How to capture a workshop process with pictures

Catching Pigs graphic facilitation

Graphic facilitation with 3Stick Men

I met Lita Currie two and half years ago when I was working on a process design for SAB and she was working there. Since then Lita had started her own facilitation consultancy in Graphic facilitation. To market her work, she generously did the graphic harvesting of our last Pig Catching session.

The large rolls of paper are put up on my office wall and everyone who walks in first says “Wow, beautiful handwriting!” and then: “What is it??” I explain that it is graphic facilitation and that it is a documentation of one of my workshop processes done by Lita from 3Stickmen.

It never fails to impress, but more than that, people see the value of it as a meaningful documentation process. No-one is likely to stick it in a drawer and forget about it.

If you want to get Lita to do this for you, or learn from her how to do it yourself, Contact her or visit the 3Stickmen website.

Catching Flying Pigs graphic facilitation 2

Our Pig Catching process she captured dealt with the question: ‘How do we put Africa on the global economic map?‘ Janet du Preez who facilitated the process did a masterful job of blending her own work on employee engagement with the SNE methodology she has learned from Playing Mantis.

In the group was a mixture of organisation development practitioners and applied drama facilitators and both groups were mesmerized by the process. One of the applied drama facilitators was deeply intrigued by Janet’s innovative use of well known processes.

Read more about this next week.

More about Lita and 3Stickmen

Are people falling asleep in your training sessions?

Worried that your conference will be boring?

Use hand-drawn pictures created in real time to promote interest and engagement! Let us create a visual record of your conference, your workshop or your meeting. Your audience will remember it forever.

Your audience can see the discussion taking place as it is captured on a big piece of paper. It helps people think more creatively, make connections previously not seen and create commitment and engagement.

Contact 3Stickmen for a free quote.

Or visit the 3Stickmen website.

3Stickmen Intro to Graphic Facilitation intro course

Africa may soon be digitally connected but can we put ourselves on the world economic map?

You are invited to catch flying pigs with usFlying Pig

Face to face Pig Catching in Johannesburg
TOPIC: Engaging Africa
DATE: Fri 26 May
TIME: 8:30-11:30 – experience (Please come on time for coffee or tea, we start at 8:30 sharp.)
12:00-13:00 reflecting on the methodology
PLACE: 19th floor University Corner Building Corner of Jan Smuts and Jorissen Braamforntein.
FACILITATOR: Janet du Preez
COST: R250
DRESS: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
RSVP: by  Wed 24 Mayto

Upcoming dates: Fri 25 Aug and Fri 1 Dec.

Online Pig Catching
TOPIC: Engaging Africa
DATE:19, 22 and 26 June (Mon, Thu and Mon)
TIME: 20:00-21:15 – experience
PLACE: a ZOOM room (we will send link)
FACILITATOR: Janet du Preez
COST: R250 or $20
RSVP by Thu 15 Jum to

More on the topic
As a continent we may soon be digitally connected but can we be cohesively engaged to put ourselves on the world economic map?

Our pig for this session is the engagement of Africa.
Using Strategic Narrative Embodiment and the Dynamic Engagement Framework we will explore:

  • How engagement changes outcomes
  • The role of trust in engagement
  • The character and faces of trust
  • How we foster trust

Are we mad? Maybe a little!
Does this matter? Yes!
Can we be the agents of continental change? Why not?

 – by Janet du Preez who will be co-hosting Pig Catching sessions in February and March.

About Janet du Preez
Janet du Preez is a friend and accomplished flying pig catcher. she says about the SNE tools: “The SNE processes are a vital addition to my toolkit because of their creativity and impact. I am constantly seeking new ways to engage whole people in transformational journeys. SNE processes encourage new encounters with beliefs, thoughts, emotions, relationships and behaviours. When people engage themselves and engage with themselves in unexpected ways they learn and grow. We will not see change in the conditions in Africa until we transform who we are as Africans. We need every possible tool at our disposal to enable us to transform if we are to change our trajectory. SNE is a particularly powerful tool.”

Janet is a versatile leadership and organisational effectiveness practitioner and a passionate, provocative and creative thinker. A strategic people developer and engagement protagonist, she is constantly alert for good people, good ideas and good systems which can be made even more effective.  Janet uses her well-honed coaching, facilitation, process development and strategic consulting skills to engage talent, passion, insight and action in pursuit of great leadership and effective systems. She is completing an MSc through the da Vinci Institute developing a universal integrated sense-making framework for engagement in organisations.

About Pig Catching

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.
Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.


Coaches, facilitators, game changers, thought leaders like you who can accept the following
1        This is not a showcase or sales event geared to impress or win you over. If you come, you already believe that metaphor, embodiment, improvisation and imagination are powerful, fun ways to bring about transformation and you want to know more about using them in coaching and facilitation.
2        Experimentation and mistakes are part of the process.  You must be willing to play with ideas that may not work or may be a bit uncomfortable, but that could lead to new heights of freedom and insight.

