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  • Monday, November 13, 2023 5:58 PM | Kathy Vlietstra (Administrator)

    In a recent conversation, Society of Process Consulting member Jeanne Zimmerly Jantzi and Member Services Specialist Kathy Vlietstra discussed the concept of "guesthood" and its connections to process consulting. Jeanne shed light on the importance of guesthood as a mindset and a valuable approach when working with clients, drawing parallels between diverse cultural experiences and the world of process consulting.

    What is Guesthood?

    Jeanne shared her unique perspective on guesthood, drawn from her extensive experience living in different cultures, including Africa and Asia. She explained that anthropologists use “guesthood” to describe an ethical decolonizing research method. Guesthood emphasizes being a respectful and humble guest rather than a dominant colonizer.. It encourages cultural sensitivity, fosters positive interactions, and promotes a balanced dynamic of being within a scene without taking over the scene. Practicing guesthood involves acknowledging your role as a guest, treading lightly, and approaching new situations with openness for more harmonious relationships.

    She revealed that during her time in Indonesia, she and her intercultural team were the objects of an two year anthropological study. The Australian researcher entered their space as a guest, trying to observe, interpret, and make conclusions while also inviting her interpretation and analysis. The guesthood approach differs from earlier approaches to anthropology, in which observations and interpretations are made without the participation and analysis of the group being studied This experience opened her eyes to the essence of guesthood and its significance to the idea of co-creation of processes and knowledge.

    Guesthood in Learning

    The guesthood mindset encourages consultants to approach their work as observers and learners first, rather than imposing their own ideas and assumptions on clients. This approach is particularly crucial in intercultural consulting, where respecting the culture and being mindful of power dynamics are of paramount importance. As Jeanne put it, “there is a lot of remembering to be quiet, observe, and ask questions.”

    The Connection Between Guesthood and Co-Creation

    Jeanne’s insights align with the principles of process consulting, emphasizing the importance of co-creation. The guesthood paradigm illuminates the importance of checking any assumptions or conclusions with the Client for accuracy. Rather than entering a client's space with preconceived solutions, process consultants aim to work in partnership with their clients. This collaborative approach fosters a sense of respect, mutual learning, and the acknowledgment that clients bring invaluable knowledge to the table.

    Recognizing Power Dynamics and Whiteness

    Jeanne’s perspective highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing power dynamics in consulting relationships. She stresses that consultants, especially those with privilege, should be acutely aware of the power they bring to a client engagement. This acknowledgment includes understanding how their presence may impact the client's decision-making process, and the responsibility to be humble, respectful, and avoid overpowering the client with their own perspectives and assumptions.

    Applying the Guesthood Mindset in the US

    Understanding guesthood in the United States means recognizing power imbalances and how it relates to issues like caste and implicit bias. Jeanne explained how the awareness of caste can help us understand power imbalances in various situations, such as age-related dynamics and racial biases. She encouraged people to be mindful of their own position in these systems and strive to reject and rectify the constructs that perpetuate power imbalances.

    Challenges and Opportunities

    Jeanne noted that adopting the guesthood mindset helps consultants in entering any new organizational culture. Recognizing and addressing power dynamics leads to inclusivity and collaboration, benefiting consulting and promoting diversity and equity.

    In summary, the guesthood concept offers a valuable framework for process consultants to approach their work with humility, openness, and a deep respect for the knowledge and experiences of their clients. By applying the principles of guesthood, we can navigate the complex world of consulting while actively challenging and dismantling systemic power imbalances in society.

    If you would like to learn more about guesthood, Jeanne shares the following academic journal article by Graham Harvey as a great resource - Guesthood as Ethical Decolonizing Research Method

  • Wednesday, October 18, 2023 12:40 PM | Kathy Vlietstra (Administrator)

    The Society and DGI would like to welcome Kathy Vlietstra to the team as our Member Services Specialist and Webmaster. Kathy started with us this past summer, and we thought you may want to get to know her a little better.

    Kathy brings over a decade of experience in the realm of executive coaching and organization-management work. Her journey to the Society began with a shared connection - a mutual acquaintance, who introduced her to the opportunity.

    Kathy's philosophy on customer and member services is rooted in empathy. She endeavors to understand the needs and preferences of the members she serves. By recognizing gaps in service offerings, Kathy ensures that the Society aligns with the expectations of its members and stakeholders. Listening to their voices is at the core of her approach.

