Transforming the way you live and work in the world
Home / GISC Blog /

GISC Blog

 

October 2017

September 2017

May 2016

 
 

Dr. Sonia Nevis, 90; Gestalt psychologist founded center in Wellfleet

October 19th, 2017

Written by By J.M. Lawrence, Originally published 

When a course of therapy with psychologist Dr. Sonia Nevis ended and a client struggled with goodbye, she would ask her patient to pick up one of the many glass figurines in her office — a little glass horse, perhaps, or a cat. Then she would tell her client to break it.

“They are often surprised and may physically pull back. They will sometimes say, ‘Don’t you care about it?’ I might answer, ‘Yes, very much.’ They will say, ‘So why do you want me to break it?’ ” Dr. Nevis said in an upcoming book.

MATTHEW A. KAMHOLTZ

“I’ll say because the sensation of loss is one that most of us avoid, even though it is so ordinary,” she added. “We all have to learn to experience it in the moment. If we are lucky, we can do it with another.”

Over the past few decades, Dr. Nevis taught and mentored thousands of psychology professionals, managers, and business leaders in the concepts of Gestalt psychotherapy at the Gestalt International Study Center in Wellfleet, which she founded in the late 1970s with her husband, Edwin. Unlike the Freudian focus on mining the past, Gestalt psychology focuses on living in the present and teaches that the whole of relationships is greater than the sum of its parts — with the parts deriving character from the whole.

Dr. Nevis was masterful at living in the present and helped develop the center’s core training programs, colleagues said. She was 90 when she died Sept. 10 in a Brighton nursing home, where she had lived for several years and led sessions on finding happiness.

“She had this marvelous way of connecting with people,” said Mary Anne Walk, a former student who now coaches executives and formerly was executive director of the Gestalt center. “She didn’t believe in using your energy to be negative. She believed in using your energy to find the best in herself and in others.”

No one could predict what Dr. Nevis might say, said Stuart Simon, a Gestalt practitioner who teaches at the center and formerly was her student. “Usually it was creative, brilliant, and rarely without some commitment to the heart,” he said.

He said he used to joke with her that she was “a mutant” — she had a difficult childhood, but emerged optimistic, strong, and full of kindness.

She was 5 when her mother died while giving birth. Her father was mostly absent in her life, and she was shuttled among relatives who paid little attention to her. She had no one to say, “I love you,” and no one to say, “I hate you,” one colleague observed.

Dr. Nevis “never conveyed the sense she had to overcome something,” said her daughter Amy, of Brookline. “She was such an expert at living in the moment. She was an incredible observer. She saw things and heard people in a way I think was really beyond what most people can do.”

“When you were in her presence, you just felt better,” said psychologist Joseph Melnick, a longtime friend of Dr. Nevis who had been her student and then taught with her for many years. A collection of their conversations are included in their book, “The Evolution of the Cape Cod Model, Gestalt Conversations and Practice,” which will be published next year.

Dr. Nevis, who stood a little over 5 feet tall, could scribble a few sentences on an envelope in preparation for a lecture and command an audience. “You couldn’t say anything to shake her,” Melnick said.

When a male therapist she was supervising blurted out that he would like to sleep with her, Dr. Nevis’s comeback became famous among her friends.

According to an anecdote in her book, Dr. Nevis sat back and said, “Let me think about it.” Then she stretched her hands about a foot apart and said, “This much of me would like to sleep with you.” Then she stretched her hands out to more than a foot and said, “This much of me wouldn’t.”

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. Nevis was the daughter of Kelman March and the former Ruth Kwitko. She graduated from Brooklyn College and met Edwin Nevis in New York while socializing with friends at the movies, according to her family.

They married in 1948 and moved to Cleveland, where she graduated with a doctorate in psychology from what was then Western Reserve University. In 1956, they helped found the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland with a mission of training couples and family therapists.

Edwin, who also taught at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, died in 2011.

While Dr. Nevis was raising her two daughters in the 1950s, she became a student of Gestalt founder Fritz Perls. Friends invited her to attend a Gestalt workshop in Cleveland with Perls, and Dr. Nevis experienced a transformative moment.

“Suddenly I could see what was happening between myself and other people,” she said. “I could name some of the feelings I was having. I realized what was happening between myself and other people. It was the first time I felt seen, and the first time I could see . . . the fog was lifting.”