Join our group on Facebook:

Upcoming dates: Fri 25 Aug and Fri 1 Dec.


How can we vehemently disagree and still remain good friends, colleagues or neighbours?

You are invited to catch flying pigs with us

Long time pig catcher Alison Gitelson will be facilitating.

Face to face Pig Catching in Johannesburg
TOPIC: How can we vehemently disagree and still remain good friends, colleagues or neighbours?
DATE: Fri 24 Feb
TIME: 7:15 am to 10:30 am – experience
10:45am – 12:00 reflecting on the methodology
Please come on time for coffee or tea, we start at 7:30 sharp.
PLACE: 305 Long Avenue Ferndale
DRESS: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.
Contact us to book

Online Pig Catching
TOPIC: How can we vehemently disagree and still remain good friends, colleagues or neighbours?
DATE:13, 15 and 22 Mar (Mon, Wed and Wed)
TIME: 20:00-21:15 – experience
PLACE: a ZOOM room (we will send link)
COST: R250 or $20
RSVP by Wed 8 Mar to

More on the topic

Much is said and written about finding alignment; harmonizing; finding the win-win; integrating; being a happy family. What happens if we don’t agree? Why should we agree? Few things are simply right or wrong: there are multiple perspectives, multiple truths and even many different ways to achieve the same result.

The more diverse the group the more likely there will be disagreements. And that is part of the benefit of diversity. It takes us away from group think. This article explains how diversity makes us smarter.
However the reality is often an illusion of agreement on the surface with bubbling resentment underneath.

Let’s explore how we can use SNE (Strategic Narrative Embodiment) to discover our individual ways to
handle disagreement;

  • give and receive feedback;
  • feel curious instead of threatened;
  • be open to other perspectives;
  • be assertive without aggression;
  • have the courage to tackle the tough stuff!

My hope is that we will find tools we can use to help our clients and communities.
 – by Alison Gitelson who will be co-hosting Pig Catching sessions in February and March.

About Pig Catching

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.
Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.


Coaches, facilitators, game changers, thought leaders like you who can accept the following
1        This is not a showcase or sales event geared to impress or win you over. If you come, you already believe that metaphor, embodiment, improvisation and imagination are powerful, fun ways to bring about transformation and you want to know more about using them in coaching and facilitation.
2        Experimentation and mistakes are part of the process.  You must be willing to play with ideas that may not work or may be a bit uncomfortable, but that could lead to new heights of freedom and insight.

Join our group on Facebook:
About  Alison Gitelson (her words)

I am a maximizer, facilitator and management enabler.  Similar to many of you.
In 2006, after twenty years in business and careers in optometry, IT and transformation, I started CanBeeDone to help individuals be the best they can be, and managers to become much, much better managers and leaders. Today I describe what I do as “working with leader-managers to find their new and better way of doing business so that they, their staff and the business all thrive”.
Over the years I have grown my talents and my toolbox as a facilitator. I met Petro in 2013. Each time I was at an event where she facilitated using applied improv games I was as nervous as anything when we started. But each time I was excited at the outcomes: at the power of the tool for discovering one’s own answers and for changing behaviour. So I began introducing AI games into my programmes. I combined them with the sharing of concepts and theories, having focused dialogue and doing other participative exercises. Then in November 2014 I did the Essentials in SNE three day course with Petro.

Since then I have incorporated SNE (strategic narrative embodiment) tools and techniques into most of my workshops, talks and programmes; combining them with my other tools. It enhances work which was already powerful and makes it uniquely me.

I’ve worked with groups as diverse as high school pupils, introverted coaching clients, middle and senior managers, illiterate community members and IT technicians.
I have plenty to learn and plenty of areas where I am still working out how best to use SNE to bring about the shifts we need in society and in business. Hence my wish that you will join me to learn and grow at this Pig Catching. And then perhaps at another session we can help you experiment with some of your ideas.”


Contact us to book

Join our group on Facebook:

The heart of Strategic Narrative Embodiment (SNE)

September Muse Letter

There is a war going on – a war for your heart and your soul, for mine. A bit melodramatic?

I wake up in the morning with an unreasonable fear lodged in my chest. What if I lose? Lose what, I ask myself?

  • The battle against boredom and overwork.
  • The fight to stay fit and healthy when all I want is another doughnut and a good long sit in the sun.
  • The struggle against loneliness, as I long to be with my family but despise them for crowding my headspace.
  • The strife I feel when trying to get friends to come over – do I even have friends? And then the fear that they won’t enjoy it here; so why bother?
  • The war against entropy, in my money matters, my house, my garden, my paperwork, when at the same time I would rather turn a blind eye and read another novel.

