Learning, and the importance of personal relevancy

“See them first” is a phrase I learned several years ago from an incredible, kind, mentor of mine.

I admit, when she first shared this phrase with me, (and others, in her book) I didn’t really understand how to put it into practice when facilitating or designing an experience for others.

To her (and now, to me) “See them First” is a critical piece of gaining psychological safety, trust, and clarity with a group or an individual up front, whether it’s in a coaching, training, or leadership capacity.

So what does this phrase mean? Do I just need stronger contact lenses? Perhaps. Ask your doctor. But also:

At the core of it, I need to ask myself these questions:

  1. Do I, as a Leader, a facilitator, or a coach understand my learner? Have I made this understanding clear to them?
  2. Have they given me an opportunity to share something that matters to them? Read: Have they shared a learning objective, or told me something that I’m missing knowing about them at the start of a session? When a professor who was absent for the first day of a 2-day workshop walked into the class she asked, “what do I need to know about you, as a group of learners?”. Perfect example.
  3. Do your learners have “skin in the game”? I see this time and time again. Give them an opportunity to make the learning personal. It needs to matter to them. Framing and context matters, but more so is an opportunity for the learners to identify and latch onto something personally relevant to help them make meaning of the material. Seeing them first means encouraging personal relevancy.
  4. Have I started with where the learners are instead of where I want them to be?
  5. Have I made it clear I’m listening? And do I incessantly tie back to what I heard, and what I’ve promised?

Turn your learners, clients, and mentees into collaborators immediately by making it clear that you have listened and allow space for personal relevancy. Open the door to allow and encourage them to join you in co-creating the experience.

Show them that you “see them first” and then let your learners have a peek inside your process by allowing them to see YOU too. Show them the roadmap for the learning and continue to make your thinking visible as you progress, (“here’s what we’re going to do today, here’s how we will get there, and let’s talk about why”).

After all, everyone deserves an opportunity to be seen and heard.

What’s the drill – July 20: Fifteen seconds to better listening

15 seconds to better listening – can it be true?

Today I want to share some great active listening tips from Applied Improvisation pioneer, the training firm “Performance of a Lifetime”.

As Improvisers our focus in a scene is on the other person. The tools in our toolbox teach us how to make our partner, colleague, audience member, etc look good.

In helping others to add to their communications toolbox, that same focus on the other person remains very strong.

Here are some listening tips to help you focus on making your partner look good:

1. Listening is not a transaction — it’s our job to listen actively with the intent to build on and co-create a conversation. We can only “yes, and” what our partner says if we are completely focused on what they are saying, without pre-planning our next sentence.

2. Let your partner know they’ve been heard – use re-incorporation, use their words, and the phrase, “what I heard you say is”, to increase empathy, connection and trust between you and your conversation partner. Work with what you heard, not what you wanted to hear. Doesn’t it feel great to know you’ve really been listened to?

3. Give them the space – in this case, we’re talking about 15 seconds. Wait 15 seconds to respond after your partner speaks. Practice this enough and it will become a habit. What did you notice? Can you try this in an especially heated, or crucial conversation?

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Read the whole article here:




“Take out the trash”, and other lessons learned from career development

I’ve received lots of wonderful advice the past few months as I have spent my days – and many nights – navigating the path from passion to purpose.

Some of the best advice I received included this phrase – “don’t forget to take out the trash”. No, not housework. Something much more important.

Two months ago, I wrote down some tips, and then some questions to ask yourself – to help others navigate through a transitional phase.  Here are some additional lessons learned:

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – Whether you are an entrepreneur, an independent contractor or a full-time job seeker, a lot of us can get used to doing everything by ourselves. While it’s great to be independent and self-sufficient, it’s also more than okay to ask for help.
  2. Take out the trash – Famous animator Don Hahn coined a saying, “Take out the trash” – meaning, learn what you’re not great at, or what you need to work on and be honest with yourself about it. While he’s not advocating we focus on the negative, taking out the trash now will allow you to enter your next project, job, shift, school, etc a bit more prepared, and humbled. Part of taking out the trash includes asking others for help, and asking questions.
  3. Ask questions – Ideas are sparked by asking the right questions. Ask questions of others and ask yourself plenty of questions as well. A curious mind, hell-bent on doing purposeful work that’s unique to you and your strengths can mean going through a lot of trial and error. Keep asking the tough questions and surround yourself with people who aren’t afraid to ask those hard questions.
  4. Learn to not take things so personally – You care a lot about your work – and you (hopefully) believe it can do a lot of good. As much as it stings, not everyone believes the same thing you do. Not taking things so personally can really help keep you on an even keel. It takes a while to build up this muscle – but if you can, find out why someone resists your idea, or your application. See #2.
  5. Ride the rollercoaster – You will encounter your fair share of highs and lows, it’s almost a guarantee.  Somewhere between the line of complete apathy and utter disappointment and euphoria lies a healthy medium that allows you to do consistent work, with consistent drive.
  6. Know your audience – Sometimes we can get so consumed with our passions  or ambitions that we need to take some time to get outside of our head. Get clear about how your customer views you, what your value is, and what need you are filling. See items 1-4 to help you shape and hone your offerings.