listening

How the Best Leaders Make Solid Decisions

In my last newsletter, I shared one characteristic that contributes to strong leadership. And while I think that listening is a key trait to great leaders, I’d like to dig a little deeper into a particular aspect of this idea: HOW and to WHOM they are listening.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin hits the nail on the head:

“Good leadership requires you to surround yourself with people of diverse perspectives who can disagree with you without fear of retaliation.”

What strikes me about this quote is how someone in a position of power could cultivate an environment that supports healthy disagreement. That last bit about “without fear of retaliation” speaks of a person who assumes good intentions even if the words are oppositional, who takes time to consider options, and who values critical thinking over a “yes-man”.

Additionally, there is power in WHO is delivering the message. If we receive a critical message, if we know it’s coming from a place of wanting us to do better, it’s easier to hear.

If you want to read more about the power of perspectives in effective, collaborative teams, check out my post here.

If you’d like to co-design a process that creates space for different voices and perspectives to think critically, to learn more about how graphic facilitation can support your team.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Cortez Colorado  for Southwest Rural Philanthropy Days where over 300 nonprofit and funding participants brainstormed how to build a stronger community of giving in rural southwest Colorado.

Cortez Colorado for Southwest Rural Philanthropy Days where over 300 nonprofit and funding participants brainstormed how to build a stronger community of giving in rural southwest Colorado.



New York City  for the second of three workshops focused on modeling storm water and sea level rise in the City. Teams from five academic institutions are creating models of different storm scenarios so the City can develop informed emergency response strategies and priorities based on data.

New York City for the second of three workshops focused on modeling storm water and sea level rise in the City. Teams from five academic institutions are creating models of different storm scenarios so the City can develop informed emergency response strategies and priorities based on data.



Las Vegas  for a showcase and brainstorm session on innovation in the field of optometry exploring ideas like how to better leverage technology to serve a broader population of people who need eye doctors.

Las Vegas for a showcase and brainstorm session on innovation in the field of optometry exploring ideas like how to better leverage technology to serve a broader population of people who need eye doctors.



Ohio State University to capture the latest thoughts and innovations in cyber security.

Here's What I've Noticed About Great Leaders Across Sectors

One thing I love about my job is getting a unique slice of trends and conversations across sectors. In the past two weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of graphic recording and facilitating with a county government, a national foundation, a private tech giant, and a non-profit conservation organization (yes, I slept for the entire long weekend afterwards).

Some of the conversations these groups had were difficult – that’s often the case when groups have the courage to move beyond the same old ideas they’ve always had. These conversations have potential to be transformative…or not.

What can make the difference?

I’ve noticed that when leaders approach the conversation in a defensive way, that shuts folks down. But if they come in with two ears wide open and a humble mind, the results can be remarkable!

Often people are frustrated or critical because they don’t feel heard, so when leaders and decision-makers put themselves in a space of listening, then thinking about solutions, tension and hostility shift to tenacity to find a path forward together.

If you want to read more about listening...I've written about how to improve here, storylistening here, and different levels of listening here.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

From Adams County Children and Family Services in Denver, to the Buffet Early Childhood Foundation in Omaha, to Adobe in San Jose, to the Environmental Defense Fund in Fort Collins, August was buzzing! Here are a few highlights:

And speaking of buzzing…we also harvested honey from our beehive this weekend. Labor Day, indeed, but the rewards are sweet!

How do You Paint what Makes A Community Unique?

You’ve probably seen some cryptic emails from me over the past few weeks about a surprise project I was working on. I’m delighted now to share it with you all, along with a special behind-the-scenes look at what went into the design.

On August 2nd, to the sweet sounds of the Hazel Miller Band, the 100th Piano About Town was officially unveiled as a part of our community! And yep, you guessed it, I was the lucky artist to get to paint it!

100th-piano-fort-collins

The typical piano process includes a request for proposals from artists sketched out, which are then reviewed and selected for painting outside where passers by can watch the piano unfolding and sometimes even play while it’s being painted.

For the 100th Piano, the Bohemian Foundation wanted to do something a little different and include voices across the community. Enter: a graphic facilitator to conduct and capture focus groups to gather ideas for the piano content.

I listened to people answering the question “What makes Fort Collins unique?”: from seniors to second graders at summer camp to young professionals to those who represent diverse groups at university to musicians. I listened, captured, asked questions, and scribed each group’s conversations.

100th Piano Fort Collins BaseCamp Kids Graphic Facilitation Chart

Then, I took all the charts and began looking for themes. What places did each group bring up? What characteristics make our community special? Then, I sketched out a concept design to gather feedback and refine before painting the piano itself.