I am not one of those people caught up in the rat race: I refuse! I have been there and bought into all its frenzy, and I didn’t get the big house and the two cars, the housekeeper and the swimming pool.

In fact, my rat race brought my family and me to the brink of bankruptcy as we ploughed all our resources into ‘making it’ and failed.

Now that both my husband and I have jobs in education – with a good enough income to survive, but not to get rich, or even get ahead – ­we are much happier and have much more time for our kids, each other, the garden, the house, the friends, and the paperwork.


  • We long for action.
  • We yearn for significance.
  • We pine for the opportunity to express our innermost selves.
  • We wish with all our hearts that someone else would wash the dishes, do the garden, organise our papers.

We now have the time, but no motivation to do all the things on the list. So, and I will only speak for myself here, I sit around wishing for action, for someone to come visit, for some external impetus to get me off my butt to go, go, go! Of course the moment the impetus comes I resent it for stealing my peace and dictating my responses. When is sitting in the sun ‘being mindful’ mad when is it laziness? When is being present with my children healthy and when is it an excuse not to engage with something else?

How much more divided can I get?

This is the war that is destroying my heart and soul.

Inside the race, I feel controlled, diminished and taken advantage of. Outside it I feel useless, insignificant and without value.

Where is the third side of this coin?

That is the essence of my quest through war-torn territories: the search for the third side of the coin – not just in this current struggle, but in all struggles that seem so two dimensional, so binary, so colourless:

Does this mean we should take up more colourful and complex struggles like the one between the students and the government with the Universities and the parents and the whole of South Africa’s history in between?  The same one that colours all organisational and leadership interactions, whether we know it or not: the struggle between those who have and who can and those who have not and can’t – along with all the colours of our rainbow nation getting involved in the mess?

I think so.

This is the heart of the SNE lens: between the strategic plan and embodied reality, you find the narrative, the story, which can integrate opposites, transform ambiguities, dance with contradictions. Between the head that plans and the hands that act, lies this treacherous landscape of the heart, the landscape of stories. Stories long to heal the broken heart. They yearn to bridge the chasms between warring opposites and mend the rifts between binary dichotomies.

Join me on this quest to mend broken hearts – especially those broken by the race for more money, opportunity and power.

Meet me at the next Pig Catching session to help process the grief of your broken heart.

Date:     7 OCt 2016
Time:    7am for 7:15 to 10am Pig Catching
10:30-12:30 Research conversation or maybe we simply continue with the session. NOTE: We will start at 7:15 sharp to make the most of our time.
Facilitator: Petro Janse van Vuuren
Cost: R250
Venue: 305 Long Ave Ferndale
Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in
Refreshments: Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.
RSVP: by  Wed 5 Oct.

Other Pig Catching dates this year:
9 Dec
Please diarise!

Join our group on Facebook<>:

Bring your curiosity, your open minds and your questions.

About Pig Catching:

Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.

Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

Pig Catching for Coaches and Facilitators on 4 Dec


Pig catching is what coaches and facilitators do when we chase the moment of insight that brings shift and transformation in our clients.

Please note: No pigs get harmed, our pigs are purely metaphorical and they have wings.

Bring your curiosity, your open minds and your questions.

Join us on Friday if you dare…

Topic:    Moving PeopleFlying Pig

Date:     4 December 2015

Time:    7am for 7:15 to 10am Pig Catching

10:30-12:30 Research conversation (for all who are  interested in Strategic Narrative Embodiment)

NOTE: We will start at 7:15 sharp to make the most of our time.

Facilitator: Hamish Neill (from Drama for Life)

Cost: R250 (Includes a write-up of the session)

Venue: 305 Long Ave Ferndale

Dress: Comfortable clothes you can stretch and move in

Coffee, tea, muffins and fruit on arrival.

RSVP: by 1 December.

More on the topic:

What is this shift in leadership and Organisation Development that everyone is talking about?

Some call it a change from Command and Control to Sensing and Responding

Others say it is Autocratic to Participative Leadership

Some try to explain it by using metaphors for the kinds of Organisations we want e.g. no more machine like organisations, rather organic ones, or ones that work like the human brain. Still others say an organisation should be looked at as  a work of art…

There are also those that talk of a Vision and Values based culture versus a virtuoso culture, or a profit focussed organisation versus one that aims for a triple bottom line i.e. people planet and profit.

Whatever the shift is that our new changing world is asking for, we are the ones that support the transformation.

In this session, we will continue our foray into the symbols, metaphors and images that make up our understanding of this shift with Hamish from Dram for Life. In doing so you will also get insight into the tool called Image Theatre as a means for extracting and eliciting stories from participants.