In addition to her daughter Amy, Dr. Nevis leaves another daughter, Melanie, of Brooklyn; a brother, Ronald March, of Wyckoff, N.J.; two grandsons; and a great-grandson.

About 100 friends and colleagues gathered at the center last Sunday to celebrate her life.

Dr. Nevis enjoyed playing bridge and poker. She also loved listening to the great female jazz artists of bygone eras and going to a Wellfleet theater for live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.

Her book includes a paragraph that contains a few guiding principles for navigating intimacy while remaining authentic and human.

“Be generous; it’s good for your heart,” she wrote. “Disappoint people with regret, but do disappoint them. Be curious; you’ll learn continuously. Talk directly to people, not about them to others. Enjoy differences; we need others’ perspectives. Think optimistically, so that you see what’s working. Look for the humor in your life.”

J.M. Lawrence can be reached at jmlawrence@me.com.

How My First Book “Emerged” through Gestalt Coaching. The World Looked Away – Vietnam After the War: Quoc Pham’s Story

September 1st, 2017

by Dave Bushy

I met Quoc Pham at lunch one day in 2014. My brother knew Quoc’s son Hung and had asked me to consider writing Quoc’s story about imprisonment in post-war Vietnam and his eventual harrowing escape by boat into the South China Sea.

The idea of writing a book, or even a short story about someone’s life, was not my focus that day. After retiring from corporate life in 2013, I had been building a coaching practice and even temporarily shelved writing a story about my grandfather’s war exploits. But my twin brother, who served as the captain of Hung’s ship at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, gently prodded me to “just meet” Quoc Pham, who was visiting from California.

Curiosity comes naturally to me. So does conversation. I’m an extrovert who loves to engage individuals and learn more about them. The intensive coaching training I received at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) gave me tools that focused and harnessed my abilities in ways I could have never imagined. Perhaps the most important is this: Really, really listening to someone and working with them towards a shared perspective and feeling. We call it “co-creation” in coaching. Wrapped into that listening is attentiveness and recognition: discerning the softness in someone’s voice when they speak about a loved one; or the change in their breathing when they relive a painful experience. Even the cadence and tenor of a voice can arouse curiosity in me easily now, thanks to GISC. Pursuing that curiosity through appreciative inquiry and provocative questioning can allow ideas, thoughts or “figures” to emerge that the client might have not been noticed before. As my favorite instructor Mary Anne Walk says, “The only question you’ll regret is the one you don’t ask.”

As I asked questions and listened to Quoc that day, I carefully watched his face. He had been through more than anyone I know; yet there was a serenity about him that was calming. He had experienced brutal conditions in the Reeducation Camps of Vietnam, been punished for being in the South Vietnamese military and saw his family lose everything. He had been beaten, nearly starved, and seen people die, yet here he sat, placid and kind. And yet… I shifted my eyes from his whole face and looked deeply into his eyes and saw something that I had not seen since I left the Army. I saw a glimmer of regret and grieving. It was merely a glimpse, but it was enough. That one glance reminded me of what I had seen in the U.S. Vietnam Veterans with whom I served in the Army, who had been through the horrors of war so far away, and then watched as the “enemy” defeated their own country.

Our lunch that day was more to just get acquainted, but I filed that feeling I had experienced in a safe place in my heart and mind, and nodded my head affirmatively when Quoc said, “Will you be willing to write my story?” I then said, “Let’s try a couple of chapters and see.”

We agreed to meet every two weeks via Face Time, as Quoc lived on the opposite coast. We began right away, adhering rigorously to a schedule of one hour every two weeks, which would continue for three years. Our routine evolved into an hour of interviews and coaching, followed by about six hours of drafting by me, followed by comments and editing from Quoc. Like any solid coaching engagement, one session built on another; trust grew between us and figures emerged routinely. At one point, I saw Quoc’s son, who had seen some early chapter drafts. “My father is telling you things my siblings and I have never heard – how is it that you and he communicate so well?” I just smiled and thought about coaching and knew that something was in synch for Quoc and me as we co-created in our sessions in order to tell the story of his life.

