While talking about #PBJAM with Keosha Love (an accomplished facilitator who also graces the #PBJAM platform), she made a beautiful statement, "My job as #PBJAM #Facilitator is to create safe space for the participants". This resonated greatly with me as I knew that #SafeSpace is a critical imperative for any meaningful interaction amongst people. It takes even more value in a setting like #PBJAM, where we bring three professionals from different companies, industries, and geographical areas who have complementary needs and skills.
However, at #PBJAM we do not want #SafeSpace to be a cliche. As we value #transparency and #objectivity in everything we do, let's clarify #SafeSpace too. There are four criteria to establish the #SafeSpace, namely,
#Honesty: We want our subscribers to be honest with each other. We know that this is difficult at the workplace due to hierarchical relationships and company echo chambers (also called #workplace #politics)
#Neutrality: Let there be no #hiddenagenda while discussions and feedback are happening. We stress that there is nothing to gain and much to lose if participants hold back their thoughts and opinions.
#Kindness: I have found that even when one has the best intentions in providing feedback if that feedback is not wrapped in kind words, the feedback falls flat and sometimes even offends the recipient.
Once the group understands, accepts, and acts on these four criteria, there is a world full of rewards waiting for them. We use the following effectiveness measures on how well the groups have established #SafeSpace.
Level of Comfort: Our facilitators look for things like the extent of informal conversations, the spontaneity of participation in discussions, instances of contrasting opinions and inputs, lack of awkward pauses.
Vulnerability: One of the best indicators of #SafeSpace is the extent to which the group members are able to be vulnerable and share their real struggles and challenges. Our facilitators watch how each individual develops this confidence over time and help along the way.
Depth of SMART-steps: It is easier to commit to simple SMART-steps (e.g. talk to two new colleagues at work), while it takes a lot of trust in the group to commit to hard and meaningful SMART steps (e.g. share my dissatisfaction openly on the issue XYZ with my colleague). Our facilitators monitor the change in depth of such commitments for each individual. Needless to say, as depth increases, the benefits for individuals increase many folds too.
The clarity in feedback: Starting in the Focus and Change phase, participants put feedback in words for each other. For groups that are struggling with #SafeSpace, the feedback is often shallow and overtly positive. While, the groups that have established #SafeSpace, we find feedback words and content to be meaningful i.e. we see SMART-steps arising out of the feedback for the recipient.
What has been your experience with #SafeSpace, while on #PBJAM and also while away? What are the key impediments to #SafeSpace that you have experienced or observed? How have you addressed them? We would love to hear from you!