“Managing” social activist staff: two upcoming workshops

Managing” social activists…. Does that sound like an oxymoron, or what!?  Working in the not-for-profit sector for 20 years, I’ve noticed that the biggest messes many leaders face stem from a lack of skill in managing their people. Managing teams is especially tough when both the (often reluctant) managers AND the ‘managees’ are trained, if not fundamentally driven, to question authority and status quo power structures.  Two upcoming workshops – one on the West Coast of B.C., and one in Washington, D.C. – can help.

First, the fabulous  Deena Chochinov, a veteran organizational development consultant (among other skills) is leading a 2-part workshop on Talent Management on May 7th and May 14th in Vancouver, BC. As she explains, “This high-impact skill-building workshop will guide you through the key drivers and steps for creating a motivated, inspired and responsible workforce that will survive and thrive in these challenging times.” See http://www.hollyhock.ca for details.

On the other side of the continent, a workshop in D.C. addresses HR (human resources) and social activism in particular.  The Management Assistance Group is offering a 3-part workshop on Managing Real People, Managing Change, especially for social justice organizations. It’s being offered out of the Center for Community Change in Washington, D.C., starting with a full-day session on May 11th.  See http://events.constantcontact.com for details.

Facilitation training on the West Coast with Julian Griggs

Master facilitator Julian Griggs is once again offering his widely-acclaimed 5-day intensive training, “The Art and Craft of Facilitation” on spectacular Cortes Island this May 10-14, 2010. Check out Hollyhock for details. This intensive is aimed at “independent facilitators, Executive Directors, managers, project leaders or any participants in collaborative group processes that are looking to enable teams to be effective, and support groups in achieving their full potential.” Julian’s trainings usually sell out – he offers a powerful, transformative approach to facilitation skills-building – so book fast.

Public speaking training with Gail Larsen in Santa Fe and the Pacific Northwest

Gail Larsen, author of Transformational Public Speaking, is one of the most heartfelt and experienced public speaking trainers in the US and Canada. Gail is offering another series of trainings this Spring, starting with her sold-out “Transformational Speaking Intensive” in Santa Fe April 8-11.  She’s got two more with a few slots free still on Whidbey Island May 6 and May 13-16th and another June 17-20th at New York’s Omega Institute.  I’ve done two trainings with Gail to brush up my own skills as both a speaker and trainer, and absolutely love her supportive ‘inside-out’ approach to coaching authentic, powerful speaking.

Structured Decision-Making: Roadmap to Wise Choices?

As a facilitator, I’m always searching for new approaches to help groups plan strategically and make smart decisions.  One approach I’m currently exploring is “structured decision-making”, or SDM (though somehow that sounds faintly obscene when I say it out loud).

Structured decision-making is a systematic process developed for making wise, transparent decisions in the face of complex issues with diverse stakeholders, high stakes and divergent perspectives.

Example: The Holiday Dilemma
Here’s a super-simple example of how SDM might work, from my friend and colleague Trent Berry. He’s the co-founder of Compass Resource Management,  based out of Vancouver. Compass boasts one of the world’s most masterful teams at designing and facilitating structured decision-making processes for resource and environmental issues.

He explains:  “Imagine you and your spouse want to plan a holiday.  You want to go to Mexico.  They want to go to Hawaii.  How do you resolve the difference?  Well, you start by trying to understand why each other prefers one location or the other.  What are you really trying to achieve.  So, you might point out cost, things to do, safety, etc.  Those are your objectives or interests.  Now rather than just arguing about a location, you can discuss the relative merits of each from the perspective of what you each want to achieve.  doing that you may discover that some of your facts are wrong – e.g., cost.  But you’ll also understand how much importance each of you is placing on different things – e.g., cost vs. safety.  And through the process you may understand each other better and you may actually come up with a third option that meets both of your objectives.  Not always –  but sometimes.  Really, structured decision making is similar to what used to be called ‘interest-based negotiation’.  The only way it may differ is there is the discussion goes beyond two private parties and the focus is on not only understanding interests but also doing a better job of really understanding how different options perform across interests. Its a marriage of science and values.”

