"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Posts tagged with "Consulting"

An Action Package for Managers, Part II

In Part One of this blog series we shared a story about how Global Learning Partners (GLP) and pro mujer collaboratively built the skills of managers in the context of their day-to-day work. If you didn’t get a chance to watch the video about that process, enjoy it here.

In this post we briefly show how the structure and implementation of the learning program for managers reflect critical principles of adult learning.

To start, take a close look at the snapshot, above. The green paths are three, six-week periods of self-directed on-the-job learning. The red circles are four in-person gatherings, called “refueling stations.” Each of the carefully facilitated in-person gatherings:

  • is built on a concrete set of learning objectives that name what the managers will have done by the end of the time together;
  • balances action with reflection, allowing time for managers to exchange past experiences around a particular aspect of their work, and plan for how they will approach that aspect moving forward; and,
  • focuses on relevant content, prioritized through both self-assessment and outside perspective.

During the weeks of self-directed learning, managers used personal workbooks with a consistent structure to try out new skills on the job as exemplified in the box below. On the recommendation of managers during the rapid pilot phase, each workbook begins with a proposed timeline for pacing themselves through the self-directed learning.


Key Skills

Step One: Reflect

e.g. Reflect on which leadership qualities you exhibit most consistently.

Step Two: Discover

e.g. Read this one page resource about feedback and select one strategy you’ll use this month.

Step Three: Try It Out

e.g. Select three staff from whom you would value feedback on your work. Adapt this draft invitation for their feedback and review these tips for how to accept their feedback well.

Step Four: Plan

e.g. Use this action sheet to capture one thing you will continue and one thing you might do differently as a result of the feedback you received.


We congratulate pro mujer staff in Mexico, Peru, Nicaragua and Bolivia for the collaborative design and implementation of a practical action package built entirely on the true meaning of “learning by doing.” This has been exciting work!

What ideas for “learning by doing” does this two-part blog inspire in you?


Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP; Christine Little (christine@globallearningpartners.com) is a Partner and Core Consultant with GLP. Feel free to contact either of them to learn more about this work.

An Action Package for Managers, Part I

Do you sometimes find that training doesn’t stick? Watch a four-minute case study with a creative approach to taking new skills out of the workshop and into the workplace.


Keep an eye out for Part Two of this blog for a closer look at this work.

What ideas for your organization does this blog inspire in you?​


Valerie Uccellani (valerie@globallearningpartners.com) is a GLP co-owner and Managing Partner of our Consulting network, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP; Christine Little (christine@globallearningpartners.com) is a Partner and Core Consultant with GLP. Feel free to contact either of them to learn more about this work.


The Art and Skill of Engaging People

As more leaders recognize that working in silos does not achieve the extraordinary results that can come with cross-department, cross-discipline, cross-sectoral collaboration, the question then becomes: “How do we engage people?” 

Humanity now seems to be shifting beyond me to we, beyond sales to service and beyond ambition to inspiration. Many people seek meaningful contribution—more than just a job.  So the art and skill of engaging people becomes critical as people awaken to new opportunities to make a difference.




















 Consider these 15 tips to set the stage for effective engagement:

  1. Power.  Know that your power as a leader is in how you influence the network of conversations you are a part of.  Engagement is implicit in all you do.
  2. Positivity.  Deepen self-awareness by reflecting on how can you expand your influence effectiveness by becoming fluent in positive self-talk.
  3. Clarity.  Reflect on who you want to attract to your vision or project by clearly defining the ideal audience.  Who are the natural champions with a similar interest?
  4. Authenticity.  Rather than use the ‘sales’ paradigm in trying to get others to buy-in, speak authentically about what you care about.  Resist the urge to manipulate, convince or cajole.
  5. Non-Attachment.  Be prepared to let go of the outcome you want and instead co-create what is mutually desirable.  This way of co-constructing typically generates more ownership. 
  6. Connection.  Two universal human needs are connection and creative expression.  Frame your project as a way for others to get and receive support and a way to share their unique talents.
  7. Meaning.  Help people make meaning out of their situation by asking how they can be a part of creating something new.   Transform complaints by generating action with a powerful ask.
  8. Value.  A principle of engagement is that people will take action if there is perceived value.  So communicate from that place, meeting people where they are and speaking to what they desire.
  9. Trust.  People will take part in new ventures if they trust you.  So practice trust-building by saying what you mean, doing what you say, listening with empathy and following through on promises.
  10. Motivation.  Understand the pain/pleasure principle as it relates to motivation.  People will take action if there is sufficient angst and/or if there is an enticing vision.    
  11. Vision.  When speaking about your vision, paint a vivid, compelling picture using words, images and metaphors to help people understand the fullness of what you are offering.
  12. Listen.  Notice the field of listening of your audience.  Tune into the music between the notes or the message behind the words.  Get curious as to their background conversation and interest. 
  13. Possibility.  Do not be seduced with scarcity thinking in assuming that others will not be interested or be too busy. Explore what’s possible by uncovering creative strategies to collaborate.
  14. Requests.  Get clear on your request and make it positive and do-able.  Have a back-up request just in case you hear a decline.  Be sure to make a promise as a sign of your commitment.
  15. Commitment.  What precedes action is commitment.  If people have competing commitments, tease apart their needs hierarchy.  Get clear on expectations and celebrate success.

