torsdag 25 september 2014

Learning through practice - reflections after The Human Element Cornerstone for Changemakers

My most recent and intense growing experience happened during the past months of August and September. Ever since March 2013, when I went through the training program to become a licensed practitioner of The Human Element® - a framework for personal leadership and team development - I have been looking forward to holding a training. Finally, before the summer, my dear friend and fellow trainer Magdalena Musiala and I decided that we were going to arrange two training opportunities in the fall. We wanted specifically to introduce the useful leadership and personal development tools within The Human Element® to young changemakers. Using our own experiences from social changemaking practice was our basis for understanding the challenges that this particular target group might face in their important work. My dream started to become reality.

Leading up to our The Human Element Cornerstone for Changemakers trainings, we did our preparation, talked about the program and design, discussed which specific methods to include and how we would sequence the different sessions. And then finally on a Thursday in mid-August, participants were arriving from all over Europe - from Italy to Finland and several countries in between. I was very excited and also increasingly nervous - did I really know what I was talking about? was I going to appear competent? how badly was I going to trip up on beginner mistakes?

Training in action

The first time was scary, of course it was! I guess that's true about a lot of things. I think it had been a while for me since I last felt like a total beginner. But it did pop up in August. And it popped up even though it wasn't true. I mean, I wasn't new to the material or to the practice - that is what the trainings had prepared me for. But at the same time, it was the first time I was co-facilitating a full training and it was the first time that Magdalena and I did a full program together. So, in all the excitement, I also felt a lot of insecurity.

From the first training - the one in August - I think my greatest learning was that I can face my fears - I can face them, sit with them and learn from them. My strongest fear, the one that popped up repeatedly, was the fear of being humiliated and seen as incompetent - that's when I got so mindful of saying the right things, which led to taking a step back, not saying anything so I couldn't get it wrong. A turning point was when I was able to sit down with Magdalena and in a caring spirit of openness, put words on the fears and how they were affecting our collaboration. Putting words on them and saying them out loud somehow released them and made it easier for me to see what I actually could contribute with - that I am competent and have a lot to share - all the things that had been clouded by my fears. We actually shared this process with the group, using it as an example of openness and how fears can get in the way of good collaboration.

Doing the second training only a month after the first one was a fantastic move. Firstly, it gave me more practice. Secondly, it gave me an opportunity to feel much more secure in my role, after having done the whole thing once before. Also, I was able to use my prior feelings of insecurity as a learning that could strengthen me, and enable me to see some bigger pictures and bring more of myself into the facilitator role.
Two happy trainers after the second training

The training itself was just a great big excursion into self-exploration. The group was fantastic and generous with themselves and each other. Together we created a very trusting atmosphere, which opened up for these explorations together. Thinking, feeling and speaking about ones own behavior, feelings and self-concept (the three main layers in this framework) is not really commonplace for many, including myself, but getting (or creating) safe spaces in which to go there and explore is a learning and growing journey. It was a privilege for me to feel the trust of this group to guide them in their exploration.

What really stood out to me after doing these two trainings was perhaps the most simple and obvious thing - it's about practice! A very dear and respected friend recently sent me an email with the beautiful title "Well... that takes a lifetime, you know!" - after a conversation she had with a friend in New York who heard her talk about The Human Element®.
"Well ... that stuff takes a lifetime to master, you know!"
"I know. But it's all about the practice, not the mastering." 
The Human Element® is all about practice, practice, practice. This is why we ended the course by saying "we're really just starting, the real training begins now".

Now I look forward to our next training in April! More information will follow:

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