Change Shop Reflection
If I were to tell you exactly how I felt after attending the recent Change Shop, I might just gush for next three hundred words. That would be sincere enough but might leave you wondering just what it was that prompted all those positive emotions.
So I have set myself instead a little challenge: to write about the Change Shop without using any value words. I hope in this way to convey the sense of the experience and leave my responses as subtext.
The week was run as a laboratory. Changing an organization involves helping individuals to change, so each one of us got to work on one individual, the one within. Each of us was both lab technician and lab subject.
I learned many things about my subject. I learned he is sometimes fearful, sometimes shy, and occasionally dishonest (but I suspect he never tells a lie to anyone else that he hasn’t already told himself). I have known this fellow for 54 years and not particularly noticed these three characteristics. Yet they seemed indisputable by the time the week was over. How had I missed them before?
I can’t say for sure, but I have a theory: We don’t notice because we are so dedicatedly looking away. We look away because – I’m not sure this will make sense to you – because these things are important.
I can spend all afternoon trying to get PageMaker to print PICT files without fuzzy edges because it finally doesn’t matter much. But I can’t ask myself, Who am I? What am I like? What am I afraid of?
Our lab experiments were conducted as little set pieces of dance. Each one involved a preliminary of reassurance: It told us, We’ll be safe where we’re going. Then we began.
Within a few steps we encountered one another and touched in some way, a different way for each experiment. Sometimes there was one principal dancer or two; other times we all danced and all touched. Touching was essential to the dance.
The different ways we touched were all forbidden. (A great number of forbidders from our past lives got their comeuppance in just one week.) At the end of each dance was a reflection. In this time of private reflection each person danced alone.
The experiments were artifice. They allowed us to consider, What was going on inside this or that other person? In this way each of us came to some understanding of, What was going on inside me?
Becoming More Fully Human
It been about a month since Change Shop and I still haven’t unpacked the materials. The reason, I think, is that there is so much “stuff” to deal with on so many levels that I wanted to let it all settle for awhile before I went through the materials.
I think I may get to it tonight, but thought first I would contact you to make good on one of my desires following Change Shop – namely, to make the effort on my part to continue the relationship established with you over the years and most recently at Change Shop.
The gift that I received (or took) from Change Shop was one of ownership and non-ownership. I realized that I cannot own anyone else’s feelings and that I had wasted much time trying to engineer just that.
I think that I did that in large part because I was afraid of my own feelings and instincts – that they might not be “good enough” or that they might fail me in some way. I feel now that there is no purpose served in judging my feelings. It is important to try to understand them and to allow them to happen and to realize that they are what make me me.
I am more fully me now, and if that is being more fully human then Change Shop succeed with me.
Thanks again for the time you spent with me at Change Shop. It is an experience that I will never forget.
The Reality Test
So there I was. In Arizona, in January, with Jerry and Dani and Jean for Change Shop 1/95. The session was wonderful – I learned, I shared, I plummeted, I soared, I made some great, even DELICIOUS!, new acquaintances and I renewed some older friendships. Quite an experience – I highly recommend it!
But wait, there’s more. I came back! I checked voice mail and got a partial clue – something about expense overruns and budget cutbacks. My brain and my body were tensing up. “Oh, no,” I thought, “not more downsizing.”
Well, I’ve been back at work barely a week now and have already been party to notifying employees that they are very likely to be asked to leave the company in a few weeks, as well as being told that I was almost asked to leave, too! Talk about your Foreign Elements!
I was thrown into Chaos, with feelings and thoughts overwhelming me. I needed to vent, so I yelled (in the shower and the car) and blamed and cried and confided and sought advice. All of these were my attempts to EXPERIENCE the Chaos (the pain of rejection) fully so I could find the Transforming Idea somewhere in all this mess.
I found it last Thursday; the words I’d been saying at a logical level were finally heard by ALL of my parts. I could believe the words, “I am okay; this is not about ME; this is about a situation; I have all the resources I need to move on.”
It honestly felt almost like a miracle – the peace I felt on Friday morning after going to bed exhausted, drained, spent. My heart felt lighter; I could see and hear and be more fully present, not avoiding people and subjects.
I am now practicing affirmations daily and looking into my Wisdom Box for what I already know about me and situations like this. I have a mission on this earth, I believe even at this company, and my faith and support system are stronger than ever. Bring on the challenges – I am up to it!
A Personal Account
Change Artist Rick Smith suggested, “Remember how the flight attendant explains, ‘Before helping another, secure your own oxygen supply?’ To build a more fully human organization, become more fully human.” That epitomized Change Shop 1/94. The Change Shop experience will help me to manage both conscious and unconscious change in myself and in client organizations.
The creativity, sensitivity, idealism and diversity of the other Change Artists enriched my own experience. I felt Virginia Satir’s diversity principle: “We make contact through our sameness; we grow through our differences.” I discovered the sameness of apparently very different people with different parts of myself.
