As a child of the 60s, my formative years included Spangles, being frightened by Alvin Stardust, and deeply loving LEGO®. These days, I am a facilitator that makes use of the LEGO Serious Play methodology – something that appeals to my love of facilitation with a half-century relationship with plastic bricks.
LEGO was pretty much the default toy for me and my brothers through the 70s. In fact, even 1982’s Sinclair ZX Spectrum only temporarily knocked LEGO off the #1 spot in our house.
The great thing about LEGO of that time was that it held no limits to your imagination – sticking a few pieces together could be a sword, a light sabre, a small car (remember, this was a house of boys) – as we got a little older, we built football stands to go with our Subbuteo pitch.
But life moves along – the teenage years; the pub & club years; the courtship, love & marriage years!
Whilst I had been changing and growing, so had LEGO – but I didn’t like what I was seeing. I loved the freedom of LEGO bricks and yet everything on offer from my first childhood sweetheart seemed to be prescribed kits – picture on the front, instructions inside: “place this brick here”.
Where had the creativity gone? Was there fun to be had in doing what you are told?
Concurrent to this apparent mid-life crisis of the search for the mystical brick, I had been reviewing my career choices. What did I want to do?
I’m lucky inasmuch I am doing what I want in terms of writing my books, contributing articles, speaking to audiences, facilitating workshops (as opposed to having to be the subject matter expert / know-it-all) and a coach / mentor. I’d steadily moved away from relying on PowerPoint / Keynote and, instead, fell back in love with flipcharts, post-it notes and coloured pens.
Yet, haunting me… the bricks.
LEGO Serious Play came to the rescue: giving me the same flexibility and desire for creative exploration and playing with LEGO with both my hands and my imagination.
LEGO Serious Play
Like I say, I’ve played with LEGO for a fair old time. Having kids has been an ideal excuse to empty a large crate of bricks onto the floor and make stuff (and to also stand on it, of course!). Straight away, intuitively, the kids have gone about making their own forts, cars, houses, aeroplanes, rockets, etc.
No instructions required.
I think that this is why my learning & development interventions (workshops, coaching & mentoring, turnarounds) are activity-oriented and (dare I say it?) fun-based.
Now I know that every organization promises its staff that “it will be fun”, “we should have fun”, “this is a fun company”.
The truth is that, when we get down to it, no, it isn’t.
In fact, the reality of it is that it’s the activities where we are at the centre that we enjoy the most. In this instance, executive coaching, performance coaching, mentoring are the ones that are more enjoyable. This is down to the fact that it’s where the individual gets the chance to talk and reflect without being talked at.
Let’s pretend that we’re in a meeting
I’m pretty sure that this won’t be hard to do as many organizations (particularly during times of stress) sure do love a meeting.
So let’s have 15 people in the room – how many people do you think are actually involved?
More than 10 out of 15?
Consider the learning styles of Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic and most internal meetings are a talking shop (auditory). There may be some use of whiteboards and pens as a nod to the people who process information through visuals, but there’s nothing to touch / feel and so the kinaesthetic people are out of the game already.
More than 5 out of 15?
People are either introvert, extrovert or (like me) ambivert.
Definition: Introvert – “someone who prefers calm, minimally stimulating environments. Introverts tend to feel drained after socializing and regain their energy by spending time alone. This is largely because introverts’ brains respond to dopamine differently than extroverts’ brains.” (source: Introvert, Dear)
Definition: Extrovert – “often described as talkative, sociable, action-oriented, enthusiastic, friendly, and out-going. On the negative side, they are sometimes described as attention-seeking, easily distracted, and unable to spend time alone.” (source: Very Well Mind)
Definition: Ambivert – “someone neither strongly introverted nor strongly extraverted. Research by Adam Grant of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Management has found that ambiverts make the best salespeople; tend to be adept at the quality of attunement; know when to push and when to hold back, when to speak up and when to shut up. On the flip-side, ambiverts may feel torn between which side of their personality to follow, leaving them feeling stuck.”
In the meeting, introverts will want to reflect on what is being discussed – to think before they speak. How does this fare in a modern organization where time pressures push people for instant opinions and decisions? If you don’t give them enough advanced warning about the meeting, the agenda and desired outcomes… well then they are sidelined too. Let’s assume that, of the 5 potential ambiverts in the room, 1 of them is inclined more to introversion.
So here we are with 4 people left out of fifteen. But here’s the rub: in a meeting are you looking for someone to be creative or someone who is analytical?
Given the recruitment process of many organizations, it is likely that more than 70% of your staff have analytical leanings. So let’s assume that 3 out of the remaining 4 are analytical.
Your meeting of 15 is a meeting of 3. If we’re honest, one of the fifteen called the meeting. There’s also a strong chance that the same person has decided the issue and identified a solution. They just need to appear democratic as they push through their idea.
