“Your facilitation brought us to a safe space and process where we shared our stories, really listened to each other and learned from each other.”
These are words that I bring with me as I say goodbye to partners and colleagues at the FBA this time around, heading for a new adventure.
The feedback means a lot to me since it indicates that we achieved what we had set out to do. I and my colleagues at the FBA managed to support the UN colleagues to feel empowered to strengthen efficient leadership and cooperation. We have supported leaders and teams in the UN with knowledge, tools and methods for increased skills in leadership and cooperation. When applying these skills they enhance efficient ways of working, which will assist the UN in the mission to contribute to peace, security and development.
For sure, it was not all rosy at the start. There were hesitant voices when we set off on that journey together the first day of the workshop. I will come back to this.
The last time I was leaving the FBA, I was moving to the Democratic Republic of Congo to work for the UN. The experience I gained helped me when I returned to work at the FBA, supporting UN personnel in the field.
This time I am leaving the agency with memories of another four years of wonderful exchanges with colleagues and partners, and meaningful lessons learned. I am reminded of how privileged I am to be in this business of passionate human beings. I feel grateful to have had the chance to work with them, to get to know them and to learn from them. Because of those people, I have not only grown professionally, but also personally. They have opened my eyes to what it means to truly inspire fellow human beings, and what it means and takes to “walk the walk”.
During crises some people tend to turn inwards, however, this is when cooperation and unbiased and inclusive leadership is as important as ever. This holds true at the individual and institutional level, as well as the global level.
At the FBA we know the complex and challenging contexts and situations that UN leaders and their teams face on a daily basis. We know that they have to be proactive and agile, and ready to make tough decisions, sometimes about life and death. We know that efficient teams and good leadership and cooperation are well needed. Central to leadership and cooperation is dialogue, listening and building trust. Just like facilitation, we can all learn and strengthen these skills.
As the leader of a UN team, mission or office you can facilitate the creation of a psychologically safe learning environment where everyone can be at their best. Creating trust with openness and transparency, learning from mistakes and celebrating successes are parts of this process. Equally, feedback and paraphrasing, to ensure that you have understood the communication, are helpful in dialogue and trust-building.
As a facilitator, you do not have your own agenda. The participants are at the centre and their input and experiences guide the process. I have noticed that being aware of my feelings and reactions makes it easier to put them aside, to be able to fully focus on the person I have in front of me.
With the participants of that workshop that I referred to before, we practiced active and empathetic listening by giving each other unconditional attention, listening without judging, listening to understand.
That workshop gathered leaders and teams from seven UN field offices in Africa and the Middle East. It is one example of support that the FBA is providing to UN partners, support that is always tailored to the needs and desired outcome of the partners. The trainings and workshops are concrete, interactive and reflective. As one participant expressed: “We made the action plan together as a team with concrete steps to take when we are back in the mission. And the first step we already took right here.”
Although some workshop participants were hesitant at the start, the methodology we used took them through a process of sharing and learning together. I have a picture in my head of that last day of the workshop when we were all standing in a big circle in the middle of the room. Everyone expressed appreciation and commitment to continue to work, with themselves and their teams, and the organisation for sustainable long-term results.
My best wishes to partners and colleagues. I hope our paths will cross again. In any case, I carry you and the stories with me.