of consulting, to get her thoughts regarding the team challenges she sees most in the field. The following is a distillation of that conversation.
People gravitate toward individuals that think like themselves or have a similar “style” to their work. Style differences can be interpreted as a source of conflict, rather than a strength. For instance, big-picture thinkers can be seen as unrealistic by detail-oriented implementers. In the same way, feet-on-the-ground folks can be seen as resistors by visionaries. People can take different style behaviors personally. We judge one another and often attribute motivations that may not be there rather than leveraging our differing abilities.
People also connect more easily with people that are part of their everyday work flow, while having difficulty with remote team members and with those with whom they don’t often interact. These combined factors end up creating an “in-group” versus “out-group” mentality, much like cliques in high school.
Working with teams to appreciate individual differences and points of view is foundational for team success. Making time in regular meetings to have personal check-ins is one way to improve the informal connection that is necessary to loosen up the cliques.
The National Parks Institute (NPI) Executive Leadership Program has made a comeback, and The Grove is once again centrally involved. Over the course of ten days, 22 leaders from 11 countries and eight U.S. Parks immersed themselves in a learning journey, taking them from the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in the S.F. Bay Area, to UC Merced, and then to Yosemite National Park. It was a powerful experience for those involved, and David Sibbet, The Grove’s founder, was the facilitator throughout.
Three NPI sessions were held in the early 2000s, and Steve Shackelton, former chief ranger at Yosemite and now linked to the new Gallo Management Program at UC Merced, tapped The Grove once again to help lead the process.
“(The program) is a signature statement in strategic management of parks and earth’s most precious protected areas,” Steve said. “The goal is to develop problem-solving leaders and to create a more harmonious global community of practice that highlights the full spectrum of diversity, both in people and culture—and within the natural world.”
In the past decade, the rapid evolution of technological advances has made it much easier for people to work, meet and team virtually. Some organizations have jumped right into the virtual space and revolutionized the way they work, while others are struggling to create virtual-work processes for a mix of co-located and remote staff. As global teaming becomes more essential and workers of all ages—especially millennials—increasingly make employment choices based on flexible workplaces, the need to adapt is no longer a choice for many organizations. As The Grove has embraced working virtually not only with our clients but also as an organization—some staff members frequently work remotely—we’ve developed our own approaches to virtual collaboration. The following is a sampling of adjustments we’ve made and lessons we have learned.
1) Good meetings—virtual meetings included—are about people first, technology second.
Facilitation know-how is even more important in virtual meetings. If you are not getting people engaged in lively discussions that meet your desired outcomes, then your meetings will not be effective, no matter how adept you are with technology. Virtual meetings require extra care by framing discussions and connecting people to allow for collaboration to flow. Creating human connections breaks down the distance and cultural barriers that can make working in a virtual environment especially difficult. To facilitate virtual meetings, we continue to adhere to The Grove’s Facilitation Model™ and teach our Facilitating Virtual Collaboration Workshop with a focus on people processes at the core.