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The Clean For Teams Experience


A couple of weeks ago, 20 participants – ranging from self-employed coaches, and experienced Clean Facilitators to NHS Managers and people who work in business, IT and social care – gathered in a beautiful (and occasionally chilly) old barn on Northney Farm in Hayling Island for our very first Clean for Teams event.

Caitlin’s book, From Contempt to Curiosity, in which she tells the story of how she developed Systemic Modelling – a clean approach to working with groups – is a great place to start for those looking for a description of what is involved and how it works, and you can use many of the ideas straight off the page. But to fully understand the process and the impact it can have, you really need to experience it for yourself. If you happen to be in one of the groups we facilitate in a business, a community, a school or a surgery, you will get this experience as a matter of course. And our “Clean for Teams” event opens this opportunity up to anyone who wants to experience the process from the inside - perhaps for you own personal development or more likely because you are interested in facilitating groups and want to see the process in action, or because you are considering joining our Systemic Modelling training programme. If you have read the book, this is akin not to just watching the movie, but to stepping into it – to having your own role within an action-packed and unscripted drama that unfolds over the two days.

I have been studying and practising Systemic Modelling with Caitlin for over 18 months, although working with her on her book and training materials for much longer than that, and I have found that, like the Clean Language questions themselves, the Systemic Modelling questions, processes and models are relatively easy to pick up:
It is understanding and applying the principles of Systemic Modelling before, during and after these activities that turns this bunch of exercises into a coherent system for enabling groups to start self-modelling, collaborating and making good use of everyone’s resources.

For example, when I first started to use this process, I didn’t really see why Caitlin would insist that the chairs should be arranged in a circle – not a semi-circle with us at the front, not an oval, or an otherwise distorted circle, not around a table (unless we have no option) - but a circle, which includes us and which includes the flipchart. Now, though, it seems self-evident: if people are going to have equal space and time in the group, there is no more ‘equal’ arrangement than a circle; if people are going to enquire into one another’s experiences including their gestures, they have to be able to see one another properly; and if the facilitator is going to use the space between people – I mean physically get up and ‘separate’ people’s metaphors – then a circle affords that opportunity.

As with one-to-one Clean Language coaching, every Systemic Modelling session is different, depending on the number of people present, who they are, where they are in the room, their relationships with one another, the metaphors they share and the dramas that occur as the process unfolds. It is impossible to account and prescribe an action for everything that could happen, so learning and understanding the principles, applying them in many different contexts, getting feedback and acting on it is the only way to learn the art of Systemic Modelling.

And that takes me back to what I was saying about the need to experience the process as a group member before endeavouring to learn how to facilitate it for yourself…

After the workshop we asked people what they learned about themselves, about other people and about using Clean Language to work with teams / groups. Have a read through some of their answers to get a feel for whether this experience would be for you.

What did you learn about yourself?

That I see things in pictures (my dominant sense), so when you say taste a lemon I see the lemon or a slice of lemon in a drink, when you say smell smoke, I see the open fire in a hearth. When we did the time exercise I saw a picture of something that had happened in each time frame you mentioned.

I learnt that I am happy with feeling angry now; I have come a long way.

That I am comfortable being outspoken and taking the lead in questioning what is going on around me in the group, when I feel it is appropriate.

I encountered the moments when I am judgemental and began to learn how to turn that around into enquiry and curiosity and I touched into that very delicate balance between discernment and honesty when working in a team: when to say, what to say, how to say, how much to filter etc.

What did you learn about others?

That I need to ask more questions to understand what people are thinking and what meaning they are placing on things and events. People are fascinating. And they want to be listened to.

That even when you give a group the rules of an exercise there will always be someone who doesn’t want to abide by them, for example when you say just ask one question and then move to the next person, some people asked 4 questions.

I understand that you can’t tell people what to do - everyone has a different perspective and their own way of doing things.

What did you learn about using Clean Language in groups / teams?

Teams can all be working towards a goal or issue in the centre of the circle not just bouncing ideas between people, but feeding a central theme. The physicality of that is very effective. Also, being able to handle your own stuff as it emerges is a key skill.

I really took on board Caitlin’s example of standing in between two people when they appeared to have a difference of opinion and by facilitating in a clean way, resolving a potential conflict situation.

Clean is great for enabling people who are normally lacking in confidence to speak out, to find their voice and know that they are safe to do so.

I realised that I could have had better results from past workshops if I had used a cleaner facilitation approach.

Finally, here is a video of one of our participants describing his experience of the event:

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About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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