RFP: Washington SBE Meeting Facilitator

I just submitted my proposal to serve as the facilitator for the September meeting of the Washington State Board of Education. Travel won’t be the most convenient, but getting to fly in and out of Seattle, visit some friends, drive across the mountains to Yakima, and work with educators, policy wonks and politicians would be exciting.

Here are the minutes from their last meeting.

Here is my general approach to facilitation and strategic planning.

Below is what I’ve told them I would do and how I would approach the work.
I’m interested in what others might think about this proposal.

Based upon the RFP, our plan would entail the following:

  1. Consult with Board executive team to identify meeting goals and produce agenda after review of past meeting minutes and reports.
  2. Clarify level of relationship and familiarity among board members to determine usefulness of spending some focused time building rapport among participants to enhance work environment and boost productivity of board meeting time.
  3. Based upon goals and agenda, select processes that will enable board to accomplish its work efficiently and effectively while furthering its commitment to the mission:
  4. Facilitate meeting in collaboration with Board executives.
  5. Prepare and submit report of the meeting outcomes.
  • Provide advocacy and strategic oversight of public education;
  • Implement a standards-based accountability system to improve student academic achievement;
  • Provide leadership in the creation of a system that personalizes education for each student and respects diverse cultures, abilities, and learning styles; and
  • Promote achievement of the Basic Education Act goals of RCW 28A.150.210.


We have over 20 years of experience facilitating event planning and the events themselves. This has included medical staff training with Veterans Administration Hospitals, city and county governments, non-profit organizations, and corporations. The coach approach to facilitation is focused on building leadership capacity within the leaders and members of the group. Current reading in the areas of leaderless organizations and the work at Harvard Business Review in Military Leadership (particularly ideas like “commanders intent”) focus on building shared vision and leadership capacity across all levels of an organization. This again relates directly to the field of Systems Theory, which recognized and capitalizes on the interconnections among the disparate parts of an organization.
My own professional experience has included several years of college level teaching at two schools. My family has been committed to public education for five generations, and I would be pleased to support the work of the Washington State Board of Education in its endeavors. While I am based in Texas, I am building a national and international clientele and am happy to do the necessary travel.
Successful meeting leadership requires balancing the identified goals and agenda that the organization has for the meeting with the individual participants’ personal and professional needs and motivations for sharing in the work. In other words, the leaders need to be clear on what they want accomplished. Further, the participants need to see their place in that, and feel that they are making a meaningful contribution to that work and recognize how it relates to the larger organizational vision, and hopefully also how it advances their own personal goals for their life and career. These competing claims are balanced in two ways. 1) The leader determines the goals of the group and plans the meetings needed to accomplish those goals (preferably in consultation with a select few direct reports and others – remember we are trying to build leadership capacity at all levels). 2) The leader plans multiple types of meetings to address the various needs of stakeholders. Some meetings provide a setting for collaborative brainstorming of emerging challenges and responses. Others are geared toward developing a particular solution and moving it toward concrete action. Still others are on their surface simply about reporting decisions already made or conveying other important information. Different temperaments of leaders are disposed and repelled by these three types of meetings, as are the people being led. Thus a balance is required to keep everyone engaged and to accomplish all of the work to be done as effectively as possible. Transactional leaders should not lead half day visioning retreats. Similarly, big-picture leaders should probably not lead budget meetings, which would then devolve into navel gazing and never complete the concrete and serious tasks at hand. Both types of leaders and meetings are necessary and important. Understanding which is called for at any given time requires forethought, and humility on the part of the leader to recognize – I cannot do everything with equal effectiveness. This again is where the diversity available becomes such a huge asset. The more types of people in the more places, the more likely the organization is to have competent leaders and managers in each area who can rise to the challenges, and pass along their particular expertise to others.


Personal Needs in Intimate Relationships

Download pdf here: SL- Personal Needs in Intimate Relationships

Needs to be met (write in your own observations in each category quadrant):


  • Affection and caring shown through touch
  • Sexual intimacy that is open, vulnerable, tender and safe
  • Safe, secure shelter
  • Financial security
  • Nourishment
  • Encouragement of physical health and wholeness
Psychological / Emotional:

  • Affirmation
  • Shared interests
  • Respect
  • Space
  • Companionship
  • Security
  • Trust
  • Support

  • Public Affirmation
  • Public Naming and Claiming
  • Affirmation of other’s ‘social style’ (Introvert/Extrovert)
  • Mutual circle of friends
  • Acceptance of other’s family
  • Support for other’s interests & appropriate participation

  • Support of freedom
  • Challenge to grow toward wholeness
  • Spiritual connections
  • Some shared spiritual interests
  • Agreement on spiritual relationship

His needs / Her needs:

Take time, on your own individually, to think through the four categories above. Read through each list, spending time thinking over each item. You may add some others that you think or feel are important and worth listing separately. Pray about each area, and seek to know yourself and your partner honestly and fully. Listen for the leading of your own spirit and God’s Spirit together guiding you through this process. On separate sheets of paper, give yourself plenty of room to elaborate on each item in the four quadrants. Identify both the what and the how of the need – specific enough that you can follow through later. Complete the exercise both for what you perceive your partners needs to be, and what your own needs are. Then, from that work, list below the top needs of each of you that can/should be met by the other. Before you begin, read the back of this page fully.

