Sharing news of Scott & nudging you to live your questions…

By Nedra Chandler, about a 6-minute read

My husband Scott Graber died on the morning of December 17, when a speeding train came up to a rural crossing built at an uncommonly dangerous angle and crashed into him on the driver’s side. There were no cross-arms, lights or even a stop sign there to blast through ‘automated’ human habits of attention and non-attention.

The blunt force of the impact moved his entire heart over in his chest and threw his body, various garden squash, his thermos and about $3000 in cash went flying that his dad had handed him to pay a guy near Big Timber for some special seed corn. Scott landed in the field beside the tracks — not too far from his family’s little farm where he had spent the weekend fixing a roof and fishing the Bighorn River.

My friend Liz pointed out the irony that my last post just about a week before Scott died was about ‘life bombs’ showing up in the lives of our close friends. It was the first week of December and I wrote about a conversation I had with Scott on the way home from Thanksgiving. We talked together about how life is wonderful even though the truth is, as Scott said, “we’re all a bunch of critters” on this earth, where surprise is constant, where we are never running the show as much as we like to imagine. Let’s deal with what’s real.

I went down to my basement…

This thing, this fact that Scott is not alive in this world, sent me to my basement, literally to look for things; and emotionally, to check on my foundations. I am just now barely accepting that Scott is not here loving me, being my mate, co-parenting our kids, and serving as chief engineer of tools, things with motors or computers, and so much else.

Anyway, what I found down there was both solid and compromised. Our home was built in 1890 and the foundation is 18 inches thick — a sturdy survivor of two big earthquakes. I also went down to that wintry basement looking for my values and my sovereign Nedra self. Yeah, I re-found (is that a verb?) my core strengths. I re-noticed all the ways I lose my composure and focus and regain it again through my well-established habits of stilling my mind (my new turn of phrase for ‘meditation, thanks to Neurozone), moving my body, getting sleep and decent nutrition that I use every day. And, as my treasured professional coach, Rebecca Johns told me, “Nedra it seems the more grounded you are, the more expansive you are.” Wise words.

Enter a handy little liberating structure here: what are the facts? So what does it mean? Now what?

Here is that familiar cadence of always being somewhere on the constant move between the polar opposites of dread and joy, fear and courage, life and death, or at least deaths of things like innocence, marriages, jobs, and other deaths that may occur before each of our individual last breath in the body.

Scott’s life spoke

When I walked into the hospital room in Billings some hours after the accident and saw his body, I had this simple yet profoundly-felt awareness: Scott’s life spoke.”

Those words came directly into my thoughts. It was like his 50 years of life were concentrated into that one truth I was witnessing, and that knowing seemed to fill up the space with love and loss at the same time.

And then, “my life is speaking too — here I am still alive in this body, on this planet.”

Life is speaking on the days I feel crushing loss and on days I am completely thrilled to be alive. I remember how Scott laughed at Homer Simpson, looking at one of those ‘inspirational’ posters that says Live Each Day Like It’s Your Last. Taking the news to heart, Homer panics and runs off crying, “I’m too young to die!!!”

Today I know this: our lives speak whether we are paying attention to that or not.

Live the questions now

“Live the questions now” is an often-quoted line from poet Ranier Maria Rilke.

You are no doubt already ‘living your questions’ in your own way. I want to tell you how specifically grateful I am for one of the questions I answered nearly every night of the week in 2018: did I love Scott up and love him up specifically and on purpose today?” That question turned out to be pure gold for me, for Scott, for us. I put the other 10 daily questions I asked at the bottom of this post. Now, more Rilke:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…” 

Like you, like me, Scott had energy that ‘spoke’ every time he showed up. He composed his life through his presence and choices he made — investing his love, time, energy and money in particular ways.

Live the questions now. The quality of the questions we ask ourselves and ask each other have everything to do with the quality of our conversations, our work, parenting, governing – shaping our lives as individuals and our lives together with each other.

A nudge of encouragement and why

Who I am, how I live in the world, and I how I serve clients is forever affected for the better by having loved and married Scott. And now, forever changed by losing him as my mate. My blog audience is a band of current and past clients and work mates — some of whom have not yet heard from me about Scott. I am telling you about Scott’s death so that you know. So that you continue to know me, and me you.

Another business reason I want to tell you is because the only way you get the coaching results you want is when you and I are honest and trusting learning partners. I had a brave client ask me how I can be present to clients right now. It’s a reasonable question. I am in the middle of new territory and I haven’t yet adapted to my new normal, but I will.