We used three formal learning routes: cognitive learning from discussion, experiential learning from observation and activities, and learning through group change planning.
I walked an additional path. Intensity in a safe atmosphere brought people’s feelings to the surface. I discovered more about how I influence change in others. When I hurt someone, or overwhelmed someone, or felt frustrated in a group, I applied the models for change, communication, congruence and for transformation of my own unconscious rules. Those experiences provided some of my best learning, learning that will make me a more effective consultant.
We made invisible forces visible. Watching people perform as independent parts of a Change Artist’s mind and sculpting organization dynamics (with human bodies as the sculptor’s medium) gave me new ways to see. Consciously reframing my interpretation of an observation changed my feelings and my unconsciously driven response.
The safety had magic of its own. One powerful exercise began, “Create an imaginary toy that…” Before I completed the thought, “This is one of those things that I can never do,” I had done it! Bang! Done!
A happy, relaxed, confident stranger surprised me from the mirror Friday morning. I told the others, “I liked the guy immediately. I want to see him more.”
Lessons from the Hot Tub
The model on which Change Shop seems based is that a concept is introduced to the group by one of the leaders, and then a situation is created to provide a kinesthetic experience of that same point. First the head learns. Then the body is given a chance to feel it.
On day 3 this week, Jean discussed the concept of sculpting. Sculpting, she explained, is a method to get people to FEEL what a particular situation is like. Feeling is the first step to moving forward. As an eager and enthusiastic ENTJ, I listened spellbound to what she had to say. Yes, I judged, this is a good model. Yes, it is right. Yes, I understand it. And I felt good about my new learning.
It was in a hot tub under the stars, on a cloudy night that eventually dropped a beautiful layer of fluffy white Sante Fe snow, that I had the opportunity to FEEL what sculpting can provide. I was lying flat on my back, fully relaxed and extended, with 8 hands holding me to the water’s surface. The hand beneath my neck was unquestioning and strong, yet gentle at the same time. My ankles rested upon a firm and comforting arm. The hands holding my back sent messages of comfort and support. I was held gently in multiple spots around my shoulders, back and torso as I floated on the water’s surface. What I felt was clear. What I felt was this:
You are safe. We will support you. Give in to the moment and follow the feeling. Relax…
And I did. And I felt strong and powerful from feeling this feeling. And it was good.
And then the feeling was reinforced in a wonderful and unexpected way when my hands reached under the body of the next floater as I joined the team of silent, supporting hands lifting them up to the water’s surface. And we supported this body, and gently turned it around and around all the while offering the solid support of gentle and caring hands carrying the energy of gentle and caring hearts. And this too was good.
And the experience was repeated over and over and over as we supported each body in turn, to a few moments of soothing, silent, support. And the giving felt as good as the receiving. And it was very good. And the feeling lasted a long time. *****
Of course, as an ENTJ, feelings are great, but a lesson is not fully learned until I can articulate it, and foist it on others. Here I go:
The feeling of support and caring is a wonderful foundation. On which lots of things can be built. It is like the House of Cards exercise from PSL all over again. On a firm foundation, you can build a high structure. It may not work right the first time. It may not proceed exactly as planned. But it is possible.
This experience says to me… Lori, you have support in life that you can tap into for what you are trying to create. It’s OK to ask for help. You can call on us. You can ask us for input. You can look foolish in front of us. And you can also be accomplished in front of us. We appreciate you. We will support you.
I want to thank my Change Shop colleagues, both in the hot tub, and not, for reinforcing this powerful message.
And I’d like to close with a quote that entered my life on the drawstring of a Celestial Seasonings tea bag at breakfast this week. It is yet another reminder that important messages come in all shapes, sizes and forms.
Love sought is good, but given unsought is better. –William Shakespeare
Small Changes, With Much Feeling
I’m back from Change Shop, but our new baby is still waiting for the right time, so I am not in the throes of big changes yet, nor many changes for those of you who remember newborns. But I have been able to begin to make some of the small changes that make a difference in one’s life.
I have begun temperature readings in my staff meetings. People have reacted positively. At first, I think the staff was taken aback by the appreciations — that there were so many positive things that could be said and yet until now were largely unsaid. Complaints and Recommendations surfaced a new way to do our group calendar. And Hopes and Wishes surfaced a few personal hopes that the group had been unaware of.
At home, I have a new perspective on family interactions, especially matters of discipline. When I am about to really lose my temper, I somehow draw on that particular lesson of the family sculpture about “what they wish they could say to you now” and realize I have the resources to say it now.
Our five year old was misbehaving and shouting at both his mother and me. I was about to shout back, but instead of raising my voice in anger, I picked him up, hugged him, looked him in the eyes and started to talk to him about what he wanted and needed. That felt a lot more congruent.
