As I develop new products I grab the people around me to test everything. A couple of years ago I was vacationing in Cabo San Lucus with my parents and I asked them to try out an exercise using a prototype of the VisualsSpeak ImageSet.
Present and Future
At the time I was testing images, so I was asking everyone to make images of their present and future. I gave them 2 pieces of paper to assemble their images. Using the space between the sections to describe the transition was optional.
Using Piles of Images
My Dad did something I hadn’t seen up to that point. He created piles of images. They were spaced across the pages. When I asked him to tell the story of his image, he told me about the images on the top of the piles.
I suspected there was something more, so I asked him what was in the piles underneath.
Animals, animals, and more animals
There were all sorts of pictures of animals underneath the top of the piles. Not just any animals, mostly Alaskan animals. Turns out, my Dad had this dream of going to Alaska.
I remember my Mom turning to me with a comment about being married to him for almost 50 years and not realizing this. I know it was the first time I heard about it.
With a clear goal things become possible
In the initial conversations, the obstacles to going to Alaska were much clearer to my Dad than the possibilities. Once the dream was revealed then the challenges could be worked on with help from others.
It took several years to put all the pieces together to make this dream come true. However, on the week he turned 80, he left with my Mom for the three week dream trip to Alaska.
This is why I use visual tools
Secrets, insights, dreams, and new ways of looking at things come out all the time using visuals. While this is a story about something that is important to me personally, I have seen similar things happen in relationships, groups, and organizations.
It’s not that the tools are magic. It is the conversations that happen as a result of using them.
It’s the way the visuals activate and reveal other ways of looking at things.
It’s the way they gently tug on the subconscious and unconscious aspects and reveal them to us.
It’s the way I was able to see a part of my Dad that I didn’t know was there.
In part 1 of this post, I talked about how my business partner and I used this question to explore why we had started VisualsSpeak/Exploring New Options as a way to understand our core values around doing the work. In this post I’m going to relate to you the answers I got for myself by doing an exercise using visuals.
The exercise was done on our online facilitation system, the ImageCenter. I used the prompt “What do you want your legacy to be?” and chose the Exploring My Options image deck. When I do these exercises I keep the prompt in the back of my mind and select the images without thinking much about why I’m choosing them. Then I arrange them, again not thinking much about placing them.
Some random thought fragments
Before I tell you what all of this means to me in coherent sentences, I’m going to let the process unfold by sharing the thought fragments that are popping into my head.
People at the center
Scaling the peaks
Getting to the next rung of life
Learning to fly
Path that leads to magical self
Making connections by tunneling deeper
What I want my legacy to be
I’m more than a little surprised by what has come up for me in this exercise. Close friends know me as introverted, and shy until I get to know someone. I am not a social butterfly and have always had just a handful of close friends around me. That is why what came up during the process surprised me.
It’s about helping people
I knew before going into the process that part of why I am involved in VisualsSpeak is to help people better their lives by connecting deeper with themselves and others. I just didn’t realize that this is almost the entire reason for me.
Teaching people about how to facilitate processes is another component of what we do here. I have taught ESL and enjoyed it very much. There is a spark that happens for me when I can help somebody understand a concept. Not sure why this is but there you have it.
Let the sparks fly
Part of my legacy in doing this work is to help people scale the peaks, get through the maze, find their path, and get to the next rung of life. Sparks fly in me when I see them fly in others. There is a connection to self and others when deep connections are made to where people are and how that helps them move forward. It is contagious.
The process, and the choices people make around it, is unique. Each person has buried within them an inner desire, a deep calling to move forward. It doesn’t matter so much what this means individually. One person may want fame while another may want to become a better parent, worker, partner, or all-around human being. It is being part of a business/process that helps them accomplish these things that I want as part of my legacy.
Teaching is learning
There is an expression that says ‘If you want to learn something, teach it’. I know this is true for me. There is a cyclical nature to teaching. Study something. Teach it. Learn from the teaching by becoming the student. Go back and learn how to teach it better. What all this boils down to is that the teaching of what we do at VisualsSpeak is part of the legacy.
There is another aspect to teaching that is important and I hope it shows through as being part of the legacy; and that is humility. No matter how much we learn or know about what we are doing, there is always someone else with a good insight or more expertise or ability coming along.