Elizabeth Soltis is the founder and director of Bridges Global, a community and organizational development company that specializes in empowerment, leadership and collaboration services. As a bridge-builder in all regions of the world, Elizabeth has a passion for connecting people to their sense of purpose, to others and to the earth.  She enjoys facilitating and coaching people as they expand their thinking, express their creativity and live their potential.  Engaging people in a transformational process that is meaningful, liberating and uplifting is how Elizabeth defines success.  Visit www.bridgesglobal.net for more resource offerings.



What Do You Think Causes Malaria? Asking Questions Appropriately

The other day I had a conversation with an international DE practitioner who really got me thinking. She said: 

The GLP approach is great -- I believe in dialogue and open questions to make dialogue happen. But, people also need information! Especially in the fields of public health and financial literacy, there are right and wrong answers to questions. The dialogue approach I've seen poses questions to which any answer is correct and that's just not always the case. It's not useful to ask "what do you think causes malaria?" The people in our groups are busy trying to make ends meet -- they want to talk but they also came to learn something -- not just talk. I'm not sure the dialogue approach is right for that.

Well, I agree with her wholeheartedly -- and not at all.

Over the years, I've also seen many practitioners needlessly pose questions to which there is a correct answer. I think people understand that engaging learning involves asking questions and as a result they can become so intent on asking instead of telling that they can go too far and ask what could more easily be told. For instance:

  1. How does the pill work to prevent pregnancy?
  2. How do companies calculate credit score?
  3. What is official poverty rate in your city?

Any one of us could generate a zillion and one questions to which there is indeed a correct answer. But these are typically not the questions we want to pose to learners (unless, of course, our learners are taking a test to pass an exam as a public health nurse, a financial advisor, or a worker for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families).

Dialogue Education practitioners need not feel shy about telling instead of asking. The trick – as described years ago by our very own Dr. Jane Vella – is this:

Don't tell what you can ask. Don't ask if you know the answer - tell in dialogue.

That's always been a tough axiom for folks to grasp in our introductory course. And, I dare say, it's a hard one for even some seasoned Dialogue Education practitioners to fully internalize. 

Here's how I might transform the three questions above from simple asking to telling in dialogue, with this axiom in mind.

  1. Watch this video clip that shows the action of a pill to prevent pregnancy. How does this alter your perspective about when life begins?
  2. Study this pie graphic showing six factors that contribute to credit score. Which of these factors do you imagine has most influenced your personal credit score?
  3. Examine this chart comparing poverty rates in 5 U.S. cities (adjusted for differences in the definition of poverty). What surprises or alarms you?

This was fun! It's much more rich, as a designer, to provoke dialogue around facts than to try and "fish" for information from people who came to you to learn that very information.

How might you transform the question "What Causes Malaria?" into a rich dialogue?


Valerie Uccellani is a Senior Partner with Global Learning Partners.

10 Tips for Co-Facilitating

Teaching, training, or facilitating with someone else is very different from doing the same work on your own. Here are some tips to ensure you are successful:

