Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for the ‘Mentoring & Coaching’ Category

Coo-ee Collective

COO-EE-Main-Version1Living in the country for most of life I have often been envious of the professional development opportunities and professional association meetings available to my city counterparts. The ability to finish work and join an event with like minded professionals when you work in regional areas requires planning, travel and time.

For years I have been using web based “on line rooms” to deliver training, facilitate and run meetings with regional participants. My first attempt was in the early 2000’s when we ran a Government funded trial using the school of the air system to provide training for rural women in South Australia. The success of this pilot and the seeing the excitement for women being given an opportunity from the home office inspired me to persist with the technology – which still often lets us down.

As the technology is getting cheaper, easier and more accessible to use I have decided to combine my passion for mentoring and developing people with this virtual technology.

And so the Coo-ee Collective has been founded! Initially Coo-ee will focus on providing virtual mentoring for groups of people in agriculture and regions, other products will be added over time.

Our pilot mentoring group is well underway with seven rural women from across Australia and one from New Zealand meeting once a month to provide support, inspiration and share ideas with each other. Susie Green from SA is one of the participants – her comments are below…

“Coo-ee Collective has overcome geographical barriers to provide me with a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded rural women from across Australia and New Zealand. It provides a safe, structured and supportive environment to share experiences and emotions without judgement, competition or jealousy. It allows participants to be vulnerable without fear of shame and support each other as we work through challenges.” – Susie Green

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The power of mentoring

sharon mentoringGuest blog by Sharon Honner

How many of you have been to Bali? Yes I have been to Bali too!

I was there a couple of weeks ago with my four beautiful children. While we were there my oldest daughter and I visited a butterfly farm and in the nursery we were able to witness butterflies emerging from their Chrysalis, it was an amazing experience.

What does a butterfly farm have to do with Mentoring? As I pondered on what I gained from being a mentor it hit me that one of the most rewarding aspects for me is watching my mentee transform as does a butterfly.

So how did I end up being a mentor? In 2004 I was fortunate to win a bursary to attend the Rural Congress for Women in Spain and as part of that experience I set myself a goal to give back to industry that had supported me to attend.

The first step was, as a volunteer, to join a National Reference Group. At one of the first meetings in Melbourne we had a guest presenter on Mentoring.

My eyes lit up, what a wonderful way to give back to industry; however what I wanted to know was what underpinned being a great mentor?

The lady who presented at the meeting shared that for her it was the art of coaching, so full of enthusiasm, I promptly did some research and enrolled to complete coaching training, from that day forward the coach approach has underpinned the way I facilitate, deliver workshops and mentor.

There are several significant people in my life who have believed in me and given me the confidence to give something new a go. They also have challenged my thinking. On reflection this would have been what I refer to as INFORMAL mentoring.

The downside for me of informal mentoring is that often the relationship is not declared as a mentor/mentee relationship. In fact sometimes INFORMAL mentoring may simply be that I have chosen some-one that I admire to role model myself on or I may choose to support some-one who I can see potential in.

This year I was a Mentor for the YWCA SHE Leads Program. What excited me about the YWCA program is that it’s a FORMAL Mentoring Program. As a volunteer I appreciated that it gave me a start and a finish point.

  • Our relationship was declared and I was very privileged and honoured to be partnered with Dr. Lisa Bailey, Programs Manager, RiAus.
  • This gave us the opportunity to discuss how we were going to work together giving our relationship the best opportunity to be beneficial to Lisa.
  • For example we discussed: what were Lisa’s goals, what motivated her, what were her current challenges, where we were going to meet, when we were going to meet, how we were were going to communicate.
  • Also for Lisa how will she know our relationship has been of value?
  • For me also because Lisa was sponsored by her workplace it was important Lisa, her Manager and myself met to discuss what his expectations were and also the importance of confidentiality in our relationship.

It is my understanding if someone attends a workshop and then returns home or to the workplace if they do not implement their learnings 80% of that knowledge is lost in 3 months. When you are looking at Return on Investment that is a scary statistic.

Adding coaching or in YWCA’s instance mentoring to a program enables participants to retain up to 90% of their learnings.

Speaking of learnings, I enjoy bringing my own learnings to Mentoring, whether they are good or bad.

As Mentor I bring wisdom, however it is important the Mentee learns by finding their own solutions. An example is that as we support our mentees in reaching for the stars, ask them to take a moment to think about what if things don’t pan out how they had planned. What are their contingency plans?

When I first met Lisa I thought wow I know nothing about science and I have been paired with someone from a pure science background. This brings me to something else I value about mentoring. The skills and strengths I bring to a mentoring relationship doesn’t have to be within my industry, it can be across any industry, and by doing this, it keeps me fresh because the way I think is being constantly challenged.

