To better support the change in the ways of working within the European Commission, a group of colleagues from different teams have decided to join forces in a collective. The idea is to bring together within the same entity all the existing teams which support, facilitate, advise on change, whether they come from the field of HR, organisational development, coaching, consulting, IT, science, governance, data and knowledge management, facilitation, etc. A few days ago, 40+ members of these teams came together for the first time. I had the privilege of being part of these colleagues as a participant and as a host with Ildikó Faber, Mira Bangel, Snezha Kazakova, Fania Pallikarakis, Antonella Tarallo, and Suvi.
One of my roles was to bring visual thinking to the day’s sessions. To help get to know each other better, a session was about creating a competencies visual map. I proposed to colleagues to use wool threads to link their name to competencies, teams and entities on a large board. The session was very dynamic and the result very visual.
To create a common understanding of the mandate of the new entity, we used an hand-made illustration of its 3 pillars. During the session, it was easier for my colleagues speakers to support their explanations and stories with the illustration, while the participants could more easily understand what was presented.
Visual thinking is a work tool that is increasingly used at the European Commission. A tool for making sense, which helps to clarify ideas, to better understand and remember.
The JRC Month of Coaching ended with an inspiring talk by Steve Neale, from the Limbic Performance System. As usual, I took visual notes to remind myself of Steve’s main messages. At the same time and without us concerted, my colleague Alexandra Balahur took written notes and wrote a superb article.
With her permission, I publish below our two summaries of the same talk. As further proof that words and visuals are complementary. They support each other to allow readers to have a deeper understanding of the subject by using more cognitive functions.
The Alexandra’s article (originally published on an internal platform of the EC) and below my sketchnotes:
One universal choice
All choices we make boil down to only one: the choice between love and fear. Love is coming back to the birthplace of “I am enough”, of self-worth, of “I value, accept and like myself fully” (in full awareness of all my good and my less good), while fear is the opposite of all that – questioning one’s self worth, comparing oneself with others, judging oneself and others, always feeling “not enough”. Love makes good leaders and coaches, fear is a sign that EGO and its never fully met needs are standing in the way of our reaching our highest potential. Limiting beliefs, past negative experience – learned or lived -, conditioning become the interference from “enough” to “not enough”. This was the powerful message that closed the JRC Month of Coaching in an inspiring talk delivered by Steve Neale.
The Rider and their Elephant
As a Psychologist, Executive Coach, Hypnotherapist, NLP Practitioner, Psychodynamic Therapist and International Author & Speaker, Steve Neale is the Creator of the Limbic Performance System for Outstanding Leadership and Teams and the author of the Emotional Intelligence Coaching book that inspires leadership coaches and leaders worldwide. The metaphor he uses at the basis of EI Coaching – that of the rider and the elephant, signifies the relationship between our rational ‘brain’ and our emotional ‘brain’. Coaching is seen as a process of aligning the two – the rider and the elephant – by gaining awareness of the interactions between our thoughts, feelings and actions and how these interactions lead to our behaviour and eventually performance.
What makes a good leader is the same as what makes a good coach
Steve’s closing talk focused on leadership and coaching – how to be or become a good leader and a good coach. In his view, reaching our own highest potential is becoming an effective leader of ourselves and our relationships. According to our speaker, being a good leader implies: First: Getting over your own ego and returning to your birth place of “I am enough” (Awareness of your ego and its never met needs) Then: Helping others become the best version of themselves
How to help others become the best versions of themselves? Leader vs. Coach
In a similar way as a coach supports a coachee in the journey to becoming the best version of themselves, leaders support those in their team do the same. According to Steve Neale, both achieve this by being truly present, using full spectrum listening (intuitive and emotional), asking great, challenging and growth-focused questions, reframing situations, giving the person in front a safe space to be heard, felt, not judged and to grow. And this can only be done if their own EGO does not stand in the way – i.e., judging (good or bad), needing to “fix”, needing to help, not being present for the other, leading with questions to a specific answer, comparing themselves with the other, wanting power, praise or recognition. In a nutshell, by choosing love over fear and supporting the person in front to do the same.
The only choice we ever make is between love and fear, but each and every one of us is different and thus what the choice will look like in practice is different, as well. Understanding our full potential and eliminating our fears requires gaining knowledge and awareness about ourselves: our values, needs, emotions, our thoughts and thought processes, our beliefs – both positive and limiting, our fears and what lies beneath them, etc. Coaching is about this process of gaining self-knowledge and self-understanding, empowering us to choose love – i.e. make choices that are truly in alignment with who we are, what we stand for and what we believe in, beyond fear (of not being enough, of being less than X, of what others will say or think, etc.). What does that look like in practice? Here are five sentences Steve Neale proposed in his talk.
When I have a healthy respect for myself I….
When I feel really good about who I am I…
When I know and value my own worth I…
When I feel attractive and at ease with my look and body I…
When I don’t worry about what others think of me I…
My takeaway from conversations that I captured visually
Our brain has great difficulty understanding a complex system with only words. A visual can bring clarity about the complexity and eventually show that what appears to be complex is just complicated.
