Reaching Inward and Outward as Facilitators – Episode 17

In this episode, Beth Cougler Blom talks with Kirsty Lewis about how we facilitators need to do our own inner and outer work to be able to take care of and invest in ourselves as well as serve our clients.

Beth and Kirsty also discuss:

  • finding people to help us at points of transition in our career
  • the benefit of coaching and supervision for facilitators and trainers
  • how a combo of yin and yang activities can support us
  • seeking out communities of practice to keep learning and stretching

Engage with Kirsty Lewis

Other Links from the Episode

Connect with the Facilitating on Purpose Podcast

Connect with Beth Cougler Blom

Podcast cover art by Emily Johnston of Artio Design Co.
Podcast production services by Mary Chan of Organized Sound Productions

Show Transcript

[Upbeat music playing]

[Show intro]
Beth
Welcome, to Facilitating on Purpose, where we explore ideas together about designing and facilitating learning. Join me to get inspired on your journey to becoming and being a great facilitator wherever you work. I’m your host, Beth Cougler Blom.

[Episode intro]
Beth
Hello, thank you so much for choosing to listen to this episode. This is Episode 17, Reaching Inward and Outward as Facilitators. In this episode I talk with Kirsty Lewis. Kirsty started something called the School of Facilitation that supports and encourages facilitators and trainers around the world. And I’m so lucky that in this conversation I was able to ask Kirsty about how she started as a facilitator, how she grew herself in her career in coaching and facilitation, and she is really honest with me about some of the challenges around that and some of the inner and outer work that she did to be able to really create the kind of work and life that she has wanted to for herself. So if you’re in a transition period, or you’re wondering what the next step of your career is for yourself, or even if you’re just a facilitator moving along wonderfully in your work and you want to hear from somebody else what their journey has been like, I think you are going to enjoy my conversation with Kirsty. One of the things that I hope comes across really loud and clear in our conversation is the importance of turning to communities of practice for your work as a faciitator. So we have our own thing going on, whether we’re self-employed or we work for an organization but it is always so valuable to turn outward to connect with other facilitators who are doing work like us and learn and grow together and just be able to connect and share – good times and hard times. So sit back and I hope you enjoy my conversation with Kirsty. Thanks for being here.

Beth Cougler Blom
Kirsty, thank you so much for being with me today. It’s lovely to see you again.

Kirsty Lewis
Thank you. It’s good to be here.

Beth
I’m excited about our conversation today, because I think we’ll be talking about something that’s probably very personal to both of us. It’s really about, you know, all of our facilitation journeys, isn’t it? You know, how do we kind of start in this role and where do we go as we…what do we do as we go along the way of it? So thanks for coming and sharing your experience and some of the neat things I think you’re doing with the communities of practice that you’re leading.

Kirsty
Oh, thanks. It’s great to be here as well. And also, I love the fact that there’s thousands and thousands of miles between us but we’re able to make this happen and make it work.

Beth
I know, isn’t it amazing? I mean, we had, of course, technologies like Zoom before the pandemic, and so on but I think really, that did shift us into getting a little bit closer. It does feel that like we’re sitting in the same room often, doesn’t it, which is quite nice.

Kirsty
It does. Except I’ve nearly finished my day, and you’re just starting your day, we should say that to your listeners is, we’re that far apart, is amazing.

Beth
I know. So let’s go back. I don’t know how far back and you can, you know, choose how much you want to share about how far back but did you kind of fall into the work of facilitation or, you know, you were direct in how you you really wanted to become a facilitator? What did starting your facilitation career look like?

Kirsty
Probably similar to many – well, I’m making an assumption when I say this – that similar to a lot of people I started out in the corporate world, I work for a multinational called Diageo. They own famous drinks brands like Guinness, Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Black Label, Baileys. And there was…I was in sales. And there was a particular role in sales that I had my eye on, and it was called a Global Sales Capability Manager. And what that meant was you were the custodian of sales and learning basically. It would be probably is renamed now to L&D but at that time it was global sales capability manager. I came back off of sabbatical and that job came up and I was like, right, I want that one. And I got it. And I did that role for two and a half years. And it was whilst during that role, I was on a workshop for myself – which we’ll talk about more as we go through – and I was…during that workshop, it was NLP-based and some of your listeners might know about NLP, but you had create an outcome that you then worked on and refined for the whole day. And I didn’t have an outcome, Beth, I just was there to help a friend to like test the workshop. So I really facetiously wrote down – and I’ve still got it to this day – it’s the 7th of April 2009 and I am an NLP coach and facilitator and earn 5000 pounds a month. Totally outrageous and utterly ridiculous because as far as I was concerned I was happy working in the corporate world and that’s where I was going to stay. Well, that was probably say, 10 o’clock in the morning and by five o’clock, I was cycling home ringing one of my really good friends going, I think I’m going to resign from Diageo. [Beth: Wow.] And that’s how it all started. And so I then spent…that was April and I didn’t resign until early October, because there were some timings that I needed to get into place. And I think on that, when you decide you want to resign to when you do resign, there’s often a big time gap, because you need to make a plan.

