About Kathy Jourdain

Kathy Jourdain is a co-founder of Worldview IntelligenceTM consulting, curriculum development and program offerings as well as a steward and practitioner of the Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter. This has her traveling internationally working mostly in Canada, Brazil, Europe and the United States. In 2009, she launched Shape Shift Strategies Inc. for her consulting practice. She is an author and keynote speaker. Her first book, Embracing the Stranger in Me: A Journey to Openheartedness has been hailed as an inspirational, deeply authentic sharing of the journey that has contributed to who she is today. She is contributing author to Gift of the Hit where she shares the story of her own soul journey with her mother, dementia and death.

Leadership Lessons from Eric Burdon and The Animals

Jerry Nagel and I had a front row seat recently at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis to see and hear Eric Burdon of The Animals fame and his new band. Not only were we entertained, we witnessed a delightful lesson in leadership.

A true test of leadership is how you respond when something goes wrong – in private or on a public stage of some sort (although not always literally a stage). It shows your mettle as a leader – do you give your people someone they can trust? Are you someone who brings out the best in the situation and people involved? Or, are you someone who gets angry and points blame?


Eric Burdon

At 75 years of age, Eric Burdon has had a long musical career. He is an accomplished painter, author, recording artist and a traveling bluesman for over 50 years. His musical journey began in the coal-mining town of Newcastle, England, where he immersed himself in American blues and jazz. A driving force of the Animals, Burdon helped lead the British Invasion with their first international hit, “House of the Rising Sun.” A Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member since 1994 and named one of the 100 Greatest Voices of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine, Burdon’s long string of hits includes “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” and the Vietnam-era anthem, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place.”

 He knows when something is working and when it isn’t. On this night, the sound system was not working well. He was unable to hear himself and nor were we, the audience, able to hear his voice well. He had played the Dakota a few days before and everything had worked in perfect balance. After a couple of requests to the sound guys to fix the problem, when it didn’t get fixed, he walked off the stage shaking his head.


Justin Andres

That is when the leadership skill and style of his band leader, Justin Andres, kicked in. First, even as Burdon was walking off the stage, Andres was supporting and reassuring him. Then he looked to the sound guys to work with them on the issue. Burdon came back out, but the issue was not resolved, so he left again. Andres did not show any indication of frustration or irritation but calmly worked again with the sound guys. At one point he looked out into the audience to ascertain reaction. What he saw, in Jerry and me in our front row seat and probably others, was only support. Absolutely get it right. We could see he was reassured. We were willing to wait it out. Generally speaking, an audience wants you to be successful and will work with you. Andres gave Burdon, his band, the sound guys and his audience someone they could trust.

Burdon came back out on stage and all was now well. His voice was projected beautifully into the crowd. By this point, Andres had our attention. We watched and interacted with him and we watched the band and saw that all the band members were taking their cues from Andres. I’m sure this happens every time they play. We might not have really noticed it any other time if not for the graciousness and patience of Andres leadership in a critical moment – when it was important to slow down and stop in order to make sure Burdon and the band could deliver the performance that people showed up for.

Once the issue was resolved, Burdon relaxed into his art and it was noticeable. He began to enjoy himself. He called for a glass of wine as they played familiar hits and by the end of the evening, he was just getting warmed up. A beautiful evening of entertainment in ways we had expected and in ways we did not.

Lessons from Learning Like A Dolphin

In a short period of time, experiential learning can provide key insights into life and work that help us make sense of our experiences. These quick illuminations provide a basis for reflection and understanding that is more powerful because it is both embodied and demonstrated.

I had a good reminder of this at Engage Nova Scotia’s event on Tough Collaborations, the latest work of Adam Kahane and his colleague Ian Prinsloo. One of the premises in Tough Collaborations is working with emergence and they used an exercise they called Learning Like A Dolphin to illustrate this point.

One person is asked to leave the room and the rest of the group is asked to come up with a very specific thing that they want the one person to learn. In this case, it was to stack three chairs underneath a light fixture in the middle of the room. When the person comes back in the room, the only guidance the group can give her is to clap – the same way a dolphin would be trained. The dolphin learns part 1 of a game through being positively reinforced until it understands the first step. Then, the second step is added in and, again, positively reinforced until they get it. And so it goes until the full repertoire is good.