How does a fledgling author interview someone about their life’s journey, let alone the most intimate and brutal experiences a human being can endure? As I carefully took notes and recorded the interviews, something emerged for me. I was not just being a reporter, asking things like, “What happened then; and who was involved; and where did you go next?” I was actually being a coach, encouraging someone to explore areas of their memories that they might have forgotten, or perhaps didn’t want to enter. I was looking for how someone felt and how he had made meaning of his experiences. I was noticing something about a man, and I was pursuing it with gentle inquiry, continual prodding and genuine attentiveness. By intention, I was seeking to know everything about his journey through the years in the camps and his escape by sea. “What happened next?” was followed with “How did that make you feel,” and “Tell me more about what you experienced at that moment.”

Often, I gave Quoc time – sometimes long minutes – to collect himself. Part of coaching is giving someone time and space to think. Such silence is uncomfortable for humans – we just don’t cope well with long gaps in conversation. But those gaps can allow the person with whom you are working have thoughts emerge that might never have surfaced.

Quoc’s and my journey together in our calls and my follow-up draft-sharing were the vehicles we used to create The World Looked Away – Vietnam After the War: Quoc Pham’s Story. In it, you will see and feel his deepest thoughts about not just his camp experiences, but his feelings about the woman he loved and the family that nurtured him.

Being a coach has expanded my range of possibilities and helped me understand those of others. I use the tools of Gestalt Coaching every day in every conversation, be it coaching or dialogue with friends and family. I know I could not have joined another on his journey and completed a 400-page book without the benefit of my coach training at GISC.

davebushy.com

To listen and be heard

May 12th, 2016

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Here at GISC, the sun is out. Fourteen professionals from as far as California, Sweden, Wisconsin and Denmark or as close as Wellfleet gather for their 7th day of training to learn the Cape Cod Model – our Center’s process for helping people and teams change.

Five years ago, I was in their seat as a participant and fortunate to have our founder, Sonia Nevis in the room. An avid note-taker, keen on capturing the words from each faculty member, I’ve saved my notebooks and I’ve decided to share some of the nuggets from our Cape Cod Training Program teaching.

Let’s start with the check-in – the first 15-20 minutes of each day when participants sit together with faculty in a large group to discuss any questions or thoughts that are present from the previous day’s work. Even in these seemingly mundane moments, we were being taught that “Gestalt is a way of looking at the world and thinking about your life.” Check-in is important “to get something out of your head” so we can start where we are today.

The notes that follow are what I need to do this morning to start my day with a full sense of connection to the current participants, to the teaching and learning that inspired greater range and growth in my own life, and to the creative urge that the sun – after many days of rain – has inspired within.

Day 2 comments from Sonia:

You cannot feed your own soul. Connecting is food. To have listening and to be heard is food. The basic principle of how the world is better is to really listen and to really be willing to be heard.

Sonia went on to emphasize that “the learning that takes place at GISC is getting more and more skilled at reaching other people and listening.”

And the words flowed in through my ears, my eyes, my hands as I wrote furiously to capture her specific point of view:

If there’s only one person, it’s self-reflective. We are in relationship with the past and our Self. But all you can do is repeat the same thing. We can’t continue growth without another person. We develop to the extent that we allow ourselves to be in contact with the environment.”

These notes from our founder’s voice make me wonder:

What’s the optimal blend of sunshine and support to foster new growth in your life today?

If “no one person is making an experience happen” then join me in a virtual conversation and leave a comment below.

 

Facilitation as a Leadership Skill

April 28th, 2016

By Paul Cummings, CPF, PCC

It used to be that leaders and managers could rely on the old ‘command and control’ methods of getting things done.  Back in the day, and standing atop a clear hierarchy, the boss was Lord (and less frequently Lady) of all he or she observed.  These were simple, predictable and in some ways, relatively comfortable times. It used to be that the boss could shine, taking all the glory for success (deflecting failure where possible) and where people had confidence in a job-for-life.  In today’s world of work, much has changed and those days are a distant memory.  The command and control approach to leading and managing is now as outdated as the weekly wage packet.  So what’s so different now?