This was, to me, the most challenging part of the whole process. How do you distill over five hours of stories, memories, and connections into a single illustration? That’s where the scribe training of listening for themes, distillation and synthesis really shone in this process. It was important to me to make sure all the ideas were included, that key words emerged throughout the imagery, and most of all, that when anyone from the community looks at the piano, they see themselves somewhere in it.

100th piano draft sketch_conversketch

The painting took place inside so it would be a fun, beautiful surprise when it was unveiled at a free concert series last week. Over 12 days, the landscape, people, and stories emerged!

day-1-piano-ready-karina
karina-branson-100th-piano-fort-collins-painting-artist

Want to tickle the ivories and see it for yourself? The 100th Piano will be in Old Town Square for a couple more weeks, then will live in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery for the winter.

100th-piano-old-town-square-fort-collins-colorado

For more musings on pianos and creativity, check out this post.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

 

On My Way to New York, New York!  This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my  Instagram  profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

On My Way to New York, New York! This week is the first of three meetings between multiple academic groups and the Mayor of NYC to create models and plans for storm water management and sea level rise in the City of New York. Stay tuned, or check out my Instagram profile and story for real-time videos and pictures.

In the Studio:   Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

In the Studio: Working on the third Wildfire Risk Management Science Team illustrated video. This third video focuses on challenges of fires that cross management boundaries, and mapping tools the Team uses to make recommendations for safer and more effective fire management.

Ways of Listening

Listening is one of those things that is consistently an area for growth in my life, both personally and professionally. I’ve written about listening tips before, and I feel fortunate that in my job it’s necessary to practice and hone my listening skills.  

For me, listening is a combination of presence, patience, staying open, authenticity, and trust. It is about being fully engaged and caring about another person, regardless of whether they’re part of your inner circle, or a presenter at a conference you’ve never met. By listening deeply, you are sharing with that person something incredibly valuable: your attention and therefore your energy.

As a graphic recorder, different situations call for different ways of listening. I have known this on a mostly subconscious level throughout my practice, however last month at the Visual Practice Workshop hosted by Kelvy Bird she shared some framing around listening that has shifted the way I approach the work for my clients.

“Levels of Scribing” from  Generative Scribing  by Kelvy Bird

“Levels of Scribing” from Generative Scribing by Kelvy Bird

Sometimes during rapid-fire presentations, what’s most important is to capture images that reflect the content to help people remember and engage with the ideas.

Other times it’s more important to be listening for context and how ideas relate to one another to illuminate systems or relationships.

And other times, often over longer periods of time, it’s most important to be with the group as they surface and reveal the “highest potentiality for the systems we serve”. This might be ideas that are fuzzy or still developing, or to be listening for what is not being said. This requires presence, a whole-body experience tuning into not only the mind but also intuition and empathy.

Something I love most about graphic recording is that I’m always learning, continually improving. It’s never boring, that’s for sure. And it’s also never perfect. But that’s the wonderful bit about being human, the imperfection keeps things interesting.

So here’s to practicing and deepening our listening together.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

What kind of listening and visual capture can best serve your group?

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

medellin parrot.jpg

Medellín, Colombia: Next week I’ll be in Colombia for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). I’ll be working with the Fellows to help them design the future of the program and how to work better intergenerationally as researchers. Looking forward to sharing updates!

The Wildfire Research (WiRē)Team Videos Go Live Tomorrow! This video series has been in the works since our kickoff workshop in November, 2016. A collaborative team of social scientists, fire researchers, practitioners and multiple agencies, find out how this team helps communities become more fire adapted (or what “fire adapted” even means!). Here’s the first one for you all as Early Bird subscribers!

ConverSketch is Six!

This week marks the sixth year since ConverSketch first came into the world wielding markers, chalks and insights.

Each year I enjoy putting together some of the top lessons or patterns emerging in my world (here’s the link to last year’s, and the year before that). This year I’m taking a slightly different approach, sharing insights and areas I intend to explore more in the coming months.

Three of my biggest insights this year:

  • Cultivate Intuition. Whether it’s trusting I know what’s most important to capture while graphic recording or making decisions on which direction to take my business, I know that listening to my intuition leads me to where I need to be. This is a consistent thread I find myself returning to over and over again.
  •  I’m a Thought Partner. More than only a fun diversion at a conference, I have found most joy and positive impact with my clients when I approach the work as a Thought Partner bringing deep value to their team and goals.
  • Relationship-Building for Success. This year in particular highlighted several groups who were new, forming, or had never worked together in person. Hosting an off-site or retreat with everyone in the same physical space underlined the power of face-to-face, human connection and relationship-building for successful events.