  1. Check in with each other in advance. As soon as you know you will be working with each other, get together to plan. You need to agree on the timing, who will do which sessions and what roles and responsibilities you each have.
  2. Tell your co-trainer what you expect and need. The first time you meet, tell each other what you expect from a co-trainer and how you work best. Everyone has a different understanding of co-training and this needs to be shared before you work together.
  3. Check in with each other during the training. When possible and necessary during each session, check in with each other briefly. Sometimes, for example, you just need to tell the person you are going to end early or that you will need paper, but sharing this information can help the flow of the workshop and minimize frustration. The best time to check in with each other is during breaks. Avoid talking to one another when learners are working on their own rather than listening attentively to the dialogue.
  4. Check in with each other before and after the training. Before the training you need to check in with each other about what you are planning to do and if anything has changed since you last spoke. After the training you need to check in to share your thoughts on how the session went, what needs to change in the following session, and what could be done better next time. Because ‘the unexpected’ can always happen, checking in before and after a session is critical. This is also a great time to affirm each other.
  5. Support your co-trainer. While your co-trainer is leading an activity you should be fully attentive to what he or she needs and what the group may need that you can best do. Helping your co-trainer hand out paper, support a confused working group or tape something on the wall, can help him or her be more focused on the task at hand and keep up the energy of the group.
  6. Don’t interfere. While your co-trainer is leading an activity, don’t interfere or contradict him or her (unless it is critical to the learning). You need to stay focused on what is happening so that you can support your co-trainer without being an interference or burden.
  7. Set personal and team goals. Before you teach, name 1-2 things you want to remember and work on in the session. If you share these with your co-trainer, you can also get feedback on these goals at the end of the session. Setting team goals is also a great idea.
  8. Stay on time. Always try to stay within your delegated time frame. The sessions are often scheduled for a short amount of time, where every minute is valuable and accounted for. If you use more than your allotted time, it will impact your co-trainer’s activity and the learning that needs to happen.
  9. Affirm each other. Whenever possible and true, affirm your co-trainer. Everyone feels nervous about teaching, especially to peers. You need to take every opportunity to tell your co-trainer what he/she is doing well.
  10. Work as a team. At all times, you want the learners to see the two of you as “a team.” Support each other, affirm each other in front of the group, and weave the work your co-trainer did into your work. You want the learners to think “Wow, you work well together!”

What would you add?


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10 Tips for Using Guidelines

Guidelines in Life

Using guidelines during a learning or work event can be extremely helpful (and sometimes paramount to a successful session!). Below are a few things to keep in mind for ensuring they are relevant, needed, and meaningful.

  1. Use Guidelines for especially difficult groups or topics, multi-day events, or when you think issues around power may arise. Generally, shorter events don’t have Guidelines.
  2. Use Operational Guidelines that everyone understands will always be used for regular meetings. It would be healthy to create these with the group initially, and then check in again as needed. They can be read aloud and changed as needed.
  3. Always invite the group to suggest most of the guidelines. It’s good to start off with one or two that are important to you, but then the rest should come from the group.
  4. Always make sure that every individual agrees to the list generated. I sometimes ask people to raise their hands or nod their head if I know the guidelines are critical or were not easy to write. This should be done quickly, but then you really know everyone has agreed and you can hold them accountable.
  5. Post the guidelines somewhere visible to all. It is important that you be able to gesture to them as you read them, and that people can remind themselves, as needed what they promised.
  6. Take time agreeing on “the cellphone issue.” Everyone has different ideas about this and the issue can carry emotional “energy,” so it is best to really open it up to make sure there is true agreement.
  7. For a multi-day event, check in at the beginning of each day to see what needs to be added or changed, and to make sure everyone is still in agreement.
  8. On the first day of a multi-day event or even on a 1-day event, check in with the list (quickly) after lunch. Sometimes things change or something happens around which people realize they need a new guideline.
  9. If someone is not following the guidelines, it is best to first check in with them privately. Sometimes people forget or misunderstand guidelines and just need to be reminded. Sometimes they don’t really believe they are “serious,” in which case you will need to clarify this.
  10. I always include a guideline about personal needs:  “Attend to your personal needs.” This gives people “permission” to stand when needed, get a coffee or go to the bathroom without having to ask.

What would you add?


Blog post author Jeanette Romkema is teaching Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 13-16, 2012. Please join us!

15 Tips for Effectively Working with Interpreters

By Jeanette Romkema and Christine Little

TranslatorInterpreters are crucial partners when facilitating dialogue in multilingual groups. The goal of any training, workshop, presentation or meeting is to build understanding. This is much harder when the facilitator doesn’t speak the language of the group, or a subset of the group does not speak the main language of the event. But it can be done, and language barriers may even improve dialogue when people are more intentional about really listening and trying to understand each other. Here are some road-tested tips for facilitators when working with interpreters.

Three kinds of interpretation

Simultaneous interpretation – Via headphones, listeners hear a session in their own language as interpreted by someone in the interpreter’s box, or through someone whispering in their ear almost at the same time as the original speaker is sharing it. This allows for almost ‘natural’ conversation between the speaker and the group.