Meanwhile, I sense and hear from a few I am doing some of my best coach partnering work right now. By working less for the near term, I am committed to keep the quality standard high. I am also expanding from working almost exclusively with government leaders and teams into the corporate world, thanks to my talented work mates and leaders at Elation.

Here is your nudge directly from my heart to yours: fulfill on your own commitments to yourself, your people, places, your sphere of influence. Seek and know the main questions you are living most days. When you can, choose what your life is saying. String one day together with the next and you compose this life.

A bit about me: I work with business and government clients and their partners as a professional coach and third-party facili-coach in navigating change, cultivating leadership and supporting organizational health. Thank you for the gift of your valuable attention. I appreciate you and I enjoy hearing back from readers. Find me here about once a month, find my current colleagues at Elation here, and my longtime work mates at Triangle here.

____

Some of the questions I lived in 2018: I used an automated tracking system called Topmind — a company founded by AJ Willemsen, a fellow coach in the Marshall Goldsmith cohort of Lead60 coaches. Thanks to AJ, I used it all of last year and it was surprisingly effective (and fun) in keeping me focused on what matters most to me. Knowing that at the end of each day I would get an email asking whether I fulfilled on my own commitments worked on me as I made decisions throughout each day.

What I mean by “worked on me” is that more of my intentions got real as I composed my human critter life day to day.

The truth is, I haven’t gotten around to re-subscribing to the automated system this year but I did take Marshall Goldsmith’s excel spreadsheet that he uses and generously shares and I revised my daily questions there. Truth: I nearly immediately fell off the wagon of answering them when I didn’t get prompted by the automated email.

I offer these questions of mine remembering that not everything that matters should be measured. Still, here are the questions I wrote and that landed in my inbox each day. Some have a Likert scale (1 low, 7 high), some have narrative, some were just yes or no.

  1. “Did I do my best to take care of my own energy and health today?” (I have sublists under this one about sleep, moving, stilling my mind and self-respecting nutrition that are specific for me here.)
  2. “Did I take care of my clients whatever that needed to look like today to keep them front and center knowing my work is all about them and their success?”
  3. “Did I spend my first 90 minutes at work with singular focus on my highest-impact work for today?”
  4. “Did I connect with Scott and love him up specifically and on purpose?” (I have sublists under this one for our kids and other people in particular but the measure wasn’t daily.)
  5. “Did I reach out to at least two prospective clients this week with whom I may want to work with in the coming year knowing that creating resonance with good-fit clients must be a consistent area of focus?”
  6. “Did I take care of this week’s focus for my business systems (billing, sending needed data to my accountant, backups, continuing education, credentials etc.)”
  7. “How well did I listen today?”
  8. “How present was I?”
  9. “Was I friendly with what is?”  (a la E. Tolle)
  10. “To what extent did I find and express some joy today?”
  11. “What are 3 things I know I was grateful for today?”

Here is the link to Scott’s obituary here.

‘Life bombs’ & rhythms I’m noticing

By Nedra Chandler, 3-minute read (thanks for photo used with permission from Bob Wheeler’s recent visit to Poland.)

We spent Thanksgiving at the small family farm run by my husband’s family in Eastern Montana. They have lots of critters running around: turkeys, chickens, goats, cats and dogs. With so much life, there’s always a story about how one or the other of the critters met their end. Coyotes, foxes, hawks, owls, snakes, raccoons are the critters and also eat the critters. Many of the critters end up on a table somewhere. We ate Wendy for Thanksgiving dinner.

My husband Scott and I were talking politics, culture, global warming and such when he said, “We’re all just a bunch of critters running around.” Gulp. My man is so…grounded.

I’ve shared his straightforward observation a few times in the past week in coach partner conversations. Because here we are right in the thick of our personal and shared critter reality. I hope this is useful to point out to those who read me. I find dwelling on this fact valuable in the same way I find poetry life giving.

It’s remarkable how many of the leaders and teams I am coaching with right now are facing health or other crises themselves or have family, employees, friends or neighbors who, like all of us if we wait some more months or years, we we will know serious jeopardy of some kind.

Here’s a meditation on that theme

Joy, joy, dread, dread, dread.

joy, joy, dread, dread joy.

Like that. The cadence of life. That’s my sense of my own current, approximate proportion of joy and dread and everything in between, both/and.

