How to Promote Change with More Impact, Less Pain and Some Joy – with Eugenio Moliní
Change may be inevitable, but each person’s reaction is entirely unpredictable.
As facilitators, it is our job to create safe spaces for change to occur in organisations. A safe space looks different for everyone, so great facilitators must learn to juggle the needs of each person in the room, striking a balance
How do we do this in a way that makes change less painful and more enjoyable? And how do we facilitate and promote change whilst staying true to our own needs, quietening our ‘monkey mind’, and putting our ego aside?
For Eugenio Moliní, this is the question of a lifetime. He may not profess to have all the answers, but his conversation with Myriam in episode 54 of Workshops Work will surely reveal something to every person who listens. That is as close to inevitable as any change can be.
Make peace before you can make change
One of the greatest truths Eugenio has come to recognise is that, “when I began to make peace with myself, I began to make peace with the world.”
It is only from this place of peace, Myriam agreed, that we can be truly effective as facilitators. Indeed, for Myriam, “once I am at peace with myself, I stop judging myself and reflecting my own judgements and my own monkey mind on others, so it’s easier to be in peace with others as well.”
Finding that peace within ourselves, recognising our pressure points and Achilles’ heels, means that we can be more present in the room. It may not make us perfect, Eugenio was keen to stress, but “it’s easier to come back to a place of acceptance”
Silence is the changemaker
Silence, for Eugenio, is the greatest tool facilitators have.
It is only in silence that we can look “with compassion” at “the inner universe that every one of us carries… at all of its parts, the dark side, the light side, the cracks, everything.”
For some (or many) people, silence is uncomfortable. In a workshop, where the participants are in attendance to find solutions and make progress, silence seems antithetical to their purpose and intentions. For Eugenio, this reflects a widespread misunderstanding – or perhaps an intentional avoidance – of the power silence can hold.
A facilitator might rush to find an icebreaker or an exercise when the room falls silent. The silence is seen as an impasse, or a breaking-down, in the dynamic. Silence is certainly a reflection of anxiety within the group, but that isn’t a bad thing.
“I say anxiety is good… There is nothing more transformative than being together in a group that sees the need to take a common decision, having such a high level of anxiety, and just being with them in that silence.”
“Name it, say it,” urges Eugenio: “now we are there in the threshold.”
For Myriam, this is key. Silence (and the anxiety it can manifest) functions as a crucial point in the change process. If we are only “in” that feeling of anxiety “we don’t learn. We only learn when we get to the other side.”
To interrupt the silence, then, is to prevent that movement.
Systemic approach vs field approach in change management
When Myriam and Eugenio’s discussion moved on to systemic vs. field approaches in change management, Eugenio drew a novel comparison.
“I believe in science. Science is mostly based on hypotheses,” said Eugenio, but hypotheses are “always detached from experience. It is like studying reality as if you were not a part of it.”
This isn’t inherently bad or wrong. “It has its place,” but on the other hand “experience is what tells me how I perceive reality – how I understand hypotheses in my own life.”
Eugenio believes we need both hypotheses and our own experiences to truly understand the world. The same applies to systemic and field approaches in change management.
“We do as if we were outside the system we are facilitating or working with… playing God, knowing if I push this button and this button, this will happen… but if we approach the work of Nora Bateson, for example, she’s very much about being inside the system.”
“You cannot affect any change if you are not a part of it, if you don’t get dirty. When you get dirty, the only thing that is in contact with the system is your skin – your emotions, your reality.”
Myriam found herself conflicted by this position. “As soon as you enter a system, your presence changes it. So I think it really depends on what you want to achieve through your presence or non-presence – whether you are there to observe and to analyse or whether you are there to make a change.”
Neutrality, conflict, and whether the two truly exist
“It’s impossible” for a facilitator to be neutral in their work, believes Eugenio.
“We can be neutral towards the outcome of whatever it is the system we are working within wants,” Eugenio concedes, but “we cannot be neutral towards the ‘how’ because that is what we are bringing.”
When Myriam raised the point of being “neutral about the origins of a conflict” and the complexities that lie within that position, Eugenio raised a further challenge beyond the idea of neutrality and towards the concept of conflict.
“I decided that I never work with ‘conflicts’.”
For Eugenio, there are two reasons that conflict arises in organisations.
Firstly, it is because the conflicting parties “have different points of view on a task – then it is taskwork, not conflict resolution. Let’s speak about how we solve the task.” In this situation, “they begin to bicker with each other because they have too much to do, or too little to do, or because the task they have to do is meaningless.”
Alternatively, “some people have bad intentions or are going through a crisis. That’s an interpersonal issue or a personal issue – I don’t work with that. That’s not my field. Even if I am a psychotherapist, I left that profession years ago.”
How much can change in an hour?
The snippets of conversation in this blog post come from just a few minutes of Myriam and Eugenio’s conversation.
You can see, then, why it would be worth investing an hour of your time in the entire conversation on the Workshops Work podcast.
If you want to set intellectual sparks flying, there are few better places you could go to that would serve that intention than Eugenio’s interview on the podcast.
Eugenio’s words are powerful and, whether you choose to listen or not, there are many that are worth ruminating on – perhaps most importantly these:
“The more I advance in accepting myself and accepting the world as it is – being in contact with our community humanity in its misery and its glory – the more I know that it’s not so much about what I do, it’s mostly that I just show up.”
“It’s less about doing and more about being.”
Thank you for showing up and reading. Thank you for being. Please continue!
You can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player, by searching for “Workshops Work” or stream the episodes on www.workshops.work.
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