My needs to be met by my partner:
My partner’s needs to be met by me:

Affirmation and Agreement:

As you come together once you have completed the lists of needs, consider simply trading papers without comment, each of you taking some time, again by yourself, to read through the list, think and pray. What do you hear your partner saying from her/his heart? Then come back together and work through the following:

  1. Affirm the things that your partner discerned about you, both in what your need is now and how they think it can be met. Remember, you are building a foundation for a life together – the more open and generous your conversation, the better your relationship will be and the stronger it will grow over time.
  2. Ask clarifying questions where you do not understand. CAUTION: Your goal is not ot show up your partner and how little they know about you – rather, you want to take this opportunity to reveal more of yourself to your partner for your mutual benefit.
  3. ALERT: Are there some places where needs have been identified that are not yours to meet? No partner or friend can or should try to meet every need in the relationship. Most of us need friendships and interests outside our most intimate relationship. Some needs are only God’s to meet – we can not save one another, fix one another, make one another righteous, heal one another’s brokenness, give one another meaning and purpose in life, or give one another a healthy sense of self-worth. Only God can give these things. However, we can do things to erode or undermine God’s work in our and our partner’s lives.
  4. Agree together on what the priority needs are in your relationship and how you will intend to meet them. Your marriage vows will include your covenant statements to meet one another’s needs – this is a step in that journey together.
  5. Affirm again. Express your gratitude to your partner for the willingness to be open and vulnerable, to trust you with their deepest self, and for their desire to meet those of your needs that are theirs to meet.

Next Steps

A marriage, a family, or any other intimate relationship takes work. And anything that takes work takes commitment. Whatever would be healthy must be fed and nurtured regularly, or it will wither and die. Different relationships require different amounts of nurture and tending, just as do different plants. A cactus needs far less water and nutrition and can bear greater heat and scorching sun – but how many of us want to snuggle up to a prickly-pear?

It will be worth your while to keep this exercise handy. Consider reviewing it at least annually on your anniversary as a way to keep your commitments fresh, and to continue to grow in your awareness of yourself, your partner, and your relationship with one another and with God, as all of these grow and change over time and through experience.

A blessing

May the love that joins you together be boundless as the sky, deep as the oceans, beautiful as the mountains, and powerful as the love that God has for you.


      One of the central realities in all of life is the relationship between stimulus and response. When I touch a hot skillet, my hand draws back, almost unconsciously. When I step on a tack I yell, and my foot rises rapidly from the floor. When I am driving, and someone swerves into my lane or an animal darts out in front of me, I immediately react. These things are true of the animal kingdom, and seem to be true also of plants, which react to changes of light, air pressure, temperature or moisture.       When we as humans lack the ability to experience the stimulus, then physicians tell us we have neuropathy of some kind. When we overreact to the incoming stimulus, then people say we are immature. When we lack the ability to respond to stimuli when we do experience them then we are depressed, withdrawn, catatonic or comatose.
      So, our goal should be to develop our capacity to respond appropriately to the stimulus that we do experience in our lives. Some have drawn a distinction between reacting and responding – reaction is involuntary and spontaneous, response is controlled and thoughtful. OK, fine, you say, but what can I do to move toward mature response from immature reaction?
      One of the keys is to recognize that between every stimulus and response there is a space. If we are startled, or we are a toddler, then the space is infinitesimally small – a nanosecond at most. But when we grow up and put away childish things, we are to move toward a way of living and relating where that space grows. You may remember a cartoon where the child or husband does or says something, to which the mother/wife responds by counting to ten. That is entirely about placing a space between stimulus and response. We also know people who have developed a habit of leaving a situation temporarily while they ‘take time to cool off.’ This is certainly helpful, and to be preferred over reacting in the moment.
     If we do nothing more than count to ten or take a walk, then we often stay in the same upset state. What we want to do is find transformation of our thoughts and feelings so that our response can be mature, reasoned, appropriate, faithful.