Not long ago I got a text message from one of us — could be any of us – saying, “I won’t be able to join you tonight at (event). We’ve had an unexpected ‘life bomb’ – a mass below (name’s) heart.” Cancer.

Lively life, suddenly breath taking. The inevitability of adversity parades through and makes itself noticed.

Another dear friend: same story, just many years younger, and trouble in slightly different locations in the body, but same narrative: life bomb.

Then a phone call with a former work partner: “You know Nedra, my life has taken a big turn. I have brain cancer. I am in the sit-and-wait-mode after surgery and chemotherapy. I have a lot fatigue. That’s the worst of it right now. I really can’t work and I wish I could. I miss it you know.”

Another phone call with a client from years back, letting me know he was dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease. I heard a surreal quality in his voice, strained across distance, saying with gallows humor, “yeah, you probably won’t see me alive again in this meat suit.”

There, in an instant: oh! Well hello death. Aren’t you the biggest bummer?

These moments exist right alongside the exhilaration of babies, wonderful relationships, music, great projects, mountains, poems, art, snow, bicycles, puppies and kittens.

Today, I really mean today, death stopped by my friend’s home with just a brief wave and said, “hi, I’m coming for you sometime, and coming for every single human, every living thing. Oh, and while I’m at it, I will also come for your sun.”

“Wait, what?! Our sun?!”

“Yeah, it’s just a star. It happens to be the one that warms the earth you depend on. Eventually, inevitably, I’m coming for it too.”

Father Uncle Cousin Kid!

That is a sneaky way to swear. Thank you Sally Crabtree, my brother-in-law’s mom who learned it as a young girl just after World War II.

I can still see the look of mild confusion on Bob’s face at last year’s company retreat just after he brought up the subject of our personal “bucket lists” and I threw a metaphorical bucket of cold water on the whole concept of having one at all. A bucket list, that is.

I was the bummer in the group. Instead of inspired to future trip I more often get the creeps and resist. Sort of, “I don’t want a bucket list! How about we be here right now?” For some unknown reason I blurted out into the fun others were having, “we’re all going to die you know. Death will come for all of us.” Nervous laugh, oops.

There was no thanks from Bob for my penetrating glimpse into the obvious. And, if you’re still reading here, maybe you aren’t thanking me either. That’s okay. I’m hellbent on expressing it anyway.

See? It’s freeing to just notice the rhythm of life’s dance back and forth from one side of this bridge in Krakow to the other. Between all kinds of polar opposite states of being, feelings, situations arising from inside and outside ourselves. We walk that bridge, run it, dance it, sleep on it. Sometimes moving faster, sometimes slower. Back and forth between dread and joy, fear and courage, life and death, or deaths of innocence, marriages, and other smaller deaths before each of our individual last breath in the body.

I can’t explain why I dwell here sometimes. It’s both disturbing AND so freeing. As a critter on this bridge I feel awake, a little extra awe.

joy, joy, dread, dread joy. Dread, dread, joy, joy, joy. A rhythm I can appreciate. An insight I can use: stop forgetting we’re all just a bunch of critters too. A bit about me: I work with government clients and their partners as a professional coach and third-party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Sometimes I just post what I’m musing about. Thank you for the gift of your valuable attention. I appreciate you and I enjoy hearing back from readers. Find me here once a month, more of my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and my colleagues at Elation. If you see something of value here for you or someone you know, please pass it along. Thank you.

So much happens in conversations…

By Nedra Chandler, 3-minute read

What conversations are you having today?

So many conversations miss the intended mark, don’t they? And yet so much happens through conversations if you’re present to the people you are relating with in that moment.

“Presence” & “practice”

By “present” I mean paying attention. Belonging to the conversation you’re having.

Presence takes practice, yet it can be as straightforward as noticing a few things in your immediate environment, as Ellen Langer, Harvard’s “Mother of Mindfulness,” points out in her compelling work. Search her on Google and you’ll find video clips and articles on this topic.

What we mean by practice is summed up by master coach and author Doug Silsbee below (thanks to Bebe Hansen’s post of this quote from Doug):

Coaching conversations, online/on demand content, team building and what else?

Triangle Associates and Elation Inc. teams work with leaders, groups and organizations in all kinds of settings. Those of us here who focus on organizational health work together to design a whole range of half-day to multiple-year engagements that support leadership growth and evolution.

