JUDY REES, a former journalist and media executive based in London, U.K., is now known worldwide as a practical implementer of an inquiry methodology called Clean Language. She is also the coauthor of the bestselling book on the topic, Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds. An agile enthusiast, she works as an online facilitator, trainer, and coach. She recommends using metaphors to visualize personalities and challenges on remote teams.



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Her tips for working remotely:

  • Use metaphors to visualize personalities and challenges on your remote team.
  • It’s the responsibility of the person who wants to work remotely to convince their boss that it’s the reasonable thing to do.

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Original transcript

Lisette: Great! And we’re live. Welcome everybody to this remote interview. My name is Lisette and I’m interviewing people and companies doing great things remotely. And today on the line I have Judy. And Judy I didn’t asked how to say your last name. Is it Rees?

Judy: Rees, yes.

Lisette: Great. So Judy, I see on your website you’re an x-ray listener and I’m very curios what that means. And it also says you have the secret formula for helping your team work better together from anywhere. That has caught my attention in a big way.

Judy: It’s obviously working then.

Lisette: Great writing. Great writing. Tell us a little bit about this.

Judy: Shall I give away the secret straight away?

Lisette: Sure. I’m kind of an in the moment person or I’m not a very patient person. I’m an instant gratification person, is what I’m trying to say.

Judy: The secret really ties in exactly with what you’re saying just before we hit record, which is that when you get to find out who people really are behind the façade, behind the CV, behind the marketing stuff, when you got people talking to each other about that, then collaboration can really kick off.

Lisette: The connection.

Judy: Yeah, the collaborative connection that makes teams work together well no matter where they are in the world. I was editing…what’s the proper word? Editing a testimonial. I’ve done an interview with a former client and I was turning that interview into a testimonial just before we came on this call. And he was saying that having done the work with me, he previously thought “yeah we work well together. We’re a great team.” They’re based in Geneva. They got some people in Bosnia. They got some people in Central America. They’re working well together and they’re having regular meetings and they’re getting stuff done. But it was such a very business-like level. And his greatest frustration was that he would send an email to someone and he would hear nothing back.

Lisette: Yeah.

Judy: Silence.

Lisette: It’s common.

Judy: So the boss sends an email and nothing happens. And he’s got no idea whether this is because they didn’t understand what he asked, they don’t understand the priority, whether they’re just ignoring him and don’t care what he thinks, or whatever it could be. That was his biggest frustration. He did the process that I introduce to teams, the whole team worked together, and they really started talking to each other at a level where they got to know each other and who they really were. So one member of the team was like a…I can’t remember their exact metaphors but let me use a different example. One member of the team was like an express train and another member of the team was like a butterfly. If you imagine an express train and a butterfly working together in the same office, you can see why there would be a certain amount of tension.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: If you then imagine the same elephant, the same butterfly working apart, remotely, then you can see why the easiest thing for both of them to do is to ignore each other.

Lisette: Okay.

Judy: Because they know that they aren’t quite on the same wavelength. Before they knew they were an express train and a butterfly, they didn’t know why but they knew they weren’t quite getting it off.

Lisette: Right. They knew something was off.

Judy: Something was off but they didn’t know what. Once I’ve got those two people talking about how they did what they were doing – the express train needed it to run on rails, needed it to be elegant, needed it to be fast, need the procedure, need to know exactly what the time table was, and he wanted it to be elegantly done with  bit of style. His express train was like the Orient Express, so he wanted a bit of [04:37] about it as well. That was what he needed. The butterfly needed that variety of dipping into lots of things. She needed that kind of improv feel to it, that “let me try this, let me try that, let me try the other.”

Lisette: Right.

Judy: And once they started talking about that, once they started to learn that that was what one person needed and that was what the other person needed, that the fact that it was out in the table meant that they could talk about it, they could laugh about themselves. “Oh that’s me doing my train thing.” “Oh that’s me doing my butterfly thing.”

Lisette: Right. They can relate to each other somehow that way.

Judy: And they could compromise. Rather than just sitting in their corners and sulking and not talking to each other, they were able to say “I appreciate that you’re probably doing a million and one things at the moment, but in order for my process to proceed, I need this information by Wednesday.”

