Wow, my last post was March 6th! I had no idea it had been quite this long since I last updated this blog. That’s a bit disheartening, because I thought the blog was the one area where I was actually on schedule. Well, I will make up for it over the next 2 weeks as I finish up this project by its May 1st due date.
So then, I have lots to update you on. Let’s see… I conducted my first workshop on March 17 for a group attending a leadership institute through my internship organization. It was a small group- about 12 people- which was the perfect intimate setting for my first go at it. My presentation focused on identifying one’s conflict styles and tendencies, and I used a conflict styles inventory to help do that. We also discussed conflict as a healthy occurence, our “conflict cultures” in our organizations, and how, as leaders, we can best manage conflicts in our offices. We wrapped up with some role plays where participants acted out a conflict that they had encountered that didn’t go well- they acted it out as it actually occurred, then acted it out again to show how they might have done it differently.
Overall, it went fairly well. From a presentation standpoint, I felt relaxed, calm and prepared. I had slightly more information than I had time for, but we adjusted. Feedback from the clients showed that they enjoyed the open, informal, non-powerpoint focused format (hooray for Adult learning principles at play!). One person told me I talked fast but that I slowed down after a few minutes– a habit I am very aware of, so I am glad he mentioned it, AND that my efforts to control it are noticeable.
What wasn’t I pleased with? Well, I address this in my paper big time, but I really wasn’t pleased with the content of the workshop! Why? Because I’ve discovered that in most of my workshops, I am being provided with “clients” through my internship, and while my boss contacts them, it is not appropriate for me to contact them in advance to find out what they might like me to cover. ( I am supposed to be an outside consultant who would not normally have access to the clients prior to a program). I am totally getting what all of the textbooks say about needing to know what your goals and objectives are BEFORE planning a program. I may have disliked that part of the program planning task while in classes, but now that I’m really planning programs, I find myself very frustrated when I set out to outline a presentation without knowing what the heck these people already know/feel/believe about conflict! I am particularly challenged when working with higher level executives, because I want my information and activities to really be useful and insightful, so it would be very helpful to see how they assess themselves on being familiar and comfortable with conflict and conflict management.
As it was, I felt like my content was not quite advanced enough for the group, and I also felt like they might appreciate something more ‘tangible’, in the sense that I left them with a tool to take back with them. I’m currently planning my next session and I have already made adjustments to provide some sort of behavioral tool participants can use. I’m trying to make sure there’s some transferrng of learning here people!
All of this ranting brings me to my next update. My Conflict Survey somehow managed to receive over 500 responses! That’s incredible, since I only sent it to about 100 people! If you completed it, thank you very much. I have to say that I’m not sure it’s what my advisors are going to want to see (we’ll see tomorrow- I have a meeting with one advisor then!), but at the same time, it has provided some really interesting insight as to what many people believe about conflict. And those beliefs can help me decide on some activities and topics for workshops that will make sense, at least thematically. I realize it isn’t as good or useful as assessing your actual participant group, but without access to those groups, this is the best idea I had. Even if it’s not acceptable for my project, it is still quite revealing and interesting. Once the project is done, I’ll try to post the results here.
One last learning that I’m uncovering along the way…. I have loved the idea of being a consultant/trainer for the last couple years now. However, after seeing how difficult it is to plan for strangers, I am slowly embracing the idea of internal consulting. It seems like a much more natural process to plan for people you know, or at least for a culture that you know. It doesn’t seem as presumptuous as what I’m doing now- guessing at what might make a good workshop! Ack! Caffarella would roll over in her grave, but I believe she’s alive and well. I can definitely tell how much of an impact my coursework has had on me- I find it very unpleasant myself and keep telling my (business school) co-workers that it just isn’t right to do it this way!
That’s the running joke, by the way. My boss always jokes that, “This is the BUSINESS school, Carmen.” This usually implies that my thinking is too “fluffy” or doesn’t generate enough income. I’ve taken to responding, “Well, I’M from the School of Education.” (ok, technically the department of Interdisciplinary Studies, but that is much harder to say!)
It’s very late, and I still want to generate a list of questions for my meeting tomorrow, so I’ll sign off for now, but will be back much sooner with another update… Have good days, everyone.