In this play experience, the group was to clap at the first thing the volunteer did that would support her learning the task. It took only ten minutes but felt a lot longer – for the group and especially for her. As she stood in the right location, the group clapped. When she moved out of range, there was silence. When she touched a chair, the group clapped. When she stood on the chair, there was silence. For awhile, she stood and looked at the group to see if she could discern anything. She did notice that some people were looking up at the light fixture which clued her into location.

Members of the group were not always consistent in their feedback, clapping at different times for different things.

3-chairs-stacked-and-an-extraShe finally got four chairs in the centre of the room and she lined them up in a couple of different ways, turned them around, sat on them and mostly received silence. When she picked up one chair, there was clapping and it was in that moment she figured out about stacking the chairs. Within ten minutes she had accomplished the task. That’s when the debrief started.

When she was asked about her experience and what she felt or thought she shared some of the following: about half way through she wondered what she had gotten herself into, would she find her way and figure it out, would someone rescue her. The real life corollary: we often only realize part way through, if ever, what it is we have agreed to do in any given situation and certainly in any situation that is complex.

She was asked if she understood what it was she was supposed to have learned and she honestly answered, no. Even though she had completed the task successfully, there was no understanding of the meaning of the accomplishment. Now, granted, it was a game, but there is still a real life analogy. How well have we communicated the greater context of the work so that it has meaning to the people tasked with carrying it out?

Feedback from the crowd was mixed, confusing the message. It showed up at different times when she moved or when she touched the chairs. Also, people were in different vantage points so where the center of the fixture was wasn’t clear. Some abdicated their responsibility to the “authority” in the room: the facilitator who set up the exercise.

There was a breakthrough moment – when she figured out it was about stacking the chairs – and towards the end the learning quickened. At the beginning she was operating in a vacuum so it took longer to figure out the first steps. But once things began to come together, it was a lot easier to figure out number of chairs or directionality.

When she did just stand still, there was no feedback whatsoever so any movement offered information.

In terms of working with emergence, Adam and Ian brought it back to the following lessons:

  • Move toward
  • Stay connected – if you have a large goal begin with small things
  • Be experimental – build knowledge piece by piece and discover what your options might be
  • By systematic to gain an understanding and then take a leap
  • Embrace your emotions – and others too – throughout the experience. There is a lot of information that is helpful to understanding where you are and find your way through the process.

Why Asking Someone to Change How They Work May Not Be as Simple as You Think

There is solid research that points to successful change management practices and most of it gets ignored when organizations are seeking to implement change. We want it to go faster than is possible to make change stick. A key success factor is understanding the human dynamics of change – why simple requests may not be so simple when engaging human beings. This is where Worldview Intelligence provides important insights and understandings.

Worldview Intelligence

It happens all the time in work environments. The organization wants or needs to change – the way it works, delivers service, makes its products, is organized. Often this point is missed: change is not just about the mechanics of what is to be changed, it is about the people. People make up and deliver our systems and processes. Most people say they don’t mind change, but they don’t like being changed. Even when it “makes sense”. Because “makes sense” depends on your perspective.

Anais Nin - We don't see things as they are

When we are looking for efficiencies at work, we are often asking someone – or several someones – to change the way they work. To take on new responsibilities or to give up part of your role. It seems to make sense in the grand scheme of things. It is integral to the change working. If we are leading the change or innovation,

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A School Review Process Illustrates the Chaordic Stepping Stones in Action

stepping-stonesThe chaordic stepping stones provide a powerful planning framework for small initiatives and for large comprehensive projects but there is very little that has been written about them to illustrate how they work together. Jerry and I use them explicitly and implicitly in our work. I was recently  involved with a school review process for the Halifax School Board that provides a lovely simple example to demonstrate the chaordic stepping stones at work.

The stepping stones are: need, purpose, principles, people, concept, limiting beliefs, structure, act/practice and harvest. We often describe purpose as the invisible leader and describe this process as being front-end loaded as it can take a bit of time and conversation to get to clarity.