Lisette: One interesting thing you’ve said here is that the express train and the butterfly may work better together remote than in the same office because they’re rubbing each other the wrong way. I’ve certainly worked in office situations where I had this one particular one actually where there’s a woman and she and I were very good friends but we couldn’t work together. Our styles were so different, we couldn’t handle it but we stick like each other, but it was a very interesting situation because normally you don’t like the person somehow. There’s always a friction. But what I like about this is the ability. If we go remote, you remove some of that friction and that is a solution to some of that friction, and I haven’t heard anybody bring that up before.

Judy: Actually not originally my process but I’m one of the very few people that use it remotely. The lady who devised it, Kaitlin Walker, prefer us to work with groups and teams face to face, a weigh-day kind of format. Let me not get into the technicals of it. It’s based on a thing called clean language, which is all about the metaphors that underpin people’s thinking and that drive their behavior. I’ve been involved in clean language for about the last 9 or 10 years, and I’m the co-author of the bestselling book about clean language. But Kaitlin took these same ideas, clean language, and put them into how do we get this to work with groups and teams to help them to collaborate more effective. So she shared what she knew in a book that was published last year. I’ve now picked it up and go “right! I can put that into remote teams rather than face to face teams.” Again, it’s a lovely example of collaboration, of one person building on another person’s stuff and making it better than any of us could make it on our own.

Lisette: Right. And using it in a different context too because what I was saying when I was interrupting you was it sounds like this can be used in person. I mean this is necessary whether we work in person or remotely, but you’ve taken it to the extra step of remotely, and that seems to be your specialty on this. Is that right?

Judy: Right. I was saying a moment ago before we started that my background is news journalism. And in the world of news journalism, remote working has always been there. It’s one of those things that when we first start as journalist, that’s what we’ve known how to do. And one of my mentors when I very first started out, he used to tell a story of how one day or in one set of circumstances he used to have to send his stories by carrier pigeon.

Lisette: Wow! That’s usually meant as a joke, right?

Judy: If you think about it, there’s a hugely long tradition of remote working in journalism. There’s a funny book called Scoop. I don’t know whether you’ve ever read it, which is about a Victorian era newspaper man who sent off, by mistake, to the wrong…he’s the wrong man. He’s been sent to a remote part of Africa to file a story, but he’s the cricket correspondent or something. Anyway there’s this guy, he goes off to a remote part of Africa and he takes with him a suitcase full of cleft sticks because he knows that report should be sent in a cleft stick by a messenger.

Lisette: Wow! We’ve come a long way.

Judy: Nowadays we’ve got all the technology and we were talking about this, the technology we’re using to have the conversation. People are talking about all these different kinds of software for collaboration. But it’s not about the software. It’s about the fact that people need to find ways to work together when they’re not together. And as a journalist, that’s been part of my makeup all my working life. So that’s how come. As soon as I saw this stuff for groups, I thought “remote groups, this is where it works.” And over the last six months to a year, I’ve been setting to work to prove that and turn it into something which is scalable, replicable and so on.

Lisette: When people come to you, what is it that they’re struggling with on their remote team? What is it that they’re coming to you for, specifically?

Judy: Just to go back to that testimonial I was talking about a minute ago, he was quite emphatic that the thing that he now observed was proactivity. So what had happened as a result of the work we’d done together is that people were now empowered, taking the initiative, asking more questions, clarifying, making sure that they understood. And once they felt confident they understood, they then felt empowered to take action, rather than sitting around waiting for something to happen.

Lisette: Indeed.

Judy: So it’s that frustration of “why aren’t my team taking the proper level of decision? I want them to be empowered. Why don’t they take these decisions themselves? Why are they always coming to me to sort it out for them?” And that sort it out might be what are the priorities, it might be how do we get it done at a sort of technical level, how do we solve the technical problem. But much more often, it’s how do we solve the people problems.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: The managers are being invited to resolve the conflicts. “He said, she said. He said, she said” like schoolboys. That isn’t a manager’s job. It may be part of it.

Lisette: What do you see is the role of management in these virtual teams because it is a different style of managing? It’s not the same old way, but the difference seems to be subtle, or maybe that’s just my impression but it seems to be it’s a different form of communicating and it’s a more subtle thing that we’re doing.

Judy: There’s actually a lovely definition in I think it’s the book The Year Without Pants, but I’m afraid I can’t remember it. But he distinguishes between the job of managing jackets, which is what a lot of managers do in face to face teams. They just check that the jackets are there, therefore the staff must be there, therefore they must be being productive. I used to work with a guy many years ago on a newspaper and we always used to joke that his jacket would put in a full day. This was in the days of the journalist’s long lunch and you’ll never see him in the afternoons but he would carefully leave his jacket behind and his jacket would put in a full day. In face to face team in its worst, a manager is managing jackets, just checking that people are present. And that’s no way to run anything, let alone a railway. The thing that matters is the result, the output. So I think the job of the manager is to create the environment and by environment I mean environment in its very biggest sense, the context in which people can do their best work, and that environment will of course include the technical environment but it will also include the people environment and the relationship between the people, such that great work gets done as a matter of course.

Lisette: Right. When a team is inspired and working together and helping each other and not hoarding information perhaps. It seems like any manager would want this because you know when that magic spirit happens on a team, things just work like clockwork and everything gets solved somehow. It just happens. And I just assume that every manager wants this atmosphere on their team. I always wonder what is it that manager struggle with because in almost all the interviews, when I ask people “what is it that’s preventing you or your company from going remote?” And the answer is swift and unequivocal – it’s management. They don’t even hesitate in the answer. It’s always management. And I wonder what is it that’s causing this rift in the style of management and the way that people work? It’s still not clear to me exactly what it is because it seems to me everybody wants this magical environment; managers too. I don’t understand what’s working against it. I don’t know if you have any insight into that.

Judy: A couple of things strike me about that. One is risk. I think a lot of managers, I fear, are judged on their not losing rather than on winning.

Lisette: Right. Nobody got fired for saying no.

Judy: Yeah.

Lisette: Yeah.

Judy: In order to go from one state of working, one way of working to a new one is a step, so taking the metaphor of a journey, it’s a risky step. It might be a crossing the chasm kind of step. So there’s a lot of investment in order to make this next thing work. I remember when I was managing teams at Teletech and a rule came in, a law came in, which said that staff with children, with small children, have the right to ask to work from home. The management didn’t have to say yes, but the staff member had the right to ask. And I remember very much the thinking process when we encountered the very first example of this asking, and it was the deputy design manager or something putting his application. And we knew he was really good at what he did. Mostly we manage his work by results. We knew he would commit the hours. But then in the back of our minds there was this ‘what if.’ What if something goes badly wrong and he’s not here?

Lisette: That’s a big question. It’s a real question.

Judy: In the end, we did give this guy permission to work from home. I think it was one day a week or something. But I remember that sinking feeling of this is a risk. If this goes wrong, it’s going to be on my head. If I say no, there is no risk to me. There is no risk in the status quo for a manager. Now there’s risk in the status quo for the business because over the long term we’ll be missing out on the talents and retaining staff and all those kind of things. We’re missing out on the potential for innovation. All that fabulous stuff that a business gains from allowing people to work remotely is at the other end of the rainbow.

Lisette: Right, and I can see that.

Judy: It’s a business problem. It’s not a manager’s problem. The manager’s problem is “how do I not get fired?”

Lisette: Yeah.

Judy: How do I not get the blame for something that might go wrong?

Lisette: Right. And there are so much in business that can go wrong to begin with, so to add sort of an additional thing on the plate where that really might go wrong, yeah you’re right. I can see it. And I also can see the rift between management and then the upper echelons where they want their business to be as innovative as possible but the manager wants to keep their job and make their team grow but yeah I can see that the risk could be a huge thing.

Judy: It’s a perverse incentive, isn’t it?

Lisette: Right.

Judy: It’s just one of those things that are going to happen. There’s a book by a guy called Nick Udall called Riding the Creative Rollercoaster, and he very much talks about the role of…he works with higher management teams in big blue chips like BP and these kind of companies. And universally the upper echelons want the entire organization to be full of innovation, full of creativity, full of empowerment, decisions being made at the right level. They want people to work from wherever it’s appropriate to work from. They don’t want to be paying huge overheads. All of this stuff. And then universally, at the middle management level, there is a risk aversion.

Lisette: Right. So it seems to me though that it’s just a matter of time before that really needs to be dealt with in terms of it’s a generational thing because I can only imagine, I mean what I read on the internet is the millennials coming into the workforce they’re not excited about a 9 to 5 job and most of them are not looking for that and they’re going to do whatever it takes to not have that in some circumstances, wherever it’s possible. So it seems to me that management will need to adjust at some point to allow for this sort of new wave of people who are used to working remotely from the time that they’re children, the collaborating online and using the tools and it’s not hard, trying new apps and things like that.

Judy: I think the pressure is coming from both directions, from top management and from the new generation to make it happen. Going right back to Tim Ferriss’ 4-hour workweek, it’s the responsibility of the person who wants to work remotely to convince their boss that it’s the reasonable thing to do. And to do that, one of the great things is to find out what your boss is really like.

Lisette: Oh, interesting. So this is where your workshops come in, perhaps.

Judy: Yes. So this is another way of applying the same idea. If you find out what’s important to your boss, so if you discover that your boss is like, let’s use the same example again. If your boss is like an express train, what’s most important to them is the predictability of knowing when they’re going to get a hold of you, knowing that the system’s going to work properly, and so on and so forth. If your boss is like a butterfly, maybe what’s important to them is making sure the system allows for casual conversation, for synchronicity, for things bumping into things that make magic happen.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: So one of the things that I’m putting together at the moment under this sort of heading of collaboration dynamics is a tool to help people learn how to find out what their boss is really like.

Lisette: Awesome.

Judy: So it starts off, you find out what you are really like when you are working at your best, but then you find out “how do I find out about my colleagues? How do I find out about my boss? How do I find out about my team members? How do I get them talking about this stuff?” So that we can then build on that and really make collaboration a central part of how we’re doing this thing.

Lisette: Right, I love it.

Judy: So if we all go remote and then we never speak to each other again, that’s not collaboration. It might be remote working but it’s not remote collaboration.

Lisette: I really like the focus on learning the other person’s language, and it sounds like that’s a bigger communication technique. Does that stem from, I don’t know I’m going to guess, NLP? It sounds NLP-ish. But just to learn what is important to this person and what is it in my situation that I can show them that makes them see my perspective from their perspective. I mean I love the butterfly-freight train/express train analogy because it’s true. There are some people where the being on time and being predictable is really, really important and there’s other people that need to be really free. Both have to work together and both are important. And we need both in business to really make things happen. But it’s true. Seeing things from other person’s perspective, that would change everything. I love this. And this is part, these metaphors, this is part of the workshops that you give.

Judy: Exactly. A little bit of history, clean language is a sort of second cousin of NLP.

Lisette: Oh awesome.

Judy: It was devised by a guy called David Grove who had previously studied some NLP, but then he went off on his own tact and came up with this rather different approach to metaphor. In a weird twist of fate, it then got reabsorbed into NLP via some people called Penny Tompkins and James Lawley in the UK, who thought “what he’s doing is really interesting. Let’s study it.” At the time he was denying that he’d ever anything to do with NLP.

Lisette: Oh lovely, lovely.

Judy: It’s one of those funny stories. He died a small number of years ago and I wrote an obituary for him and I mentioned his involvement with NLP. His ex-wife phoned up in an absolute fury. I said “he had never had anything to do with NLP. David wasn’t NLP at all.” If that was true, it would have been an astonishing coincidence that he came up with exactly the same ideas as certain other people, right down to the naming of objects. But the truth was that he had studied NLP. I’ve since talked to somebody who studied NLP with him, a guy called Paul Shelley who runs a large information products company in America and who’s picked up a lot of some excellent NLP ideas and turned them into very practical product – photo reading, those kind of things. But their lives have gone on completely different paths. David had gone off to do what was basically psychotherapy with metaphor and Paul Shelley had gone into an informational products direction. And now I’m adding my little bit to the mixture, which is to take these same bunch of ideas and turn them back into information products.

