Getting Unstuck: from “How Things Are Now” to “Ideal Future”
(See Spirit in Action’s Theory of Change for more information.)
- Research ideas and options. The situation might be complex and encompass many different perspectives, so make sure you can knowledgeably facilitate the conversation by getting background, context and an extensive knowledge base. Learn about potential solutions to challenges by researching online, exploring the recommendations of industry thought leaders, and talking to experts, stakeholders, and knowledgeable colleagues.
- Enlist the optimists to start the discussion. When you’re preparing for the session, enlist group members who tend to be optimistic and excited about the possibilities the future hold. Before the session, ask if they are willing to start the conversation or respond to your opening question.
- Acknowledge the present, then turn toward the future. Empathize with the group’s dilemma and give people permission to see the issue as something more than just an intractable problem. You might say, “It’s a really tricky situation, isn’t it? Sometimes it feels like we’ll be stuck here forever. But just for a few moments, let’s imagine a different perspective, a different future, a different option.” One strategy is to show the group a continuum slide or diagram with “current state” on one end, and “ideal future” on the other. Ask group members, “Where do you fall on this continuum?” and allow for discussion. With this information, you can acknowledge where people are, and then direct their attention to the ideal future, introducing the idea that today’s reality is not set in stone.
- Focus on incremental change within the big picture. Sometimes when the gap between the current reality and the ideal future is large, group members feel discouraged and uncertain of their ability to succeed. In this case, help them make incremental changes. For instance, with the continuum example used above, you can then say, “So you rated yourself a 4. Imagine what a 6 looks like. What would you need to do to get there?” Jumping from 4 to 10 may seem impossible but moving steadily from 4 to 6 seems more feasible.
Although these techniques are oriented towards groups, you might also be able to adapt some techniques to individuals as well, such as when coaching a staff member through a difficult mindset shift.
How do you encourage your team to move past a “stuck” situation and into an inspiring future? What has worked well for you, or what have you seen work well for others that you’d like to try?