Three things I want to explore in the next year:

  • Listening Lenses. How can I tune my inner radio to the frequency that will best serve the group? What level of listening is most needed to do that? 
  • Weaving Story. How to I hone my skills to listen for and weave together a visual that will tell the core of the group’s story? How can I better engage with my video clients to ask the questions that will really help them tell the core of their story, and connect with their desired audiences?
  • Systems Scribing. This year I want to practice moving around, listening for different chunks of information, and using the entire sheet to map the system to bring forth connections to serve the group best.

I am in awe of the amazing groups I get to partner with. It is an honor to visualize their ideas, be trusted to listen and hold the energy of the room, and distill it into a visual map that will be carried forward to remind them of the work they’ve done and connections they’ve made.

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

Cheers, Karina

Ready to make your even more meaningful and memorable with some visuals? Let's chat!

Where in the World is ConverSketch?

Denver  - Last week I had the honor of capturing and holding space for an organization going through some major changes and growing pains. Partnering with a talented and experienced facilitator, I really understood the power the visuals have to help people feel heard, let go, gain clarity about the future, and move on.

Denver - Last week I had the honor of capturing and holding space for an organization going through some major changes and growing pains. Partnering with a talented and experienced facilitator, I really understood the power the visuals have to help people feel heard, let go, gain clarity about the future, and move on.

Newest ConverSketch Illustrated Video – Cabrillo National Monument

This is the second installment of the “Drawing Change” series I’m doing in partnership with the National Park Service Climate Change Response Program. Learn about ocean acidification and how aquatic animals are adapting in a changing ocean.

In the Studio!  This week I’m filming the first of a new series of videos about wildfire risk management and how scientists are using models and aerial maps to help managers plan ahead to more effectively manage wildfires when they do happen.

In the Studio! This week I’m filming the first of a new series of videos about wildfire risk management and how scientists are using models and aerial maps to help managers plan ahead to more effectively manage wildfires when they do happen.

How to Improve the way You Listen: Tips from a Professional Listener

In the age of The Device, it’s easy to be distracted by the chirp of a notification.  Which makes a conversation filled with intentional, focused and active listening a real treat to be a part of.

Graphic recorders and facilitators are essentially professional listeners – we are with the group to hear what individuals saying, listen for larger themes and reflect ideas back to the group in a clear way. We need to listen to body language and tone, and to seek to clarify and surface underlying ideas and patterns so the group we are supporting can move forward effectively and maintain their energy and momentum long-term for positive change.

This. Is. Hard. And I don’t just mean the drawing.

The way we approach listening in conversations can monumentally affect the outcomes, and yet this is something we often do subconsciously. Every person, is, of course, biased in some way. Many times, this is seen as a flaw or weakness, yet refreshingly, Anthony Weeks takes a different perspective: “Our subjectivity is our way of creating value.”

As graphic recorders, paying attention to the way we approach our work through listening, observing and intentionally focusing on applying listening filters based on the needs of the client (Do they need us to visualize facts? Emotions? Patterns? Systems?) can profoundly influence how and what we capture, and therefore the group’s outcomes.

As human beings, being conscious of the way we listen can profoundly influence our relationships with one another, and therefore our sense of connectedness and satisfaction in our work and personal lives.

Some ideas to deepen your listening practice:

- Give people time and space to process and continue by waiting three seconds before jumping in after someone has paused.
- Remember, listening is not the same as waiting to speak. Be present and ask questions to encourage clarification or exploration.
- Make space for vulnerability by not judging immediately. This doesn’t mean you must always agree. Let the person know you appreciate/love them but you may disagree. A nice way to think about this is to be hard on the idea, not the person.
- Be sure you are in a state of mind to listen well, because it takes energy to be present, withhold judgement, and be able to draw connections between ideas.

Click on the image below to see the larger version.

ConverSKETCHes_Listening-September.jpg

Once again, thank you from my heart and soul for your support, great senses of humor, brilliant minds, collaboration and what you're each doing to make the world a better place.

 
Cheers, Karina




Deep listening, synthesis and illustration for multiple hours at a time to support your group? 
 

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Where in the World is ConverSketch?

This week I'm working with the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Their communications specialists from around the country are getting together to build connections, develop storytelling skills and share tools. Here's a few tips from Michael Smart that will be included in a Summary Map of all four days!