The Steps to SDM
In practice, SDM processes can often be described in decision trees or other concept maps.  The basic steps follow, in many ways, a really great government policy briefing note. Here are the steps for a “PrOACT (Problem, Objectives and Measures, Alternatives, Consequences, and Trade-offs” SDM framework (originally outlined in the book “Smart Choices”):

  1. Define the problem
  2. Specify the objectives and measures – including getting agreement on “what matters”, and prioritizing information and assessing uncertainty or risk with different kinds of information
  3. Create imaginative alternatives
  4. Identify the consequences for each
  5. Clarify the trade-offs.

Growing interest in SDM
From Alberta to Australia, the wave of interest in this approach is growing. One major application is for complex resource management issues. Imagine a group of environmental activists, First Nations, oil industry proponents and government staff trying to come to some sort of sound, values-based decision-making around large-scale oil exploration over a relatively intact natural ecosystem. How do you design a dialogue process that isn’t about greenwashing or tokenism and doesn’t suck the life force – not to mention the coffers — of all involved for the next decade?  Past experience has shown that lengthy land-use planning approaches and environmental assessments don’t always yield wise results, and especially not in a timely or cost-effective way.

As Berry explains, “environmental assessments all too often look like a long, expensive shopping list of environmental impacts, with no way to prioritize or sort through them. Structured decision-making starts from a place of shared values – because science can tell us about all the options, but it can’t do a thing about setting priorities or assessing the relative risks among them. Only a clear set of values can do that.”

Beyond Resource issues
SDM is also being used with child welfare workers in California, adult protective services in Michigan  and a host of other agencies.  Check out several other case studies on-line, including several at http://www.structureddecisionmaking.org/applications.htm.

Training the next generation of progressive political leaders

Training the next generation of progressive political leaders is the focus of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Progressive Leadership. Their particular focus is on under-represented candidates and leaders, including women, people of colour, and GBLTQ folks, in 5 key US states. I’m thrilled to be on the team of trainers for CPL’s upcoming training in Philadelphia this weekend (April 10-11, 2010), focusing on message development, story-telling, public speaking and mainstream media tools.

Training the next generation of progressive political leaders is the focus of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Progressive Leadership. Their particular focus is on under-represented candidates and leaders, including women, people of colour, and GBLTQ folks, in 5 key US states.  I’m thrilled to be on the team of trainers for CPL’s upcoming training in Philadelphia this weekend (April 10-11, 2010), focusing on message development, story-telling, public speaking and mainstream media tools.  This will be my first training with CPL, and the second of five intensive weekend retreats for their 54 participants, as part of a year-long fellowship for leaders in Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, friends tell me, is “the quintessential American city” – diverse, blue-collar, crammed with classic diners and home to the Liberty Bell.  I haven’t seen much yet – the training starts tomorrow – but I CAN say Philly has fantastic restaurants, tons of snappy energy and the CPL team is really, really smart. It’s intoxicating to be hanging out with people who regularly refer to “message boxes” and “progressive narratives” in the same breath!

POP everything! Strategic planning in 30 seconds or less

P.O.P. – Purpose, Outcome and Process – is one of the snappiest, most useful planning tools I know. And it’s completely scalable – from planning a 10 minute phone call to organizing a campaign.

One of the simplest, snappiest and most useful planning tools I know is one we teach at Rockwood Leadership Institute.  It’s a sweet little acronym called “P.O.P.” – standing for Purpose, Outcome and Process. Given the state of my memory, I  lunge at anything this easy to remember.  And this fast. Sure, it may take a bit more 30 seconds sometimes, but it’s still pretty snappy and massively effective.

Here’s a snapshot of P.O.P. And really, it’s so straightforward, this is all you need:

  • “Purpose” answers the question “why
  • “Outcome speaks to “what” – the vision of what success will look and feel like when you ‘arrive’
  • “Process” speaks to “how” – the specific steps involved in getting there.