    Members might be surprised to learn that Kathy lived on the East Coast for a significant part of her life. Born a Michigander, she spent almost two decades in Massachusetts and Vermont before returning to Michigan. Her son, a high school senior, keeps her rooted in the state she now calls home.

    As we look to the next year, Kathy shared her aspirations. Her primary goals revolve around enhancing membership and ensuring the Society effectively communicates its services. Collaboration with the entire team, particularly with the Society's CEO, Kim Stezala, is vital to ensure that members' needs are not only met but exceeded.

    Kathy's arrival at the Society for Process Consulting brings a wealth of experience and a profound commitment to member services. Her vision for the year ahead promises exciting developments and a renewed focus on meeting the needs of the SPC's dedicated members.

  • Tuesday, May 16, 2023 11:49 AM | Hallie Knox

    Today's guest blog post was written by our current spotlighted member, Dr. Linda Baker-Brandon, who serves as the Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator (TTAC) and Education Consultant Director for ICF. A Certified Process Consultant using process consulting practices, Dr. Linda walks alongside her team of 42 remote professionals, who in turn walk alongside the managers and facilitators of government-funded programs such as Head Start, enabling them to meet their goals and regulations through training and technical assistance. Dr. Linda is a model Listener, Helper, and Learner! 

    It might not sound like it from the description, but my job really is all about process consulting.

    I serve as the Training and Technical Assistant Coordinator and Education Consultant Director for ICF. What exactly does that mean? I provide leadership, training, and coaching to a team of 42 remote professionals across 8 states to ensure the successful delivery of training and technical assistance to Grant Recipients funded by Region IV Administration for Children and Families and by the US Department of Agriculture.

    In other words, I coach and train the team that coaches and trains other program teams, empowering Grant Recipients to remain self-sufficient and exceed federal, state, and other regulations. One of the primary programs we work with is Head Start, which promotes school readiness and provides young children and their families with top-quality services – no matter where they live. As you might imagine, the local Head Start teams often find themselves in tough positions, striving to comply with the stringent federal laws for providing services to low-income, culturally-diverse populations while also meeting their goals of truly serving and supporting their communities. My team’s role is to provide tailored training and technical assistance to empower those teams to cover all the gaps and get the real, vital, community-transforming work done.

    My first exposure to process consulting occurred when the National Center did a broad-perspective training about 6 years ago. The basic tenets and practices resonated and were obviously applicable to both my role and the roles of those on my team who actively support our Grant Recipients, so a couple years ago, as part of our team’s own professional development, we all enrolled together in PCT 101 – and I’m so grateful we did.

    My team walks alongside the Grant Recipients and programs they support, and I, in turn, walk alongside my team. Just as a collaborative, conversational approach empowers our Grant Recipients to buy in and take ownership of their programs, the same approach from me empowers my team to take their roles into their own hands with confidence. I have check-ins with each manager on my team at least monthly and an all-hands monthly team meeting. Depending on the situation it may be a much more continuous dialogue – if they’re new to the field, navigating a particular challenge, or simply in a moment when they need more support. As I’ve moved more and more intentionally into process consulting ways of being and interacting and leading, it has been amazing to see the difference it can make for each of the managers I work with. They visibly shift from being recipients of my training, knowledge, or advice, into being the owners of their own processes. I have gleaned a vast amount of knowledge from each of them. 

    The greatest challenge, of course, has been truly learning to listen – even when I feel I’ve heard it all before. How many times have you had to bite your lip and nod while listening to a friend, spouse, child, or team member talking through an issue they’re facing – that you’ve faced a thousand times, or seen a thousand other individuals face? It can take so much discipline not to blurt out, “Ah, I know this one! Here’s what you need to do.”

    I have held the positions that my staff members now hold, and I have heard similar stories from many of my staff members across 8 states. Intentional listening becomes most difficult when you believe you already know the solution or the process that should occur. But there is so much power in that intentional pause. Of taking a breath, listening deeply, reflecting what you’re hearing, and working with them towards their own clarity and understanding of the problem that can lead to the best process and solution. Sometimes, it turns out, I haven’t heard the issue correctly at all, because my prior experiences clouded my perception. Sometimes, my team members do find their way to exactly the solution I was sure would work – but they find their way there on their own terms, as the owner of that process, with greater confidence and ability that they would have had if I’d just handed them a bandage. If nothing else, process consulting teaches us the fruitful beauty of patience.