Being big advocates of participant led growth processes is a way that we embed humility into what we do. We teach facilitators to think of themselves as guides and that each individual or group has wisdom to share. It is part of the art of deep listening and implies mutual respect. No one has all the answers, especially about someone else. This is a part of my legacy that I am proud of because respect and humility are basic building blocks for helping people be successful.
Not about the money
What I don’t see in my collage is anything that has to do with money. Don’t get me wrong I like to have money. It allows me to have a nice place to live, to eat well, to travel and support the people I think are doing good things in the world. It’s just not the primary objective of my involvement.
This is kind of a peculiar thing for a business owner to be saying. Making money from the business is a symbol that my efforts are having an impact. My philosophy is that by helping people be successful the money will follow.
A Better World Foundation
I’ve had this idea for a while that if I had a gazillion dollars, or slightly less, I would start a foundation. The tag line would be ‘Bettering the lives of children’. Admittedly I have a soft spot for kids. I like the idea of supporting them through education, music, art, better living conditions and a whole host of other ways.
I realized through doing this exercise that I, in a sense, have already started the foundation. The work I do here at VisualsSpeak is improving communication among people and helping them get the breakthroughs they need to better their lives. I believe there is a trickle down affect from people getting insights and positively changing their lives; and that is that they will change the world for the best, which will help better the lives of children.
What do you want your legacy to be?
I would love to hear from you about what you want your legacy to be. Leave a comment. Thanks for reading.
Use this question in your sessions to get insights into your clients.
Christine and I were discussing legacy the other day. We were taking a different conversational path to figuring out why we created VisualsSpeak/Exploring New Options and the visual approach to facilitation we have developed.
Some of the questions we explored are: Why are we doing it? What are the core values that drive us? What is the end result we want from doing this? How does it feel when we are working aligned with our values (legacy) and how does it feel when we are not?
The question “What do you want your legacy to be?” is an intriguing one, because it asks us to jump to the end and then look back to the present to see if everything matches up. It is a question that can hold us accountable to ourselves. By going back and forth between our desired legacies and where we are now, we create internal checks and balance systems to help guide us in our day-to-day lives.
In this two-part post I’m going to suggest some ways you can work with clients using this question to help them gain clarity and perspective on their lives. In part 2, I’m going to practice what I preach by doing a visual exercise on the ImageCenter asking myself this question. Oh, boy.
A visual approach to talking about legacies
We’re big proponents of using images to enhance conversations and getting big breakthroughs. Combine this question with one of our image decks to get the most from the process. I’m not going to spell out the steps you need to do a visual exercise here. For that refer to the post “Your client is overwhelmed…What do you do?” as it is a similar process.
A person’s legacy is about their core values
Asking a person about their legacy is a great way to find out about their core values. These are what make them tick. How well they’re aligned with them can give you clues about how to help your clients move forward and be successful.
Money is not a core value
People may tell you that they want to leave money as part of their legacy. That’s fine and quite normal. However, money is not a core value. It may be a core-driver depending on the person. If someone tells you that money is part of their legacy, dig a little deeper to see what money means or represents to them. This is where you’ll find the gold, so to speak.
Money can mean all sorts of things. What does it do for them? Does it ensure their family will be all right? If so, then one of their core values is family. You might dig a little deeper to find out what does it mean for the person to know that their family is ‘all right’.
Ways to explore legacy with clients
This question can be used to unlock all sorts of information about people of any age. It can be used in coaching, counseling and therapeutic situations. The difference between using it in these types of settings boils down to how far you dig and what areas you dig into. Always be clear about your role and the agreement you have with your client.
Creating a personal vision
Asking your client about their legacy gets them to think about how they are living their lives now and how that compares to the ultimate goals of their life. Also, what they might see themselves leaving aren’t necessarily going to be physical things such as money and real estate but could be more along the lines of emotional gifts such as love, respect, and wisdom.
In a sense, you are asking them to talk about their highest and noblest selves. In the back of their minds, people may be thinking along the lines of ‘If I live life to the best of my ability, people will remember me fondly and with love. They will know that I contributed something of value.’