Of course, trying to be congruent isn’t always desirable. It is a disruption of the status quo. Once after I “demonstrated a new behavior,” my wife asked me where was the stable neurotic she had previously known!
At work, I am much more conscious of being a foreign element and of providing transforming ideas. I have the sense that I have improved my timing as a change artist.
In working with groups, I have started to do more to make sure that feelings become part of the group’s discussion, rather than just task and content.
Five Years Later
I’m a PSL graduate (1990) and a CS graduate (1991). And I continue to exercise (exorcise?) my INTJ ways with pride.
Presently I am located in Swansea, Wales, UK at our Alcoa plant. I am operating as a change agent to “reengineer” the manufacturing processes. We enjoyed great success redesigning the procurement process last year: greatly reduced paper-work, suppliers, inventory and unit costs. And the spin-offs are accelerating — partnership supply contracts, point-of-use delivery etc.
Now I’m guiding changes in the shop floor work practices… and washing out a few production problems along the way. All this, along with tutoring individuals in the use of conputers is keeping me happy. And my wife, Ruth, is with me. Ah, life can be complete at times.
PSL/CS made quite a difference for me. Memories of the experiences are very vivid. I make good use of the tools you shared with me. Take this assignment as an example — If I am to make fundamental changes in an organization, I MUST start from the perspective of the people involved. That involves not only learning about their existing systems and structure. I must learn their language, spelling, holidays, humour, etc, etc. In guiding towards a change, I must help them visualise it in familiar terms … their words, their experiences, their discomforts. That’s what congruence is all about, yes?
Something I’ve learned about myself — Coming to live a foreign place, I found myself uncomfortable with in public situations. People were erratic in driving, discourteous in shopping areas, unforgiving on the sidewalk. It finally occurred to me that they weren’t so different from folks back home. I was the difference. I was reacting to my own difference as a foreigner. Once I backed off and saw that picture, I felt at ease.
Anyway, I’m trying to practice the principles – and trying to teach when the situation is appropriate. I have been told here in Wales that I’m one of the few Americans to ever “fit in” and contribute so much value as well. They must be serious; my stay was extended from 6 months to 18 months.
One other small thing… I have never been good at making new friends. It has become a lot easier. Thank you. Some day I hope to be in a position to teach the PSL/CS arts in a more direct fashion. There is a great deal of joy in helping people. Please continue your good work.
Lamentations of a Failed Mother Theresa
I just returned from Change Shop and was drawing grids on huge amounts of flip chart paper. I was preparing to teach a class … and drawing grids .. mindlessly … … and during this time, another part of me was thinking … “You know, at our last Support Team Meeting, when I was sharing my Big Learning and getting all emotional, nobody hugged me; nobody seemed to approach! Why not?” And then it hit me – the Cosmic Duh. Perhaps I should explain …
Throughout Change Shop, I grew to admire and like the four other articulate, bright, and caring people on my Support Team – and that was the basis of my Cosmic Duh. Here was an ENFP (pretty strong E, very strong F) offering this great, incredible learning about myself, and when I looked back at the Support Team, there was only one E and no Fs.
I was hoping (expecting?) them to behave in a way that I wanted, without asking for it, and regardless of whether or not it was comfortable for them. Enter the Cosmic Duh! My Support Team was giving me the best gift of all – being congruent and being themselves, which meant giving me time to explore, asking questions to help me articulate my issue. They were being congruent; *I* was not, for a short while there … and then it was OK, even before the Cosmic Duh hit.
I have done this type of hoping (expecting?) before … and when I think about my personal “what if” chain, it goes something like this (abbreviated): “Nobody’s hugging me.” … “I’ll be left alone, all alone!” … and I see this image of a tiny, little baby crying, abandoned. How do I prevent that image from becoming reality? By “saving” everyone ahead of time (and in *my* way), so I expect them to respond in a way that is meaningful to *me*. This is a scenario that binds and limits each one’s freedom, theirs and mine … enter failed Mother Theresa!
And what’s wrong with this picture … I have *choices*!
After I thought about this, I repeated my Cosmic Duh. Their not hugging me had *nothing* to do with the goodness, badness, lovableness, or acceptableness of me – it was not about “my stuff” – it had everything to do with each team member’s responding congruently for them – “their stuff”!
I think I would like to sub-title this piece: “Insights and Growth of an ENFP who is Learning More about What’s My Stuff and What’s Not.” Another thing I can do – practice the fifth A, Application, by recognizing that I have choices, and that I have the freedom to exercise the choice most appropriate to self, other, and context. And then I can move to Activism, the sixth A.
So, a huge appreciation to each member of my Support Team – Stu, Bob, Cathy, and Brad – for being congruent.
And, for myself, an appreciation for recognizing the Cosmic Duh and addressing the issue.
And, finally, thank you Jean D for helping me reconnect with my Mother Theresa part, even without a Parts Party!