Beth
Yeah.

Kirsty
Yeah, don’t jump people! Don’t jump until you’re ready or unless you have decided that you’re going to get a payout. I wasn’t getting a payout because I was just resigning. So yeah, that’s how it all started. And that was 15 years ago.

Beth
What a powerful workshop. I mean you had no idea what was gonna happen, and it changed the course of your life.

Kirsty
Yeah, it has really!

Beth
I love looking back on those pivotal moments, right? Where you don’t really realize what you’ve just stepped into that day.

Kirsty
Yeah.

Beth
I think we should define NLP. So is it Neuro Linguistic Programming?

Kirsty
Yep, Neuro Linguistic Programming. It is a concept that came out of California in the 70s. And there’s a lot of people who use it in coaching. Many people don’t name it anymore. We just use it. But it looks at the language we use, the linguistic part, the neuro, so what is our brain doing and why is our brain acting and behaving the way it does? And then the programming, which is often about modeling and your behaviours. But, in essence, if you looked at it, and what you did, and what you studied, it is a lot of what we do in the coaching world of What’s your identity? What’s your purpose? What are your values and your beliefs? How do you use your body language? How do you build rapport? How do you listen? How do you ask questions? And then they just have a lot of very cool, whatever we call them, activities, exercises to help unlock limiting beliefs, limiting patterns of behaviour, like anchor yourself.

Beth
So when you decided to make that leap, were you still growing in your training and facilitation skills or…?

Kirsty
Oh God, yeah.

Beth
Very much. Yeah, okay.

Kirsty
[Laughs] Very much very, very much. It was 15 years ago. So I’m very comfortable running two or three types of workshops that were sales orientated, and a bit of coaching and line manager orientated. I knew I could do it, but yeah, that was that was it.

Beth
Who did you turn to when you made that leap? Did you recognize that there was, you know, external work that you had to do and maybe internal work as well?

Kirsty
Yeah. So when I knew that I was going to make the leap, I got myself a coach. Because I knew I needed to talk things through and work things out and I wasn’t too sure what that was going to…what that meant or what that looked like. I also had – I called them my cheerleaders – and there were some key people that I could speak to. I also had the elders. I had, like, three or four different types of people that I went and spoke to externally, outside of my head, for advice and guidance.

Beth
Oh, so necessary, right? But it sounds like you did some inside your head work as well. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Because I’ve just done a podcast episode on self doubt and I think kind of that leap of you deciding to make that big change. Like that is a hard thing for a lot of people to do that.

Kirsty
I’m, just thinking, I wrote a blog on this. So I had my elders. So I spoke to someone who is 10 years ahead of me on the journey, and she’s still my mentor. Now, Helen Jane Nelson. She’s an amazing shamanic coach, wise elder now. And so sitting and talking to her about what I was thinking and doing, and she held space for me to like break down and cry, question my sanity, and then walk me through and guide me through different dialogues with myself. Another friend, Ben Lewis, he was very much the ears. And he would listen and then he would ask me lots of questions and like, make me think about financials, or how was I going to sustain living and what would I do if I knew I was going to leave? I then had cheerleaders. So they were my friends who, whilst were enthusiastic for me, they weren’t going to help me sort out my thinking, but they were just there to support me and just cheer me on. And then I had people who were ears. And so a guy called Richard Belars was brilliant at that. So they would, I could ring Rich at any time, and he would just sit and listen to me. And again, he’s a coach and a facilitator so he just knew what questions to ask me.

Beth
Yeah, I love how you’re giving them different terms like cheerleaders and ears. Is that terminology that you’re just coming up with now? Or do you use…

Kirsty
No, I’ve written a blog on it and I’m just trying to remember, like, the different types of people that I had at that time to help and support me because I thought it was, and I maybe I just didn’t realize it at the time. But that’s just my natural style, though, is to go out and find people to help me at those points of transition. Because I know I can’t do all the work on my own and I haven’t got all the answers. And I think that’s really important.

Beth
And it sounds like they were helping you do the inner work. I mean some of it was probably advice, but some of it was those great questioning skills and listening.

Kirsty
Yeah, absolutely.

