Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Facilitate … with landscapes

Our work, our thinking, our lives, our culture and social activities are shaped by the influences of the country in which we reside. (Forrest Shreve, researcher, author, teach at dedication of Desert Botanical Gardens 1938 in Scottsdale Arizona) On a recent trip to these Gardens in Scottsdale, I read these great words on a sign in the park. I love them!  I have always believed that each person has a landscape within her or him. This landscape may be the geography from the place of birth or from a place that one visits or from the inherent yearning for a specific type of location. This landscape is where you naturally fit, where you feel the most comfortable, where you feel refreshed and rejuvenated as well as calm, where you feel at home. My landscape is the parkland terrain of rolling hills, open fields, and clumps of trees – the countryside in which I lived as a child. I love mountains, I love oceans; I love open prairies; yet I am naturally drawn to the parkland of my youth. I know that while I love visiting islands, I cannot live on them permanently because of a claustrophobic feeling. I enjoy living in a big urban centre, yet balance this with daily walks in a wooded ravine and weekly trips into the countryside. I need my nature landscape!
I incorporate the idea of landscapes into facilitation. Ask participants to identify their landscape. Take them through a visualization exercise to help them understand the physical setting in they feel most at home. Start with stories and images of where they grew up and ask how they feel about those physical and natural environments. Ask them to think about trips to different environments and how they felt about them. Use the landscapes as an analogy for participants’ involvement with work teams, community teams, with conflict, with personality types, with leadership, with strategic planning, and many other topics. For example,
·         The landscape in which they are most comfortable can be the skills and situation in which they do their best work or it can be the place that they need to travel away from for a while to gain new perspectives.

·         The landscape in which they are slightly uncomfortable (like my islands) may be the place they need to go to in order to step outside their comfort zone and challenge themselves.

·         The landscape which they fear may be the issue they need to address and they may need to take friends along. I met a woman at a conference who was deathly afraid of nature.  She had only lived in large cities and could not comprehend how anyone felt comfortable without buildings around them. She challenged herself to start taking short walks with a friend in an urban park to overcome the fear.  We talked about how she could use the same approach to work situations.

Sometimes, I use the landscape analogy as an introductory activity; sometimes as the foundation throughout a discussion; sometimes as a fun energizer.
My facilitation blog questions are:  What is your preferred landscape?  How could you use the landscape analogy in your facilitation work?