Asynchronous interpretation – Listeners hear a session in their own language from an interpreter at the front of the room after it is first said by the speaker. This usually means your time is doubled because everything is shared twice.

Whisper or elbow interpretation – The interpretation is simultaneous but there is no equipment and no interpreter’s box. A whisperer literally whispers in the trainer’s ear everything that is being said in the large group, or sits near and interprets for a small subset of the group which doesn’t speak the main language used in the event.

NOTE: The terms ‘interpreter’ is often confused with ‘translator’. However, they are not the same. An interpreter works with spoken language and a translator works with written language.

  1. Budget more time. Even if the session uses a lot of dialogue in small groups, conversations in the large group, questions, and instructions for group work take more time. Budget twice as much time for asynchronous interpretation.
  2. Use pair, trio, and group work more often. This gives everyone a break from listening to the interpretation (regardless of which type is used) and gives needed breaks to the interpreter. Working through interpreters is tiring work for all involved. Small group work, in their own language, will get everyone talking, build engagement and increase the energy level.
  3. Give participants a translated copy of the workshop/course/meeting design. Writing the entire plan, activities, and resources out on handouts or in a course binder will help the group stay on track and reduce confusion. Bilingual people often find it especially helpful to have the entire course or meeting proceedings in both languages. 
  4. Give all of your written materials to the interpreter in advance. The more you can give to your interpreter beforehand, the better able that person will be to effectively interpret for you. He or she can study and ask about key terms, highly referenced theories, or critical charts. A prepared interpreter is a valuable asset!
  5. Meet with your interpreter to talk through how you want to work together. For example, the interpreter may want you to speak more slowly. You may want the interpreter to let you know (aloud and in the moment) when they sense something is still unclear in the group or if they are unclear about what you are saying. If you haven’t worked with interpreters before, ask them what works well in their experience.
  6. Write up and translate all in-the-moment changes. As we work our way through a session, we may need to make changes based on what we see and hear in the room. To minimize confusion,  ask someone to write these on flip chart paper or a slide so everyone knows what is happening.
  7. Ask the interpreter for advice. Ideally your interpreter is intimately familiar with the culture and language of the people you are working with. He or she may offer insights about how your content or activities will work with the group. This valuable information can help you plan.
  8. Budget time to test interpretation equipment. There is nothing worse than wanting to get started and having technical difficulties! Budget time in advance of the session to make sure everyone has the proper equipment, knows how to use it, and knows what to do if it is not working.
  9. Check in often to be sure the technology is working. People will experience technical difficulties. They may suffer in silence. Check in, and be sure to tell people it is okay to stop everything till the issue gets resolved. (Remember, this is about dialogue!) Once the norm is firmly established, people will help themselves when technology fails.
  10. Insist that people use their equipment when others speak an unfamiliar language. Sometimes we get lazy or think we know more than we do, so we take our headphones off, and “wait it through” while others speak their language. This may create pressure for others to take their headphones off. Besides the obvious cost in understanding, this trend limits participation. Speakers from other language groups will soon stop speaking, when they see that others are not making the effort to listen. 
  11. Use a ‘whisperer’ instead of asynchronous interpretation. Using simultaneous interpretation is wonderful when the trainer is speaking and everyone is wearing headphones. However, if you are working with 2-way asynchronous interpretation (often for budgetary reasons), using whisper interpretation when the group is speaking can keep the energy up, save time, and make the conversation more natural.
  12. Choose your small groups intentionally. Form small groups in a way that learners can really communicate with each other. Find out who is bi-lingual and use them as a resource. If possible, have a bi-lingual person in each group so that you have the option of joining in with groups when/if needed. This will also help when writing on flip charts or using other untranslated materials.
  13. Trust your participants. It can feel lonely when learners are all engaged in a dialogue and you are sitting outside of it. However, give yourself permission to see the exciting dialogue in the room as the sound of learning happening! As good facilitators of learning, we want to see learners engaged in the content – and doing this in their mother-tongue will make this easier and more engaging. 
  14. Trust your instincts. You know the sound (and look) of people who are un-engaged. When you notice the energy in the room is going down interest is wandering, or people are finished, it is time to check in or move on or change the task. It is amazing what we can understand without knowing a language!
  15. Don’t translate all the group work. We naturally want to know/see everything that is written on flip chart paper and other visuals, but choose carefully what you spend time translating and when. Some written work is important for the group or individual, but you only need to hear the summary shared in the large group (or maybe not at all!). Translate the written work that you need to refer to or build on later. Bilingual participants or your interpreter may be able to translate on the same paper during a break.