Beth
You know I used to work in volunteer management and so part of what, you know, the arc of volunteerism was kind of looking like at the time – it’s been a bunch of years since I’ve been out of that field particularly – but, you know, was how people were volunteering in more kind of consulting roles and so on. And I was thinking then that we all should have more volunteers kind of supporting us in our life. Like in our career and in our life and what would it look like to kind of put together advisory committees? Kind of like what you’re talking about. You know, these mentors these – we wouldn’t call them volunteers would we – but just surround ourselves with those people that different people have a different function for us. You know, somebody’s good in finance, somebody’s good in asking good questions.

Kirsty
That probably leans into the conversation we’re having today in that doing the inner work to then be okay and successful in your outer world is probably just quite innate within me, I think it’s just a really…I’ve seen how it’s helped me grow, develop, settle, calm, transition, or, you know, come through sticky situations. So as facilitators and trainers and coaches we need to do that inner work otherwise how can we stand up and authentically invite others to participate in workshops or activities, or dialogues and conversations, that might be asking them to look at themselves or behave in a certain way?

Beth
Yeah, behave in ways that are feeling uncomfortable for them sometimes even too, right? Like brave, courageous things we’re asking individuals and groups to do. So we have to do that work ourselves. Are there things that you can share with us about what that inner work has looked like for you over time? Are there, I mean some things will probably remain private for you, but what would you share?

Kirsty
I’m very open. [Beth laughs]. I’m laughing because when you’re in the world of work, and you’re having like one to ones with your boss, my bosses were always like very focused on the what you did and how you did it. And so ‘what’ would often be the numbers in the world of sales and working with particular customers, but then the ‘how’ is often all based around, you know, your behaviours, your values, your…the softer skills. I still laugh now, because I would always go ready prepared for those meetings to do both parts of the conversation but would always want to just talk about the ‘how’. And I remember one of my bosses, Pat, just going Kirsty, you’ve got to do the ‘what’ as well. Oh, it’s just so boring. He’s like, Yeah, but that’s your job. Oh, can’t we just talk about you know, managing the team and how we’re going to inspire people and how we’re gonna get stuff done in such a cool way? And he’s just like yeah, and we need to talk about the numbers. I’m going mmm [makes a disappointed sound].

So I think it was probably quite innate in me from early on in my career. I was very, very fortunate, again at Diageo. They invested in their people. And they still do. They’re very clear that people are at the heart of their business. So I was given as standard 10 days plus of learning a year and I had to take it. And I had to say how I used it. So whether that’s workshops, or reading time, or shadowing people in other jobs. So that was really encouraged so that helped me broaden my skill set there. And also being taught how to coach whilst I was there as well. At a very high level now, I know that. But it was enough that it sort of sparked curiosity and just realized it was something I could do.

So there was always those types of conversations happening in the ether for me up to 2007. Around 2006, I started my NLP training, as I said, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, that whenever you go off to do some sort of learning for yourself, actually, you’re not learning just about, say, the topic of NLP, or how to do you know, become a coach, you’re actually doing your inner work at the same time. I had no realization of that until I started doing it. And I was like, oh, there’s some interesting things going on here, aren’t there? Like lots of like sort of ahas. I thought I was just being incredibly logical. This is what I’m learning and this is how I’m going to apply it in the outer world, I didn’t really go, Oh, I’m really using it on myself and helping myself start to unpick and unravel. So NLP was the start point. And then I often have coaching or supervision as well, the other things that just sort of regularly show up and doing my own work.

So I have a phrase, when I’m working with other facilitators and trainers, which is ‘sort your shit out’. I’m sure someone will say it a lot more eloquently. But I’m just like, if you don’t sort your shit out it will just come up when you’re working with your clients, and you’re running a group. And it might be a small thing that triggers you. And therefore, you think you’ve got it all under control. But we all know you cannot not communicate. And whether it’s a role of an eye, a tut, a shrug of a shoulder, you know, our body language will portray what’s going on in our heads. So yeah, I think we all need to sort our shit out. And what’s really interesting is, as facilitators and trainers, we don’t need to have supervision. We don’t need a qualification. Whereas our brothers and sisters in coaching world have qualifications and have supervision regularly. There is so much benefit to having someone to be a sounding board, someone to be there for us. Because we’re holding space for groups large and small. And it’s energetic work we’re doing, whether we recognize that or not. You’re giving energy to yourself and to others, and you’re taking their energy and you’re feeling into the room and to the field and to what’s going on. And I also think you need to be able to always wash that off. And part of that can be through supervision and coaching that’s focused for you.