I am a credentialed executive coach who works mostly with government leaders and teams. My practice is expanding through referral. I’ve noticed that many come to me with some version of a commitment: “I want better energy and stamina than I have now” or “I am committed to building greater trust in my team.”

Mastering your own mindset is at the heart of both those desired results of our clients. We work together while you discover for yourself how you’re going to show up and own the skills you already have in these areas, or further develop them. If that’s your commitment and you practice, it’s a given: you will manage your energy. You will build greater trust. The work unfolds in a series of conversations and structured-yet-still-organic work with key elements of grounding, awareness, choices, and practice.

Returning to the example of managing your energy, you might decide to learn and apply relevant neuroscience. Along with many other public and private clients, a National Park Service team we have worked with for over a year is now using our online content here to support them.

Daily life itself has an uncanny knack for showing us what’s needed and what’s most important. So while life continues to be a great teacher no matter what, moving through the Elation’s self-paced content on your own or in groups is one effective way to expose yourself to, for example, key content on:

  • the unconscious brain
  • fast and slow thinking
  • cognitive bias
  • social brain
  • fixed & growth mindsets
  • personal accountability
  • quieting the mind, and
  • brain-body system.

Here is a playful-yet-challenging invitation to practice something today if you’d like

  1. When you converse today, notice your assumptions, listen, and dial those assumptions back.
  2. Maybe you don’t know what someone meant? Ask.
  3. Use your authentic strengths and skills while you listen to connect.
  4. Notice that you might feel different listening to connect than when you are listening to judge.

What are you learn and apply from this experience even one time through?

I’m so curious what you think about 2 things now

What do you see are the key features that will work best for you in a package of coaching services for government leaders and teams?

And what are your thoughts about artificial intelligence-based coaching? Is there a demand for that in your world? In a recent article from the Coach Federation, Matt Barney, Ph.D wrote,

Coaching AI is poised to dramatically grow the coaching industry by disrupting money people already spend with the training industry. I suspect this is likely because most trainers know that very little of training transfers to the job, whereas our coaching approaches are always grounded in helping clients achieve their goals and adapt as the engagement proceeds. Coaching AI allows a typical coach to improve the scope of impact and grow business without hurting current non-technology enabled coaching engagements.

Please send your perspectives to: cadence@montana.com. Thank you!

A bit about me: I work with government clients and their partners as a professional coach and third-party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me here once a month, more of my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and my colleagues at Elation. If you see something of value here for you or someone you know, please pass it along. Thank you.

Are you triggered?

By Nedra Chandler, 5 minute read and practice

Thanks to friends and colleagues sharing heartfelt expressions, here are a few sentiments that especially stand out in the past 24 hours, some triggered by the vote in the Judiciary Committee, some just about ‘what is’:

“I am struggling under waves of lifetimes of what women navigate — the violence and the silencing.”

“Just rage. Weeping now. That’s all.”

“When do we start burning it down? Is that today?”

“The future of leadership will have more yin in it. feminine and masculine together both/and. Yin and yang.”

“I am casting a net now for all the wild beauty I can find.”

A practice for coaching yourself

If you are feeling triggered or transported to personal or collective trauma, here is your invitation to use this practice called above and below the line as much as you have an appetite for right now. I got it from the author Jim Dethmer who adapted work of  Michael Bernard Beckwith. Please share the work as far and wide in the service of conscious leadership.

You know I’ve been geeking out practicing the ins and outs of conflict prevention and coaching moves since 1990. I’m telling you “4 ways of leading in the world” is gold. This is a significant resource I want you to have and I’m betting you’ll use. Jim Dethmer, the author of it (with Kaley Warner Klemp) told us he is glad to have us share it far and wide. This post is primarily for coach clients and other coaches in my network who are practicing with their own states of awareness on purpose. 

The context for using the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation was just a door through which I wanted to share this post, because I experienced the flow of so much emotion into my own community life (and my inbox) about it. It seems to me it’s excessively triggering me and so many of us at this moment that I abandoned my other post about Lumina Learning and decided to share this instead for the September post.

Back to the practice. Yesterday Dethmer led a group of us (professional coaches I’m happy to be studying with for the next 3 months) through his 1-page visual he calls “4 ways of leading in the world” and related 1-pager called “above and below the line.” Both visuals need very little explanation and can take less than a minute to practice once you grok it. At the very end of my post here, if you want a sample, I’ve offered you a step-by-step version of how to use them. Easy.

“Remember, through practice we grow in our awareness and that’s the point,” he said, “shifting in our states of consciousness.” Jim is a master coach, author and founder of The Conscious Leadership Group.