Move from 80 / 20 to 100 / 100
Regardless of the type of meeting, we rarely want 20% of the room dictating the outcome. This kind of 80 / 20 sucks – 20% of the people talking, talking, talking… successfully disengaging a room. There is a better way than having 80% of a room just sitting back and watching the show. Wouldn’t it be better to have 100% of the people engaged and 100% of them joining in?
I’ve sat in these meetings. Now, some of these meetings are essential (e.g. monthly operational reviews) but there’s a myth to address. Many organizations tell their people that they are inclusive, innovative, ‘fun to work for’ (insert value statements here). The truth is that organizations rarely demonstrate their ‘fun’ side.
The caveat to this is simple: you might want Extrovert Auditory Analytical people making all the decisions.
A recent workshop with a team of banking directors was convened to explore employee engagement. We started with a review of the data gathered by an employee engagement survey. We then discussed behaviour before undertaking a pre-lunch activity designed to raise the appreciation of non-verbal communications, feedback and ‘interference’. After lunch, we explored communications from a DISC perspective and then played with LEGO.
This was a 16-minute activity (5 minutes to explain, 5 minutes to assign, 6-minutes of activity). It led to a 40-minute discussion about workplace communications, colleague empathy, importance of feedback and building employee engagement.
The follow-on to this is drawing out plans of action so that the team goes beyond rhetoric into practicalities.
It is not an easy task to facilitate a short workshop and to meet clients desires while creating the environment for insight gathering. It requires great knowledge and skills to pin-point those specific needs. And when you get all that you wanted, even more for some, with loads of fun, then you have to thank Mr Neil Fogarty for delivering The Workshop.
I was lucky to meet Neil at 2 great events in Egypt in 2017 organized by MSA University; Leadership and Organization Development Conference and Entrepreneurship Hub. I was truly impressed by his intense knowledge and interesting way of delivery. During the panel discussion, his success story was an inspiration for our young entrepreneurs and his profound experience is something to surely learn from. I’m definitely looking forward to another fruitful co-operation.
I was totally prepared to just another boring session … 30 minutes of role-playing … another 45 minutes of deliberating which shade of red actually I am … and so on … and eventually 5pm will approach soon enough. But from the first introductory minutes Mr Neil Fogarty successfully got my attention and kept it alive till the end of the day. I have got my fair share of various workshops, but not many of them were as vivid as this one and not many of them gave me another perspective to old issues. A day was too short at the end … loads of fun successfully delivered new insights! Thanks Neil!
We invited Neil to deliver a workshop on intrapreneurial ecosystems and company culture and I must congratulate ourselves for this decision, the workshop was brilliant and a highlight of our Intrapreneurship Conference as per delegates feedback. It is a pleasure to work with Neil, and I hope we will have many more collaborations in the future.
I had the pleasure to attend a workshop given by Neil about “Entrepreneurship – Collaborative Intelligence”. Moreover, My business partner & I received a very informative startup mentoring session from Neil which had lasted for more than 30 minutes. I have to admit that Neil’s coaching skills are beyond expectations. The content was very well organized and presented. The workshop was given in a very interactive manner. As a result of the workshop and the mentoring, my partner and I have managed to spot multiple ways to scale our business.
I met Neil the first time in the Organisation Development & Leadership Conference in Cairo. In person he is very attentive and very willing to help, he creates opportunities for growth for all the people around. I have personally learned a lot from his open selfless attitude. On a professional level his breadth of experience plays a great role in the customized solutions that he provides. I recommend Neil as a powerful consultant in the field of leadership and as an equipped speaker for leadership related topics.
Neil made a thought provoking presentation at the Compliance conference AIM Norway organized in Farris Bad. Not only it was excellent, but it was almost as if it was not a presentation but a real conversation. It left me enthusiastic about the discussions it brought up.
Neil is one of the most charismatic and interesting people that I came across. He is one of the best presenters that I ever saw in action with a great ability to keep his audience engaged through his entire lecture/presentation. Neil is a pure leader, Intrapreneur and entrepreneur, always demonstrated out of the box thinking, business orientation, leadership and consistency.
The interim health market is a relatively new area of business for us, and in the absence of a Health Business Development Manager, Neil has been absolutely instrumental in providing me with support and guidance as to how I can build our health offering. This has resulted in the establishment of solid and trusted relationships both internally within Tribal and externally with our associates, interims and clients. Neil’s introduction of 1:1 mentoring and coaching sessions are a testament to his 100% dedication to developing and supporting his team. Neil’s approach is very much “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. His empathic nature and his ability to bring a fresh perspective enables you to refocus on the task at hand and to derive key actions to achieve your goals. Without a shadow of a doubt, Neil is a huge asset to us and to anyone looking for an energetic and enthusiastic personality to develop, mentor or coach their business team.