Straight from the Source
The “P.O.P.” model was devised by brilliant leadership consultant (and fellow Rockwood trainer) Leslie Sholl Jaffe and her partner Randall Alford.  As they describe it, “POP is a useful tool for a multitude of the daily activities leaders find themselves faced with: meeting agendas, campaigns, difficult conversations, unplanned calls and conversations… As you can gather from the list, POP is scalable, it can be used for large, long term projects, regular weekly staff meetings, a meeting you attend or a call that comes in that has no agenda, coaching/mentoring sessions…”

Case in point: Workshop Design
Last week I met with a small team of folks designing a workshop within a larger conference for immigrants and refugees.  We started by stepping back and asking: what is the overall purpose of this workshop? Why now? Why here? How can it advance our particular focus on supporting skilled immigrants and refugees in the job market? Then we asked: if this workshop were wildly successful, what would the outcome be? In other words, what does success look like, in concrete terms? Only then did we address the process – the specific format, agenda design, room set-up, breakout size etc.

Cart before the horse…
All too often, action-oriented social justice and not-for-profit leaders jump straight into planning the process of calls, meetings and entire projects – without first nailing down a clear sense of the purpose and outcomes. In practice, it’s vastly more effective to “go slow to go fast”.  Even doing a quick “POP” for simple tasks, I’ve found, can save hours of time, and help ensure that your  creative energies are aligned and vastly more effective from the start.

Leveraging white privilege for racial justice

The 11th Annual White Privilege conference is this week in Wisconsin April 7-10th: http://www.uccs.edu/~wpc/.

And I just came across this beautiful little article on white ally-ship, trauma and somatics (embodied, ‘whole-person’ approaches to change) from the Oakland-based Seminary of the Street: http://www.seminaryofthestreet.org/id28.html. She talks about the way racism causes trauma for each of us – people of colour and whites alike – and points to a path of integrated healing.

The Engineer-Cabbie: messaging workshop for skilled immigrants

I can’t wait to co-facilitate a workshop on communications and social media with Marco Campana at the Allies Learning Exchange conference supporting skilled immigrant workers in Halifax May 6-7th.

Met any brilliant engineers masquerading as cab drivers these days? I’ve met far too many, and that’s why I’m so excited about the 2010 Allies Learning Exchange conference in gorgeous Halifax. May 6 and 7th. I and my co-trainer Marco Campana will lead a 2 hour workshop on message development and social media for New Canadians, particularly focused on issues affecting internationally trained professionals. Allies draws hundreds of people from across Canada to learn about issues and strategies to promote the employment of skilled immigrants. If you live in BC, Canada, and want to get involved locally, contact one of my past clients, the BC-Internationally Trained Professionals Network.

The future for print media?

Check out the webcast panel discussion on “News Innovation” on April 15th, hosted by Canadian News Wire.  The panelists  are leading print & on-line journalists Saleem Khan (chair, Canadian Association of Journalists), Mathew Ingram (senior writer with the technology blog network GigOm), and Scott Anderson (Editor-in-Chief, CanWest News).

It’s good to be back!

I’ll continue to focus on themes of collaborative power and leadership, progressive politics, and social justice. I’ll also talk about tools related to facilitation, campaign planning, strategic planning, communications and media.

After a 3-year hiatus where I allowed myself to get sucked into the happy vortex of a busy consulting practice, I’m resurrecting this blog. No matter how hectic things feel, there’s nothing like the self-imposed pressure of reflecting and writing on a regular basis to help a person ‘sharpen the saw”.  I’ll continue to focus on themes of collaborative power and leadership, progressive politics, and social justice. I’ll also talk about tools related to facilitation, campaign planning, strategic planning, communications and media. Since my last posting, I’ve continued to expand my consulting practice, working for a wide range of coalitions, individual leaders and some fantastic not-for-profit clients across Canada and the US. I’m eager to share ideas, learn from peers and to connect to others in this weird little niche Stay tuned, and please share your own ideas and tools!

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