Getting non-profits aligned
Another good place to use this question is with non-profits, because their work is usually all about core values. It’s the intersection of the core values of the people doing the work with their supporters that often decide how successful the organization will be. Non-profits that can articulate their values in a way people can understand and relate to are far more likely to get the support (financial and otherwise) they need than ones that don’t.
This question can also be used when a non-profit is going through a period of transition as they grow and have to face the realities of maintaining the work. These times are ripe for reviewing their values and ascertaining whether anything needs to change in order to continue doing the work and making it more relevant to the new environment.
Planning for Retirement
People in retirement or looking ahead to it are another good audience to pose the question. They are in a state of mind of looking to the future, so it would be natural for them to want to answer this question.
How are you going to make a difference?
I’ll be talking more about how this question relates to me, and the work I’m doing with VisualsSpeak in Part 2.
When I feel like I have too many details threatening to drown me and it feels like everything is lost in mud, I know it’s time to talk with small business consultant, Yolanda Facio. She cuts right through the mess, reorganizes the ideas, and gets me moving in a more focused direction.
Shifting to online consulting
Yolanda’s been supporting successful bricks and mortar businesses for many years. She owns a Porsche repair shop and ran her family’s commercial construction business. She has been in the trenches. She’s ready to help other small business owners do what she has been so successful doing. She started Red.Hot.Momentum as a way for entrepreneurs to get the help they need to take their businesses to the next level.
How do you stand out in the sea of business consultants online?
This is a critical question every business owner faces no matter what the product or service you offer. Get this one right and half your job is done.
One way is to use tools that are unique and provide something different. Like the ImageCenter. When Yolanda first experienced the tool, she saw the opportunity to add something to her toolbox that could help her stand out.
Here’s what she had to say:
The most exciting part of using the ImageCenter with my clients is the added flexibility it offers. As a business coach and strategist, one might think using visual tools would be unnecessary to the process of strategizing marketing plans and organizational plans.
You’d be wrong.
It adds a whole new level to what I can accomplish and what I can design on the fly for my customers. I hear their internal unspoken needs much more clearly which allows me to modify action items to fit their work styles.
For the client it’s a way to lighten the somewhat somber task of getting momentum. I use their created visual as a map pointing out things I’d like them to remember as we move through the process of growing and building their businesses. It’s one more lens that creates a more efficient, productive and positive work session.
Look at the results she’s getting in her second month as a VizPeep
Yolanda is a dream community member. She jumped right in, participated in classes, looked up the resources, and asked questions. She loves to learn new things, and sharpen already acquired skills. She started doing sessions with clients on the ImageCenter shortly after learning how it works.
Yolanda worked with me as I was trying to gain clarity on a new brand and body of work. In the past, I would get locked up by just using words to describe my unique gifts and offerings. The use of the image tool helped free up my creativity. I saw things clearly in a one-hour session that would have taken weeks to tease out with other means. If you want to understand your brand in a very deep and powerful way, I highly recommend this session!
Her clients are so excited, Emily left a comment here on this blog.
How wonderful! I had an image session with @yolandafacio a couple weeks ago now and it was insightful for me, it was also strange because the question I asked and the images I choose ended up being in-congruent and i realized with her insights that I was thinking about things in a very different way then what I was seeing as my apparent problem. I think its fascinating how the brain can work, and at times you know something but you don’t know what it is that you know. Doing the image session brings clarity and light to what you have in yourself that is not apparent.
She told me to take my time studying the images, which she sent me in an email along with a recording of our session, and brainstorm names based on them, names that literally convey the meaning of the images. She said they show that I want happy endings, positive stories that show strength and courage, getting through, freedom, solitude, challenge, nature, peace, connection.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
I spent a delightful couple of hours looking at the images, writing out keywords, and trying different combinations while I checked them out as domains on GoDaddy.com. BlueSkies.com? Taken. Bluemoonbeams.com? Taken. LaughingMoon.com? Taken. BlueBerry.com? Taken. Then I thought to add the word ‘one’ to ‘blueberry’, and I fell in love. Available!
And so, we begin the next chapter…
Testimonials make a difference
How good would you look if you could put testimonials like the ones above on your website? The reason that people were willing to give Yolanda these testimonials is because they were excited about the results they got. The consistent theme is that these people got big insights. Ones that helped them gain the clarity they needed to move forward.