As someone who helps guide and develop salespeople in the world of New Business Development, Neil is equally fanatical about effective account management. His approaches are proven and effective and have been applied in numerous environments including his work with Tribal – a global professional services company. Having known Neil for 15 months, his coaching and mentoring style has been particularly useful in assisting me in strengthening relationships with existing and new clients – and seeing him apply his knowledge in a hands-on manners means that I have learnt a lot from him during the time I have known him and plan on learning a whole lot more!
I commissioned Neil to design and lead intrapreneurship and commercialism training for senior and middle managers at Chelmsford City Council. The sessions were meticulously planned, tailored expertly to our needs and brilliantly delivered. Neil brings a refreshingly different approach, he is motivational, inspirational and engages expertly with different learning styles. He comes very highly recommended.
Neil facilitated host of sessions for 120 of our retail sales employees at various levels and did a splendid job of it. The feed-backs were testimonial to the amount of effort gone in to design and customize the program and linking it to the business goals. His ability to translate complex concepts into simple to understand methodologies was the biggest asset. I would recommend him for sales and business development programs
I was privileged to work closely with Neil to bring about a magnificent learning experience to our guests in the first international organization development & leadership conference, in the MEA region and the Entrepreneurship hub event, few weeks ago. Neil was one of our key speakers in both events, and I was not only impressed with his capability of delivering a truly effective and memorable learning experience, but how beautifully he constructs and designs the whole experience to be enlightening, engaging and enjoyable. He is definitely an expert in his field and I used to think of him as a genius and highly innovative speaker. Working with Neil is an emblem for real partnership, and he is a true partner who is really keen on delivering value to you, your audience and your team.
I had an amazing experience when I attended the speech and the workshops that Neil gave in Cairo last month. But this is the least that could be said as he doesn’t hesitate to help you when you ask him or even if he knows you need something that you haven’t asked about. He has helped me and my partners to reach better grounds through his collaborative intelligence module which has helped us kick-start our own startup. He doesn’t just TALK about collaboration, he actively demonstrates it!
We had the pleasure of working with Neil mid-October 2016 to further develop our framework for Corporate Social Responsibilty. Neil demonstrates impressive knowledge in this field and he is very skilled in transferring this in a practical way to our business needs. I can strongly recommend Neil.
I had the chance to meet a really impressing speaker yesterday who is a walking treasure of experience and knowledge about intrapreneurship and organizational change, how to transform organizational dinosaurs and arouse the entrepreneur within employees. Neil has totally owned the stage and after his talk I was full of thoughts, ideas. Neil made a big impression and I am admiring him for what he did/is doing, what he knows and for his openness to share that experience and knowledge. I am looking forward to future cooperation with him. Unicorns do exist! 😉
Before we actually met, Neil already had very positive reputation on his approach and teaching style in his previous engagements in Croatia. Knowing my people from Comping and having clear view of what they need (not what they expect to get), we worked closely as we agreed on focal points of his ‘intervention’. Combining his practical experience with creative and provocative teaching style, Neil fully confirmed his great reputation as a trainer and managed to incite and engage our people in fun, approachable and interesting ways. But, even with such a flexible and relaxed approach, he didn’t risk losing their focus on the most critical point – emphasize personal accountability for the common organizational goals. I hope that we’ll have a chance to jointly add much more value to our people in the following months and years.
After only one session with Neil I came away feeling more focused and confident than I had in a while. He gave me some great ideas, a bit of constructive provocation and the beginnings of my career plan for the next five years. He’s already been as good as his word and hooked me up with a potential mentor and has shown great integrity. Neil seems pretty unique in that he doesn’t seem to be out for himself but rather the betterment of local government. A big thumbs up from me.
Working with Neil was truly inspiring. Personal and professional benefits gained through his workshops will have a deep impact on my future decisions and interpersonal skills. I hope that I will have another chance to work with Neil again someday and find additional motivation in his unconventional sessions.
As my professor for Entreprenuership at ESLSCA, I found Mr. Neil Fogarty to be uniquely capable of capturing my attention and helping me learn confidently. His tactics of open space learning and free contribution helped me in understanding and archiving good grades in his subject. Comments from many of my classmates confirm that I am not alone in this impression of Mr. Neil Fogarty. This university has many fine professors, and Mr. Fogarty is a credit to it.
Being mentored by Neil is not always comfortable but the challenges posed are always focused on exposing the underlying currents that constrain or inhibit positive action. There is no room to either hide or procrastinate so whilst I whole heartily endorse Neil as an effective business mentor, beware, he will challenge you and take you out of your comfort zone.
All of my learning & development interventions are serious play based, ranging from 0.5 day through to my 100-day tailored intervention programs.