You’ll find the links to Dethmer’s source documents at the bottom of the post.

States of Being — or “ways of leading in the world”

Dethmer says probably most of us will spend our lifetimes moving between and among 2 or 3 of these states all the time. Period. He calls the states (only showing 1 to 3 here, of 4 total):

“To me” (life happens to me);

“By me” (I make life happen);

“Through me” (I cooperate with life happening);

Summary: to me, by me, through me. Three states of being.

You are probably like most of us: scared and triggered at times. “To me” might sound like: “Someone should fix this.” “Whose fault is this?” “Why me?” That comes and goes and comes and goes through life. So, it makes sense to practice with all the moves, but especially the one between “to me” and “by me.”

“By me” might sound like, “I’m so curious!” “What can I learn here?” “What do I want?” The point is to start noticing ‘where you are’ between these two states at any given moment. Why notice? Because then you have a choice to stay there or shift your state on purpose.

Have I lost you? If so, I predict you’ll see his 1-page visual and say, “I get it now. I can use this.”

Dethmer asked us to play with this reality that we move all the time between acceptance/trust “above the line” and resistance/threat “below the line.” And he even made a guess that probably about 95% of us spend about 95% of our time below the line. That’s the line: managing threats below the line, surrendering to trust above the line. Stick with me now, this is going to get real.

These are not “stages” of adult development, they are states of being. It’s not like we move through and ascend. We move around back and forth all the time between these states of states of being.

Dethmer points out that when we are in fear/defense mode it’s often about survival and flight, fight or freeze. In that state, we are “not available” to stabilize ourselves and make a different, conscious choice about what we are learning, what we can create, and what ‘wants to happen’ through us. As in neurobiologically: not much available.

That stuff above the line where we sort of come undone and can see “see unlimited possibility,” wonder and awe comes at a price of “surrender.”

Think of intense gateways of pain you’ve already come through where you could not fight, collaborate, withdraw, or win. That’s surrender.

About birthing babies as one example…

One personal experience I don’t mind mentioning in a business blog (ha!) is the opening and dilation of my cervix to a full 10 centimeters to allow for the birth of my 9-pound babies. At the end it was total surrender.

It seems to me that not all “intense gateways of pain” seem to yield such obvious benefits (e.g., babies), yet that’s where trust comes in, cooperation: “where acceptance meets fear.” Ah, there we are. Now we’re learning. Now we’re asking, what’s life showing us? What wants to happen here?

Those of you who are my coach clients and partners, “where are you now?” Just notice. Once you notice, your choices open up, don’t they? They sure do for me.

Optional look at how I assessed a few moments for me

I checked out the quick list of  sample “statements, behaviors and beliefs” above and below the line and was asked, what one or two things in each column feels or sounds like me?

Below the line, my own self talk included:

Statements: most similar to my talk track: “they don’t get it.”

Behaviors that stood out for me: “get overwhelmed.”

Beliefs included: “there is a threat to me occurring out there.”

Finish playing this with me now by looking at  the list of sample statements in what sounded true above the line:

My Statements: “I feel worried about this Supreme Court nomination.”

My Behaviors: “breathe” and “take responsibility” and “appreciate my friends and community” (as well as organizers, and ultimately leaders in the Senate who will vote “no.”)

My Beliefs: “there are more than just one or two possibilities…” and “all people and circumstances are my allies.”

Go here to get the two 1-page visuals

  • Go to https://conscious.is/resources
  • Scroll down to “handouts”
  • Look at the one-pager “4 Ways of Leading” first
  • Now play with the one-pager “Locating yourself: Above or Below the Line”
  • Heightened awareness. Now what state do you choose? There is no “right” answer…really

Thank you Jim Dethmer and Conscious Leadership for your generous gift of this practice for us as we lead ourselves through yet another challenging moment, and the next, and the next.

A bit about me: I work with government clients and their partners as a professional coach and third-party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me   at http://www.cadenceinc.us and more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com. If you see something of value here for you or someone you know, I’ll appreciate it if you pass it along. 

By Liz Moore, on the Little Blackfoot by Avon

Did you check what people are ready for?

By Nedra Chandler

Earlier this summer, our local school bond did not pass.  I know people who voted both ways—including many who voted against this bond who normally support public schools and increasing school funding.