  • Workforce enlightenment – today, the average worker is far more educated, both formally and informally.  Workers know their rights and how to exercise them.  More of them also know how to use their talents and exercise power and influence.
  • The information age – with the advent of the Internet, information is everywhere.  This shifts power from the boss across and throughout the whole organisation and beyond, empowering many.
  • We are globally connected – by way of social media; stories, events and campaigns can inspire and incite people (workers, customers, service users) meaning organisations no longer exist in their own discrete and predictable bubble.
  • Higher degrees of complexity – in a time of increased specialism, it’s no longer possible for the boss to be expert in everything.  Instead, today’s leader or manager must get comfortable at having people around them who are more expert in some other particular field/discipline.

The leader or manager who can facilitate individuals and teams through the challenges of these four contemporary realities has a better chance of succeeding.  Instead of commanding and controlling, it’s time to facilitate the workforce.

Facilitation is an often-misunderstood term. In the context of leading or managing, it’s about employing processes and ways of being that makes it easier for leaders to get more done through others. Facilitation is about running effective meetings, keeping people focused and arriving at decisions that lead to appropriate and timely actions. Facilitation is about setting behavioural expectations and holding people to account when expectations fail to be honoured. Facilitation is about making it easier for people to bring the best of themselves to the task in hand. It’s about welcoming resistance and conflict with genuine curiosity instead of seeing them as a nuisance to be overcome. It’s about having proven skills, knowledge and techniques that allow leaders and managers to confidently negotiate the challenges that inevitably occur when bringing teams together.

The key advantages to adopting a facilitative approach to leading and managing are:

  • Participation – with so much expertise and insight available in an organisation, its madness not to access it.  Maximising participation is essential – this means having the right people involved in the right meetings and making sure these meetings are conducted so that everyone, regardless of status, has a voice.
  • Collective thinking – reliance on just one person to steer an organisation means only one mind on the job.  Unfortunately, all of us are blinkered in some way or another.  Facilitating collective forms of thinking may seem complex, time-consuming and risky but using facilitation skills effectively can ensure any number of participants can effectively contribute their collective brainpower to the issue being addressed so that a deeper, more informed conclusion could be reached.
  • Ownership – when you create participation and facilitate collective thinking, you engender ownership for both problems and solutions – this is the magic of facilitation! People who are involved in decision-making processes early on can help shape thinking and prevent unnecessary resistance at the latter stage of implementation.
  • Processes that work – The success of facilitation as an approach in organisations is that it provides leaders and managers with proven processes that work.  Facilitating makes it easier to reach decisions that stick, explore ideas, share information, action plan, problem solve and foster learning.

If you know command and control has had its day and seek to promote participation, collective thinking and ownership for your organisations vision and mission, get yourself skilled in facilitation – after all it’s your job to make it easier for the people you lead to be as amazing as they can be!

 

Paul Cummings, MA, CPF, PCC, works with dedication and fun to facilitate organizations and people to think and act with greater confidence. He is a GISC Certified Coach and will be teaching Facilitation Skills at GISC in May 2016.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with facilitation as a leadership skill.  Please respond with your comments below.

 

BEING GREAT: An acronym for learning leadership

September 18th, 2015

By Nancy Hardaway

Listening 2 Leaders

How do you teach people how to manage (or become better at managing, depending on their experience) in 20 minutes? That was my challenge last spring when I gave a talk to a group of young professionals.

Research has found that over 70% of people in corporate America name their boss as their biggest stressor in their lives and that anywhere from 40-70% of managers fail. Obviously, people need help! In order to make the concepts easier to digest and remember in just 20 minutes I organized them with an acronym : BEING GREAT

Typically it’s not the content of the work or the tasks that cause problems for managers. It’s the people interactions. Every interaction between people is “co-created;” you are half of the equation so managing or leading others requires managing yourself. The first word of the acronym, BEING, represents ways to manage yourself:

B: Boundaries

E: Emotions

I: Intent and Impact

N: Nature

G: Goals

BOUNDARIES: Managers need to set and understand their boundaries. They have to find the appropriate place for themselves between the company and their boss, and their allegiance to their staff. They have to be careful about friendships past and present, and where the boundary is in what they disclose to whom. Promotions from within cause colleagues to become staff overnight, necessitating careful and explicit renegotiation of boundaries. Then there’s that tricky balance between work and home. Those boundaries blur too easily and you find yourself answering emails while playing with your kids – not successful or satisfying for either activity.