Lisette: Brilliant.

Judy: This is the magic of collaboration. As long as we take collaboration in its broadest sense, we don’t expect that all collaboration must be with somebody with whom you are employed in the same organization. In fact, collaboration can include things like reading somebody’s book or having a casual conversation with somebody.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: Being inspired by somebody’s LinkedIn post of Facebook post.

Lisette: I love that you’re taking…it reminds me of a book called Borrowing Brilliance and I can’t remember the name of the author, but it’s a fabulous book where he says you have to borrow ideas from different industry. The biologist has to take and look at the airline industry and how are they solving the problem in the airline industry and take that and bring it back to biology and see if it works. You have to borrow from all different things. It’s just the way that innovation and evolution, that’s just the way things work. And also it seems to me the most fun, when we’re taking things and making them our own and applying them to a remote situation for example and seeing what works and seeing what sticks. It seems brilliant. In these workshops, then people are discovering and I’m assuming that it’s an interesting team building aspect to the whole remote working thing as well because you’re diving more deeply into how you communicate rather than how many children you have or what are your pets like or your background. You’re sort of diving into a really more…a deeper level with your [27:41]. I can almost imagine that being remote, it would almost be more personal in some ways once you’re doing these things.

Judy: I think so. Personally, I love phone conversations or video conversations. I think people will open up more when they’re remote from people. Particularly, I think introverts who would tend to be shy on face to face lose some of their fear, typically on the phone and on video conference. Not all introverts are fearful in face to face situations but I’m generalizing wildly here.

Lisette: Of course. There’s levels to everything. I think people understand, and it’s an important distinction, the introversion-extroversion distinction I think in personality.

Judy: One of the things that’s brilliant about working with metaphor is it sort of introduces both a distance and a closeness at the same time. By talking in terms of the metaphor, so by saying “I’m like an express train.” I put a bit of distance between me and it. I say “I’m not an express train. I’m like an express train.”

Lisette: Right.

Judy: And so when people ask a question about the express train, it’s not attacking me. They can ask a question about the express train, which is at one remove. You know the technique where if you’re in a meeting with somebody, face to face meeting, and you never sit directly opposite them at the table. You’re always try and make sure you’re both sitting on the corner and then you have a piece of paper on the table between you because that means you can look at the piece of paper rather than directly at the other person in the event that there’s a dispute or conflict of any kind. Do you know where I’m coming?

Lisette: In between peace and something.

Judy: Yes. Actually I call it a third point or various other things, because it stops that confrontation thing going on. In the same way, the metaphor can act as the third point. You can both be sitting together, discussing the express train.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: A workshop participant once, lovely term of phrase, it was a user experience company so they were all designers and creative types. She came up with a lovely phrase, she says “it’s like we all agree to treat our imaginary friends as real.”

Lisette: Oh!

Judy: So you can talk about the imaginary friends. Here’s my imaginary friend. Let me tell you about him.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: And you can ask questions about my imaginary friend, rather than straight at me.

Lisette: Right. And it’s not so personal, especially when things get heated.

Judy: Exactly, so it’s got that little bit of distance. And at the same time, what you discover is that once you get into the nitty-gritty of metaphor, metaphor is incredibly personal. It actually reveals very intimate details of how people think and feel and why they do what they do. Like I say, clean language came originally from therapy and then I spent a number of years using it as an individual coaching technique, often helping people who are trying to decide whether to stay or go from a job, for example. So clarity coaching, if you like. And when you ask the questions very directly about the metaphors that drive someone’s behavior, you get to a very profound level of understanding about that person very, very quickly. Let me show you. What’s something you’re feeling at the moment?

Lisette: Oh, let’s see. I would say something that I’ve struggled with my whole life and I always have a little bit of it is anxiety. I always feel anxiety, almost always.

Judy: And you’re feeling it right now?

Lisette: Yes, always during interviews because I’m so focused and nervous and excited at the same time.

Judy: Focused and nervous and excited at the same time. And that anxiety, whereabouts are you feeling it?

Lisette: I feel it always directly where the ribs meet together in the sternum.

Judy: And does it emphasize [32:35].

Lisette: It’s like a cloud.

Judy: What kind of cloud?

Lisette: A little black cloud, with grey, sort of black to grey. I can totally visualize it.

Judy: A little black to grey cloud, like that. And when it’s a black to grey cloud, like that there, what would it like to have happen?

Lisette: Soothing.

Judy: What kind of soothing?

Lisette: I visualize blue water, like a soothing blue water.

Judy: And whereabouts this soothing blue water?

Lisette: It doesn’t make sense but there’s a waterfall, I feel, that comes from the head down to the sternum. Then I just see sort of a blue waterfall.

Judy: A blue waterfall from the head down to the sternum. And what needs to happen for a blue waterfall like that when there’s a little black to grey cloud?

Lisette: I guess the first thing that comes to mind is air, breathing, probably because that’s the technique I’ve always used in the past to manage it. So that’s the first thing. And then water, drinking water. I always have something soothing and water nearby.

Judy: In breathing and water and then blue and waterfall and soothing. And then what happens to the cloud?

Lisette: You know what’s weird, this is going to be a very personal interview, my cloud actually turns into a gang of butterflies. And at some point, if I’m feeling strong and sort of full of joy, which is often, but when I feel like that it’s my gang. It ends up being my gang of butterflies that I take with me. And I kind of almost say like “alright guys, we’re going to go do this anyway. They become allies at some point.

Judy: A gang of butterflies.

Lisette: Yeah, a gang of butterflies. I don’t know if that exists in real life.

Judy: That’s a very, very quick demonstration, ultra quick demonstration. But I think it hopefully tells the story of the kind of way this can be used on coaching. What did you noticed about that?

Lisette: What I like about it and I think what a lot of people might be able to relate to is just the visual that we have because I think that that’s a much better way to remember something about somebody else as the visual rather than just some sort of list of things, like they like blue and rainy weather they like. It’s sort of I like having…probably now, every time we see each other you’re going to think of this gang of butterflies and the black cloud probably. You always remember somehow. I like the visual.

Judy: If I was coaching you, one of the things I’d probably do is get you to either draw or find a picture of a gang of butterflies like that, so when I’d see an actual picture, then it will even be more memorable.

Lisette: Ah okay, then you have a really clear…then you see what I’m seeing. Right, I see. Interesting. I love it.

Judy: Where we got to that was how this is personal. What I think I’m observing is you telling me something which is profoundly personal and really important to you, something that happens all the time, in terms which I can understand.

Lisette: Right, because if I were just going to say “I have anxiety” it means something entirely different to you than it does to me, because people experience it in different ways and in different levels.

Judy: And for one person anxiety is something which completely stops them going out of the house. For another person, anxiety is something they experience momentarily just before they go on stage and all points in between. But as soon as you start talking about having anxiety, if we don’t use a method like this metaphor approach, it’s so easy to drift into sort of psychologizing and turning ourselves into medical experts in anxiety when that’s not the point. We’re not here to cure each other.

Lisette: Right. We’re here to collaborate.

Judy: We’re here to collaborate.

Lisette: And understand each other, right?

Judy: Yeah. And if I understand that that’s one of the things that sometimes happens for you, say we were working together, one of the things I could do is make sure you always have water to hand.

Lisette: Right. What I like about that is it’s a very low cost caring technique. It doesn’t take a lot for somebody to have a glass of water there, but it shows very much that you care and that you’re thoughtful about the other person. That would be a very bonding experience.

Judy: It would. And I don’t need to know, to be able to do that to help me to work well, I don’t need to know all the background stuff about whether you’ve got children or which football team you like. Those background things are very culturally specific in a lot of cases. Archetypes like Indian people tend to be very family orientated and rather conservative. Brits are incorrigible heathens who drink too much.

Lisette: Right, and anything in between.