Beth
Yeah, it’s, you know, there’s so many things in what you’re saying that my mind is going in all sorts of directions, but I definitely have had conversations with colleagues who, particularly they train in difficult content areas, and they’ve really realized, you know – probably the hard way – over time that they need to take care of themselves. Absolutely. Because they can’t just give give give to the groups at their own detriment. And I’ve experienced that as well. You know, because I realized, especially in the beginning of the pandemic, I was so busy, because I do learning, design and facilitation. So you know, and about online, so it was like, Okay, this is my business, you know, I was already doing those things. So, you know, a lot of clients came my way. And I was telling myself the story that Oh I’m serving my clients really well, because I’m doing all this work and I’m so busy, and I’m working 10, 12 hour days, and then again, kind of learned the hard way. I’m not serving myself. [Laughs awkwardly.] I’m telling myself the story…

Kirsty
That’s the thing isn’t it?

Beth
Yeah, but so I think, you know, many of us come to this realization that we need to do the more inner work and avoid burnout, and all those things that kind of can happen to us, hey, when we give, give, give so much to our groups and our clients.

Kirsty
I’m not saying I’m good at that, by the way. But I know there’s massive benefits to doing it. It goes in waves and peaks and troughs. And there are months, months upon months where I’m really good that I’ll journal and I’ll meditate and I’ll drink tea and I would have my yoga. And then there’s – and I’ll have supervision – and there’s other months that I’m training for a bike ride or a run and I’m doing lots of yang kind of sport and I’m out – I mean, you’re still in nature, aren’t you? I’m out running and swimming loads or cycling, and maybe not doing some of the more yin breathwork. Oh I do breathwork, that’s quite funky, as well as another practice. But yeah, sort of the slowing down activities that allow me to regroup.

Beth
I’ve never heard it described as yin and yang activities. That’s a neat way to think about that, that we need both kinds of activities to serve ourselves.

Kirsty
And maybe as people are listening, they’re going…they gravitate to one over the other. And so my invitation would be what would it be like to experiment dipping your toe into the other world. And so I guess it was 2016 that I dipped my toe into the other world. Well I’d always done yoga since, like since 2000. But it was always a bit competitive because I’m super sporty and it was always about I’m very flexible. It’s like getting into the poses, holding the poses, you know, all of that malarkey. But in 2016, I was at the DO Lectures, and then someone ran a breathing session, and I’d never done anything like that before. And that really inspired me and did some breath work. And that was a real eye opener. And then I discovered Insights Timer, which is a free app. And they have lots of meditation, breathing, yoga and movement offerings on there. And it’s free, and it’s really beautiful. And yes, you can honour the teachers. If you there’s sort of one teacher you always go to time and again, you know, you can pay them if you choose to which I think it’s great. It was only 2016 started breathing that all into my world. And again, that’s another dimension that’s helped, like, calm me down, probably. And then there’s age. I think as we get older, suddenly we go, Oh, maybe rushing around all the time, trying to fit everything in, isn’t sustainable. My body doesn’t quite like it. My brain certainly can’t cope with it. I just feel too full up because I just can’t cope with it.

Beth
Yeah, I think we’ve become more self aware over time going, what, uh, what are we doing to ourselves now? Like, this is not healthy.

Kirsty
Yeah.

Beth
So take me back to was it around 2016 that you started School of Facilitation, or was it earlier than that?

Kirsty
It was 2014.

Beth
2014. So you were perhaps searching for something that you then decided to create yourself? Tell me how, you know, what was the impetus to start the school and tell us what it is.

Kirsty
School of Facilitation is a space for facilitators, trainers – even coaches and consultants – to connect, learn and share about the skills of designing and delivering great workshops, great learning. It all started though, again back when I worked at Diageo, there was a time when we all had A4 workbooks, or daybooks, as some companies call them, and I used to write in the back of the day book what made a good workshop whenever we ran workshops. And I’d watch other people or I would be looking at my own stuff and I’d be like, well, yeah, you need this kind of space, and you need windows and you need daylight and those questions don’t work. That activity really seemed to bring the group alive. Uh, the afternoon session was really dull and boring. So I’d always noticed that. I didn’t know there was such a thing as design and structural design, like what that was all about. And for quite a while I carried on even when I left the world of Diageo. Whenever there was an opportunity to do like a train the trainer, I was always the first to say, Oh I’ll run that. Because I found it really fascinating being able to coach people and give that feedback.

And then I remember being at my kitchen table in London, and just thinking, I’m getting a bit bored. And I’m a massive extrovert and I need people around me just to bounce ideas. And I was like, Oh, my God, there’s, I don’t have a team anymore, I don’t have people to talk to anymore. And I was like really missing that connection. And then I went out to look for it and I couldn’t find it easily. There weren’t that many groups that I could find that were in existence at that time. So I created my own and created SoF.