In 2016, the Halifax School Board changed its approach to community consultation for school review processes. Shape Shift Strategies Inc. provided hosting support for the first completed review process, called historic by a member of the school board, using a new approach.


Need is the compelling reason for doing anything. Sensing the need is the first step to designing a meeting, organizational structure or change initiative that is relevant to the people and organizations involved.

In this example, in the previous 18 months, a boundary review had been completed for Eastern Passage and the neighbouring school district and a decision had been made to build a new high school for the Eastern Passage Family of Schools. When the new high school is built it will be configured for grades 9-12, removing the grade 9’s from one of the existing schools. There are four affected schools in the Eastern Passage area with varying degrees of utilization of the buildings, from greatly underutilized to having a portable classroom due to over utilization.

There was a need to look at utilization of the schools and grade configurations to look for more optimal usage across the schools.


Purpose flows from need and guides the way for the best possible work to be done. Achieving clarity on purpose can at times be challenging but well worth it and, from any need, multiple purposes could flow.

In this case, a School Options Committee (SOC) was appointed by the School Board and the purpose of its work was to design a process for community input into the decision making process around grade configurations and school utilization, to identify options for consideration by the community and to offer a recommendation to the school board.


The SOC operated with several principles. Some of them were with respect to the operation of the committee and some were to guide decision making.

Two of the principles: operate with shared responsibility and shared leadership. Among other things, it meant that the SOC did not appoint or nominate a chair of the committee. It also meant that every member of the SOC who wanted to would be part of presenting and hosting at each of the community engagement sessions. This carried right through to presenting the final recommendation to the school board.  Although we were informed that one person could present to the school board, as one member of the committee said, “We don’t roll that way.”

There were also a number of principles that guided decision making for the recommendation. There were two that were primary. They were: more optimal usage of each of the affected schools and minimal disruption to students and the community. There were some options considered – like creating a French only school and making each school a Primary to Grade 5 school that could provide good utilization of buildings but would have caused disruption across the community. The final decision involved a boundary change that directly affected only 30 families.

Another principle that guided decision making is that the process would be informed by data and by knowledge available through school board resources.


“If it is about us, don’t do it without us.”

IMG_2995There were a number of different groupings of people the SOC needed to be mindful about including in the process. It started with the SOC itself being representative of the four schools under review. Parents, students, staff of the schools were all invited to be part of the process. The SOC used a variety of means to try to ensure that the community was aware of the process and had an opportunity to contribute, whether it was in the community consultations or through email or social media.

Children were welcome, a principle not widely known for the first consultation and so a few parents stayed home. When they were encouraged to come and bring their children with them, they did.


The higher level concept for the review was a process that had been decided in a province wide policy. There would be a community process and it would include three engagement sessions. The first was to inform the public about the new process. The second was to offer options and the third was to present a recommendation. The structure of those community gatherings was not predetermined, nor was the format for the SOC meetings.

Limiting Beliefs

There were an interesting array of limiting beliefs that showed up throughout the process, often both in the committee and the community. A few of them were:

  • A belief or concern that the school board actually had it all figured out and had already made a decision
  • The sentiment that one of the four schools was the best one.
  • Additionally, this “best” school houses the French Immersion program and there was a belief that out of area parents sent their kids to French Immersion so they could be in that school


Once the concept has been chosen, it is time to create the structure that will channel resources. It is in these conversations that decisions about the resources of the group: time, money, energy, commitment and attention are made.

The design for each of the community consultations was different. The first one used a world café format to introduce the process and ask parents what was working that they wanted to see continued in the schools and anything else they wanted the SOC to consider as options were being discussed. The second community meeting used a modified form of open space technology as each of the options were set up as an “options station” and parents could visit each of the options and provide their thoughts and questions. The final one took the form of a presentation and then a “round robin” conversation, ensuring that the variety of perspectives in the room could be heard.

stepping-stones (1) - in water


The ongoing practice within the structures agreed upon and designed is important. This is the world of to do lists, conference calls and e-mail exchanges. The invitation here is to practice working with one another in alignment with the designs created.