And being a VizPeep Member with unlimited access to the ImageCenter played a part in delivering these insights. Of course, having a skilled facilitator like Yolanda is the other part of the equation needed for success.
New Clients. New Insights
The ImageCenter helps Yolanda do her best work. Offers her clients a doorway into new perspectives. Provides a tool for additional exploration. The more effective she is, the more she gets recommended to others.
How can you use visual tools with your clients? Lots of ways, but here are three to get you started.
Use visual tools for the assessment/intake
Using visuals at the first meeting is a great way to get to know your new client and get some concrete ideas of what their goals are. Usually people will share more of what they want and what makes them tick when images are introduced into the session. This will save you a lot of time and help you quickly get clear on who you’re working with.
Don’t forget that when people use images to tell their stories and share their goals that the visuals are going to help them (and you) access their core beliefs and values. When you can help them align their goals with their core, the chances for a successful outcome just went up.
Try prompts such as:
What do you want from our time together?
What are your goals for our time together?
Checking in along the way
Using images along the way can help you to move your client to the next step of their process. Creating a collage can help them sharpen and/or reevaluate their progress. This is a good way to do some reflecting on what they have accomplished and what still needs to be done.
Try prompts like:
Where was I before we started/where am I now/where do I want to be?
What supports me/What is holding me back?
Ending your time together
You and your client have worked together for a while. It’s now time to create an ending for all the great work you’ve done. It’s time to celebrate successes and to look ahead. There are a number of ways to approach this ending phase using visual tools.
Reflecting back on accomplishments – Having clients create a collage about your time together can help them see more clearly all of their accomplishments and how far they have come. This can help cement a sense of all the great work they have done.
Next steps – Visual tools are ideal for helping people to decide on their next steps. Where are they going? What do they need to do now? What resources do they need? Use them at this phase to create action plans.
Dreaming the ‘impossible’ – Images can help people at this stage to dream big. Use them to help people vision something beyond what seems attainable and into the universe of possibilities. There doesn’t have to be any ‘reality’ to their vision just an idea that they can dream the ‘impossible’ and by doing so put it in the realm of what is possible.
What has been your experience?
At what points do you use visual tools with your clients? How do they help your clients in various phases of your work together?
Would you like to know a simple and easy way to help your clients continue to gain insights long after your session is over?
When you use images to help people gain insights into their lives, something remarkable happens. The images, in a sense, get burned into people’s brains. It’s like they burrow down into the subconscious where they ripen like a fine wine in a big French-oak barrel!
Depending on how you do it, there will be either no cost to you, or so little cost as to be negligible, that there is no reason not to give your clients this precious little gift. Here is a story from one of our customers and chief evangelists about how a gift she gave to one of her clients a year ago continues to inform him.
VisualsSpeak tools continue to provide value years after the exercise. I had yet another client reach out to me and write that he recently took another look at his collage from more than a year ago. He was so impressed that it showed him he had actually accomplished EVERYTHING he set out to do in that collage! It doesn’t always work out this way, but it supports the developmental aspect of the tool. Deep values can emerge and then get realigned. It’s too cool for words – let’s use pictures!
The gift Susanne gave her client was a printed copy of the image he created in a session. By doing this, she gave her client a way to reflect on what he had done, which allowed the insights to keep surfacing over time.
You can help your clients to surface additional insights by:
Suggesting they print a copy of their image after a session
Print a copy of their image and mail it to them
Create a PDF document and email it to them
If you are using the ImageCenter, printing client images or creating PDF’s is really easy to do. Go to “Look At Participants’ Past Work” in the Facilitator Center. Click on the client session you want. Click “Print” in the upper right corner. When the new page opens you can either create a PDF or print it.
Your clients will appreciate this and think of you when they reflect back on your time together!
Fast forward, it’s five months later. In this 55 minute Insight Session, I check in with Michele, she creates a new image with the ImageCenter and we discuss what to do next.
Watch the video of the session
Our discussion before creating a new image
What’s happened in the last five months?