  • Wednesday, February 15, 2023 4:24 PM | Hallie Knox

    Dear readers,

    The venerable Dr. Edgar H. Schein, a prolific writer, leader, teacher, and practitioner of Process Consultation, passed away in January at the age of 94.

    I was given the gift of conversation and emails with Dr. Schein (Ed) over the last year as we introduced him to the Society for Process Consulting:  who we are, what we do, and how he might be more involved.  He always asked good questions, critical questions, and I certainly learned a lot from him. These early steps in developing a relationship with him now seem cut short much sooner than we would have liked:

    …We showed him examples of how his seminal work, and more recent work, are incorporated in the Society’s curriculum, rich with examples of his legacy on organizational development and a different type of consulting – “humble inquiry” as he called it in one of his books co-written with his son Peter Schein.

    …We also shared the manuscript with him of Listening, Helping, Learning: Core Competencies of Process Consulting, a book by Mark L. Vincent, with contributors from across the country, for which Ed graciously wrote a testimonial.

    … Lon Swartzentruber, the CEO of Design Group International, had a chance to interview Dr. Schein back in 2020 and a summary of what transpired is shared in a blog post and recording from that time:  The seduction of expertise and other consulting lessons.

    We hope that these efforts to connect with “Ed” will continue to expand his legacy as a massive contributor to the field of process consulting, and in his manner, I can only say how humbled I was to be a part of it.

    In memory of Dr. Edgar H. Schein 1928 - 2023

    Professor Emeritus, MIT Sloan School of Management & Author with Peter Schein of Humble Inquiry, rev.Ed. (2021), Humble Leadership (2018), and Humble Consulting (2016)

  • Sunday, December 04, 2022 10:37 PM | Hallie Knox

    Our current member spotlight falls on Genyne Edwards, JD. Co-founder of P3 Development Group, Edwards is a sought-after thought leader and the recipient of many awards, including the 2021 Milwaukee Business Journal’s Diversity in Business Award. Edwards is an Executive Process Consultant and hands-on facilitator and practitioner in the areas of organizational development, communications, and DEI. She was instrumental in the creation of the Society’s pilot PCT 102 program, designed specifically for consultants of color through a partnership with the African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee (AALAM). Read on for her reflection on the timely and necessary components of process consulting in her work and in today’s world.

    We are only as good as the listening that we do.

    Extrapolate that statement however you want – I’ve found it applies to relationships, professional efficacy, personal development, and more. Most of all, I’ve found it to hold true in my work with clients. Throughout my time as an attorney and a consultant, I’ve seen how powerful a truly good question can be, as long as the answer is deeply heard and reflected upon with intention. Listening is the bedrock of the practice.

    A few years back Kim Stezala, CEO of the Society for Process Consulting, reached out to me with an invitation to participate in an all-day session focused on talking through the urgent need to diversify the consulting field. A lot of discussion and a lot of listening later, my co-founder Dominique Samari and I were involved in creating an approach to supporting people of color interested in process consulting. We partnered with the African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee (AALAM) to run a PCT 102 cohort for 8 amazing leaders with an incredible array of backgrounds and skills. There’s a whole population of black and brown leaders out there interested in diving into consulting, and we were able to be a part of these individuals’ stories because we listened, we collaborated, we reflected - and we responded adaptively to what we heard. If you strive to support change, however large or small, in any arena, you have to start by listening.

    More and more the world is moving towards a greater understanding and appreciation of consultants who model co-creation, act as “guides on the side,” and emphasize the client’s centrality and lead role in the process. You’ll still get pushback from some clients who are looking for an expert to swoop in and “fix” things, but in general you’ll find that people understand they live in a deeply complex world that simply does not contain quick and easy solutions. They’ve been listening. People may always have trouble being “helpable,” but there is a slow-down that is happening – a growing awareness that something has to change, especially in conversations around both diversity, equity and inclusion and environmental, social and governance – and we can be a part of those conversations if we step into our clients’ processes with our eyes and ears wide open.