The SOC had regular meetings usually intended to last two hours. Notes were taken, community consultation designs were created and many hours were consumed in becoming informed about decision making criteria, data and other things relevant to make data informed sound decisions about school configurations. The SOC also had a check-in and check-out practice for each of its meetings.


Harvesting is about making meaning of the work, telling the story and feeding forward the results so that they have the desired or intended impacts in the world.

It was decided early on that graphic facilitation would be part of the overall harvest and Susan MacLeod did an awe inspiring job of this. The graphic facilitation work was included in each report as well as used as part of a slide presentation bridging community consultation 1 and 2.

Reports were created for each community consultation. Short evaluations were completed, compiled and shared for each community consultation. Meeting notes were posted for the committee but also for the school board and community to view. A final recommendation was completed as well. These are all forms of harvesting used throughout this process.

Iterative Process

Working with the chaordic stepping stones provides an iterative planning framework and process that has participants continuing to check back with each of the stepping stones as plans and implementation emerges and changes. Are we still working to need and purpose? Do we have all the right people given where we are in our process? Are there new limiting beliefs that have emerged? Does our design still work? How do we continue to make meaning of our experiences? Has the need changed now that we have been doing some of the work? Are our principles holding strong?

Where are you in your process?

Yearning for A Different Conversation, Yearning for a Turning Point

One of the teams I have the pleasure of being part of is an Art of Hosting team comprised of me, Jerry Nagel, Dave Ellis and Bob-e Simpson Epps. We most often have hosted open enrolment programs in the Twin Cities and we have worked together on a few other initiatives. One of the joys in working with this team is the rich and deep learning we are in with each other all the time. Our backgrounds are more varied than the colour of our skins as are our experiences.

When we check in together about hosting conversations, the topic often turns to difficult and challenging conversations, particularly around race, power and privilege, the need for which is growing more pressing every day. The essence of our many conversations is floating through my awareness as I read about the great unrest that is alive in the world today; so great it has its own pulse, its own life force and it will not stop until we turn to face it with courage, compassion and humility. All of us, not just some of us.

As Bob-e and Dave and my other African American or African Nova Scotian friends remind us regularly, this is not a problem people of colour can fix. Not alone for sure. It is not a problem of their making. And it is a complex problem that is an entangled, interconnected mess that fuels and feeds itself beyond what any one person or any one organization can do.

An article this morning in the Waging Non Violence newsletter pointed out that Policing Isn’t Working For Cops either. Kazu Haga wrote:

“This is not about being an apologist for the individuals responsible for the killing of black life. It is not about comparing the suffering of black communities to that of law enforcement. But in nonviolence, we know that if you don’t understand the perspective of those who you are in conflict with, you do not understand the conflict. You do not need to agree with, excuse or justify the other’s perspective, you simply need to understand it so you can see the complete picture.”

 “Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote that “the white man’s personality is greatly distorted by segregation, and his soul is greatly scarred.” He said that the work of defeating segregation was for the “bodies of black folks and the souls of white folks.” He understood that to be a white supremacist, to hold hatred in your heart for so many and to inflict violence on others destroys your soul.”

<> on July 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown – embodying grief well beyond his own

People’s lives are at stake. As near as I understand it, this has always been the case. The unrest that is being stirred up – whether by presidential campaigns, referendum votes, violence and terrorism or the killing of unarmed black men or policemen in the line of duty is not going to go away. It will not be suppressed.

At the last AoH training in the Twin Cities, we were reminded by participants in the room, that many people – especially people of colour, people who are part of minority groups – walk in multiple worlds – the predominant culture that does not easily see its own worldview or predominance and the world of their reference groups be it their family, culture, colour of skin, way of being or lifestyle. Many who walk in multiple worlds do so with such grace that those in the dominant culture has been able to turn a blind eye to it, filter it out as if it does not exist. And they do so because it is a matter of survival. They do not have the luxury of turning a blind eye. It can too easily be a matter of life and death.

