Filling Your Facilitator Toolkit With Clean Language

Recently I’ve done lots of workshops introducing Clean Language to Agile coaches, facilitators and trainers. When I ask why they signed up, many of them share the same metaphor: they wanted more tools for their facilitator toolkit.

Of course, as we soon discover, each of them means something slightly different by that phrase. No two toolkits are the same!

But I’ve started to notice that my own response is fairly consistent. When I hear, “I want more tools for my facilitator toolkit,” I tend to start trotting out simple, easy-to-use Clean-Language-based models. Clean Feedback. One-Minute Motivation. Feeling To Metaphor.

I can teach a bunch of these in a day, even more in two days. It’s obvious how they can be applied. Participants leave feeling that they’ve got what they came for. I get nice feedback. Job done.

Or is it?

One of the metaphors I like to use is that Clean Language is like a Swiss army knife. It’s useful in loads of different situations: wherever humans communicate. When you really get that your questions direct people’s attention, and what that means at an emotional level, you always want to have Clean Language on the tip of your tongue. To stick with the Swiss army knife metaphor, it’s always in your hand or in your pocket – it doesn’t often get put away in the toolbox.

Another idea is that Clean Language is like one of those clever combined knife sharpener/knife block things, that sharpens your existing tools every time you use them, making them more precise and effective.

My question to myself is whether the simple models help people to get the essence of Clean Language. With experienced coaches and facilitators, I think they do. These guys already share Clean’s underlying belief system, so they don’t need lots of activities about that kind of thing. The models help them to get hands-on really quickly, which helps them to learn effectively.

With more “traditional” thinkers, though, the models can get in the way.  It would be very easy for such people to mistake the models derived from David’s work for the work itself. That means they’ll miss the nuances that make it so fascinating – and their facilitator toolkit will end up being rammed full of cheap tools that are easily broken and discarded.

5 thoughts on “Filling Your Facilitator Toolkit With Clean Language”

  1. I agree Judy and struggle with the same question. in working with ICF coaches I have found the same to be true. The already highly experienced coaches often catch on to, what I call, ‘mini-models’, quickly. They have the ability to calibrate and notice the results of Clean and how different it is to when they use their more traditional methods/questions. This often brings them back for more comprehensive learning – learning Clean Modeling vs utilizing a clean ‘mini-model’.

    When there are new learners I wonder if I am doing a dis-service in not teaching them the underlying principles and basics of good modeling. It may take a bit longer, be a bit more work on their end (knowing the questions, understanding the principles in action, and practice, practice, practice) and it gives them skills for a life time that can be utilized and adapted to each new situation or person as needed.

    Here in the US we have these stores called “As Seen On TV” stores. They carry all those cool infomercial items that are just too good to be true! Instant hair removal, no scrub grout cleaner, battery jumper the size of your wallet … What I have heard from most people when they buy items like this is they don’t work. “I tried it, and it didn’t work or didn’t do any thing different to what I have tried before.” And what I have found is that if I read the directions very carefully and follow them to a ‘T”, then the purchases I have made work just fine – within the confines of their capacity. Specific design, specific usage, and following the simple directions.

    Tools only work properly, giving intended results, when you know how to use them.

    I am curious and will stay tuned for more on what your expense brings in working with Agile. I think this short and sweet desire for quick ‘mini-models’ is being asked for in many different fields and no matter who we are teaching, those of us teaching Clean are having similar experiences and asking the same questions.

  2. And when the models can get in the way what can u do so that they’ll get a glimpse of the nuances that exist in Davids work?
    When you co-train with Olaf you could actually do both. Create (parallel running) mini-sessions where one holds a specific model and another one looks at underlying principles, … first. That would allow participants to pick their favorite way of learning.

  3. Thanks both! Lots to think about there.

    I’m going to be recording a new version of Metaphor Mastery over Christmastime so all of this is very timely. Thinking about that – and indeed any training I run – one of the things that’s essential for me is to give people something to practice at frequent intervals. Mini-models do that very well.

    How could I make the “theory chunks” in between the mini-models a bit more memorable, I wonder? Possibly by coming up with a better metaphor than “theory chunk” for my own thinking 🙂

  4. I’ve just been discussing this very thing with a colleague this afternoon. I think catering to different learning styles/needs is important but will not address the ‘getting it’ – getting what you describe as the nuances.

    Observing Clean demonstrations can be a useful way to bring about the conditions for ‘light bulb’ experiences where the nuances can be assimilated.

    My experience in learning Clean was like having layers of understanding – light bulb moment beneath lightbulb moment beneath light bulb moment. It wasn’t a one lightbulb wonder.

  5. Thanks Julie. I’ve been playing with a metaphor about a “pass the parcel” parcel with sweets in between each wrapper…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *