Back from Beijing
I just returned from Beijing where I was on the facilitation team for the LEAD (Leadership in Environment and Development) International Session. This annual event brings together the 13 LEAD regional training programs for a 7-day session on leadership, climate change and sustainability.
The diversity that came together in Beijing was incredible. In just my Working Group alone, we had individuals from India, Germany, Pakistan, China, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, Malawi, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, South Africa, Singapore and Indonesia. We had people in industry, education, banking, forestry, environment, and engineering, just to name a few of the professions and backgrounds of this group. Amongst other roles during the week, I facilitated this group of leaders throughout the conference. In 7 days, I learned a number of things from this amazing group of people, including:
When you have capacity in the room, get out of the way.
From the first day our working group met, it was evident that there was an immense amount of knowledge and capacity in the room. While many people are intimidated by the diversity that a group like this represents, I firmly believe that diversity is a key element of successful groups. Working Group 6 in Beijing affirmed that belief. The backgrounds, personalities and styles were diverse, but complementary. From the early stages of our process, it was clear that my job was to get the group comfortable with each other, the conference and their task (creating a 10-minute presentation for the conference participants on the last day). Once that was accomplished, I went into “un-facilitation” mode and let this group full of articulate, passionate and intelligent people move ahead.
Often times, folks in my position make everything about them and try to control every aspect of a process. That’s a bad move. In short, with everybody capable and comfortable, just get out of the way. Things will work out just fine.
Working Group 6: A study in intelligence, passion and capacity
Respect = progress
After I took a back seat in the Working Group 6 process, one key attribute of the group kept surfacing: respect. Throughout the week, the members of our group showed each other a tremendous amount of respect. They went out of their way to ensure everyone’s voice was heard. They listened intently to everyone’s ideas. They acknowledged each person’s strengths and contributions to the group. The group created a situation where everyone felt valuable and welcome.
Without this respect, the group wouldn’t have progressed as quickly and effectively as they did. Aretha Franklin would have been proud.
We need to use creativity and passion more often.
The end result of Working Group 6’s efforts was an incredible video discussing the economy and the need to shift to a more sustainable way of doing business. Tapping into the diversity of the group and respecting each other, the video demonstrated the power of creativity and passion in communicating and motivating people. Too often, we get bogged down in bureaucratic, stale ways of communicating. The term “death by PowerPoint” comes to mind.
A good demonstration of how creativity and passion motivates can be found in the video’s main editor – Rogelio Canizales Perez from Mexico. With only 24 hours to create and develop the presentation concept, the group had to put in a late night. After a certain point, though, it came down to editing the video clips and ideas that the team had put together. Rogelio stayed up until 6am editing the video to ensure it was ready for the 9am start time for the presentation. Rogelio later told the group that he felt so motivated by his teammates that it wasn’t a chore for him to stay up all night to create the video.
That’s the power of respect, creativity, passion and teamwork.
People are the solution.
As the week progressed, it became apparent that the conference participants could be put into one of two categories: those that saw people as the source of our problems and those that saw people as the solution to our problems. While both are right in a sense, those that saw people as the solution were able to communicate in a way that connected with the audience on a much more profound level that just blurting out facts and figures. Often times, discussions on sustainability and climate change become too technical, too abstract. The LEAD International Session participants used humour, music, drama, video and even dance to get people thinking and acting in a new way. Remember that if these issues are to be addressed, it’s people that will do the work, so try to connect with them in a meaningful way.
All in all, it was an incredible week and definitely worth the jetlag and fatigue that I’m feeling upon returning back to Canada.
(And I’ll try to track down the Working Group 6 video from Rogelio and post it here as soon as possible!)
- John, November 19, 2009
November 19, 2009