Read my reflections on our previous session here: Can Image Theatre help us change organisational life in South Africa?

Join us on Friday if you dare…

P.L.A.Y.! – A summary of Improvisation principles for Trainers and Facilitators

The improvisational mindset is rooted in an open and flexible attitude, based on a set of fundamental principles that are learned through engaging in improvisational games and activities.

For a quick overview of the most important improvisation principles that can help you navigate uncertainty and act with confidence amidst emergence, complexity and collaborative projects, check out Raymond Van Driel’s  P.L.A.Y.! model below.

In the mean time, if you are coming to the Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference; we will be working with Raymond to present to you a three day Train the Trainer workshop so you too can add more interaction, creativity and ZING when you train and facilitate.

Raymond’ s P.L.A.Y.! model

P.L.A.Y.! builds capacity for staying focused while remaining open to choices in order to maximize results in crisis situations.

  • ‘P’ stands for Presence. This refers to being in the ‘here and now’ and being aware of everything that happens around you. Akin to mindfulness, it replaces distraction and fragmentation with keen and clear focus.  Where are you now? What is happening around you? What do your senses tell you about the present surroundings? How do you fit in? Anxiety and stress can reduce our ability to focus and see choices. When we feel stuck and anxious, it’s easy to lose perspective and shut down, missing a lot of what is going on around us. By noticing more, we have more inner and outer resources available to us and we open channels to new ways of responding.
  • ‘L’ stands for Leaping Into. Sometimes we have to begin a project or a task without planning all the required steps beforehand. Sometimes circumstances demand that we begin before we are ready, and adapt as the situation requires. This is particularly important if we don’t have all the information we need or want or if the situation is rapidly changing.  ‘L’ also stands for Letting Go. Things don’t always go the way we’d like or expect. Sometimes we need to let go:  of our attachment to being right, of our need to be in control, of our preconceived notion of how things should be.  Rigidity and need for control are often fallback response to stressful situations. Flexibility can often be far more useful.
  • ‘A’ stands for Accept and Adapt. This is about accepting offers – seeing opportunities in what others say and do and allowing ourselves to be changed by circumstances, others’ opinions and new situations. Rather than being defensive and blocking, we receive others’ input, engagement, and participation. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with others when we disagree with them, but we can look for ways to acknowledge and build on what they bring.  This may not come naturally or easily – people often do not welcome difference or change, even when it’s positive. So this element speaks to overcoming initial restraints and resistance to change and really accepting and adapting to whatever crosses your path. When dealing with complexity it helps to be able to include diverse perspectives and approaches and integrate accordingly.
  • ‘Y’ stands for Yes, And… This reinforces the acceptance described above (“yes”), while adding to and building on that (“and …”). This is in contrast with “Yes, but …”- behavior, where we tend to focus on why something will not work. With “Yes, and” behavior we see more constructive collaboration, more energy, more flow and more options.  This also switches focus away from a problem focus and towards a solutions focus. It prevents premature discarding of valuable ideas by creating room to explore them further.
  • ‘!’ refers to Impact. This refers to implementing the four principles above in a convincing and bold manner in order to achieve maximum effect. Commitment, confidence and clarity are qualities that emerge through practicing and using these improvisation activities.

Catch Playing Mantis and Raymond van Driel at the Applied Improvisatio Network’s annual conference in Austin Texas!!

For train the trainer workshops in South Africa, click here.

OR contact Petro in Johannesburg, Burgert in Cape Town and Raymond in the Netherlands.

For more info on The Applied Improvisation Network Click here.

For more info on the AIN conference Train the trainer workshop Click here.

Above model taken from: Tint, B, McWaters, V and Van Driel, R. (2014) Applied Improvisation Training For Disaster Readiness and Response: Preparing Humanitarian Workers and Communities for the Unexpected. Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management 4: (forthcoming

Cosmic resistance – When the world is against me

Emmet from the Lego movieYou have lead your audience past four types of resistance: 1. their doubts and reservations about their own suitability (Personal resistance), whether or not they can trust you (Relational resistance), the practicality of the solution (Practical resistance) and the people that would be on the journey with them (Social resistance). Now they look at their context and go: “Great plan, but life just doesn’t work that way”.  They look at their reality and say: “What if the solution or the people having to implement it fail?” I call this cosmic resistance.

Cosmic resistance is what happens when everything is lined up to go and your budget is cut, or a key player gets sick and unable to continue, or the equipment simply fails. Through no fault of yours, or the people trying to make the difference, it just fails. What then?

In stories this is that devastating moment where all seems lost. This is when Andy Dufresne, in Shawshank Redemption learns that his eye witness was murdered by the prison warden, when Brave Heart is betrayed by one of his own, when, in The Great Escape, the fleeing prisoners discover that their tunnel is a few feet short of the cover of the trees.