    You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing an environment and culture rife with polarization, complexity, ambiguity, and conflict. More than ever, there is a need for sensitivity towards people who are unlike us as our surroundings and conversations shift. There is a need for change, not just in group settings, but on an individual level as well – there will be no organizational change without buy-in from the individual managers, or without engagement and modeling from the CEO. What tools are available for individuals and organizations interested in engaging in change in the midst of all the chaos and conflicting voices? Collaboration. Conversations. Listening.

    I learned about appreciative inquiry and design thinking long before I ever heard the term “process consulting,” but the tools I’ve gained through my involvement with PCT 102 have allowed me to increase the efficacy of my work on a practical, daily level. Beyond that, process consulting has connected me with a network of like-minded leaders who are having conversations that matter. It has placed me in a community of listeners. What could be more impactful than that?

  • Monday, October 24, 2022 9:08 AM | Hallie Knox

    This blog post was originally written for and published by the Christian Leadership Alliance. Mark L. Vincent created this blog by adapting an excerpt from his recent book, Listening Helping Learning: Core Competencies of Process Consulting.

    In recent years the work of Ed Schein began to distinguish between the expertise and knowledge often plied as the trade of consulting, and the more iterative method of bringing curiosity and co-creating the needed work with the Client. What is known as the field of Process Consulting began emerging and charting a different trajectory. With recent stories of traditional consulting firms upselling their Clients, the difference between these styles of consulting has never been more starkly painted. Here are a couple of definitions that can help paint the difference for anyone leading a ministry or non-profit that intends to acquire an outside consultative perspective.


    A general term. It can mean almost anyone who thinks they have something to offer by selling one’s time or intellectual property. From a Client perspective “Consultant” might mean anyone other than an employee retained for a specific task or access to intellectual property.

    Process Consultant

    Someone experienced in being a thought partner alongside a Client. They ask iterative design questions and develop with a Client a sequence of steps the Client intends to follow to address their objectives. Process Consultants can be recognized by their listening posture, their helping partnership, and their ongoing learning with the Client as the expression of Client service.

    Process Design

    The activity of designing with a Client so that a sequence of steps emerges that a Client pursues in addressing their stated objectives. The design work is primarily accomplished through robust answers to the iterating questions WHY, WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, and HOW.


    The organization that retains the Process Consultant, as well as the people of that organization.  “Client” is capitalized to signify that it refers to this intersection of people and their organization. This intersection is where the Process Consultant is found listening, helping, and learning.

    With these definitions in front of us, here is a little more about Process Consulting.

    More on Process Consulting

    Moving beyond raw data toward wisdom is a journey. Much gets discarded or distilled along the way.

    • We sift raw data so it can be shared as information.
    • Information is then rendered and sequenced to pass along to others as knowledge.
    • Knowledge successfully and repeatedly applied in a variety of contexts become recognized expertise.
    • Expertise analyzed, broken down, put back together, combined with other expertise, and then folded into an intuitive and non-anxious, creative forward leap; is one way we recognize wisdom.

    Going Deeper

    The journey from mere advising to the deeper wisdom of Process Consulting follows a similar path.

    • Advising in general is dispensing perspective whether it is useful, or not. Someone has a data point, and they choose to share it. An Advisor Tells.
    • Intellectual Property tends to be this same perspective organized for publication and dissemination, which increasingly gets labeled as Content. Content is either for general consumption, available for a consumer’s purchase or is an add-on resource tied to a Client engagement. An Expert sells.
    • Subject Matter Expertise, what we might also be describing as contracting or serving as a vendor, is that same Intellectual Property applied with a specific Client and for that Client’s context.  A Subject Matter Expert sells and tells or tells and sells.
    • Consulting connects multiple lines of subject matter expertise to address a Client’s unique need for change, often at a technical level.  The Consultant chooses between tools, assessments, or other processes to get at what the Client needs to do. Consultants sell, assess, tell, then sell again.
    • Process Consulting joins with the Client in not knowing what to do exactly, especially as the Client faces adaptive and/or complex change. The Process Consultant brings a non-anxious curiosity alongside the Client to design with the Client the steps (the process) they will follow to go from where they believe they are to where they choose to go. The Process Consultant asks, “what do you need to do?” followed by “what are you willing to do?”  In partnership with the Client, the Process Consultant listens, then helps, and then learns.