Judy: Sometimes when you find out almost too much about somebody’s background, you give yourself an opportunity to clash with them that wasn’t previously there. Whereas it turns out that this whole thing about metaphor and how people think in metaphor at a very profound level is actually very fundamental to the nature of being human. There’s a very well known philosopher called Steven Pinker who calls metaphor the stuff of thought. I call it the atom of thought. It’s absolutely fundamental to the way humans think. In whatever language or whatever culture you’re working, the metaphor thing still works. Whereas trying to bond over cricket isn’t going to work for Americans.

Lisette: Right. Yeah very good point. And how often are teams then, I mean help me visualize what it looks like on a team when you’re coming in to coach. I would think that teams would kind of need this continuously, I mean throughout the cycle of being a team would be to come together, periodically check in, see how each other are doing, visualize again. Is that the case? Is it something that you need to come back to?

Judy: What I aim to do when I work with a team is make sure they can do this for themselves. Typically I’m working with a team, for example, for 6 weeks to 8 weeks, that kind of length of time. And in that time, one hour or 90 minutes a week, something like that of video conference, in that we get the group to the point where they are tackling real life problems using this methodology. So they are using the metaphors, the questions, the listening, the respect. There are some tools around feedback and some tools around handling conflict, which is related to everything I’ve talked so far, and they get to handle all those tools. This isn’t one of those systems where I have to come in and like the great I am and keep on renewing it; another coat of whitewash.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: Once they’ve got this stuff, they got it. The researchers found that once you got about 60% of the people who’ve done the training, it tends to sustain. If you can train, within the whole organization, 60% of the whole organization, it will tend to sustain within the organization and just keep on going. If you just take a small part of the organization and 60% who have had the training, then that will sustain until you have enough turnover that you’d drop below the 60% again and then it stops being just the way we do things.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: And of course, I think it’s the case that any group or organization would get value from having a facilitated session once or twice a year with an outside person present, and particularly if something big blows up, a big change that comes in, a new project, that kind of thing. Having some additional facilitation at that point can really make a different. But to my mind, this is something that teams need to learn and take on for themselves. I can’t be everywhere in the world at once.

Lisette: Right, you’re not scalable.

Judy: Hopefully I will be scalable. I have got a team of people who know how to do this stuff now.

Lisette: Right. You’re scaling out your information and knowledge.

Judy: Scaling it out, scaling thing up because I think it’s really important. Far too much team building stuff is “okay, you’ve got to get the team together or it doesn’t work.”

Lisette: I hear that a lot. I hear people swearing that you must be face to face in order to be able to work remotely. It’s an accelerant and it must happen because how else do people bond? I understand the need but I disagree. I don’t think it must happen. I think that if we can’t meet face to face, there must be other things that we can do and I’m more interested in that.

Judy: This stuff, clean language, when I first encountered it, it was being said it can only be done face to face because, because, because, because, because. I’ve now spent, as I say, 8 or 9 years doing it remotely, teaching it remotely, teaching workshops in it, teaching coaches how to do it, and I know it can be done remotely and I know it can be taught remotely. When I was talking to something a few weeks ago who does design thinking, you know that process?

Lisette: I’ve heard of it but I’m not super familiar with it.

Judy: It’s basically the notion of businesses can adopt designers do things in order to make better innovation within businesses. And a couple of the very large software companies are adopting design thinking as a methodology for sales because it helps them to set up a collaborative relationship with the customer in defining the problem and then finding proposed solutions, this, this, this, this, this. But one of the interesting things about design thinking is just like clean language. People are still saying “oh well, there are elements of design thinking that must be done face to face.” Now if a large software company wants to use this process in sales process, and then it turns around to its potential customer and says “but we’ve got to all meet face to face” well it’s going to get some very short shrift because how many organizations now actually have the means to meet face to face with a potential vendor.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: The up and coming, the new organizations, as you know, are created without pants.