In situations like these stories provide only one response: Reframe.

The Blonde goes to the doctor complaining of aches all over her body. “Where does it hurt?” The doctor asks. Pointing to her left shoulder, then her nose and then her right calf she answers: “Here and here and here”. The doctor takes her hand gently examining it and says “My dear, your finger is broken.”

This is a reframe: when the perspective is shifted from the detail to the big picture.

The following is a story structure to help your client or participants create their own reframe.. It comes from the world of Applied Improvisation.

Step 1. Reflect on an issue in your personal or professional life that you would really like to change. Complete the following sentence:

Concerning this issue, I really want  … (fill in what it is that you want to see happen).

But… (list one to 3 things that are in the way of you achieving this outcome – things that are blocking or frustrating your efforts).

Step 2. Cross out the ‘But’ and replace it with the word ‘and’. Now the obstacles become mere conditions for the solution, they are no longer blocks.

Step 3. Complete a final sentence:

So what if … (what alternatives can you think of that accepts the conditions for the solution.)

Anexample from a workshop participant:

As the event co-ordinator of a large networking evening, I really want my guests to feel at home and set the scene for a wonderful event. I also want to enjoy the event myself.

But  AND I am not a good speaker, my hands shake and I am afraid I will forget important information. I stress so much that the whole evening is a blur usually.

So what if I rehearse a short welcoming speech to set the scene and then get an MC to co-ordinate the rest of the event, so I can sit back and enjoy it.

When all is lost, it is time for a reframe. A story that beautifully illustrates this reframe is the recent Lego movie. All seems lost when Emmet, the main character fall into the void, the abyss. His friends believe he is dead and their cause seems lost. In fact, Emmet simply falls off the table where the humans build their lego models. He is picked up by the boy playing there and from this big picture perspective Emmet’s entire world is reframed. With this insight he returns to save the day.

Reframing one’s failures and see them from a fresh angle can break through cosmic resistance.

In conclusion

It may seem as though a coach or facilitator needs to break through all five types of resistance before the learning can start. This is a deception: it is the very process of breaking through the different kinds of resistance itself that brings about learning and change. Once all five are eliminated around one particular idea, that idea had been accepted – learned.

What of applying the idea?

If you present and use talking to break through all the resistances, yes, then you have but pointed the way and your clients must still walk the path for themselves. But, if you coach and facilitate your way through then, the client is the one breaking through and the shift is not yours, but theirs. Though every new idea may need a new cycle of break through and it may feel like you are going in circles – it is each cycle of the wheel that makes the vehicle, and the client, move.

Need a coach?Contact Petro in Johannesburg or Burgert in Cape Town

Interested in a course in facilitation and coaching? Click here

Looking for an interactive session to ad ZING to  your event? Contact us.




Easing past social resistance

Who is in this with me?

Do I fit in?

EeyoreEvery coaching client or participant wants to know:  am I alone in this? Many times somewhere in a coaching session a client would ask something like: “Is it just me who have these issues?” or “I sometimes wonder of my situation is more messed up than other people’s”. Just yesterday one asked me: “Do other women also struggle with the fact that their male colleagues are allowed to rant and rave and get all emotional, but as women they get patronised when they get upset?”.

In facilitations, it is often feedback like: “we discovered that our problems are very similar” or “i am so glad I am not alone in this”, that helps the facilitator know that social resistance is breaking down. Yet, this is not one you can give a single blow and be done with, it can take some people a long time to feel part of a group. This type of resistance must be gently worked on throughout a coaching session or a facilitation.

In the Lord of the Rings Frodo has learned that he is chosen (breaking through personal resistance) he has learned that he can trust Gandalf  (relational resistance) and he has heard the plan (practical resistance). Now he trembles as he almost accepts his duty…”So I must go to Mordor and deliver this ring into the fires that created it. And I must go alone…” But Gandalf surprises him. The wizard gets up, opens the door and brings in Samwise who had been eavesdropping the entire time. Neither Samwise nor Frodo can believe their good fortune when Gandalf informs them that Samwise must accompany Frodo. Sam is thrilled because of the promise of adventure, Frodo is thrilled because he would not be alone.

Samwise becomes Frodo’s loyal companion and it is thanks to him that Frodo finally manages to achieve the objective. We all need loyal support when we accept a new idea, try out a new habit or open up to a new perspective. But there are other social forces too that are needed to make sure we succeed and we must work on all of them throughout a process. I will share six of them with you here. Note that they work together in pairs.