It’s been a fertile period. I’ve been taking time to reflect by getting offline, reading, and writing with a pen. I’ve changed my work pattern from spending a few hours a week to a few hours a day in a coffee shop or outside my home office.
The change has helped me see where I need to go next. It’s a journey, so in our first session we found first steps. I’m more focused on the process and the journey. How do I bring more things in that nurture me?
I also hadn’t been doing art. I have committed to use art to explore, and I am treating myself to it.
How do you incorporate the things you’ve been thinking about into what you do?
Some of the ideas I’ve been developing are:
Power of story and how they can change
Power of conversations, relationship, connection, community helping us grow
Power of possibility and getting around self-limiting beliefs
Expanding my sense of what I can have
Working with the ImageCenter
Michele used the Exploring Health image deck to look at the question:
What is possible in my work life?
Tell us the story of the image
What else can we see in this?
There is something about the role of the career coach. The traditional checklists and inventories I was trained to use push you in certain directions, but it’s not the full picture, and it’s not as well suited to the kinds of work people are doing now. Freelance and self employment are huge opportunities, but you aren’t going to get what you need with an interest inventory. I’m seeing a process that gets at deeper kinds of information, that creates a compelling vision.
I’m seeing the possibility of shifting from someone who intervenes when there is a significant moment like graduation or a job loss to someone who helps you develop a process that serves a journey where I am a guide. Together we construct a plan for your own wellness. You can check in when needed, I can provide advice, but my role becomes how to help you construct a healthy life for yourself.
What do you need to do differently?
I need to look at what tools I need to develop to support this kind of process. How can I incorporate them into how I interact with clients? In what ways am I bringing the ideas of connection, spirituality and growth to the experience?
To what extent when I get up in the morning and sit down at my desk to do things in my day, are my actions in alignment with the possibilities I am laying out for myself? To some extent my work is in alignment, in some ways it isn’t. How does it align with what I think is possible?
Value of community
Even when I am trying to be reflective, I don’t even hear the words coming out of my own mouth. It why it’s so important to do personal and professional development in community. You (Christine) can listen and say what you heard, and it gives me ideas. You can help me have compassion for myself.
So, part of community is giving people the space, opportunity and tools to have a conversation. To tell stories and have them reflected back to them. It deepens self knowledge, and helps us see the progress we’re making.
Why does VisualsSpeak work so well for this?
The beauty of the VisualsSpeak method of using images is that its a much more powerful way to tell a story. It helps get behind the story and helps people to grow.
Here’s an example based on my own growth doing these exercises. I used to think a lot more about how I was going to do the process by analyzing it all and trying to fit all the pieces together like a puzzle. This time I just pulled out the images that called to me. I didn’t try to control all the pieces the way I’ve done in the past.
The result is that this session I created an image, which is much more empowering than the one I did before. That is growth in looking at my own process and how it’s changed over time.
What has changed as a result of this conversation?
I see a few things.
I have more clarity around the kinds of experiences I want to have and would like the people I work with to have.
I have more a sense of the directions I can go so far as the tools I want to create to better support people’s processes.
I have more energy around where I am going.
What could be a next step?
Specifically, I need to look at what this all suggests about the things I want to bring to work. How I create work practices that align with what I am saying I want to have and what I think is possible.
On a meta level, by creating this for myself, it becomes the basis of a tool or process I can create for others to use. I am essentially creating tools for the same process I am going through. This process gives me insight into something that can help others.
How will it move into action?
I’m one of those people who is horrible at New Years Resolutions. I had to review what I said I was going to do after the last session. In the first vision I created I ended up following up but not by creating a to-do list. I did the Insight Session, it got into my head,and somehow it embedded itself into me in a way other tools have not. And this all happened while I was distracted by a number of other things.
I was making progress without realizing it, because the process got embedded into my subconscious.
I’m also someone who doesn’t like to be told what to do, even when it’s me doing the telling. This became something I wanted to do, without even knowing why.
The experience of going through this process becomes incredibly powerful operating below the surface, more powerful than a to-do list. That changed me too. I’m seeing it, and I wouldn’t have without this conversation.
Different members of the VisualsSpeak community use the toolset for very different purposes. This time, we look at how the tools (especially the Image Set) can be used for career and life coaching.
