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Visual Explorer™: February 2008

February 26, 2008

Retreats That Work with Visual Explorer

Visual Explorer goes with me to almost every retreat I facilitateeven when we don’t actually plan to use it ...
says Sheila Campbell, president of Wild Blue Yonder. Campbell is co-author, with Merianne and Jeff Liteman, of Retreats That Work: Everything You Need to Know about Planning and Leading Offsites. Merianne Liteman, of Liteman Rosse, Inc., agrees.
“Because it’s so versatile, we find lots of uses for Visual Explorer in retreats. We believe in responding to what’s happening in the moment, so sometimes we see uses for VE that weren’t in our retreat plan. The deck is almost always in the room with us.”
Liteman likes using the deck to help a group deal with particularly thorny issues about which people might have strong emotions.
“The introspection that VE encourages makes the discussion about these tough issues much richer. VE often helps people see all sides of a dilemma rather than be staked in their original positions.”
Campbell and Liteman design a flow into their retreats, peaking in energy as participants make decisions about the issues framed in the retreat.
“By the end of retreat people are tired, but excited about the progress they’ve made. They’re full of good intentions about making a difference when they return to work. But we know they’ll also be bombarded by conflicting priorities and an avalanche of interruptions as soon as they get back in the office. We often use Visual Explorer to help them bridge that transition.”
One of the strong suits of Visual Explorer, say these retreats experts, is that it moves people into a reflective silence in which they can begin to take responsibility for insuring that the decisions made at the retreat take full effect.

When they use VE to close a retreat, Liteman and Campbell usually select a portion of Visual Explorer images that broadly connote leadership, teamwork, achievement or other themes of the retreat. (“At this point,” Campbell explains, we don’t want anyone getting stuck on an image they might interpret as discouraging.”) They choose four or five images for every one person in the group. The images are displayed on a table at the back of the room during the final break of the day. Participants often wander over to look at the pictures and wonder about their use, but they aren’t given any clues upfront. After all the decisions in the retreat have been made, and the group has talked about how they’ll introduce the results to everyone back at the office, the facilitators then talk about how important it will be for each person to keep the retreat spirit alive --- and how difficult that can become in the heat of day-to-day work.

Participants are asked to be silent as they write this incomplete sentence at the top of a sheet of paper: My strongest contributions to keeping the results of this retreat alive will be... . They’re given a few moments to think about the question. Before inviting them to choose an image to begin their own reflections, either Liteman or Campbell demonstrate how to use the pictures, usually inviting one of the group to choose an image. This randomness in the choice of image helps reinforce that it doesn’t matter what image a person chooses, because, of course, the message evoked is within the person viewing it, not inherent in the picture itself.
“One thing we love about Visual Explorer is how many options it gives us in facilitating this critical closing of a retreat,”
After participants have been given time to choose their images and note their reflections, the facilitators can choose to move in several different directions. With a small group of fewer than twenty, they can invite every person to share their resolutions, which can solidify the respect and closeness that have developed in the retreat. (See What I See for Me, pp. 410-412 in Retreats That Work for more information about how Campbell and Liteman use Visual Explorer to close a retreat.) If the work group is likely to encounter serious obstacles in achieving their goals, the facilitators might have them do a second round of reflections based on completing the sentence: I can foresee some challenges, but I will be able to overcome them by... . These reflections, shared with a small group that works well together, can strengthen the group’s resolve to see their decisions through, and help them see how to support each other.

In larger groups, Campbell and Liteman have the participants break into dyads or triads to discuss their VE reflections.
"We feel it’s important for people to voice what they’re thinking, even if it’s not to the whole group. Somehow hearing yourself say it aloud makes the ideas more memorable.”
Liteman and Campbell are not surprised when this closing leads to strong emotions about the retreat. Almost always, they say, some participants are quite moved by the VE images.
"When that happens, we invite people to take the picture home with them. “It wrecks our Visual Explorer decks, but the decks are replaceable; we can stand to lose a few pictures. What we never want to lose is the commitment that the pictures evoke.”
Liteman and Campbell teach beginning and advanced retreat design and facilitation courses for organizations that conduct internally-facilitated retreats. Beginning and experienced facilitators in the program are taught how to use Visual Explorer in a number of ways, from creative thinking to facilitating teamwork to inspiring vision. Months later, Liteman and Campbell report, when they check in with people who have been through the course, the students often reference the VE images they chose at the end of the program.
“People tell us, 'I look at my picture every time I design a retreat, and it reminds me to have confidence in my skills.’
Resources: Liteman, M., Campbell, S. and Liteman, J.: Retreats That Work: Everything You Need to Know about Planning and Leading Offsites, San Francisco: Pfeiffer / Wiley, 2006.

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Visual Explorer experiments in one-on-one leadership coaching

Recently we introduced our prototype Visual Explorer Post Card Decks to leadership coaches at our CCL Asia Campus as a tool for one-on-one coaching. One of the coaches used the cards, and had some great questions--shared with our responses below ...From: Sai Ram Nilgiri
Sent: Thursday, February 07, 2008 7:46 PM
To: Palus, Chuck; Horth, David
Subject: Visual Explorer Cards

Dear Charles and David,
I attended your webinar that you ran a few weeks ago for Center for Creative Leadership leadership coaches in Asia. I tried the cards for the first time with the CEO of a large multinational organisation. He had some challenges he wanted to talk about. One of his challenges is to visualize a strategy; and so I thought these pics could assist. We decided on what the challenge was, and then he perused the pictures. He wanted to use more than one picture as he found them interesting. I restated that he needed to get one picture only. Would it be appropriate that they could choose more than one?