1. The Sidekick and the Sceptic

Samwise is an example of the Sidekick – someone usually in the same peer group as the hero (the hero is of course your audience member). It can help to tell a story or produce a testimonial from someone like them who has gone through a similar problem as them and successfully made it through.  It is even more powerful if you can let people in a team coaching session or facilitation share stories and they become each others’ supporters. Like Piglet for Winnie the Pooh it is important that people are supported unquestioningly and with positivity. Yet opposite piglet sits Eeyore…

Sceptics who end up succeeding provide the most powerful success stories. A sceptic’s voice is even more powerful when he/she is of a higher status than the general status of your audience: if their boss’s is willing to share their own story of struggle, it can be an especially meaningful experience for participants, especially of this person really struggled to accept a certain truth or perspective that may be useful for their learning. Piglets bring positivity into a room, but Eeyores bring gravity and credibility.  What would it mean to my client who asked the question about men and women in the workplace if she could talk to an influencail woman leader about her frustrations? Especially if it was also someone who were sceptical about voicing her thoughts out loud at first, but had begun to speak out?

2. Emotion and Reason

People need to know that they will be both emotionally and mentally accepted into the fold. They need to feel good about participating and be able to satisfy their logic. If both Tigger and Owl support take part, they will be likely to accept it too. Ever wondered why advertisements either use sex appeal or scientific proof to make their point? Your case is doubly stronger if you can do both. This is why so many presentations use either a celebrity or a professor’s quote or story to strengthen an idea.

In both coaching and facilitation it is important to strike a careful balance so that you make room for emotions and listen to them, but also provide models and structures for the brain to make sense of the learning.  It is, for instance, important for me to allow my client to explore both the feelings and logic around the different behaviour of men and women in the workplace. Focussing on feelings may make her feel that her experiences were only emotional and not also logical. Focussing on the logic could cause her not to deal with her emotions around it and keep her from reflecting on it rationally and come up with solutions.

3. The Guide and Contagonist 

When all is said and done, you as the guide will be inviting the audience into your peer group. They need to like and  trust you and they need to know if you like and trust them. But is extremely important in coaching and facilitation that you are careful to applaud or judge too readily. Because your status is very high, your response can cloud your clients’ reading of his or her own inner responses – inner responses that are essential for the long term success of your processes. Grateful acceptance of absolutely any contribution is vital so that people do not clam p and put up their defences once more.

You as Guide face the opposite energy of the Contagonist. These are people or ideas that will distract, tempt and confuse your audience. Your job is to guide them through these possible misunderstandings, distortions and false solutions that may be hidden in the ideas that arise in the process you are facilitating. Failing to do so will leave people vulnerable to failure, but will also leave the process open to criticism.  How you deal with distractions and confusing ideas is important to keep the faith of those who want to follow you through the woods to deeper insight and wisdom.

sometimes it may be important for you take a strong stand against interruptions and unmask them as disruptive threatening to highjack the process that people are on. How you handle such interruptions can greatly influence the levels of resistance in your audience.

But be careful, for seven whole volumes Harry Potter distrusted and suspected Severus Snape, but Snape ended up playing a vital role in saving both Hogwarts and Harry from destruction.  After Harry heard his true story,  sadly a little too late, Harry named one of his own sons after him. Like sceptic’s sometimes make the best witnesses, distractions can sometimes turn out to hold the best solutions.

My client’s question of earlier was the very kind of distraction I am talking about. We were just at the end of our session about how she could be more assertive in meetings and not so disengaged. My first reaction was to think that this question had nothing to do with anything until I realised that, in fact, it was at the core of her disengagement. Rather than risking becoming upset in meetings and be labelled as over emotional woman, she was checking out. The session went to a much deeper level after that.

When you can welcome loyal supporters, sceptics, emotion, reason and valuable distractions into the room, while at the same time modulating your own applause or judgement and handling negative distractions, you have reached the pinnacle of your career as coach and facilitator. This is indeed an art. The better you are at it, the less resistance there is in the room.

Of course, you can stack up all of your tricks to help people move past resistance and then a hand goes up at the back and they ask: So what is the plan? How will this work?  That is when you face practical resistance . More on this next time.

For more on the archetypes google Dramatica.

Click here to get more training in facilitation and coaching through Story-Strategy and Applied Improvisation




Relational resistance: Why should they trust you?

Demonstrating the magic

Picture of the lion Aslan

So, you have painted a picture of the possibility and opened a gap between the participants’ or client’s current reality and the ideal. Out of that gap arises five types of resistance, because to get to the ideal, they will have to change. You have begun to deal with personal resistance, but now you realise that some of them do not yet trust you. Sure, they can see that it is in their interest to change. They even see that it fits their own convictions to do so, byt why should you be the one to guide them across the gap? Why you?

The only reason why Frodo was able to go on that first leg of the journey to the land of Mordor, was because Gandalf told him to do so. Why does Cinderella do what the Fairy God Mother told her to do? Because it is the Fairy Godmother who told her to do it! But how did Gandalf get Frodo to trust him? And the Fairy Godmother Cinderella? By demonstrating their magic.