What tips would you add?


Both authors have worked extensively in languages other than their own and Jeanette Romkema is teaching Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach (in English, but open to non-English speakers) in her home town of Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 13-16, 2012. The course is filling up quickly, so register today!

Goodbye TMI, Hello LIM (Less is More)


Too much information (TMI), or information overload, is a spot many curriculum designers find themselves in when preparing for a new workshop or course; even the most experienced person can hit TMI when he or she is taking on a new teaching topic. Sometimes before we are ready and able to narrow down the content we're using in a learning event, we need to gestate. And, there comes a time where we must make a decision, as painful as this can be; we must choose which content will stay and which will go.

If you have taken enough time to gestate, and are feeling stuck or overwhelmed by the amount of content you're facing, here is a strategy* to move on to the next step of streamlining your content.

  1. Number a page from 1 to 100, leaving room for a word or phrase next to each number.
  2. Title your page: What content is needed for ____________________? (Fill in the blank with the title of your workshop or course).
  3. Now, as quickly as possible, without thinking, list every piece of content (word, phrase or sentence) that is needed for this learning event. Do not stop until you have reached 100 (this is very important). Do repeat any item as often as needed to keep writing. This usually takes from 20 to 30 minutes, depending upon how fast you write.
  4. When you have finished your list of 100, read through and group your entries into categories or themes (you will usually find 4 to 7). A tip for categorizing: use abbreviations for the categories so that you can mark each entry easily.
  5. Now count the number of entries to determine how many pieces of content are within each theme. Calculate the percentage of each theme to the total, which gives you an idea of the percentage of time you'll need to spend on each theme. The entries themselves provide the sub-topics within each theme.
  6. A great way to wrap up your work is to take just five minutes and quickly write a summary paragraph that names what you noticed in completing this process.

Say goodbye to TMI and hello to LIM (Less is more!) Enjoy!

I would LOVE to hear what strategies you use when you are feeling stuck selecting the "right" content. How do you narrow down your content to avoid TMI


Darlene Goetzman is the author of the new book, Dialogue Education Step by Step:  A Guide to Designing Exceptional Learning Events. You can download a sample chapter here. She's also teaching a 6 week course that starts on October 8, 2012:  Dialogue Education Step by Step: An Introduction (or Refresher) in Learning Design.


*This strategy is a variation of  "Lists of 100", one of eighteen different techniques taught in Journal to the Self workshops: a journal writing workshop based on the work of Kathleen Adams. www.journaltherapy.com. Darlene is a Certified Instructor.

4 Simple Suggestions for Better Meetings

I’m the president of a non-profit board of trustees and before I took the helm our meetings were primarily show-and-tell sessions:  the director showed and told and we sat passively and listened, contributing ideas when we were asked. That was then. 

Fast-forward to now. I remember the moment when, after months spent introducing some SUREFire Meetings practices into our group, I realized our board culture had shifted for good – here’s what I saw:

  • Every single person was up from the table, posting ideas on the wall;
  • An enthusiastic and constructive dialogue was taking place as people worked;
  • As facilitator I completely disappeared from people’s consciousness – this was their meeting!

To be honest, I don’t use everything I learned in SUREFire Meetings, one of the courses offered by Global Learning Partners, but I use just enough to make a difference (and aspire to use even more – practice, practice!). Here are a couple of suggestions, based on small things I did that made a difference:

  1. Prepare & Seek Input – E-mail everyone in advance and ask for their input on the agenda (feedback on the draft and additional items to add).
  2. Plan for Reactions – Know that people have reactions when information is presented (whether it’s invited or not), so plan in advance a specific way to ask them to react – people feel more comfortable when they know their role, so spell it out for them and steer them in the right direction. Ask open questions!
  3. Engage – During the meeting, break up the usual round-table discussion with small groups or pairs work so everyone’s voice can be heard. For example:  In pairs, describe the new policy in your own words. Back in the larger group, what are your questions about the new policy?
  4. Be Respectful – Start and end on time, with periodic check-ins during the meeting; it sounds so simple but think how often it doesn’t happen – respect people’s time!

What have you done to make your meetings better?

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT:  There's only ONE SURE Fire Meetings course in 2013, and it's fast-approaching! March 21-22 in Stowe, VT (still good skiing at that time!). Check it out!