In that AoH training, I sat with a Hmong man in his forties who has lived in the US for most of his life. He, like at least one other person in the room, moved to the country that at the time was oppressing his own country and his culture. A large family of siblings, many did not survive. He shared with me the structure, ties and traditions of his culture which he feels bound to and in which he lives in community with his family and other community members. He shared how that world differs from the larger world he interacts with every single day. A world he has learned to navigate because he has to. He is aware of the differing worlds and differing cultures in a way that many who interact with him daily have no awareness.

A couple of months later, in Boston, sitting with a distinguished Black man in his 60’s who works with the Massachusetts’s Teachers’ Association, I am heartbroken as we speak about life in general and our children. He has two sons in their 20’s. I have two sons in their 20’s (and one in his early teens) and we have very different experiences of “educating” our children when they became of driving age. For me, it was to make sure they went to Driver’s Education so they knew the rules of the road and learned from someone who could teach them to drive without my or their dad’s bad habits. For him, it was teaching his sons, over and over again, what to do if/when they got stopped by the cops. Because they would sometime get stopped – as some of my friends point out – for “driving while black”. And now we know even that might not keep them safe.

There are many more stories I could tell, but I’ll stop here. What I know from the conversations I am able to have with the people I know and love, the people I come into contact with in heart filled spaces, is that we are longing for a different conversation, one that leads to different results, that transforms our differences into progress by acknowledging, seeing and validating others’ perspectives and experiences as real and true. We are yearning for a turning point. We’re not quite sure what this conversation or the “space” it needs to take place in looks like yet. But it cannot involve guns or jail. It needs to invite exploration, compassion, curiosity and understanding. And we need it now. It is already late. Too late for those whose lives are lost but not forgotten. Very late for many who are deeply traumatized. How do we confront ourselves and each other in such a way that we put an end to the violence? How do we do it across whole countries?

I saw a picture today that said something like don’t be overwhelmed, be true and you have an obligation to continue the journey. I didn’t repost it because I thought, Yes, be overwhelmed. It is overwhelming. And, even in the overwhelm you can look for things to help you remember who you are – watch the birds at the birdfeeders, listen to calming music, go for a walk, pet the cats, remember your purpose and your soul’s journey – then do what you can in the places that you can. I cannot, in this moment, affect a whole nation. But I can carry on my work, I can hold spaces for the pain and overwhelm, I can NOT turn away from all that troubles me in the posts rolling across my screen. I can stay in it, with it and with my friends who more than ever need me to be in it with them, who need me to be a disturbance in the world so we can all live in it in truth, beauty and grace. It is only together that we will find the turning point for which we yearn.


Dave Ellis, Jerry Nagel, Bob-e Simpson Epps, Kathy Jourdain

Risky and Courageous – Stepping Into Community Engagement Differently

It is a risky and courageous thing to step out of a usual way of doing things to engage others, engage community, differently and this is exactly what the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) is doing as it embraces a new school review process. I had the pleasure of being the facilitator for the Eastern Passage School Options Committee (SOC), with the support of Susan MacLeod with graphic facilitation, in what HRSB Board members and the Metro News called “an historic first recommendation under the new school review process”. (There is another process ongoing at this time for Citadel High.)

Metro News – School review suggests reconfigured grades in Eastern Passage _ Metro News

The whole experience has been a beautiful example of the classic dynamic tension that emerges when an organization or group makes a decision to move to more collaborative, engaging processes from more traditional, top-down driven processes where there has often been little room for strong collaboration to emerge or community voice to truly be heard.

The biggest question, the biggest learning is around what does leadership look like now? The biggest unknown is how much guidance, support and structure to provide so the process and the committee is well supported and has expertise and data to draw on when it comes to making evidence based decisions and how far to back off to let the SOC do its work?

As our friends at the New Jersey Education Association say, we are leading through learning and learning our way into new process, new relationship and new ways of engaging.

The SOC was mandated with reviewing four schools in Eastern Passage – one junior high school and three elementary schools – to look at grade configurations and school usage. This review became necessary because of previous reviews that recommended a new high school be built in the area with boundary changes to support that development. The new high school will take Grades 9-12, removing the Grade 9s from the junior high, resulting in an underused school and an opportunity.