What VisualsSpeak Can Achieve
VisualsSpeak provides a valuable tool for individuals who want to pursue their true career or life passion. By asking an individual to create a picture contrasting the present with the future, the VisualsSpeak process can unlock deep truths that would otherwise remain hidden. This information is revealed in a fun, non-threatening way, helping them to form future goals that resonate more clearly with their true inner desires.
Framing the Question
To help participants more clearly understand their career goals or life dreams, it’s best to develop a multipl-frame question that contrasts the present vs. the future. This can either be a general question or it can dig more deeply into a single aspect of a person’s life.
What to Observe
You should pay close attention to the way the person approaches the task, what images are chosen and how the participant assembles the images on the page:
Does the participant search through all the images or just a few?
Does he/she choose just a few images or several? What categories of images are used?
Are the images lined up straight, appearing to be on a grid within the confines of the paper?
Are they placed at angles and extended beyond the paper?
What is the color quality of the images used?
The Debrief Session
During the debrief session, ask questions about the patterns you notice and allow the participant to make his/her own discoveries. Tie the patterns to the trends you have observed with other participants, but always let the individual decide the significance of these patterns for himself/herself. Make sure you leave ample time for the debrief session.
You may want to schedule a follow-up session on a separate date during which you go back over the images and the words the participant used to describe them in greater detail. If the goal is to help the participant create an action plan, examine the participant’s goals and the obstacles that lie in the way of achieving them. Then combine the VisualsSpeak exercise with some of the other traditional coaching tools that can help the participant more clearly understand his/her desired goals and the path required to achieve these goals.
I had the pleasure of speaking at the NW Coaches Association meeting recently. As is true in so many of these quick speaking opportunities, there were a number of questions left unanswered due to lack of time. This post offers some answers to some of them.
Setting up a VisualsSpeak session
The first thing I do anytime I use VisualsSpeak is to think about who my audience is and what is their desired outcome. NW Coaches is a professional association who comes together for networking and professional development. The individual members serve a range of niche areas. This meeting included coaches that focus on life, health, career, small business, organizational, and executive coaching.
People were seated in small groups at round tables, at my request. I decided to use the framing question, “Who are you as a coach?”, since coaching was the thread that tied the group together. Because people come to these meetings to network, I asked them to share the story of their images with their individual small groups. This gave them the opportunity to learn more about their colleagues beyond the verbal introductions they had done earlier in the meeting.
How does the framing question change working with clients?
When working with an individual client, you can focus the question more directly on the goals your client wishes to work on. So, if a health coach wanted to help a client get clearer about creating a healthy lifestyle, you might start with “What is a healthy lifestyle?”.
The most common framework I use in initial coaching sessions, whether working with an individual or group, is to have people make an image of the present and the future. I do this by offering two pieces of background paper, and suggest the space between them is the transition.
The present/future framework is particularly effective with people who were born and raised in the dominant US culture. Here in the US, we learn to construct our lives around working for a better future. Many of the coaching, education, counseling, and organizational models focus on identifying goals and the action steps to achieving them. Using this frame is familiar to many people.
Oftentimes, a client will come with an idea of what they want. For example a new job. And they will have a story about the new job they are looking for, say with a company of a particular type. Yet, when they make an image of present and future, the story that emerges may be quite different. The verbal stories in our head, may not match our unconscious goals. Using VisualsSpeak will help you uncover the desires your clients’ have that even they may not be aware of. The picture of the future may not include a job at all, or it might include types of work your client has never mentioned. This process provides a very rich opportunity for looking at values and ideas about what is really wanted. Also, see Why use visuals to spark conversation?
What if you are not finding the right images?
VisualsSpeak isn’t collage. It isn’t about finding exactly the right images to represent every part of your life. It’s about sparking a different kind of insight. Oftentimes the insights are deeper when you don’t find the exact image you want because you are forced to think more about what it is you aren’t finding. The insights emerge from a combination of the images and the stories they evoke. I wrote another post, Why I am thrilled when you can’t find the image you want?.
Any other questions?
It was great to see a room full of enthusiastic coaches using images to deepen their conversations and spark new insights. I’m happy to answer any other questions you have, just drop me an email christine(@)visualsspeak.com or leave it here in the comments.