EMOTIONS: Emotions impact perspective, decisions, and affect interactions with colleagues or staff. It takes awareness to recognize your emotions in the workplace and skills to manage them successfully. Neuroscience research tells us that some of the most successful ways to manage emotions are labeling (putting a word to the feeling shifts the brain from feeling to thinking mode), reframing (looking at it in another way, or in Gestalt terms, looking for the multiple realities), and refocusing (turning your attention elsewhere).

INTENT AND IMPACT: How often does it happen that someone takes your message (words, body language, action) the wrong way? We need to know the difference between what we intend to convey and the impact we actually have. It requires knowing our intention. It requires paying careful intention to the way our message is being received and interpreted. And we need to check and verify – just plain ask.

NATURE: Managers and leaders need to understand how they are different from others: What are your biases and filters based on your experience, wealth, gender, family of origin, age, culture, occupation, etc.? What’s your work style? How are you motivated?

GOALS: Understanding your goals, your priorities, and your values is key to managing your time appropriately and knowing whether you are succeeding. You have to know your organizational goals (the big picture) and the goals of your role, which shift your focus from to-do lists to prioritization toward the bigger picture. And you’ll only know whether you are succeeding if you have some sense of your goals in life.

You can’t lead without followers – you would be a parade of one. So the second word of the acronym, GREAT, is about managing others.

G: Goals

R: Reviews

E: Events

A: Accountability

T: Teams

GOALS: Goal are so important, they show up twice. In this case it’s about knowing your organization or boss’s goals (make sure to ask and clarify) and then setting the goals for your team as a whole and for each individual. Express the “why” and express the “how” and express the “when.” The why is what inspires so make sure to spend time with it. The how and when create the basis for success and holding people accountable. Provide enough detail for clarity and enough space for innovation and independence.

REVIEWS: Massive research demonstrates that only 30% of performance feedback has a positive impact. Our Gestalt training enables more successful results. Build on the positive. Provide feedback on a daily and weekly basis rather than waiting for the annual review. Provide specific data – evidence and examples of what you mean. Provide support for new behaviors – assume if they could have done what you wanted before and knew you wanted it, they would have. Follow up to feedback (71% of managers never follow up on reviews – how unfortunate!).

EVENTS: I chose the word events (which typically involve a lot of planning) to cover meetings, important conversations, retreats – planned interactions where you want to accomplish something. Know why, who, what, when, and how for every meeting. Plan how much time will be needed for what you want to accomplish and know what a successful outcome would look like. Plan for good beginnings, middles, and endings – don’t skimp on those endings or overbook your agenda so you run out of time. Closure is important for effective results.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Start with clear expectations, and maintain communication. Be specific about what and by when, and the consequences to all for missed targets. Don’t wait – quick and frequent check-ins are better than big blow ups after the deadline passes. Be direct – too often new managers confuse directness with being mean, often because they wait until they are angry at failed performance to act.

TEAMS: It takes intentional leadership to create teams, even though our brains are wired for collaboration. But we want to collaborate with “friends,” not “foes.” Here’s where the Gestalt concept of intimate (relational) and strategic (work accomplishment) is so helpful – it takes a balance of both for good work to occur.

BEING GREAT takes work, important work. Being a great manager or leader is an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those who work for and with you rather than becoming the biggest stressor in their lives.

Closing Counts: What we can learn from Jon Stewart

September 14th, 2015

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Jon Stewart got it right: closing counts. For over fifteen years, fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – the popular comedic news show on cable TV – have tuned in for a potent blend of fun and facts, myself included. During the past year, the final weeks, and Stewart’s last episode as host of The Daily Show, we were not only treated to his edgy brand of humor with heart, we were shown how to create a good ending.

In these final days of summer, as we look to the fall and year-end, how are you attending to the endings in your life, small or large? It may be the end of a summer vacation or the end of the third quarter with only one quarter left to meet the 2015 goals you set for yourself back in January.

What can we learn from Jon Stewart about creating good endings? A lot.

Here’s what I saw in the final episodes that speaks to the Gestalt practices we teach at GISC.

Experiment
Stewart didn’t go cold turkey; he practiced leaving. Over a year ago, he took a leave of absence for several weeks. Whatever the reasons, it gave him experience letting go of a job, a role, and a routine that he’d held for over 15 years. During his leave, he tried something new by directing a theater production – more practice letting go of The Daily Show.