Beth
I think we’re kindred spirits. I do the same thing. I look around going, I think I need this thing and no one else is doing it. So I’m gonna just do it myself. Yeah. [laughs]

Kirsty
Yeah, I was working with the systemic coach at the time. So it was something that was sort of birthed. And I looked down and it was a nine month gestation. And we had the first what would now be called a gathering. But it was a breakfast meeting in London in August 2014. And it was all very haphazard. For the first three, four years. Like events would happen, we’d just do gatherings, we’d have like breakfast meetings. Or then I realized that Christmas is a really lonely time as a facilitator/trainer. So I created the Christmas event. So we’d have a big Christmas lunch together. And that still happens now to this day, seven years on, eight years, nine years. See I forget how old SoF is [Beth laughs] because it just feels a bit unusual.

And then we started doing classes. So I suddenly realized that some people didn’t know how to design necessarily. So I run workshops on how to design workshops – which is always interesting – both in the virtual and in person world. And then also purposeful practice sessions. So how do you show up as a facilitator and a trainer? Like what’s your style? What do you do with your hands, your voice, your body? Your eyes, like what? A lot of that we fall into that versus it being a conscious decision.

Beth
It’s right I think when we become more conscious. I often say intentional, conscious or intentional as we go along. We realize even the things you said before. Daylight, is there a window? There’s all sorts of stuff. What what’s going on with our face when people are talking? There’s so many things aren’t there to pay attention to and to realize they’re happening. So School of Facilitation, you’re saying SoF, let’s make that clear for everybody. What are people getting from that, you know, joining that community of practice that maybe if you’re not tapped into a community like that you’re missing out on?

Kirsty
So one of the things that happened for me during COVID, I remember writing an email on the 16th of March to a lot of facilitators and trainers. And I said, hey, something’s coming. We’re not too sure what it is. Would you like to join me for a call on Friday of that week? On that day I think 30 people showed up. So we made it a bit of a thing. And then I said, Do you want to do this next week? And they all went, Yes, please. And I was like, Oh, okay. So we then did what has now formed the pod. We did it for 20 weeks in a row. And we created this space for facilitators and trainers to come along. It took on a structure, it took on a form. It created this community, it created a space for people to come and talk at a really difficult time. And also just know that there were others out there. That’s involved. So one of the things that SoF definitely provides is a space for people to come and find others and to connect and to have really good conversations. So, at this point in time we have a free event once a month. It’s at 9am UK. So if there’s anyone listening in the States or Canada, and they’d like to get involved, I’d love to do an afternoon session as well. So I just need numbers. So we could always do a pod in the afternoon as well.

Beth
Yeah, it’s a little hard to do the midnight or 1am I think it would be in Pacific time.

Kirsty
I know, I was just thinking, yeah, like a man, you’re on the West Coast. I’ve had some people from the East Coast join before which is just just amazing. They sit there with their coffee in their pajamas. It was brilliant.

Beth
I know, I’ve been trying to go to a workshop – I’m going to have Johnnie Moore on the podcast – And so, Creative Facilitation. So they do the Naked Facilitation course, I think it’s called, and so I watch every time they have dates come out, I’m like, Okay, what time is it Pacific time? I think it’s always like 2am. I can’t do it! There’s no way. [laughs]

Kirsty
Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Too painful!

Beth
So that’s the downside of internationalization, right, in this field. So we always have to figure out which time zone we’re actually willing to do.

Kirsty
What SoF is offering is definitely a space of community, but also a place to come and…if you are reasonably new to world as a facilitator, I’ve had some people who’ve never facilitated they’ve come through what we have a four-month course called Flourishing Facilitator, and they’ve come and just said, can I learn? I’m like, that’s quite unusual, because normally I have like some people who’ve got like two or three years under their belt, but one lady came and did it and she is now thriving. It’s like, it was beautiful to see. So being able to share what I know about great, just running a really good, bloody workshop that’s engaging, it’s human centred, it has connection in it, it creates space. So that’s what it brings.

Beth
I think it’s so powerful. And I feel, you know, kind of just selfishly, this is the work that I’m trying to do as well, right? Because there’s so many clients out there that come to us and tell me that they are still having really bad, whatever it is meetings or workshops that and I go really? [laughs]

Kirsty
How can that be?

Beth
After all this time? You know, it could be in person or it could be virtual. I’m not just saying it’s because of you know, going online when people hadn’t been online. It’s just somehow there’s always going to be groups that don’t get the memo about how we can come together as humans in an engaging way.