  • Thursday, September 15, 2022 10:14 AM | Hallie Knox

    This month’s member spotlight falls on Dacia Coffey, Certified Process Consultant and author of Corporate Caffeine. As the CEO of The Marketing Blender, a B2B sales and marketing alignment agency, Dacia helps clients transform their brand, revenue growth, and business development machine. She enthusiastically implements a process consulting approach in all of her work - read on to learn more. 

    The historical approach to branding and marketing is a compartmentalized thing - there’s a clear and firm dividing line between the client and the person making the magic. Pay no attention to the “man behind the curtain,” just pass over your marketing goals and they will get the job done, whether you know about it or not! 

    We at The Marketing Blender may have been guilty of starting out that way, but it didn’t take long to see the trend: when we worked with clients who welcomed or even initiated a collaborative creative process, getting deeply involved and partnering with us throughout our time together, the outcomes were simply better. The process was richer and more enjoyable for everyone involved, and more insights naturally arose during the process.  

    Huh, we thought. What if we started doing that on purpose? 

    We didn’t have a name for what that was, at the time. But we changed how we delivered across the board and stepped into a system of deeper inquiry and cooperation. As one example, we set up prerequisite workshops that were client-facing and highly collaborative, where we walked our clients through every step of our process. As their understanding and buy-in increased, client satisfaction went up. We started offering market plans - mapping all the connections between the many tactics involved in a marketing strategy - and we saw a decrease in instances of clients taking the tools we created for them and immediately breaking them. That focus on the strategic process, rather than a superficial list of tactics isolated from a larger picture, became a part of the culture for our 16-person team.  

    When I participated in the Process Consulting Training 101 through the Society, something incredible happened. I had a blind spot uncovered. It was one I may not have engaged with for years on my own. For the first time, someone really spelled it out for me: organizational and individual impact can happen at the same time. The typical model of an insulated, coldly professional client relationship had continued to cause me frustration and friction, and the training blew that framework right out of the water. There was exponential value in this new idea - that diving into the topics of leadership, culture, operations, and an individual client’s thoughts and feelings along the journey was essential to the customer experience.  

    There were a few other concepts from that training that have stayed with me and profoundly impacted my work ever since: 

    1. Humble inquiry. Oh, this one is so important. Humility is misunderstood by so many people. The reality is that confidence is humility’s twin. Whether you “sell it” that way or not, you are being hired for your brain power, your skillset, your experience, your unique abilities, and you have to cross a trust chasm before anyone will pay you for something intangible. Partnering humble inquiry with your confidence creates so much amazing space in client relationships. It gives you permission to lean into your confidence in a quieter, more comfortable, more real way. You don’t need smoke, mirrors, and posturing to convince your clients to partner with you. A humble question will impart more assurance than any amount of bluster and razzle dazzle. (For more on the concept of humble inquiry, check out Dr. Edgar Schein’s book of the same name.) 

    2. The focus on process. Beyond the impact an attitude of humble inquiry can have on your client relationships, it is also a far truer method for “finding the answer” than any other I’ve found – because the answer is the process. For all the confidence you may have in your knowledge and experience, in the end you are not selling anyone “your answer.” You are offering them your questions, your methods of exploration. You are inviting them to participate in a journey, with you acting as inquirer and guide. You are acknowledging you don’t hold the solution and assuring them of the value that will come through asking powerful questions in partnership.  

    3. Lifelong learning. This was a piece of our company history already – constantly striving for a better way. Today, being a learner by nature is a part of our hiring criteria. It’s also what we deliver. “You don’t get to be done with this, EVER,” we tell our clients. “Marketing has no finish line!” Some people may find that exhausting, but we can flip that. It’s in our mission statement: we see it as having a domino effect of positivity. When you implement lifelong learning into how you deliver, this beautiful virtuous cycle occurs. How wonderful is it to remember that there’s always more to do? 

    And, speaking of lifelong learning. I took my learning from PCT 101 home, digested it, applied it, and implemented it with my team. We stepped into a new way of doing marketing, and tore down that curtain so our clients could see exactly how the magic works. We have been doing that, on purpose, ever since. 

  • Wednesday, August 31, 2022 9:27 PM | Hallie Knox

    Learning and knowing are overlapping postures. Overlapping, rather than either separate or identical. We can't know unless we learn. We can't learn without at least some awareness that we do not know. 

    But here is the difference: learning implies an ongoing desire to know while knowing does not necessarily mean a continuing desire to learn.