Not all of us can take a long leave and land a short-term gig in a dream role like Jon Stewart. But we can practice letting go of our work identity, role and routine in small ways. For instance, on your next vacation, what would it be like to truly leave behind all responsibility for work? What does that mean? Well, it could be as small as committing to: “on my vacation (or on the weekend, or after 5pm . . .), I will not check my emails from work.” The point is that to end well you need to start small and practice. Design a small test run of a bigger goal.

Get Support
I’m willing to bet a week’s pay that Jon Stewart didn’t cook up this plan on his own – he had help. Maybe it was his wife, colleagues, friends or a trusted advisor, but at some point there was probably a professional advisor – a coach or a therapist to support the meaning-making that leads to a good ending. How do I know this? I didn’t count, but in the final weeks of his tenure as host of The Daily Show, Stewart repeatedly said, “I had to come to terms with it,” that is, leaving and letting go.

As you and I plan and practice our own endings in the coming weeks, with whom will we meet and talk as we create endings for the year, the vacation, or even the weekend? It can be as small as a conversation with family about why the weekend, vacation or year mattered. Or we could hire a coach or reach out to work with one of GISC’s coaches-in-training who start their coach certification program in late October.

Endings matter and even the smallest degree of attention can support the experience of closure and our internal transition.

Take an Appreciative Stance
In his final episode, Jon Stewart ran long. The 30-minute show lasted 60 minutes. The way I see it, Stewart took his time. And he needed the time to both acknowledge his colleagues and, I would argue, to take in the acknowledgements and appreciation expressed to him by others.

As he said so often, “I had to come to terms with it.” If we can do that for ourselves by adopting an appreciative stance and perspective for what has been and what is, then we free ourselves to be available for the actual ending – the good-bye.

And it is in the smallest of gestures or practices that all our preparation and work on “coming to terms” with closure shows up. For me, Jon Stewart’s good-bye from The Daily Show is captured in the handshakes of thanks he took the time to make with each individual member of Springsteen’s band at the very end of the show.

Jon Stewart showed us how to create a good ending and that’s what we all need in order to make a good beginning. So I wonder, what’s next? For Stewart, for you and for me?

 

Gwynne Guzzeau, MS, JD, is the Executive Director of GISC. She teaches The Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions.

 

Reflections from the Gathering: Turning ideas into action

August 27th, 2015

By Stacey Shipman

“How does over-thinking serve you in a positive way?” my group member asked.

We had gathered into groups of three, tasked with identifying a trait or skill we don’t like about ourselves and turn it into a positive. A concept, I learned as a first-timer, GISC refers to as Well Developed/Less Developed.

I didn’t answer the question right away because I’d never thought about my ability to over-think in a positive way.

I love big ideas and solving problems. As a result I spend a lot of time thinking. Sometimes my brain feels so full I imagine smoke billowing from my ears right before my head explodes.

Yet with the support of this peer group, they helped me see that over-thinking allows me to analyze problems from all angles and come up with solutions others might miss.

In that moment I became an expert at analyzing problems from all angles.

My area for development and challenge for the weekend: Turn some of that thinking into action.

Especially if the thought or idea isn’t fully formed.

Gulp.

I could feel my insides stir.

I accepted the challenge. What good is attending a development weekend if you’re not willing to do the work?

I committed to share my ideas more during group interactions and social conversations. Each time my stomach turned…less and less.

Thanks to my experience at the Gathering, I walked away with two big lessons and one reminder:

First, I am not broken. When stuck in a cycle of over-thinking I often feel broken and in need of fixing. Not to mention mentally exhausted! I learned I don’t need to stop thinking. Instead I need to press pause on thinking and turn an idea into action.

Second, thoughts and ideas don’t need to be fully formed to put them into the world. One group member suggested that by sharing my thought when not fully formed I provide a starting point for others to brainstorm and contribute. I had never considered that as a potential benefit.

Finally, I was reminded that community and relationships are everything. Having the right support systems to question our assumptions, in a respectful, encouraging way, can make life and work challenges feel manageable.

Nearly two months after the Community Gathering I’m still committed to the challenge of thinking less and acting more both in my personal and professional life.

Take this blog post for example. At the Gathering I told Laurie I’d love to write a reflection piece for the GISC blog. And every day since I’ve thought about what angle to take, what a-ha moment to share, and whether my voice would be a good fit.