Kirsty
But the really funny thing, though, Beth, is there was a point – it was about four or five years ago, we did some LinkedIn mailshots, and we were inviting people to events, to inviting people to come and do some learning. And we were talking specifically to facilitators and trainers. And the number of responses I got back where they were really vitriolic of like, well, What can you teach me? I’ve taught over 100,000 people, I know how to do this. And originally I was like, oh, gosh, um, very British. Oh, my goodness, um, how rude of me. And then I was like, I hold on a minute, if I’ve triggered that response in you that sort of says to me, there’s something that needs to be looked at there.

Beth
Yeah, exactly. This sort of defensiveness, right. Yeah.

Kirsty
And also, just because you’ve taught thousands of people does not make any of us good at what we do. So I think there’s a bit of a humbleness of actually, maybe I do need to just like lift the bonnet on my own skill set, and lift the bonnet on my behaviours, or my emotions or my thinking and go, Well, what else could I be doing? What else is out there? How could I stretch myself? Like, what else could I learn? Because let’s be really honest, facilitation and training has moved on from trainertainment, and edutainment, as I still sometimes hear and see in Asia and in the Middle East. I’m like, no, no, no, that’s not how we operate. Things have changed and I think we have to go with it. So the biggest change we’ve all had in the last three years is obviously becoming virtual, and learning to run workshops virtually. So that would be a big obvious shift. And so when people said, you know, I want to learn how to do virtual workshops, like brilliant, come and learn. Thank you for like caring enough about your clients that you’re going to invest in yourself. That’s how I see it, it’s like, I’m investing in my own development and growth in service of my clients. So a lot of the people that we work with are working with corporates, multinationals, charities, NGOs. So it’s like, yeah, we have to invest in ourselves.

Beth
Yeah. It is a win win. And maybe it’s kind of a win win win. Like there’s sort of a ripple effect coming out. When we work on ourselves, develop ourselves internally, get professional development, kind of see other people and their ways of doing the thing that is not in the way we do it. Doesn’t it kind of ripple out to their people, their organizations, their communities?

Kirsty
Yes! Yeah.

Beth
Yeah. Like, I always think it’s like, we can change the world! [yells Woo hoo! and laughs]

Kirsty
You know, but I do think as well, facilitators, and trainers and coaches sit in a really honoured position. I sometimes think we’re at the front of a wave of thinking and being and acting, we might just be out there and everyone’s like, Oh, gosh, what you’re doing is a bit strange. I’m like, Yeah, that would never take off. And then ten years down the line it does. And so I just said to people just know you’re riding the front of the wave. So keep showing up, keep doing your practice, keep learning new things, because what we’re doing is, by behaving, showing, doing what we’re doing, corporate things sometimes go, oh, yeah, I thought about doing it like that. And like, then you and I might go, we’ve been doing – in our heads – we’ve been doing it like that for ten years. Like this is really obvious, but because it’s obvious to us, it isn’t obvious to others, I get that.

Beth
I know. So this community of practice…idea, practice, you know, thing, you know, how can we not do it? Because we can’t go through this work only having our own experience, can we? I mean, here in Canada indigenization has been with us and will be and wonderfully so right? We’re learning about decolonization, there’s a lot for…I’m white, you’re white – you probably don’t have the same experience going on because you’re in the UK than I do – but here it’s like, how do I learn more about Indigenous peoples and bring that into my workshops and my facilitated experiences. And people of colour, how can I learn more from people of colour? There’s so many things. I can’t imagine that somebody would say, Oh, yeah, I’ve got it all figured out because I’ve taught a thousand people or ten thousand people, or whatever, it’s like, really? Have you looked around at all the skills and all the people that don’t look like you and don’t have your experience? And so the wonderful thing about communities of practice is you get to meet those people and share.

Kirsty
And so you were saying like what do people get by being part of just joining SoF, and there is no membership and either joining the communities of practices or coming along to workshops or coming along to events is they meet other people like them, and they suddenly realize: a) Oh, I’m not alone, b) Oh, I can have really good conversations with you without having to explain myself to give context, which I have to do with my other friends who are open to listening to me or helping me but actually, they don’t really get it. I love them all, but they don’t really get it. And also, I’ve also seen where friendships have been established – like really great friendships – and then people starting to work together, and they bring each other in. And I’ve seen that time and again. And then some people then end up working for SoF, as well, is what has happened, which is a lovely side benefit for me as well.

Beth
Isn’t this work a lot about partnerships and kind of bringing diverse facilitators together, whether it’s two or four or five, you know, a team of facilitators. I mean just the different perspectives, it’s really great to be able to meet those people in such communities of practice. Yeah.

Kirsty
And learn from each other again.

Beth
Absolutely. I always think co-facilitating, you know, in the preparation stage, you teach each other things as you work together. And then of course, in the facilitation stage, you go, Oh, that was a neat thing that she did, or he did.

Kirsty
Yeah, how did you do that?

