As I walked into the smart corporate training room my heart sank slightly. It was set up like a board room with little space to move, designed for participants to sit passively whilst they endured Power Point and, perhaps at the most a role play or two.
This was also a pilot workshop – everything rested on whether or not participants would respond favourably. Our workshops are experiential, energetic and exposing and I knew immediately that this methodology would be new for this group.
“This is for me?” – one of them exclaimed when she noticed that each person had a learning journal and a book. “Oh wow, thank you!” – she was overjoyed as was the next participant.
Throughout the day the group were engaged and a delight to work with. They work incredibly long hours and although they do receive lots of training I think this may have been their first experience of focusing on their own self-awareness.
The firm had been through a recent merger and this was raised during the adaptability session – the feelings that can arise when change like this happens and how to bet deal with it and handle it well. The exercise also raised immediate awareness of participants’ willingness (or lack of) to go out of their comfort zone and to actively seek opportunities to be in the stretch or learning `zone.
“Perhaps I am not as adaptable as I thought I was and this made me think more about the impact of this in my life”
A key part of each exercise we do is for participants to identify easy ways to flex their skills – to develop their adaptability, empathy and optimism skills through small day-to-day actions and awareness.
Empathy – one of the hardest skills to practise. Yet lawyers need this skill, as do we all, to have strong relationships, to understand clients and to win new business. This part of the day focused on active listening skills and using mindfulness to be present, to breath and to give attention.
We are naturally hard-wired to be empathetic but it is a challenge to use this skill because to do so requires us to move away from our own perspective and to pay attention and be in the moment more rather than coming at things from our own ego and issues.
In the afternoon we used some comedy improvisation exercises to raise awareness of using spontaneity, not prejudging, being flexible and present and handling life and challenges with a positive attitude – things that relate to all 7 skills. This also brought up insights around how we can become emotionally affected by some one else’s behaviour.
Optimism is a skill that really can be developed regardless of whether you see yourself as “glass half empty” or “glass half full”. If anything, optimism is a choice we can make on a daily basis. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude each day by recording what we are grateful for is a simple but hugely effective way to build optimism. We also used an exercise to help take emotions out of any situation or circumstance and leading to the understanding that WE decide how we want to respond in any given situation.
All participants found the day extremely useful, and this is what some of them said in their feedback:
1) What did you enjoy most about the day?
2) To what extent do you feel you learned some useful techniques to help you? (5 stars being the highest and 1 star the lowest)
90% of respondents scored 5 stars, and 10% scored 4 stars.
3) What are the most important techniques/tips you feel your learned?
It was such a privilege for me to work with this wonderful group. I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The Unimenta team are delighted with these results and we will continue to run workshops on a regular basis at Cameron McKenna.
Note: Our two day workshop focuses on all seven skills of adaptability, critical thinking, empathy, integrity, optimism, being proactive and resilience. We also offer these as one-day chunks or shorter sessions.