Lisette: Right. One of the things that really resonates with me is the idea, and I call it for some reason because I think I read it in a blog, I call it remote first, that even if you are working together, you should have the processes in place to be able to work when you’re apart in case there’s bad weather or in case the plumber has to be there sometime between 8:00 and 10:00 PM. So you want to be able to have those processes in place because it’s just good for business anyway, even if you’re not going to plan on working remote. I do think it’s the new way of doing things. I’m kind of convinced it’s the new way of doing things. We are more global. We sort of been working remotely. And the one thing that really stood out is in the beginning you said it’s not the tools anymore. The technology is in place. It used to be sort of a question of technology – sending things through the mail, carrier pigeons – it used to be an issue actually of it, but it’s not an issue anymore. I mean we no longer need tools but they exist. Now it’s a matter of people and communicating and really coming together and working together as a team on how to make that happen. I’m particularly attracted to the things that you’re doing. I think these are really wonderful techniques that you’re getting into and the actual communication of it.

Judy: I think it’s potentially very, very exciting. The challenge is not figuring out what to do anymore. It’s not the technology. It’s not figuring out what to do. It’s how do we get this information to the people who need it in ways that they can handle, ways then can introduce with minimal risk.

Lisette: Right.

Judy: Straightforward. If this is actually about people, it’s actually about communication, how difficult can this be?

Lisette: Well that’s the magic question because for some reason it’s really difficult. Somehow it’s really difficult. I mean we’re humans, and thus it’s complex.

Judy: Let’s put on NLP hat and say well it’s complex at the moment. We haven’t solved it yet.

Lisette: Indeed. I love it. And I think it’s absolutely true. I think that’s absolutely true. And then the fun, it can also be fun to solve these things if everybody’s really on the same page about wanting to make it happen for whatever the reason is for making it happen. I can go on forever and I’m realizing we’re reaching the top of the hour here, so I want to maybe just end with one final question. I mean I have a million questions but we’re going to run out of time, so we’re going to have a follow up or something. But one final question is if people want to learn more about you, what’s the best way to contact you?

Judy: Go to my website, xraylistening.com. There’s a contact form on there. You just fill that in. But you can find me, my name is Judy Rees, and I’m on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, wherever; Judy Rees x-ray listener will find me fairly quickly.

Lisette: Okay. Easy enough. And is there anything that I didn’t touch on? I mean I have a list here of all kinds of things I didn’t touch on, but anything in particular that you would like to end on before we go.

Judy: One of the things that I want to mention is that Collaboration Dynamics is the name of the set of tools I’m currently putting together. I don’t know when this interview is going to be actually broadcast or published, but probably by the time it’s available, by the time this is published, on xraylistening.com there will be a nice free offer of the Collaboration Dynamics manual which gives you the instructions for how to do this stuff. So basically I’m giving that away in exchange for people’s email addresses, and it’s going to be a work in progress. It’s going to be a collaboration. So I’m calling it the Collaboration Dynamics manual version 0.1. I’m going to put out the first draft, invite anybody who wants to look at it, to use it, to play with it, and give me feedback and then let’s develop it together.

Lisette: Brilliant. [49:36] of doing it.

Judy: It’s consistent with what I believe about collaboration, that we each stand on the shoulders of giants and the more random connections that we can make between different people’s ideas, the better. It’s also consistent with David Grove’s ideas about he wanted to put his stuff out into the world and see what happen because that’s where the excitement happens.

Lisette: Indeed.

Judy: So I’d love people to go to xraylistening.com, grab hold of that manual, have a play with it, and let me know what they think.

Lisette: Absolutely. I can think of a lot of teams that could really use this information, absolutely. I hope those that are listening and Judy please let me know if you get people. Tell them Lisette sent you. I’d love to know how this works out and of course I’m going to do it myself. I’m going to absolutely do it myself. Thanks so much for your time today. I totally learned a lot and I’m really grateful that we got to dive in so deeply into this clean language and the metaphor. I think it’s really important what you’re doing, so thank you so much.

Judy: Thank you, and thank you for playing, been willing to share your gang of butterflies.

Lisette: Oh yeah, sure. I don’t know if I’ll regret that later but it’s always good to be personal and open when possible.

Judy: Thanks a lot.

Lisette: Alright everybody, until next time. Be powerful.


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