Facilitative Leadership Training
I’m Rebecca, the Communications Wizard and an Assistant Instructor here at Round Sky and I had the opportunity to instruct in our most recent trip to Moscow, Russia where we were leading a 5 day intensive collaborative leadership training. Katya and her colleagues from IB Translations, incredible translators in Moscow, worked alongside the Round Sky team to deliver the training with simultaneous translation. During the training, Katya was paired with me to translate for my small break out group where we bonded a lot as she explained some of the nuances that couldn’t be caught in her simultaneous translation, like small jokes and jabs happening in the practicing sessions. So, I asked her to do an interview with me after it was all over to learn a bit more about her experiences and reflections of collaborative leadership. Over some authentic Georgian cuisine we discussed our thoughts on collaborative leadership in our cultures, her experiences translating the Collab Instructional, and what we learned in the Collaborative Leadership training.
As she translated the Collab™ Instructional into Russian, Katya explains “it’s a real challenge to translate a book like this because there are different meanings of words in Russian and English. For me, it was something where I could implement my creativity to bring something of myself into this work because the translation is a little different in Russian.” As I listened to Katya describe the differences between English and Russian grammar and word choice, I imagined the difficulty and creativity that translators experience when dealing with poetry. How do you keep the flow while also keeping the meaning? The words that we use have so much meaning outside of the dictionary definition including the history, the people who use it, and the way that communities begin to re-shape the meanings of words. The translation of Collab into Russian is more than pure translation, but an artistic endeavor and contribution by Katya and her team.
Katya from IB Translations
I ask her, “What was your first thought as you were spending weeks and weeks translating the instructional?” Katya quickly responds, “What an idealistic world these guys live in!” She goes on to say that at first she felt there was a naivety about the whole process of each step detailed out and each role. As she dove deeper into the translation, she was a bit bored, and didn’t understand why there were so many details inside of each step.

We both laughed about this. Collab™ certainly does ask a lot from a team and perhaps seems almost utopian!

Then, Katya came across the Facilitator Role card. This was the first perk of what felt useful, especially when reflecting on her experience attending meetings. She explains, “I know people who are highly professional in what they do, they can really work magic, but when it comes to discussing something, they cannot stop talking (from one subject to the next) and are very much into listing out all of the possible details (what if this, what if we need this, what if this doesn’t work). This can be quite timely. I felt a facilitator role would be very useful for saving time and effort and frustration.”

She confesses that she continued to get lost in the details of this large map of Collab™. “Then, I came across Integrative Consent. And felt, it can help people stop this endless discussion.” She goes on, “You either have objections or not. So just get quiet if you don’t have anything. People… They like to share a lot. Me, too, by the way. Integrative Consent gives a pretty good instrument for such situations– a system with steps that are very useable. This and the Facilitator Role card were the most useful for me.”

Moscow River
I get the sense from our conversations and with others that the distaste of meetings is a bit cross-cultural. Many of us have experienced meetings that were poorly facilitated. Often, some people dominate the conversation and others can even be silenced by the lack of structure. It’s frustrating! Also, in shared leadership teams, it is no easy task to make a decision together without a process to hold you. I resonated a lot with Katya’s experiences.
Then we got into the Collaborative Leadership Training we just experienced together. Our roles were connected and also very different–myself as a trainer and her as a translator. The Round Sky team worked with 35 trainees in whole group lectures and exercises. Each day, we also split the team into small groups for practice and in-depth questions. Katya translated for my small group. Something shifted for Katya during the training: “…Through the training, I got more excited about the CollabTM system as a whole. I realized the Facilitator, Scribe, and Integrative Consent are the backbone, but you need the meat! I’m not sure if it’ll work in our company, but those are three things I’m going to try.”

Collab™ is indeed a complex system that works best when fully understood and utilized; and it takes time and practice to understand all the muscles, tendons, blood, and organs of this body and Communication Operating System that we call Collab™. Read more here.

I ask her, “Who else worked on the Collab™ Instructional in your company?”

Small group on floor during training with computer
“There were six people translating and three people editing the instructional, including me. Only a few of my teammates didn’t work on the project.” She describes that after the work was finished, she gave the partners at her company an overview of the whole book. “They were pretty interested in facilitation, scribing, and integrative consent.”

Katya says they were excited about the material and so they wanted to give it a try! “The only problem is that all of us have a great work load of translation orders, both written and oral, to work on, and organizational matters are only processed during a free minute. So, we’ve been pretty slow.”

She goes on, “We had our first general meeting. I was the scribe and we did it in our living agenda. We set up a similar google doc system.” She and her team are implementing Collab™ one step at a time while attending to the needs of their company. Based on our conversations, I believe Katya will be bringing more of Collab™ to her team so that they can do their work together efficiently and respond to the rapidly evolving needs of their company.

Collaborative leadership
In Katya’s own journey into understanding collaborative leadership, she’s struggling with the question: “what does it look like to operate a collaboratively led team that is much larger?” “It is so easy to presume that you know better than other people and will decide for them.” This is often what we see and experience in many workplaces. Your work is solely defined, supervised, and guided by another person. We left our conversation with many big, unanswered questions: Is it possible to have a collaboratively run country? Will people simply hold their ground and do everything they possibly can to get their way in teams? How do they keep the larger picture (outside of their direct benefit) in mind? Katya posits that: “Collab™ works in an environment where people want to collaborate. And if some are not into collaborative power, then we can’t make them. It only works with people who more or less agree.” And I add, “or those who are willing at least to try it.”

After our conversation, we exchanged a warm hug goodbye and promised to maintain contact. Perhaps another visit? As I reflect on this conversation, I still have questions about how we can use structure to be our best selves and also fullest selves. I don’t believe that Collab™ can  completely prevent harmful power dynamics in teams, but it does allow a clear way to redirect a team when that’s happening. I know that using a structure like Collab™ has helped guide my framework towards the bigger picture while also still allowing a personal context. How can we separate that anyhow? For now, I’m willing to try it and see what happens.