    If someone's basic posture is knowing, they interact with the world through their desire to hoard, teach, sell, or perhaps keep their knowledge a secret. A person becomes too busy talking or feeling smug to stop, look, listen, and learn.

    If the basic posture is learning, however, a person interacts with the world through their desire to listen, study, reflect, purchase, gather, and synthesize. They are moving more deliberately and openly and cannot help but learn.

    Can you feel this difference?

    For many of us in Process Consulting, our journey of moving into the world and trying to influence it based on our expertise gave way to this conscious development of a deliberate, restrained, and non-anxious presence. We hold space with a Client while we listen to a problem or opportunity together. We determine what help looks like and co-design a process to address it. We then have the opportunity to learn together. 

    The knowing approach can be a way to convey technical, fixed knowledge, yet it cannot adequately address adaptive changes because it resists ongoing discovery. It's too busy talking to listen and observe. Taking the learning approach, however, people notice things they would otherwise miss. They ask, What do we have here? Observing unexpected things is where differentiations come from that become new to the world products, innovative service offerings, and on rare occasions, a solution that makes an enormous problem disappear. We don't get to the new by knowing but through our openness to learn. 

    The simplest expression of the twelve core competencies of Process Consulting is via the three categories of listening, helping, and learning. They are often identified in this order because of how they build into each other, just like nesting dolls do. Deep listening invites the Client to join in and begin listening to itself. The Process Consultant and the Client are now joined together in rendering and carrying out what help looks like. Along the way, everyone learns. It is a sticky learning that can be offered to those who come after us, rather than proprietary learning, where we prevent others from knowing unless it can be sold because we think this knowledge belongs to us. 

    For this once, however, let's reverse the order. A partnership of learning with the intention of the world's flourishing can only happen because there is a communal effort to help figure it out.

    And the trust needed to figure it out jointly is possible because of the trusted relationships that grow from the time invested in listening to one another.

    P.S. Here is yet one more way to consider these categories of competencies:

    • Learning builds a common future while knowing only celebrates the individual's past.
    • Helping brings widespread communal accomplishment while performing seeks the momentary spotlight. 
    • Listening invites many voices while telling seeks many ears.

  • Sunday, August 14, 2022 7:21 PM | Hallie Knox

    Our member spotlight for August falls on Annie Laing, entrepreneur and Advanced Process Consultant. Annie recently established her own coaching and consulting business, The Minded Spaces, and has a passion for helping small businesses and nonprofits align their internal processes to allow for growth and a thriving internal culture. Annie is currently based in the DFW Metroplex in Texas.

    Remember the feeling of pulling Elmer’s glue off your fingers as a kid? Kicking a perfect goal in a soccer match? Managing to get a tangerine peel off all in one perfectly spiraling piece? These little experiences all fall into one category in my mind – they’re satisfying.

    For me, there are few things more satisfying than solving a problem. I love puzzles, and I love sticking it out through an interpersonal challenge to get to the “aha” moment. My past work had me coordinating between executive teams, and I had a million opportunities to see the impact a simple process tweak could have. Have you ever stepped into a space full of people churning too hard without getting the desired results; identified the spot where a process was missing, wrong, or just no longer serving its purpose; guided the team towards a simple, achievable solution; and watched their success supply them with the momentum they needed to keep bounding ahead? In coaching we call that “aha” moment the ‘spark of insight.’ As someone whose passion is people, there is nothing more satisfying than watching that spark take root and create serious positive change for someone, or for a team or organization full of someones.

    I love being a creative, puzzle-brained problem-solver. My ability to see how processes fit together (or don’t) and my drive to create solutions to problems, along with my love of the people depending on those processes – these are part of what make me who I am. It was an absolute gift to find out that, through the Society for Process Consulting, I could get certified to do my all-time favorite thing of helping people solve problems together. Who’d have thought?

    The learning curve for me has been the posture of humble listening. I am continually learning to suppress the urge to point out what I perceive as a quick fix in order to make way for the truer, better, most gratifying solution that will come later on – the one found through partnership, powerful questions, and humble listening. I understand that the impact of a collaborative problem-solving process will resound far longer than any quick-fix solution I could whip up on my own (even if it were a good solution!). You won’t understand the true gift of the process unless you first walk alongside the team with the disciplines of humility and being a slow-to-speak, discerning listener. It’s a professional challenge that I enjoy, and the joy of problem-solving is multiplied tenfold at the conclusion of that listening and learning process.

