By Shabana Pathan and Diego Gomez
Enjoyed Sharing in a Comfortable Environment!
The comments above came from Fordham IT staff who attended the first Coaching Cafe session, “A Time to Dialogue,” on February 19th. The twenty participants were distributed into three small groups, where they learned how to effectively use dialogue in meetings and conversations. Participants discovered how dialogue, as opposed to debate or discussion, is a more creative and effective mode of communication. Dialogue increases our capacity to collaborate and address complex organizational issues.
The Coaching Cafe module highlighted the following objectives:
- Understand what dialogue is and how it differs from other forms of communication.
- Practice specific behaviors that move us towards a more dialogue-based way of communicating.
- Consider ways of cultivating dialogue as a sustained organizational practice.
After the welcome from Katherine Egan, Executive Director of the Strategic Program Office, Dr. Joseph Sclafani, Executive Consultant to the VP/CIO, gave an overview of the program and set some ground rules for the flow of the discussion. Staff were divided into three groups of 6 to 8 per table. Moderators Richard Eberhardt, Diego Gomez, and Shabana Pathan facilitated the discussion. The group had 90 minutes to go through the module and complete the activities.
At the beginning of the session, the mood in the room was quiet and participants seemed unsure of the outcome. Once the session was in full force, the room buzzed with lively conversation, laughter and complete engagement. Dr. Gerard Cariffe, Associate VP and Chief Technology Officer, provided lunch, which featured a variety of sandwiches, salad and cookies, and it allowed participants to continue their discussions.
The Coaching Cafe is an outgrowth of the Fordham IT Laureate Program. Like the Laureate Program, but on a smaller scale, the Coaching Cafe is a personal and professional development opportunity. It is open to all members of Fordham IT, regardless of their position or function.
Coaching Cafes encourage participants to explore work-related challenges of mutual concern and share individual experiences about how those challenges have been successfully met. A single challenge serves as the unifying theme for each Coaching Cafe event.
The sole requirement for participation is a commitment to sharing ideas and experiences connected to coping with the selected challenge. The library’s O’Hare Special Collections Room was a comfortable setting, and there was no pressure to contribute. Most people felt comfortable contributing. But it was perfectly acceptable to just listen and take away some ideas to share with co-workers or implement in their own work environment.
Participants Reflect on the Coaching Cafe
The Coaching Cafe was a great opportunity during working hours to get to know colleagues from other groups within Fordham IT.
Sharing a concern and listening to feedback from staff in other areas of IT was valuable. It is always useful to examine how we communicate with others.
This session requires you to stop and listen, as well as to build on the thoughts of others. It’s a good exercise that everyone should go through every so often.
Another participant explained that “having a safe environment where everyone felt comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns was essential to the module’s success.”
Fordham IT’s Coaching Cafe highlights the diversity of perspectives and assumptions that participants bring to their work. If that goal is met, IT staff will be equipped with new and creative approaches to meet such challenges in the future. The next session is planned for June. It will cover a new and relevant topic. Please RSVP to FordhamIT@fordham.edu and be part of a great experience with your colleagues.
Shabana Pathan is the Assistant Director, Strategic Program Office
Diego Gomez is Head of Cloud/Agile Systems Management Team