From Agile Coaching to Conscious Facilitation with Nisaar Jagroep
If you have listened to Workshops Work or have read this blog before, you will be well aware of Agile and its application in facilitation processes.
But is Agile an end in itself, or can it lead on to other practices and inform other ways of working?
After hearing some of Nisaar Jagroep’s thoughts and experiences, it’s quite likely you’ll be convinced of the latter.
Nisaar has such a breadth of experience that all these different elements intermingle and inform one another. We have heard from many experts in the fields Nisaar has qualifications and experience in, but nobody with a combination such as this.
Conscious Leadership, our power, and our responsibilities
As facilitators, we work hard to remove obstacles, encourage collaboration, and create safe spaces for our clients… But are we aware of our own potential to act as a hindrance?
This is a foundational question of Conscious Leadership – are we aware of our own biases and how they might impact a group we are leading?
Even small moments have a large influence on us – and on the spaces we inhabit.
Take, for example, being late or having a difficult journey to your workshop. “You start reacting,” says Nisaar, and you stop “seeing the person” in your interactions. This could be as simple as moving past someone who has a question or not looking at someone as they speak.
“This will impact the whole group and its dynamic.”
So how can we manage the power we hold in these spaces?
“Conscious Leadership,” Nisaar explains, “is really about focusing on what’s going on inside of you. The difference is between reacting to things and taking responsibility so you can respond.”
Nisaar goes on to explain that “there’s a part about preparation, and there’s also a part of letting things go… And letting things go can be scary because it means that you will have to sometimes let go of your structure.”
“Maybe you have prepared something to go in a very structured way,” Nisaar says, and breaking from your process means breaking from the “good decision” you foresaw the group achieving.
“Sometimes it’s more important to let the group go in a certain way that they want to go, and maybe they won’t come to the decision you imagined, but the understanding would be more important.”
Letting go of tight structures and overbearing systems is the perfect segue for Nisaar’s experience in Agile.
Agile, facilitation, and Agile Facilitation
Agile is a hot topic. It is everywhere! As a practice or concept grows in popularity, the strength of its message or application can be weakened. Before we go any further into Nisaar’s ways of working, it is worthwhile to state what we are talking about first, for clarity’s sake!
“Agile is a very simple mindset – people over-complicate it. There are two aspects which are very important. The first is that you always try to make your work as small as possible and within a container (a sprint). The second is that you always build some time for reflection.”
It is “fundamentally different to the classical way of thinking, in which you finish the whole thing, whatever that is, at the end of the whole project” and then begin revising and adjusting it.
So, we are talking about a focused way of working in stages, with built-in time for feedback. What does this look like when we apply it to facilitation?
There are two approaches that Nisaar highlights – the first being facilitating teams to work in an Agile way. The second is approaching your facilitation practice in itself “with that agile mindset”.
“It means you’re really starting to embody the agile mindset on a deeper level,” explains Nisaar, to the point that “you can start examining, in every second, what is going on with everything that’s around you in the group’s dynamic – is someone shy or do you sense there might be a conflict? Do you sense that people are not speaking out?”
Then it is about responding with your tools as a facilitator and “helping the team in a very, very deep, Agile way… adjusting on the spot.”
It requires bravery, understanding, and skill, but can produce electrifying results.
Flattening the room
Removing hierarchies – even temporarily – is a key ingredient in successful workshops. Participants need to feel that their thoughts and inputs are as valuable and valued as those from the senior manager seated next to them, even if that may not be reflective of their experience in the organisation usually.
So, how does an Agile facilitator flatten the room?
Nisaar didn’t hesitate to highlight vulnerability. “You really have to ask some really bondable, vulnerable questions that everyone can open up with.”
Nisaar advises a slow build-up, not rushing to tell each other their deepest secrets, but rather starting with a question about their favourite thing to do on the weekend, asking for something they are proud of achieving, then probing a little deeper and asking for something they are not proud of recently.
In doing this, “you take the whole group onto a very different level and they are all balanced. Basically what we are doing here is acknowledging that we are all human beings. So it’s not about ‘I’m a manager or I’m the team member’… you really want to go to that level that people are equal.”
Achieving that equality, that flattened room, means “you can start working in a kind of a space that is built on trust, equality, and this kind of a vulnerability.”
“From that space, you can have real conversation.”
Myriam’s conversation with Nisaar certainly felt real. Hopefully these few excerpts from their fascinating discussion inspire you to listen to the full episode – if you do, you will be in for a real treat.
You can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player, searching for “Workshops Work” or stream the episodes on www.workshops.work.
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