Yes, it helps to rattle off an impressive CV and it helps to list your credentials, but this is not half as powerful as turning pumpkins into carriages. You see, demonstrating magic simply means, letting your audience see ordinary things in a whole new light. What they thought were mice are really white horses and what they thought was an ordinary looking ring is turned into a powerful magic heirloom.

But this alone is not enough.

The magic provided must be personalised: the more it is personalised, the more pernanently resistance will dissolve. Cinderella could not go to the ball until she wore a dress perfectly fitted to her body, in a colour most flattering to her. And Frodo could only take up the ring knowing that only a hobbit like himself, who is resistant to its power, and only an heir of Bilbo, who knows how to have empathy with the weak, could do it.

Here are three of the most used ways in which I see people help the others to trust them by revealing their magic.

1. By revealing their knowledge and expertise

2. By sharing personal experience

3. By relating to the audience’s experience

But how personalised is it?

Let’s look at them more closely.

1. Demonstrating knowledge and expertise

How many times have you heard someone say from the front of a room something like: The Harvard School of business has proved that 93 % of a certain group of people do something a certain way, but in fact it is the 7% that is left that are successful.  Then you reveal the logic behind this finding giving facts, statistics and logical argument until, like that 7% your audience also sees the light.  If they buy the logic, they will buy you.

And then they go home and their friends or partner have a counter argument, how personalised was the magic? Can they rebuff?

2. Share your personal experience

The typical story here says: in 19 so and so, I faced this or that challenge, today I stand here having overcome, these are the simple things I did, the action I took,  to make it work.

This time you were the yahoo in the story and by trial and error, you saw the light and now you can share your innovations with the audience.  your magic. Your listeners believesyou, because you are living proof.

But how do they fit your solution to their personal context and reality? IS your identification with their pain strong enough and personalised enough?

3. Relating to the audience

The template fir this technique typically goes: you know how you sometimes do x, y, z only to discover a,b,c? How many times do we have to bang our heads against this same thing?

By citing typical behaviour and experience common to all human beings, you show how your listeners themselves intuitively know that these are the steps to take in spite of the doubts and questions they may have. You can do this with great humour as you typify universal experiences and satirise people’s common reactions.  . Again you have shown yourself to be the one to trust because you know them and you can even clarify their own muddled experience and make sense of it.

The better they can see themselves in your story and relate it to their own, the better the chances are that you have won them over for good. But what if you get it wrong?

I have to admit, I struggle with this one often, especially if I am not face to face to the audience, but writing a sales page for a training or coaching product. Speaking the language of the listener (client) is often the most tricky for me. This is because,  I do not blieve I have the right to presume anything about another person before checking with them about where they are. Too much helpful advise is given by people who have not listened to where the client is at. All the above methods are top down ways of working and might come across as patronising and self aggrandising. For starters, at the very least let someone else give your CV, not yourself. CV’s are important, they give context and gravity to who you are and help to build trust, but not if you have to deliver them yourself.

Far more important, though, is to allow the participants to try out your magic for themselves. Yes, tell them where it comes from and what your own background contributed to it, and then let them apply it to their own situation. The singularly most effective way to do this is to let them try it out.  Devise a taster of the tool, model or ideas to help them experience and make sense of it for themselves. Once you have done this, let then talk about it with their friends. A central principle of this way of working is SHOW, don’t TELL. Let them do the telling and so convince themselves that what you are offering fit their needs exactly. They have tried it, it works, you are not a liar and can therefore be trusted.

A story example

There is a powerful scene in C. S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ where the lion and mentor Aslan tell Peter that he will be a king. Peter does not trust Aslan in this. He says that he could not possibly be  a king, that Aslan must be mistaken. Aslan does not know how much of a coward he, Peter, is, Aslan does not really understand him, Peter, at all. While they are still talking an enemy wolf attacks Peter’s sisters, Lucy and Susan. Peter runs to attack the wolf and his friends want to assist him, but Aslan holds them back saying “This is his fight”. He allows Peter to fight with the wolf and kill him overcoming his own doubt.

Of course Aslan does not send Peter into the battle without a sword, but it is in using the sword that Peter makes it his own – in fighting his own battle, that he overcomes his doubt in Aslan.

However, it is not always possible to introduce the magic and personalise it in the same breath. Sometimes people need another step to know this will work for them. This is when they ask: “Who else is using this? Are there others like me who is also doing this or trying this out?” This is essentially a question about the ‘tribe’ that I will be part of when I buy in to these tools, ideas or models. More on this in the next installment answering the question: Who is in this with me?

