A Consultant’s Journey: Building Personal Resources for Working in Complex Environments – Mark Lough

This is an account of a transformational learning experience that was designed for consultants, coaches and managers, launched in August 2015.

Our idea was to offer participants the opportunity to come together in a shared experience that drew upon the principles of AI without relying upon the structure of the 5D cycle. We wanted to explore ways of working that honoured the social constructionist principle and to explore a more relationally responsive, dialogical approach, which can be obscured by an over-reliance on method.

Each person was invited to engage their spirit of curiosity to appreciate more fully what they offer as professionals and to explore those things that enrich their capacity to work creatively and effectively, even in the midst of complexity.

Door: wick van der vaart

We wanted to create an opportunity to explore some of the more challenging elements of process work; namely, those moments when there is no protocol and where more complex dynamics are at play. In this respect, we wanted to invite the development of intuitive capacities that would enhance personal confidence.

We were also interested to adapt the T-group model,2 to see if an adapted form could provide a different kind of learning opportunity for participants – one that was theme-centred and which would create similar opportunities for realtime learning and experimentation. Additionally, we wished to draw upon insights that are emerging from Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB) as an additional theoretical lens. Elements in the programme included:

  • Integration of professional and personal development
  • Theme-centred small group experiences
  • Theoretical inputs regarding metaphor, curiosity, intuition and relational practice

Why did we want to work in this theme-centred way? Our view is that there is no magic in the work that we do. Although there may be no easy explanations for “why things work” between people there are capacities that we can each develop to support our engagement with the complexity of professional life. Many of these lie in our understanding of theory and technique, and in the unique way that we integrate and express our personal qualities whilst holding an “in this moment” awareness of the context.

What questions did we seek to explore?

  • How do we think about the narratives that inform our work at an
  • individual level?
  • How are those narratives being recreated in the ‘here and now’?
  • How can we work intuitively with emergent elements?
  • How do we develop a deeper appreciation of the metaphors that shape
  • our sense of identity?
  • How can we use this growing awareness of our work to enhance organisational effectiveness and personal growth?

The unfolding

In August 2015, seven participants arrived at Les Chabannes in France.All were Dutch, aged between 27 and 59, with a range of professional backgrounds including public-service management, safety, management, and organisational consultancy and health. Although the workshop was nonresidential, all participants were encouraged to use the different elements of the programme as opportunities for reflection and as a means of furthering their own professional/personal questions.

The structure of the week was set out as combinations of theme-centred group experiences supported by discussion and reflective processes as well as short theoretical inputs that reflected the topics and themes. Each participant developed images of their own learning paths and goals which were explored and further developed as the week progressed. Opportunities to practise and experiment were encouraged in the group intensives and reflected upon in journals and conversation.

The experience of “being in nature” created opportunities to focus on sensory inputs and bodily awareness as an essential element of intuitive processing. The metaphor of “Lord of the Rings” was identified in our preparation as a unifying story for what we were doing, as it conveys the importance of fellowship in a group as well as the value of a shared purpose and the emergence of shared leadership across the membership.

Although we worked to a particular structure with a range of themes in mind, we also wanted to facilitate the group to develop its own unique process and to follow opportunities as they emerged in order to create a real-time exposure to working with what emerges in a more considered way.

Reflections and learning

By focussing on themes that were relevant to the group, we discovered, during the group sessions, that the conversations were productive right from the start. In this way the group time became a useful variation to the classical T-group, allowing a safe place for powerful exploration of individual and shared development opportunities.

By spending time on appreciative interviews and crafting individual metaphors, we found that the participants had a lot to talk about and reflect upon during the group time. Narratives were identified and explored in a way that facilitated individual creativity.

Mark Lough and Wick van der Vaart

brochure A Practitioner’s Journey August 2017

14-19 Augustus 2017 A Practitioner’s Journey.

This blog was published earlier in AI Practitioner.

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A Consultant’s Journey: Building Personal Resources for Working in Complex Environments – Mark Lough