      What I suggest is that, once we become able to stop, even for a moment, after the stimulus, then we pray the pause. Fill that space not with numbers or footsteps only, but with prayer, prayer for self, for the others involved, for God’s will, glory and kingdom. Jesus calls us to pray for our enemies. It may be harsh to consider everyone who upsets or offends or startles us as an enemy, but for our purposes here it works, because we are feeling adversarial, and the overall situation is certainly an enemy to our ability to be mature.
      So, if anxiety and adrenaline stir in us when someone says or does something, then we can pray that God would bless that person and help them to grow in faith, hope and love. We do not pray, “God help them to see that I am right.” Such a prayer continues to keep us in a place of feeling superior – such arrogance will only undermine our efforts to reason and respond maturely.

Pray the pause –

Pray the Lord’s PrayerOur Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Pray the Jesus PrayerLord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, have mercy on me, a sinner. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, fill me with your love. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior, use me for your glory, help me build your kingdom, etc.
Pray the KyrieLord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
Pray the 23rd PsalmThe Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long.
Pray what’s on your mind…  What is your frustration – name it. With whom are you upset – name them. What are your fears, worries, anxieties – name them. In several of the healing miracles, Jesus asks the name of the demons. Recovery work in AA, NA and other programs have demonstrated the power of naming our demons – saying it out loud gives us power and deflates the secret which can take hold of us. The Psalms show us that, if we are humble and open, we can say anything to God in prayer. Sometimes we need to pray… “Lord, give me the desire to forgive. I want to want that,” because we really want to lash out, and we need God’s help to do otherwise.

     As you work on this, keep in mind that between every stimulus and response, there is a space. Maturing includes developing the capacity to increase and use that space appropriately – enabling us to choose how we will respond.
      For instance, many time have I heard someone say, “She made me so mad.” If the speaker is someone I know I often stop them right there and say, “Why did you give her that kind of power?”

For further study…
This idea of a space between stimulus and response is found many places, but my understanding is drawn largely from Family Systems Theory – Rabbi Edwin Friedman, derived from Bowen Theory developed by Dr Murray Bowen, and the work of Dr. Roberta Gilbert who has popularized and clarified Bowen Theory. For more information about their work, see:
We have a good collection of Family Systems books at church if you want to go deeper.
And as always, please let me know if you want to discuss any of this.

Family Systems Theory – Nuclear Family Emotional System

Family Systems Theory (FST) gives us a means to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Through it we acknowledge that, like each individual, each group of people is a living organism or system that behaves in very predictable ways. We learn to “think systems – watch process”. Consider for a moment the last tense moment of conflict or misunderstanding you had with a family member, friend, or coworker. How much of that was about the actual content at issue, and how much was misunderstanding and reaction in place of appreciation, wonder, understanding, and response? In this instance we say, “It’s not about content – it’s about process.”

Family Systems theory is constructed with 8 core concepts: Nuclear Family Emotional System; Differentiation of Self; Triangles; Cutoff; Family Projection Process; Multigenerational Transmission Process; Sibling Position; and Emotional Process in Society. Central to our ability to make use of these concepts is our willingness to see, feel, and name the anxiety present in ourselves, others, and the larger system. Once we do, then we begin to gain some power to change, and the 8 concepts become the tools by which we can learn to construct a better self, and a better world.

The starting place for understanding self and others through Family Systems Theory (FST) is our starting point, i.e. our Nuclear Family, and specifically what we call the Emotional System in our Nuclear Family. In other words, how in your formative years, did you experience and learn to manage anxiety? Did people overcompensate for the weak, frail and ambiguous, who then felt free or even forced to under-compensate and become ir-responsible, i.e. not-response-able, unable to cope. You have likely seen this pattern, and seen how it feeds and grows on its own energy.