Breaking through personal resistance

Call on the Hero’s Character

Golden ring from The Lord of the Rings

Once people catch on to a new idea, a new way of viewing a problem reframed as a possibility (Introduction), they must be enrolled as the heroes who can make that possibility happen.

As soon as your people start dreaming about new possibilities their status quo is threatened. This automatically leads to at least five kinds of resistance. The first kind is personal resistance.  Your audience is asking: Why me? How is this relevant to me?

The most effective strategy to overcome this kind of resistance is to make an appeal on the prospective hero’s character as revealed in their core values. From this perspective, personal resistance often relates to moral objection and can be extremely hard to address, if you don’t do it on the values level.

Why does Horton save the tiny city on the clover?

In Dr. Seuss’s Horton hears a Who Horton, an elephant,  take up the dangerous opportunity of saving the tiny city on the clover. His motivation? Because Horton believes “a person’s a person no matter how small”. It is this belief that sets him apart from the other creatures in the story – interestingly underlined by the fact that he himself is the largest ‘person’ in the story. This belief not only gets Horton to commit to the adventure, but also pulls him through when it becomes difficult to continue.

Gandalf convinces Frodo in Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to take on the treacherous journey to destroy the ring and save Middle Earth, by appealing to his Hobbit nature. It is because he is a Hobbit, that he can do it.

It is the ability of the guide or mentor to see the best in the hero that inspires the hero to take on the challenge. It is similarly the job of us as speakers and trainers to see the potential in our audience and view them as possessing the special qualities that will make them successful. In this way we begin to overcome personal resistance early on.

The teacher who looks at her class and sees difficult teenagers who would rather Mxit than learn, has a very hard time teaching them. Another teacher looks at the same group and sees teenagers desperate for something intriguing and worthwhile to learn.  She has a ball in class inspiring them to achieve new heights. She even uses Whatsapp in her learning strategy to help them internalise her teaching.

How do you enrole your audience as heroes?

Here are some examples we have used with success:

1. Name tags: At a youth conference we printed the designation ‘chosen one’ on the name tags worn by the audience identifying their roles as heroes with an important job.

2. Hand outs: with a vision and values alignment workshop we printed the handout in the form of a passport and enrolled the delegates as ‘ambassadors’ for the newly articulated vision and values statement…

3. Interactive devices: At a customer service training workshop of Spier Wine Farm, we asked the observing participants to be judges of apresentation enrolling them as the experts on customer service. We devised a tool whereby they could intervene and fix the service disasters we were presenting to them.

As we look over to our audience what do we see? People in need of our rescue or people endowed with exactly the right character and nature to make the change themselves?

Sure, you say, but what of those experiences where the resistance in the room and the skepticism is so thick you can cut it with a knife?

Here it may be helpful to remember that there are generally speaking two kinds of people in front of you: optimists and pessimists. Optimists are motivated by the dream of realising potential. When you paint the picture of possibility to them, they get motivated by that dream. These people are natural ‘yes and’ people. But there are also pessimists in the room, people who are motivated by the void. They see what is wrong, and what obstacles lie in wait. They get motivated by the idea of fixing the problem.

Once you have called the hero to action, you must open a space for people to air doubts and reservations. You can also allow some debate. If you don’t, the pessimists do not get a chance to see the obstacles and voice them, so they do not get motivated. You may experience this as negativity as a blocking ‘yes, but’ energy, but people do not have to be happy to be motivated to go on. As Adam Grant says in his article on The The positive power of negative thinking: “IF you want to sabotage a pessimist, make him happy’.

What is crucial, though, is not to think you have to answer the obstacle or show hoe to overcome it. Again, you will spoil the pessimist’s fun. All you need to do is create a space to hear the objections and validate them as being reasonable. The invitation here is for you to ‘yes and’ the objection, not ‘yes but’ it. If you block the objections, your audience will go into a threat response triggering the limbic system and then you have lost them. You can click here to read about strategies to help you work with doubts and reservations.

Being a wizard

In The Lord of the Rings Frodo gets very angry and resistant when Gandalf calls on his Hobbit nature as motivating ploy. But Gandalf does not try to argue with him, he listens patiently and then tells him a story about Bilbo that goes even deeper to the core of Frodo’s character. . The story talks about ‘the pity of Bilbo’ as a trait that could be the key to success. Frodo, who dearly loves his uncle and who is also Bilbo’s heir, understands the gravity of this idea that he had also inherited Bilbo’s nature as one who takes pity. He sees that he is the one to take up the challenge.

I must admit, I am seldom clever enough to take a doubt or reservation and turn it into a call on character – we are not all wizards. As long as you did not block the objections,  you can move on until you hit one of the other four types of resistance. Read the next installment dealing with relational resistance: “Why you? Why would you know how to help me?”