Beth
Yeah. So we’ve been kind of talking about where you’ve come from in your work and kind of what you’ve been doing. And I want to take us now to where you’re gonna go. You know, what is the future look like for School of Facilitation, for your practice, for your inner work, your external work? You know, you seem like a conscientious person in your career altogether. You know, where are you going to go and what do you still have to learn?

Kirsty
As you said Beth, one of the things I’ve learned in the last few years is to run a business. And I think there has been a real step change in my mentality around I’m a leader of a business now. So I have up to 10 people working for me at any one time, in the back office, and also as facilitators. And I think if you’d said to me in 2008 you’d be running a business, I’d have laughed, and I’m like, I’m just like, do I call myself an entrepreneur? We now call them solopreneurs you know. No, I’m just a freelancer. And so that’s been a real step change. So there’s something about learning to run a business and being uncomfortable with saying, I have a business and doing all the financials or, you know, communication or managing people. And so that’s definitely one thing. And I think that’s evolving ever, and I’m stepping into that more and more and being okay with it. Another thing that’s come up into my head, and it’s really light touch, and I’m not too sure what’s going to happen next is I’m 49, I’m 50 next year. I’m really noticing now, elders and eldership, and what does that mean? What does that look like? Because I do feel like I feel suddenly like, oh, well, how do I give back to the community of facilitators? And how do I leave legacy? And what does that mean? So there’s two things. There’s like, how do you hold spaces with a slightly different lens as an elder, like, what does that even mean? But I’m also, I’ve definitely gotten the books, a book to write if not two, or three, and a podcast. And to do both of those things, I know that’s gonna take some learning, because it’s not just the case of opening my laptop or hitting record in Zoom, there’s practice and things to do there. So that’s quite external things in terms of my my growth.

I think also just knowing that the body changes, and how I’m slowing down my physical practices, and becoming more into my yin, in my yoga, my yin yoga, and just accepting what is possible. And then probably, as ever, will continue with supervision and coaching and doing systemic practice for myself, just because it keeps peeling back the layers. And I don’t know if your listeners recognize this, that those of us who’ve done a lot of work on ourselves, I think there’s like in the first, I don’t know what the timeframe is, there’s a first big chunk of time where, whenever you’re doing like, some coaching for yourself, it feels like there’s these really big shifts that happen, like big revelations occur. It’s like, oh, there’s my purpose. Oh, those are my values. Oh, that’s that limiting belief that’s really held me back for this period of time. And it feels really big. And you can really notice it, see it and feel it. And I think the more you do this work, as Laura Beckingham my supervisor said to me, it’s like, you’re just peeling a little, a really thin layer now, of that onion skin is so small, and it’s really delicate and refined, because you’re just you’re not ripping chunks off anymore. It’s just that gentle, peeling back and noticing, and sitting with things maybe for a really long time and going huh, interesting.

Beth
Yeah. So it’s not as I don’t know, it’s like, is it kind of related to pace of change? Like the pace of change maybe isn’t as…or is it a different thing? I’m trying to get that into my own brain what you’re saying there. So yeah, it’s not as pivotal shifty as it was before. But there’s still meaningful, wonderful things that are happening?

Kirsty
Yeah and just the big shifts that we may have had in our 20s and 30s, you know, overall, it was like Tetris blocks clicking into place. You’re still doing your inner work and noticing, but it’s now it’s really nuanced. And it might be because it’s so nuanced it’s the things you’ve buried quite deeply and have chosen to like, put in vaults deep inside your head, because you’re like, No, I don’t want to look at that.

Beth
[laughs] Kind of peeking open the door a little bit, and letting some come out. I like what you’re saying about the elder shift. I mean, I feel like you’re still too young to be an elder. [laughs] But you have lots of years of eldering, toward, you know, in the future for you. But are you saying that with your team, if you’ve got your team of 10 people, that you’re, you know, trying to intentionally develop them and kind of taking that mentoring or…?

Kirsty
No, I’m sitting here muttering no, I think I was thinking more about how I give back to the community and what does that mean? And how is it going to evolve? Maybe I’m preparing the way for when I hit my 60s, because that’s probably when it will be. But it’s like having conversations with people and starting, who am I talking to? And I’m noticing it because some of my friends are hitting 60 next year, and it’s like, oh, how are you planning? Retirement? Whoa, like, how are you planning for that? And having those types of conversations now? It’s interesting.

Beth
I know, I’m curious about that for myself, because we’re about the same age. And so I, I find myself during the same thing, kind of looking towards the future. My husband’s having conversations with me and himself, you know, about kind of what retirement looks like in the future. And so you, you do kind of have that shift happening, don’t you and going? Well, what, what does my work look like in the next 10, 15, 20, I don’t even know how many years right, because you do think, well, I have a lot that I can do still. In this field I think we can stick around for a long time and meaningfully so?

