Interested in building your skills around conflict resolution, leadership and organizational effectiveness? From January 14 – 16, 2011, veteran trainer and coach Dr. Stephen Schuitevoerder, President of Portland’s Process Work Institute, is coming up to Vancouver to offer a unique seminar focused on leadership and a deeply compelling approach to group conflict called “Process Work”. The workshop is called “Organizational Excellence: The Cultivation of Effective Leadership.” It promises to offer a highly experiential approach to skill development around leadership, organizational health and group conflict.
I’m particularly drawn to and curious about Process Work, or “World Work”, because of it’s deep focus on the potential for social transformation through conflict and group dysfunction, combined with its analysis of power and privilege.
My interest was particularly sparked this past Spring, when I received some startling confidential feedback on a confidential participant survey after I co-facilitated a 4-day leadership training. This one participant suggested that I am conflict averse. Me??!! Conflict averse?! I’m a skilled facilitator, dammit – I’m great with conflict! I stood up, outraged, glaring at the computer. But after huffing indignantly for a few moments… well, I noticed that I’d been huffing indignantly for a few minutes. That’s a sure sign that something hit home, right?
So, after calming down, and gently setting aside my Inner Xena for a few moments, I realized that indeed, there have been cases where I, as a facilitator, have squirmed uncomfortably when a group is in the throes of a heated conflict – especially when some of that heat is cast in my direction. Those moments can be both terrifying AND present enormous opportunities for growth and learning (I’m not just saying that, I swear). And it got me thinking more deeply about how we may respond differently to different kinds and layers of conflict – and how committed I am to continually building my ease and comfort with “sitting in the fire” of conflict, whether it’s about facilitating a challenging conversation about race and privilege, or getting our kids to pitch in more proactively around housework. I do believe that conflict, held with skill and positive intent, is essential for social change. As James Surowiecki lays out so compellingly in his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, mixed groups of people with different backgrounds, skills and points of view are vastly more intelligent, collectively , than homogenous groups of like-minded people. The challenges we humans have created for ourselves are so complex and multi-layered that monolithic group-think is potentially disastrous. AND… diverse viewpoints in a group context often lead to conflict. Handled with skill, conflict can be immensely useful, healthy and productive. Handled poorly, it can lead to subtle and overt forms of violence and undermine key relationships in seconds.
Process or World Work may offer the kind of self-reflective training and analysis of social transformation, power and privilege I am presently hungry for in my own development as a facilitator and coach. My first exploration began this past June, at a facilitator’s training workshop on Deep Democracy and Process Work offered by Julie Diamond and Gary Reiss, also of the Process Work Institute. This coming workshop in January promises to be similarly self-reflective and experiential.
If you want to read more about Process Work or World Work, here are a couple of books that were highly recommended to me:
- Mindell, A. (1992). The Leader as Martial Artist: An Introduction to Deep Democracy (1st ed.). San Francisco: Harper San Francisco.
- Mindell, A. (1995). Sitting in The Fire: Large Group Transformation Using Conflict and Diversity (1st ed.). Portland, Or.: Lao Tse Press.
- Mindell, A. (2002). The Deep Democracy of Open Forums. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads.
To register for “Organizational Excellence: The Cultivation of Effective Leadership“, January 14-16, 2011 in Vancouver, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.