In summing up what Mentoring gives to me – It is much more than the transfer of knowledge and insights.

I am passionate about women developing their leadership skills and if I can support some-one to reach their goals then I will beam from ear to ear.

Mentoring gives me the opportunity to reflect on my own goals, practices and learnings and deepens my personal leadership and coaching style, it challenges my thinking and keeps me fresh.

To all the prospective Mentors and Mentees may you do as a butterfly does …. emerge and spread your wings.


Mentoring programs – key success factors

2014-07-28 15.28.44What makes a mentoring program successful?

Having been involved in mentoring programs as a facilitator and mentor I have been researching other programs to find out the key success factors.

My motivation for this .. we are about to embark on establishing a mentoring program as part of a rural women’s leadership program and are very keen to build a model that is robust and sustainable.

The mentoring program will be a formal one as opposed to informal. For my thoughts and definition of mentoring follow this link to a previous blog The power of mentoring 

From my discussions and reading I have found the key success factors include

  • Training for the mentors and mentees so everyone fully understands their roles and responsibilities. This should be carried out separately so mentors can develop knowledge of some mentoring frameworks and key skills such as communication skills, questioning, listening, feedback and being non judgemental.
  • Guidelines, the how we will work together discussion is critical to success.
  • Clear boundaries around the length of time the relationship will last and when it will be reviewed.
  • Evaulation process – continual feedback
  • Support for the mentors, this can take the form of a group mentor discussion so the mentors can learn from each other. One on one support is also important should challenges arise in a relationship.
  • A mentee who is highly motivated, has a clear purpose and outcome they are looking for from the relationship. This could be a personal or professional goal, clarity is whats important.
  • Matching mentors and mentees – there is some debate about the best way to do this. However an element of choice on both sides was highlighted as important. The program need to allow opportunity to get to know each other, one program used a speed dating and networking activities and then asked the mentees to nominate their top 3 choices. The mentor then chose which mentee they would like to work with.
  • A strong sense of commitment to the process from both parties.
  • An industry culture that recognises and values the benefit of mentoring
  • Other ideas included a robust skills analysis for the mentors – they don’t always know what they are good at.

Thankyou to Jill Greenhaigh and Philippa Rawlinson from Lincoln University, Ruth Nettle from Melbourne University, Belinda Griffiths and Jenny O’Sullivan from Dairy Sage for their research and comments, past participants in our programs and past mentees for their insights for this blog and our future program.

If any readers have any thoughts about what would make a successful mentoring program we would love to hear your thoughts.

Questions questions questions

2014-03-11 13.49.56How can we ask more effective questions?

Asking great questions is an important skill for a facilitator, coach and mentor. It’s something that takes practice and planning.

We all know the difference between an open and closed question … The answer to a closed question is yes or no…. and open questions begin with  -What Why, How, When, Where and Who. A very simple concept, however how often do we catch ourselves asking closed questions? Admittedly most people give more than yes or no as the answer, however the question is …how could we be even more effective with our questions?

What about the Why question? From a human communication perspective think for a minute about the impact of questions starting with Why? 

Why questions can make us justify and become defensive, they can shut down open communication rather than open it up.

If we have been trained to analyse Why will be a common question – and certainly have a place, however be aware of the impact when working with people.

Another way to think of Why is in terms of a time line Why questions take us back into the past and make us justify why we did something. 

In contrast a good What question will more us forward into the future and open up possibilities, create brainstorming and solutions.

  • What are the options?
  • What might be a solution?
  • What outcomes are you hoping for?

How is a great start to a question for action planning.

  • How might you start that project?

Tone in questioning is also very important as facilitators we are aiming for questions that are non judgemental, neural and genuine.

A few other tips

  • Keep the question short and succinct
  • Ask one question at a time – if we ask two we often only get an answer to the second one.
  • Be careful about leading questions … This is where we give a solution in the question.
  •  Ask the question and allow for the person to think …. There is nothing wrong with silence. Often the best questions are the ones that really make us think and we do need processing time. If the question was not understood trust the person will ask you to repeat and/or reframe, don’t assume silence means they have not understood.

I will leave you with a challenge …. Next time you catch yourself asking Why reframe the question to start with a What. Reflect on the impact it has on the conversation.

How well do you listen?

2013-09-24 16.05.05We all know how to listen – don’t we?

Think about it for a moment. What is going on in your head when you are having a conversation with someone? I often ask this question in workshops and get a variety of answers, most of which, are not related to listening intently to the conversation.

So what is commonly going on it our heads?