Kirsty
Yeah, I think so. And also because we’re working for ourselves, and it’s not like we’re gonna get booted out by someone in a company other than ourselves.

Beth
I just worry someday I’ll be the old person, they’ll be like, really, you’re the one? I’ll have a different front person, like I’ll be more behind the scenes, right.

Kirsty
But also, I think we’d have to be careful that because we’re enthusiastic about our work that we do slow down, and that we do take time out.

Beth
That’s right. Yeah. Yeah the danger when you love what you do is kind of, you know, not paying attention to doing it too much. And yeah, and sort of the stepping back of letting others lead or something. You know, sometimes I think about that going I don’t have to do all the things and how can I create opportunities for others?

Kirsty
Yes.

Beth
You know, whether they work with me or they’re just people we’re partnering with or whoever. People that have not had opportunities like I have in my career so far. It’s like a journey of self awareness I think we’ve been on in our episode today, you know, thinking about your career and kind of all those…I mean, we didn’t even, we just scratched the surface, I’m sure right of the things that you’ve kind of gone through. But it’s been neat to hear about your journey and where you’ve kind of reached inward and reached outward to support you. And then the things that you’ve created along the way. Yeah, it’s quite fascinating.

Kirsty
Yeah, it’s been lovely. A good reflective conversation. I would just say, if anyone wants to connect or reach out or ask questions, like, just come find me on social media or through Beth’s podcast. I think it’s the best way to go.

Beth
Absolutely. We’ll put your contact information in there. And I would say people don’t do that enough.

Kirsty
Oh no.

Beth
Thank you for saying that. Right.

Kirsty
Come, come say hello.

Beth
Yeah. I mean, it doesn’t…we’re not saying everyone has to be part of a community of practice. We’re saying that’s a really, really great idea. But at least reach out individually to people [Kirsty: Yeah.] who are doing the thing that we want to do or are doing. So thanks for that.

Kirsty
It definitely helps.

Beth
Well, this has been lovely to have this conversation with you. Thank you for being open and honest about your journey and just sharing your evolution with us. It’s been great to learn with you.

Kirsty
My absolute pleasure, Beth, thanks for having me.

[Episode outro]
Beth
I so appreciated my conversation with Kirsty and I was serious when I said I truly feel that she is a kindred spirit around both of our natural tendencies, I suppose, to create communities of practice where we see one needs to be created. I have created several communities of practice over my life and my career and not just always work-related. I had a baby sightseeing group when my daughter was really young [chuckles] and I just wanted to get new parents together and go around and do fun stuff with our babies. So I guess she and I do the same thing, where we see a need for people to come together about something and if nothing exists already we like to create it! And particularly for facilitators, this is so necessary, as we’ve already said, for our work. Get together with other people that do what you do and share and learn from each other. I also appreciated hearing from Kirsty about her growth as a facilitator herself and what that has looked like, at least in part over the years that we talked about in the conversation, but also hearing from her about what’s coming next. How does a person in maybe the second half of their life or later in their career turn to being a mentor for others, or giving back to the community in some way? And I think that’s really what School of Facilitation seems to be all about for Kirsty, to be able to create a space where facilitators and trainers from around the world can come together and give back to each other in that way. So I really applaud Kirsty for the work she’s doing and I encourage you to check her out and check the School of Facilitation out to see if it might be of benefit to you. By the way, I’m not involved in the School fo Facilitation in terms of getting any benefit from this conversation. I just think, hey, wherever there are places where facilitators gather, we should all check them out and see if they would work for us.

On the next episode of the podcast, I interview Johnnie Moore. I first learned Johnnie’s name when I purchased a book called Creative Facilitation that he wrote with his colleague Viv McWaters. I really enjoyed that book and when I realized that Johnnie had written another book called Unhurried at Work I knew I just had to read it. Because sometimes, I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel a little hurried at work. For the last eight years, Johnnie has been working on this project, Unhurried. It started with him hosting a series of what he calls Unhurried Conversations using kind of a simple talking object format. He has since developed it as a way of working more creatively and sustainably. So I’m really thrilled to be able to present to you the conversation I have with Johnnie Moore about Unhurried at Work in the next episode. We’ll see you then.

[Show outro]
Beth
Thank you for listening to Facilitating on Purpose. If you were inspired by something in this episode, please share it with a friend or a colleague to help them expand their facilitation practice too. To find the show notes, give me feedback, or submit ideas for future episodes visit facilitatingonpurpose.com. Special thanks to Mary Chan at Organized Sound Productions for producing this episode. Happy facilitating!

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