    Here are the most powerful tools I’ve found toward that end so far:

    ● Before you step into any interaction as a process consultant, remind yourself: My greatest strength is not my expertise or my problem-solving skills. It is my ability to be here as an active and humble listener, reflecting my client’s own situation back to them as a guide.

    ● You still get to own your expertise, your knowledge, and your skills. Those don’t disappear, but they certainly do not take center stage. In general, you’ll be in the background using all your awesome skills and expertise to point the spotlight, quietly rotate the set, and coordinate the microphones in support of the main player – your client – as they work their way through their own story.

    ● ALWAYS start with the “Why.” You can step into a room full of people willing to duke it out over the “What” and the “How,” but through powerful questions and deep listening you’ll find their agreement on the “Why” almost every time. Once they all remember they are on the same team with a shared mission, the work can truly begin.

    ● Stay challenged. I hope I never quite perfect the skills of humble listening and asking powerful questions. I hope to invest in this learning process for the rest of my life.

    With process consulting as your framework, it’s a joyful challenge to create solutions to problems with others. What could be more satisfying?

  • Monday, August 08, 2022 11:16 AM | Hallie Knox

    This blog post is the second of three in which Mark L. Vincent - recent author of Listening Helping Learning: Core Competencies of Process Consulting, containing a wide variety of case studies from some of our own members - will hone in on the categories of the process consulting competencies: listening, helping, and learning.

    What is your definition of the word help? 

    For some - especially if they have been in social work or relief and development - it might be a troubling word, sounding colonialist and superior, as in I am here to help you. This can be experienced as disempowering and arrogant, especially if a need for help is assumed and was not requested.

    For others it is a plea: Help me! It is an expression of helplessness. While some might make this plea in order to manipulate the sympathy of others, it more often comes after experiencing harm, incapability and even desperation. Needing to ask for help can be kin to humiliation.

    For helping professions such as law or medicine, help is the work, the expertise, the offering of service that could not be gained otherwise. Here is how I can help. The question is whether it is actually help, as in aid,  or a transaction because the "help" is usually priced as a service.

    There are other subtle nuances around the word help, and it is good for both the Helper and Helpee to take the time to enter the experiences of each other to better understand what is meant. 

    For those of us committed to Process Consulting, help is something done in a partnership, especially where adaptive moves are concerned. What will actually be done in the end is not known. The Client has work to do in figuring out how to approach an opportunity or challenge. The Process Consultant is experienced in walking alongside the Client in designing and facilitating a process to figure it out. Working together, help is rendered in addressing the opportunity or challenge.

    Using Ed Schein's definition“Helping is a common yet complex process. It is an attitude, a set of behaviors, a skill, and an essential component of social life. It is the core of what we think of as teamwork and is an essential ingredient of organizational effectiveness. It is one of the most important things that leaders do and it is at the heart of change processes."

    The Client and the Process Consultant are joint investors in the helping process and co-creators of any solution. 

    And yet, let's not too quickly gloss over the varied conceptions of what help is, and assume that just because we know a definition of help where Process Consulting is concerned, that everyone in the room will assume the same definition.  Whether personally or organizationally, we don't readily ask for help - not from each other or from outside assistance - unless we feel safe and have learned to trust the players.  For someone's Process Consulting practice, creating and holding safe spaces where help is performed is critical to effective Client relationships and outcomes.

    So how can we recognize that the possibility of jointly rendering help is a possibility that can become a reality?  The Core Competencies of Process Consulting give us some guidance.

    Helping is:

    • Client-centered -- Help centers on Client-defined objectives and according to the Client's definition of done.
    • Client-owned and inspired -- The Client is doing the work, and wants to.
    • Client-specific - Listening alongside the Client provides clarity about the unique context of the Client. Client-defined objectives are tailored to that context rather than assuming one solution works everywhere.
    • Client success -- The Process Consultant and Client are able to say they did what the Client set out to do.

    Helping in this way brings a Client and Process Consultant together at a point of mutual vulnerability. It is okay for us not to know what needs to be done exactly! At this intersection of mutual vulnerability the helping relationship becomes a shoulder to shoulder effort of figuring out an approach to a challenge or opportunity. And it is at this intersection that discoveries are made and new to the world solutions are born because we set aside our fears of incompetence and took up the courage to learn.

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