And then my head felt like it might explode.

***

Stacey Shipman believes everyone has a message that can make someone’s life better. She is the founder of Move.Breathe.Explore. (www.movebreatheexplore.com), author of Turn Speaking Stress into Success and speaks and blogs about using your voice to make a difference at www.staceyshipman.com.

 

 

Out of sight but not out of mind: best practices for managing virtual work

August 3rd, 2015

by Donna Dennis

Virtual teams have become the team framework of the digital age, giving a company the means to combine the best talents and perspectives from anywhere in the organization. It’s hard to overstate the critical role that virtual teams play in the business world today.

In a major study conducted by Business Research Consortium (BRC) in association with American Management Association, 90 percent of the more than 1,500 surveyed said they had virtual teams in their organization and more than half attended seven or more virtual meetings in the past month. However, while common, working in virtual settings is more difficult than working where everyone shares the same physical space.

Virtual leaders and team members must be ready to meet the challenges associated with differing time zones, diverse nationalities and cultures of team members, and technology which frequently presents malfunctions and other distractions. Research shows that when managed effectively, virtual teams increase productivity, help meet organizational goals and improve the quality of work.

Moving from in-person to virtual work demands that participants learn to do all the things important to relationships and leadership in new ways. By utilizing Gestalt theory and practice, which is well grounded in helping people be effective in face-to-face interactions, practitioners can leverage key concepts and behaviors they already understand and use.

Here are some suggestions to improve efficiency and effectiveness of virtual teams that focus on the communications skills, trust building and protocols for success:

  • Demonstrate presence-It is essential to establish trust early through common goals, strategies and shared purpose. Make sure to establish expectations so that all team members understand their role and responsibility to the team. The best virtual leaders build “swift” trust.
  • Up the game on communication-What is true for in-person leaders is doubly true for virtual leaders. Communicate clearly and often.
  • Utilize an optimistic stance-While disagreements and conflicts will occur, it is important that leaders proactively manage different perspectives to avoid conflicts that affect the progress of the team.
  • Build awareness and a robust process-Lay the groundwork with a clear set of checkpoints and milestones for success.
  • Adjust to the medium-Research shows that team member engagement is strongly influenced by the degree of visual feedback members receive. Without visual elements, participants must pick up on subtle voice cues, silences, and cross-culture cues. In a virtual setting, it is essential that the leader ask more questions to gain common understanding. Establish rules for response times, deadlines and technology use, and eliminate distractions by setting agreements on multitasking during virtual meetings.
  • Share organizational knowledge-To keep everyone at the “virtual table,” try ideas like a quick round robin “check-in” at the start of a meeting to update the team on each member’s status.
  • Manage the team size-An optimal size for a virtual team is 4-9 members according to a Wharton study by Evan Wittenberg. Larger teams reduce engagement and make it harder to communicate.

Working virtually does not mean that we give up deeply held values and beliefs about building relationships or getting work results. Rather, it simply means creatively finding ways through technology to demonstrate concepts and behaviors we hold as important. As one participant to a GISC virtual leadership course stated,

“Activities in virtual and collocated teams are often the same but leaders have to work harder on the protocols and expectations. Virtual leadership requires a much more disciplined approach because nothing can be left to chance with the details and planning associated with work or relationship building. Leaders must reach out and check in more frequently in a virtual environment; these personal connections build trust and relationships but they do not just happen. They are designed, planned for and very intentional.”

Virtual teams have a bottom-line impact on the organization, so every interaction can bring beneficial results. Good talent management combined with harnessing complex technologies and associated training can lead to increased productivity in the virtual world.

 

Donna Dennis, PhD, PCC, President of Leadership Solutions Consulting, is an executive coach and leadership development professional. She has practiced as a consultant internally and externally, taught at major universities such as the Wharton Business School, and conducted leadership research. Donna designed and teaches GISC’s Leading Virtual Teams program. 

My growing-edge experiment: reflections on the Community Gathering

June 24th, 2015

By Jane Honeck

This year’s Community Gathering was another resounding success. I’m waking up inspired and committed as a Professional Associate to get the ball rolling on contributing some blog posts. At the same time, I was reflecting on a particularly meaningful exercise we did over the weekend that helped illustrate one of GISC’s core concepts—Well Developed©.