  • What I’m going to cook for dinner tonight. What I have to do next. A conversation I need to have with someone else…. This is when we are not really listening at all – sometimes called spousal listening!!
  • Often we relate what the other person is talking about to our own lives. Instead of focusing on the intent of their conversation we relate it to ourself and start sharing a similar experience. The experience that we relate too may only be vaguely linked to the intent of the other person. When this happens we see conversations go off on tangents,  we leave thinking…. “I wonder how we ended up there, that wasn’t what I wanted to talk about”
  • Another option is that we are thinking about what we are going to say next.
  • Sometimes we problem solve instead of listening. We provide our opinion about the topic and suggest solutions.

We know that listening is made up of words, tone and body language which combined give us a more complete understanding of the intent of the person communicating with us.

Learning to really listen is not easy, we have to silence the voice in our own head and really focus on the person talking. It’s amazing how much we can learn about someone in a short time if we really listen. Their language can provide learning style, values, beliefs  and attitudes. Visually we can hear and see their passion and motivations.

Listening is an essential skills for facilitators and coaches – our intent is assisting a group or individual reach their own outcome.

Next time you have a conversation with someone I challenge you to really listen – listen like you have never listened before and see what you can learn.

As Steven Covey told us “Seek to understand before being understood” – good listening skills are one of the keys.

Communication is simple… Isn’t it?

Comm ProcessCommunicating a message from one person to another is simple… Isn’t it?

We make lots of assumptions that our receiver understands the information in the same context and intent that we have sent it. Unfortunately as we all know this isn’t always the case and the outcome isn’t as expected.

I really like the following quote from NLP (Nero linguistic programming)

The meaning of communication is the response that we get

Stop and think about that for a moment….. Yes it implies it’s the responsibility of person sending the message to ensure the receiver understands the content and the intent. The response that we get is a reflection of the interpretation of the message.

Every channel we might use including face to face, email, social media, phone etc is open to interpretation by the receiver.

So what gets in the way of clear communication and understanding? Our brain filters information – it does this to cope with the enormous amount of information it receives constantly. The filters will vary from person to person based on our perceptions and experiences.

The filters will include past experiences, beliefs, rules of thumb and so on, and will be influenced by our personality type as well. Putting ourself in the other persons shoes and attempting to see the message from their perspective is a good start.

When the communication is very important check in – follow the feedback loop – ask a question of the receiver. “What do you understand from our conversation?”

With simple instructions like “don’t shut the gate” our brain filters out the “don’t” and we often remembered “shut the gate” – this can easily be reframed in the positive to “leave the gate open”. Framing instructions in the positive usually has a more positive outcome!

Be particularly careful with email, especially with bad news or negative feedback. It’s very easy to read between the lines of emails and misinterpret the intent. If your message isn’t positive it’s best done face to face or, at minimum over the phone.

“To effectively communicate, we must realise that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this to understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Tony Robbins 

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Balance – what does this mean to you?

2012-07-08 17.14.28Work life balance is a topic regularly discussed … Considered …stressed over… What’s right and what’s wrong? Is it really a fallacy that we should move on from?

There are many ways to approach the topic. For me it’s a question of values, purpose, passion and taking care of ourselves.

Values: if we are clear about our core values they can guide our time. Family is very important to me and prioritising time for them is something I strive to do.

Purpose and passion: if we know what motivates us to jump out of bed in the morning, looking forward to our day, and spending time on activities se love we will be happier people. I love my work, it is my passion to develop people skills in others. People look at my often crazy lifestyle and think my work life is out of whack… And I don’t deny that sometimes it is!

Taking care of ourselves or energy management: what do we need to do to mange our energy levels? The answer will be different for all of us and depend on our workloads, age of our dependants and personal needs. For me taking time out is a walk on the beach, some time to write, to read or create something, what is it for you?

Getting in the Go Zone and the No Zone … I recently heard Mark McKeon speak about time management and I liked his concept of the Zones. The Go Zone being about maximum productive time and the No Zone – when you are not at work and not thinking about work. The important part of the No Zone is time when you are not thinking about work – time when you are focused on something completely different and relaxing. After a weekend of Silversmithing classes this weekend I have caught up on some No Zone!

Next time someone tells you how busy they are – ask them if they are enjoying what makes them busy … if they are then perhaps their life is not so out of  balance – we are all different.

I’ll be happy when….

2013-06-09 14.46.39How often do we hear people say “I’ll be happy when……” Time to change our point of view!
Let’s all be happy now!

People are as happy as they make up their minds to be” Abraham Lincoln

I have been inspired by the work of Professor Martin Sellingman and Kathryn McEwen about happiness and resilience.

So what makes us happy? It’s all about attitude and importantly an ability to be present and enjoy “the now”.

Positive emotions – we have more control over our emotions than most of us believe we do. We can chose how we look at situations and how we might respond. The simple “gratitude” task, of identifying three things we are grateful for each day will make us focus on what has worked well, rather than what hasn’t, and make us feel happier with our lives.
When you go to bed tonight… go to sleep thinking tomorrow will be a great day – it’s amazing how changing our thought patterns can affect how we see the world.