The complex politics, issues, and emotions surrounding the Helena Montana school facilities vote make me wonder if this community could benefit from a readiness check, or a continuing flexible series of them in the coming few years.

A Readiness Check Because Humans are ALWAYS Ready for Something…

Here’s the thing: every individual, every relationship, community… every situation is ready for something, some positive next step to increase effectiveness and satisfaction.  The overarching questions are what and how?  What IS this situation ready for?  How does a community discern and commit to a process to follow next?

In the case of the Helena schools issue—and with every situation ripe for a readiness check, the process can unfold by asking good, evocative questions, and then listening closely to the answers.  For example:

  • Is the School Superintendent and Board of Trustees ready to engage with the community?  What is their realistic commitment to do so?  How can the community support them as well?
  • Are other interest groups, local citizens and key governmental entities ready to engage with the school board and with each other?
  • What facility issues do our kids need us to address in the near term? Which ones are urgent?  How do we decide the difference between “needs” and “wants”—and how do we make sure the needs are met?
  • What might be held onto and used most directly from the last 5 years of planning that will help the community move into the next phase?
  • What habits of communication might need shifting in this new phase?
  • What is the community capacity to show up and engage at this time?
  • What are the various preferences, ways and means people want to be engaged?
  • How can decision-makers and the broader community help make sure  under-represented interests are heard and have influence in this next phase of decision making?
  • How best to design the next process and levels of effort (and ease) and time commitments that are realistic – a process that concludes in doable and funded actions?

The power in asking these and other readiness questions is that, right there, in those focused moments of being genuinely asked and listened to, people tend to dig in and discover for themselves where they can go next.  Individuals, groups, and related governmental participants begin to see how things might be shifted for the better or improved.  That’s powerful.

Pursuing answers to these questions gives shape to the next step. It might take time before Helena is ready to re-engage in dialog that results in action.  Figuring out timing and best possible process and content for the situation at hand is what readiness checking is all about.

So perhaps the next step is taking a step back and resting and re-grouping. Or maybe it’s engaging in only tangentially related community-building.  What I mean is things like kickball games, a shared field trip to visit another city like Billings that has faced similar challenges, a few inclusive potlucks to bring community members and sometimes-adversaries to the same table to share a meal, or a painting project at a local school – you get the idea.  These types of activities sometimes have great spillover effects on working relationships and capacity to get a lot accomplished over time.

After that, it may be time to check in yet again: What is the community ready for now? What is a suitable next deliberate process to follow that gets to decisions? How will the work be realistically funded and carried out?

See how lightly we can treat these readiness checks?  Readiness checking doesn’t have to be ultra-slow and laborious.  And yeah, we will want to help each other avoid falling in love with only our own limited explanations or judgments about how we handled the last 5 years. I hear people talking more and more about moving on to the next best steps we can take.   Together.  Better together.

Readiness Checker Steps Reduced to 6 Flexible Steps

Keep it Time Limited – 30-90 Days or so depending on number of interviewees.

  • Formulate an artful set of questions specific to the situation. What is working (do and be more of that!) and what is not (a little less of that moving forward?)  What is the situation ready for?  What is the compelling vision of the future the participants want to create together day to day, over the next few years even? What are the policies in place now and where is there room to make small or larger shifts?
  • Identify a diverse group of people with a stake in the process and the results. Interview them individually using the questions developed in step one above.
  • Listen carefully. Synthesize the responses you get, looking for common threads. Summarize the themes that you find.  Ideally:  find some visual images that correlate with the word themes to have more impact and memorability.
  • Check the key themes, unattributed to any one interested person or group. Check back in a group setting with everyone you asked and, ideally, everyone else who has a role in carrying out the package of action steps that will likely follow. Why? So people can hear each other and give the themes an accuracy check. Are these themes valid? Ask:  “is this where we want to take this situation next? Is this the process you’d like to follow next?”
  • Listen again and check for agreement on direction.
  • Take action where it makes most sense. Remember to check in with participants themselves:  what worked, what can be improved next time you engage like this? Listen, listen listen. Invite people, “tell us more…”

There is no real orthodoxy about these steps, yet the process is important

Repeat from Step 1 as needed.  There is no orthodoxy about these steps.  Each readiness check is about preparing the path for the next deliberate phase of work.

Morris Udall wrote, “Politics and issues come and go but in the end we’ll all be remembered for the way we treated each other.”  Community organizing and governance work doesn’t ever really end, does it?  We make some moves and situations unfold.  What is Helena ready for next?