Over 200 colleagues from across the JRC, the European Commission’s science and knowledge department, met for the launch of their future new transversal working structures, the JRC scientific portfolios. The goal was to engage and discuss around the journey they are about to embark upon together. As with any departure, there was excitement but also some fear sometimes in the face of the unknown.
During a large World Café exercise, colleagues discussed the many outstanding issues, roles and responsibilities, collaboration, resources, to name but a few. At the end, each conversation table shared their main conclusions with everyone. The large number of points, open questions, as well as the numerous interlinkages, made it difficult not to qualify the portfolios system as complex.
My task was to take visual notes of the conclusions, the typical graphic harvesting of a World Café. Because it was too much, too dense and fast, I just noted on post-its the key words and few arrows. Afterwards I put on a large paper a first draft of all of that. Only then did I reorder the points and the connections to create a mind-map on my iPad.
In his report after the event in which he used my visuals, Stephen Quest, the JRC Director-General, said “the portfolios must not become another layer of complexity. Rather, we need to use them to help navigate our complexity.” I am happy and proud to have been able to bring clarity to this apparent complexity with my visual, and I hope I have reduced it to something only complicated.
Two other graphic recordings of the presentations the day before:
And the video to illustrate my visual thinking process in three steps: post-its > draft on large paper > mind map on iPad.
Who has never wondered how to reduce their workload? But who has never found a solution to the question, which is not episodic or ridiculous in terms of real benefits?
My colleague Oliver Kozak brought his scientific and systemic approach to present how continuous improvement can help us to really reduce worlkload.
The objective is to free up enough time to be able to start improving, in order to free up even more time up to 40% to be able to improve continuously and ultimately create much more value at work (by moving from the Spend-It-All team model to the Time-Investor team model). How to get there concretely? By improving in three areas: (your) work processes, team efficiency, and organisation development. Important: you have to go slowly, step by step, with persistence day after day, be patient, and get support.
In a nutshell, the article rightly says that traditional change management, the destination model, is often just a one–off. The journey model is about learning and experience. And the building model is about creating a long term culture with change-ability in the organisation DNA.
My colleague Valeria Croce asked me to record visually two fantastic sessions she organised on “Trust” with renowned speakers. I reproduce here, to accompany my visual notes, the essential passages of the articles that Valeria wrote after the sessions, as a report.
Resilient teams: how trust underpins care and performance in teams
To trust each other at work is even more important in the context of hybrid or remote work, with limited human interaction and the difficulty to reach out to new people!
Chris Tamdjidi shared with us the evidence and learnings he collected through the years working with teams inside and outside the Commission, focussing on the important role of trust in teamwork. He observed that:
It is difficult to build a culture of collaboration: while most teams have established processes to perform tasks, they don’t have established processes to improve how they work together,
During Covid he observed an increase in individual productivity, but a decrease in collaborative productivity: it takes more effort to connect with others and collaborate in a remote setting.
We risk to work in micro-silos, narrow connections because of remote working – we maintain the relationships we already have, it takes efforts to build new ones.
This is why it is important to build team habits that help strengthen collaboration, team resilience and trust, especially in a hybrid environment. These habits are: Habits of attention; of connection; and of positivity.
Why being trusted (or distrusted) matters
Trust is critical to create an environment where colleagues collaborate, share knowledge, engage and contribute to the achievement of the shared purpose. Yet, trust-based relationships require time to be built. What can we do to start building trust from the very beginning of a new collaborative project with colleagues from outside our team or unit?
Hilary Sutcliffe and Vanja Skoric shared lessons they learned working for over 130 civil society projects.In a nutshell, they identify four areas, where most barriers to trust and collaboration can be found, namely:
Prior experiences and assumptions
Skills and procedures
Culture and incentives
Three aspects that are crucial to overcome barriers are: A (truly) shared purpose; a trustworthy process (based on seven drivers of trustworthiness: openness, integrity, competence, inclusion, respect and fairness); and a visible impact.
I knew that the JRC, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission that I joined only a few months ago, is a furnace of ideas and projects, and that the colleagues who work there are incredible people. I can see now how much I underestimated both things after I participated in the JRC Science Summit.
During 3 days, JRC colleagues offered sessions and workshops on the subjects that fascinate them, on which they work, all related to the present and future of the centre. As a graphic recorder, this was my task during the 3 days, I was amazed by the enthusiasm, the quality of the research, and maybe I didn’t understand everything either.
I was inspired by the visual identity of the event for my visual notes. I reused the color code to distinguish each of the 3 days while marking the continuity between them. Prior to the event, I created a separate canvas on my iPad for each of the 3 days, which I completed live during the event. Here is the result of the 3 canvases assembled to each other and the 3 taken separately:
Below is a small Prezi animation that goes into even more detail:
I want to thank my colleagues in the JRC who organised this event for giving me the opportunity to capture it visually, and especially Elke Hanssens for helping me put the material together.