Engagement – doing activities where we work in “flow” – the time simply disappears. What are the activities that you love to do, the ones that bring enjoyment and fulfilment? Understanding your strengths can help to identify this. Visit Martin Selligman’s website and do the VIA Strengths questionnaire to find out your signature strengths.

Relationships – I like to surround myself with positive people. People who give out energy, who enjoy life, are optimistic and fun to be with.
Having people in our lives we can rely on, we can off load on, to celebrate with and to cry with is important for our general well being and happiness.

Meaning – this is a sense of purpose – a connection to something bigger than ourselves and that we are making a contribution. This includes the application of your unique strengths and the development of virtues towards a larger end than yourself.

Achievement – Martin Selligman talks about Grit – the determination to work hard at something and to see it through. This sense of achievement of completing a task makes us happy. Our greatest motivator is a sense of progress and some recognition for this progress.

Martin Selligman has written several books about the art of happiness – Authentic happiness, Florish and Learned Optimism. I was very fortunate to hear him speak in Adelaide last year.

“The very good news is there are quite a number of internal circumstances, under your voluntary control, – if you decide to change them, your level of happiness is likely to increase lastingly – Selligman 

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Plenty for everyone

2012-05-09 16.40.24I’m a great believer in Adundance mentality – there are plenty of opportunities out there for all of us.

When I was writing this  I was sitting in bed with a cup of tea looking out at Wellington Harbour after facilitating in beautiful surroundings in rural NZ with groups of amazing rural women. The workshops are about women reaching ther potential, identifying their passion and purpose and developing goals. (First Steps – Agri-Women’s Development Trust)

I reflect on my own journey and the opportunity to attend a similar workshop in Australia over 12 years ago where I was introduced to the concept of abundance mentality and a simple quote from a mentor “We get what we focus on so be careful what you focus on”.

Since taking on this philosophy in my life I have met so many wonderful people and opened my eyes to the opportunities in front of me. As my facilitation and coaching skills have grown  I have had the opportunity to share these with others and in turn grow their skills.

How can we become more abundant in our approach to life?

  • Focus on abundance – not scarcity
  • Appreciate what you have in your life – one easy way to do this is to record 3 things each say you are grateful for each day.
  • Surround yourself with positive people with an abundant outlook on life – it can be catching!
  • Share – give out.  Be generous with your time, gifts and skills. Robyn Henderson refers to this as the “law of reciprocity” what you give out is what you get back . She also highlights the importance of” Giving without expectation”.
  • Look for the opportunities in challenging times – what can be learnt or gained?
  • Look for the win-win
  • Appreciate those around you – acknowledge others

The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car … a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result get little.” Ben Sweetland.

Well thanks for your time and you can thank me for mine

20130328-173225.jpgThanks for your time and you can thank me for mine .. and then after that’s said …. Forget it” –  Opening line from Rodriguez song ‘Forget it’ from his Cold Facts Album.

Following my last blog on Rodriguez you won’t believe what happened at Adelaide Airport last week.  I returned from NZ on Saturday and Bill was there to collect me. We headed down to get our bags and who should we meet at the baggage collection … Rodriguez!!

Being a shy person by nature I looked on as Bill introduced himself and had a discussion about his music and the influence it had on him. He told him he had been playing his favourite songs (Establishment Blues, Sugar Man, I Wonder and Rich Folks Hoax) on the guitar from the Cold Facts album just before he left to pick me up. He thanked him for his great music and the enjoyment it had provided over the years.

He told Rodriguez we were travelling to the blues fest at Byron Bay specifically to see him the following week and the he was the reason for our attendance at the festival. For a popular muso, he still seemed genuinely delighted that strangers approached him to tell him he was appreciated. Bill introduced me to his new friend (!!!) and this intriguing musician made a point of remembering our names and said ” make it a date” at Byron.

Bill was on a high for the rest of the week, having met someone he had admired for years and who had impact on his life.

Bill told the story of Rodriguez to an audience of 70 volunteer farm industry champions who work in farming systems across SA at a function on Tuesday. “Searching for sugar man” the story of Rodriguez highlights the importance of saying thank you and acknowledging people’s efforts for the work they do.

Motivational speaker, Mark McKeon had delivered a similar message to the group the evening before, suggesting the way to keep people in your business or organisation was to give three parts acknowledgement, one part challenge.

Great acknowledgements not only make the recipient feel good, it makes you feel good as well!

So I encourage you … Next time you see one of your personal heroes, mentors or someone you admired take the chance and recognise the impact they had on your life.

Hope you all have a great Easter
See you in the front row at the Rodriguez gig on Friday.

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