In humans, as in all of nature, anxiety is important. Anxiety has emotional, mental, spiritual, social and physical components. You can see in most groups of animals, fish and birds anxious energy spread from one to another quickly, whether or not the initial anxiety was warranted. When a heard is threatened, it makes sense to respond with the ‘fight or flight’ impulse. But what if one in the group over-reacts to a perceived threat? The anxiety still spreads rapidly through the group, without consideration for its validity.
The emotional system is defined by where the anxiety spreads. The core of this, for us, is the nuclear family. That is where our first and most life-important relationships are formed (or not). Thus, how anxiety functions within this unit is a key to understanding everything else about how we and others behave.
There are two types of anxiety – Acute and Chronic. Acute anxiety occurs in the human on a daily basis. Examples are the reactions we get to stressors such as fenderbenders, stock market swings, or threats to the workplace. Chronic Anxiety is more of a background level of anxiety that we carry with us. Much of this type of anxiety is programmed into us during our years in our family of origin, a level of anxiety that was/is usual for that family. We carry it around like a bad habit – it is more or less automatic. (Gilbert, 7)
In our family of origin, people had/have the choice of dealing with their own anxiety, or sharing it with others. An example of this is when a wife/mother becomes concerned that her job is threatened. She can choose to share this information in ways that bring people hope and strength, or instill fear and anxiety. She may habitually displace her anxiety onto one of her children, who is immature and unable to resist. This child will then likely act out in particular ways that seem unrelated to the initial stimulus – Mom’s anxiety. The child may act out with violence, engage in addictive behaviors or sexual promiscuity, or begin failing in school and other responsibilities. Alternately, the child may become hyper-responsible, which appears from the outside, early on, as a positive thing that gets rewarded and thus reinforced. Unfortunately this kind of hyper-responsibility creates a pressure internally that will eventually cause a rupture – a nervous breakdown, or a turning toward the clearly destructive behaviors just mentioned.
Individuals in this family may also form a togetherness fusion that prevents them from developing as unique, whole individuals who are able to be in interdependent (not dependent or independent) relationships. This fusion results in us “absorbing part of each self, demanding that we be there for the group.” (Gilbert, 9) In this environment, an individual launching off to pursue something other than the ‘approved’ family plan for career, lifestyle, location of home, or family choices, becomes a threat to the stability of the system that will react with extreme prejudice.
In addition to the overfunctioning/underfunctioning pattern, there are three other typical postures that exist in families and all systems in response to anxiety: Traingling, Conflict, and Distancing. Triangling is seen in the above example of the mother transferring her anxiety about work onto her child, who then develops symptoms of one form or another. Conflict comes when one party simply chooses to lash out or attack as a means to release anxious tension. Distancing is seen in the absence of one party, either physically or emotionally, from the system. Refusal to engage; running away to work, a hobby, another relationship; leaving the home town, state or country and refusal to visit, call or write; these are all examples of distancing. These will often exist within the same system, and even within the same relationship as people cycle back and forth from one to the other. The classic example of overfunctioning/underfunctioning is the addicted/codependent relationship.

Family Fusion:

Four Patterns:

Why study ourselves and others from a ‘systems’ point of view?

Almost daily we encounter situations that frustrate us – individuals, groups, and even we ourselves, behave in ways that are clearly unproductive – we respond with fear and anxiety where none is needed. People begin to “spin” rather than simply remain still and listen. We talk about reacting rather than responding – the first an automatic response, the second a thoughtful response. We may see others acting out their anxiety and not know why, or how to help. And then we feel our own anxiety rise, leading us to thoughts, words and actions that betray our better selves. Family Systems Theory gives us a way to understand ourselves and others, to ‘see’ what is happening, and empowers us to choose differently.
What is Bowen Family Systems Theory?
* Borrowed from www.hsystems.org – Center for the Study of Human Systems, Roberta M Gilbert, MD
Bowen family systems theory, developed by Dr. Murray Bowen begining in the 1950’s, and developed throughout his life, is a new way of thinking about the human phenomenon. In it, the nuclear family, rather than the individual, is seen as the emotional unit. Several concepts grow out of that basic understanding, from the scale of differentiation of self to the importance of the generations to functioning of people in the present.
The tremendous usefulness of the theory in the lives of individuals and families gave rise to a new and more effective psychotherapy. Organizations such as businesses and congregations have used the ideas with great benefit. Leadership training based on Bowen theory is proving to have effectiveness for those in religious, business, educational and other types of organizations.
His major papers are found in his book, “Family Therapy in Clinical Practice,” Jason Aronson, New York, 1978.

Some Quotations from Dr. Bowen’s Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, Aronson, New York, 1978
“If society functioned on a higher level, we would have a higher percentage
of people oriented to responsibility for self and others.. . .” p. 449
“. . . what man thinks about himself , and what he says about himself, is different in many important ways from what he is.” p.158
“As families move from the compartmentalized, less mature world of secrets and foibles which they assume they are keeping under cover, and into the world of permitting their private selves to be more open and a possible example for others to follow, they grow up a little each day.” p. 520

“The goal is to be as much of a ‘self’ as is possible. . .and to permit the others as much latitude as possible toward developing their selfs.” p. 463
“Any time one key member of an organization can be responsibly responsible for self, the problem in the organization will resolve.” p.463
“There is a fine line between accepting the responsibility for the part self plays in a situation and accepting the ‘blame’ for it.” p.464

Bowen theory is constructed with 8 core concepts: Nuclear Family Emotional System; Differentiation of Self; Triangles; Cutoff; Family Projection Process; Multigenerational Transmission Process; Sibling Position; and Emotional Process in Society. Central to our ability to make use of these concepts is our willingness to see, feel, and name the anxiety present in ourselves, others, and the larger system. Once we do, then we begin to gain some power to change, and the 8 concepts become the tools by which we can learn to construct a better self, and a better world.