It was clear that HRSB was committed to acting differently. Staff came to SOC meetings and community conversations when invited. Even the first meeting was different. Well, the very first one was just the SOC. Meeting each other in a new way, reviewing the mandate and beginning to imagine what engagement could look like.

When HRSB staff were invited, it was a meeting of curious equals. Where are we, where do we want to go, how will we get there? HRSB staff answered questions (lots of them), and shared knowledge and expertise that was critical to decision making about optimal school utilization. They provided excellent behind the scenes support on many different needs – publicity and meeting space being two. And they stepped back to leave the decision making process in the hands of the committee. The committee stepped up.

There were three community conversations. Your Voice Matters was the theme. Before, in between and after, the SOC met to design process, plan meetings, review data, provide options and ultimately a recommendation. The purpose of the first community conversation was to present the process and ask community members what they wanted to see included and considered in the process. A world café process was utilized. The second community conversation presented several options and utilized a modified open space format. A recommendation was presented at the third community conversation, which used a full group conversation process that invited the spectrum of opinions and perspectives that existed in the room.

March 9-2016 Meeting Summary                                                                                   April 20-2016 Review Process and Meeting Summary                                                  May 24-2016 Community Conversation #3 Meeting Summary

The SOC realized early on that the decision they needed to make would be influenced by a number of factors outside of their control – projected enrolment numbers, English, early and late French Immersion programming considerations and the number of classrooms available in each school. And they operated with a set of principles, two of which were predominate in the discussions: more optimal and balanced use of the school facilities and minimal disruption to students and the community.

SOC Presenting

Members of the SOC presenting options

The SOC was also as transparent as possible, posting SOC meeting notes, Community Conversation reports and evaluation results and other information on the HRSB website. Members of the SOC felt the responsibility of making the best decision possible on behalf of the community, recognizing that not everyone would be satisfied with the final decision. The second and third community conversation reports included an FAQ section addressing the most common questions and concerned raised by community members.

The SOC also operated clearly with shared leadership and shared responsibility. Each member of the committee played a role in hosting the community conversations and in presenting the final recommendation to the HRSB board. On more than one occasion, there was a tremble in someone’s voice or tears in their eyes, demonstrating the passion they carried for this work and their decisions. A passion which caused them to review data on more than one occasion, be as responsive as they knew how to the questions and concerns of community members and to be fully conversant and committed, as a team, to the final recommendation put forth.

SOC Recommendation to HRSB 2016

HRSB Recommendation GraphicAll of this was recognized, acknowledged and affirmed by the response of the school board members. For sure there were questions – good questions – and even more there was a strong validation for the SOC of the many hours and clear commitment they put into a recommendation created by and for community.

Very proud of this mighty group of committed volunteers. And it was an honour to be part of a long established organization stepping into a new pattern of community engagement.

Listening Another Person Into Healing

In our Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter trainings, Jerry Nagel and I almost always bring in reflective listening practices from the Compassionate Listening Project which Jerry has been a student and advocate of for a long time. (It’s also one of the places he got his amazing listening skills from.) Whenever people take part in the exercise, they report back how powerful it is to be fully listened to without interruption and how hard it is to listen without interrupting. No matter how good our listening skills are, we can always improve. And, if it is has been awhile since you have been able to tell your story uninterrupted, you might be surprised to find the power of it in your own healing journey.

Embracing the Stranger in Me

Recently, I agreed to be interviewed for an academic research project about an intense period / experience of my life. A period that is years behind me, that I can now speak about in a much more detached way than when I was in it or immediately past it. The interviewer knows some of my story. In the role of interviewer, her job was to listen, not to interact with my story.

Listen into beingAfter she left, I found myself at times weeping for no explicable reason. The tears just flowed. Beautiful, gracious, glorious release.

I am reminded of the power of just listening, not interpreting, not trying to put words in someone’s mouth. It is a witnessing that can bring another person into being. Can surface what needs to be surfaced for healing.

I don’t know what was there that was surfaced. I don’t need to know specifics. I am aware that

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