However when he started explaining his picture, it was addressing a slightly different issue. It thus became clear to me, I should have written the statement on an A4 so that he could refer back to it or used the white board he had in his room. I did play some soft music which I had on my computer … so the setting was good. I did the next step of giving my view of the picture and then its reference to the challenge. I guess a larger group brings out more perspectives than just one other person. I enjoyed this process and it enriched the coaching work rather than just having a banter of questions and discussion. Just wanted to give you the feedback.
Sai Ram
Thank you, Sai Ram. Yes I think you had a good process! Getting them to write in a journal or sheet of paper is a good thing—practicing reflective time with the coach. One coach uses a large easel sheet of blank paper on the desktop between them, so both coach and coachee can write, scribble, draw, etc. It is true that some people cannot seem to chose just one image. Most often I say: fine, pick more. Only when time is limited are we very strict. For the coach it is usually good to ask a lot of open ended questions about the image and alternative views, such as “I wonder what is happening in this part of the image … how would that connect to the issue … .? Regards, Chuck
From the BlackBerry of David Magellan Horth
Dear Sai Ram,
It's very common for people to select more than one image. I personally never enforce it. Indeed there are many ways of using VE which encourages the selection of several images. I was talking to a feedback coach yesterday who says he used the deck with a CEO who had difficulty articulating a leadership story. The coach gave him the whole deck and he thumbed through the deck picking picking out pictures and telling parts of the story as he went along until he had a whole array of images as he completed his narration.
Best regards,
Thanks David, I think that was a rich experience for the client. In fact he did choose quite a few pics and I could see a pattern in what he chose, which I did share with him. I shall now expand it so that he could have a collage of pics to visualize his strategy and share it with his team. I shall try and get the digital pics which are online and get him to use them in his presentation to his team. Thanks for the feedback and much appreciated from both of you.

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February 25, 2008

VE in Palestine

Hello Chuck and David,
We just got back from facilitating leadership development courses for the senior staff of three Palestinian ministries (Youth and Sports, Women’s Affairs, and Finance) where we used Visual Explo
rer to great effect. The stunning visual imagery made a tremendous impact on the participants’ ability to be deeply reflective and to think creatively about how best to manage the conflicts that are inevitable in any office (and exacerbated by the stressful circumstances under which they work). We never work anywhere in the world without Visual Explorer in our bag of supplies.
Keep those thought-provoking images coming!
Merianne Liteman
Liteman Rosse, Inc.

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February 07, 2008

Transformation and healing

One of the Center for Creative Leadership leadership coaches using Visual Explorer in one-on-one settings is Rabbi TZiPi Radonsky, Ph.D. Her blog Society of the Vav has several posts on using our prototype Post Card size Visual Explorer to deepen mutual exploration into the heart of the matter, during one-on-one leadership coaching.TZiPi writes:
In our first coaching session I was using the Visual Explorer images to access emotions and begin to build trust. Without looking at the images she had randomly chosen a monochromatic image of a dandelion clock. She quickly responded in a factual manner ‘ I see everything in black and white.’ Her tone of voice felt like a challenge and that a door had been opened. I walked cautiously toward the threshold. >>more
In another post she describes the mystery of the cards, playing hardball with the boys, and the changing eye of the perceiver:
Who would imagine that the images would evoke such emotional responses that they would bring tears, conversations never dreamed in a coaching session and clarity and validation of goals? I usually use the Visual Explorer cards at the end of the session as I feel if they connect an image with their goals it might mean more to them than the words themselves. I am always hoping for an intention to appear, a symbol that would reflect an emotion, a private thought or a connection to core values that is attached to the outcome in contrast to a goal that is more in the physical world of doing. >>more

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February 06, 2008

ASTD Honors CCL & CHP Partnership

The American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) has awarded Catholic Healthcare Partners (CHP) and the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) two Excellence in Practice Awards and a citation for our work on CHP's innovative Leadership Academy for executives and managers. The Leadership Academy received awards in both the Managing Change and Workplace Learning and Development categories, and a citation in the Organizational Learning category. See a summary of this work and it's outcomes at Story of Impact: Developing Next-Generation Leaders with an Action-Learning Approach.

CCL crafted fabric quilts as gifts to the graduating classes, using Visual Explorer images chosen by Leadership Academy participants to reflect their visions of leadership
(special thanks to Susan Rice and quilt maker Mary Ellen Kranz). For more information contact Jon Abeles (CHP) and Patricia O'Connor (CCL). (See the 2003 class quilt at the top and bottom; click to enlarge.)

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February 01, 2008

Organizational Leadership Development in Ethiopia Among NGOs

The Center for Creative Leadership has been working to make leadership development more accessible in our world through the Global Voice of Leadership (GVOL) initiative. The effort involves developing new models to reach out to new populations and regions. One of the approaches being explored is to enhance the capacity of NGOs to develop local community leaders.

The beta version of our Visual Explorer Post Cards was recently used in Ethiopia for organizational leadership development, as part of Leadership Beyond Boundaries . During the debrief of experiential exercises and appreciative inquiry tools, participants routinely draw the parallels to their everyday work and see the analogies and metaphors of these simulations come to life. Participants report that their understanding of their impact on others, their appreciation for the complex cultural context within which they work, and the importance of building clear direction, alignment, and commitment through their leadership influence increases throughout the course of their workshop experience. ... more>>

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