With the help of two colleagues, I identified where I was an expert (a well-developed behavior that I tend to overuse to the detriment of another less developed behavior). I can now proudly say I am an expert at “being open to all possibilities.” And as I contemplated what my perfect blog post would be, this well-developed behavior got busy. Should it be a scientific treatise on some psychological theory? Scary thought for a CPA embedded with psychotherapists. Or, maybe a few choice, but clever, words on how money truly has a place in the world of Gestalt. Wouldn’t that prove my worth to the group and the world? I ran endless scenarios through my mind, analyzing which would appeal to the broadest group, conjecturing what the community really wanted while making sure I was covering all the possible angles.

And then I remembered my new valuable tool for moving beyond this Well Developed© behavior. I could expand my range for making decisions and move forward through this stuck place. We had also identified a simple experiment for working with my Less Developed© behavior—I could BLURT. That’s right, blurt—I wouldn’t consider everything or work hard to find that one perfect thing—I would go with the first thing that entered my mind—the good, the bad and the ugly. And here it is—my first official blog blurt.

So I encourage my fellow PAs to use our beloved Cape Cod Model and their new growing edge experiments to keep the ball rolling and contribute to the GISC Blog. This blog may not be my finest but it’s finished in under an hour and I’m building a muscle that’ll serve me well. Thanks everyone and see you next year!

 

Jane Honeck, CPA is a GISC Certified Coach. She helps individuals, couples and systems create confidence in their decision–making process by teaching, challenging, discovering and communicating about money in new ways. Her vision is to Change the way the world thinks about money.

 

 

Twenty-Minute Chunks: Neuroscience and How We Best Learn

October 17th, 2014

By Mark Koenigsberg

My enthusiasm for neuroscience and its practical applications for my professional work as coach and consultant were inspired by two books, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee’s Resonant Leadership, and David Rock’s Your Brain at Work. Subsequent readings have kept me firmly on this path and have profoundly shaped my practice. The science in neuroscience is congruent with Gestalt teachings; the research and the ensuing data put teeth and bones into what, as Gestalt practitioners, we have intuitively known for years. It makes the soft stuff hard.

A recent document, “The Science of Making Learning Stick,”* highlights the findings of five PhD researchers, teachers and leaders, challenging long-held assumptions about how we best learn.

The following is a compilation of the article strictly for the non-scientists among us.

The Findings:

  • 20 minute chunks, then refresh. Most of us can only give full and undivided attention for twenty minutes, then attention and the ability to retain what is learned drops. Learning is not akin to running a marathon, less is effectively more.
  • We cannot force people’s brains to pay attention to us or to take in new material when that brain needs a break. We need to pay attention to attention.
  • Spacing, as in time between team or learning sessions, increases long-term retention. Consider three 20-minute content rich learning or team sessions spaced out during a work week (e.g. Mon/Wed/Friday mornings).
  • Spacing allows for sleep, which does wonders for long-term learning. Sleep provides optimal conditions for converting newly encoded memories into long-term storage.
  • Visual and auditory learning engage different areas of the brain. Showing a PowerPoint slide while simultaneously talking to your audience asks our brains to do auditory and visual learning simultaneously, hence neither function optimally. It is neither an effective, nor an efficient learning or teaching strategy. Show your slide, pause, don’t speak, ask for people’s attention, then talk to them.
  • Multitasking is the enemy of learning. Let’s repeat this. Multitasking is the enemy of learning. It does not work and those who think and report that they are great at it regularly score the worst when tested for retention. Multi-tasking distracts our brains from concentration and focus.
  • Positive emotion. When we feel good we are more creative.  We have greater insight – more “aha” moments, and our perception expands.
  • Retention and idea generation increase when we think about learning in the context of others, meaning how we will apply what we have learned in the context of our social (family, workplace, client-based) environment.
  • Conclude a team session by asking, “Who will you share this information with?” or, “How will you use this information with others?” Doing so leverages the power of social learning to make lessons stick, sticking in our brains!

 

*NeuroLeadership Journal, Volume 5/August 2014 – Josh Davis, Maite Balda, David Rock, Paul McGinness, Lita Davachi

 

 

   
Gestalt International Study Center
P.O. Box 515, South Wellfleet, MA 02663
Phone: +1 555 123 4567