Tag Archives: Reflective practice

2012 in Review by Michelle

It was very nice of Word Press to create a 2012 in review for me.  However, it missed some of my highlights so here they are:

  •  Design and facilitation of countless events and meetings using innovative, conversation based and visual techniques
  • Continued work on the Columbia River Treaty as the engagement coordinator
  • Published report with IISD on one of my passions: Performance Improvement and Assessment of Collaboration: Starting points for networks and communities of practice
  • I finally took part in an Art of Hosting for my own professional development (on beautiful Bowen Island)
  • The 3rd annual RosViz graphic facilitation workshop that brought together another group of amazing people
  • Working with lots of fun, interesting and intelligent folks – learning all the time
  • Figuring out the ebb and flow of my interest in Twitter and other social media

And in my personal life….

  • Lots of skiing, road riding, yoga and travel
  • A wonderful one year anniversary weekend away with my husband in the mountains
  • Birth of my son, Ira Laurie-Pouliot, November 27, 2012.  THIS IS CERTAINLY THE HIGHLIGHT of 2012!
Mother and Son, 10 days old.

Mother and Son, 10 days old.

Being a mom is a fantastic experience.  I feel like a traveler on a journey with lots to learn along the way.  Every day is new and interesting and filled with love.  Given this, a big change for 2013 is that I will be working part-time for the first time in a very long time (normally I work more than full time).  I’m looking forward to the balance of family and work and hopefully some play in the mix too!

More reflections to come as time permits…..Happy 2013!

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Should I Work For Free?


Shouting out to all the consultants in the world, have you been asked to work for free?  Do you sometimes ask others to work for free?  Personally, I spent many years volunteering in my community and internationally as well as taking an internship for a year to help gain skills, confidence and an entry point into a great career. I don’t regret any of it! As I continue to build my knowledge and grow as a person I still do occasional work pro bono for the shared learning experience.  Moreover, there are worthy organizations that simply don’t have budgets and thus deserve a reduced rate.

However there are also limits!  Jessica Hische lays it out beautifully in this info graphic on if you should work for free.  I love the way it is presented and it made me laugh a lot.  Yes, we have all been in these situations.  Lessons learned?  Never charge your mother, explore your creativity and beyond that you are selling yourself short if you work for free.

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Thanks for commenting and more


My icons on networks, connections and strategy

As I blog into 2012, it’s important to reflect on what I hope to achieve with my blog this year.

First, blogging is a personal practice where I reflect on work and ideas that intrigue me.  The act of blogging forces me to consolidate my thoughts, articulate them and share.  As an independent consultant, I don’t have office colleagues to do this with at the water cooler hence blogging is my metaphorical water cooler.  I hope to continue blogging and write more in the coming year.

Second, blogging is about connecting with others.  I need to connect and share with peers around the blogosphere and beyond to reinforce that despite working as a sole-proprietorship/consultant in a remote location – I am still connected!  The Internet has made working from home possible.  It has also enabled contacts and connections that I never would have thought possible 10 years ago.  Thank you to those that read, follow and link to my blog.  I particularly shout out thanks to those who commented in 2011 including Anni Holtby, Jennie Hoffman, Sylvia Currie, Beth Sanders and Isabella Mori.  Each person is someone I met outside the blog and have kept in touch with online.  I want to keep the conversation going in 2012!

Third, how are people finding my blog and how can I improve this?  The posts that got the most views in 2011 included topics of Graphic Facilitation and Planning, Collaboration, Relationship Building.  According to WordPress, I should continue to write on these topics as they have ‘staying power’.

Fourth, people find my blog with search terms such as graphic facilitation, relationship building and michelle laurie and my top five referrers include: Facebook, violette.ca (thanks), civicinfo.bc.ca (thanks to the graphic facilitation workshop I posted there), LinkedIn and kric.ca (sharing my workshop I think….).  I need to continue posting on my social networks and reach out to supporting networks.  My posts need to have tags that help people link to the posts and I should not change my name (even though I got married this past summer!).

Lastly, the infographics and metaphors used by WordPress to describe my stats were compelling.  For example: A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. My blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people. They also used maps and stick people and photos to help tell me my story.  I appreciate this greatly as it engages me in the information and even enticed me to write a blog about it.  I would like to generate my own infographics in 2012 and tell more stories on my blog using metaphors to engage people.

Thanks for commenting in advance and keeping the connections going!


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2011 in review – Thanks WordPress!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.  It’s been great to review the stats they generated including the top 5 referring sites, top blog posts, searches by visitors and more.  Thanks WordPress for all the great info!

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,300 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Ode to Rossland

Rossland, B.C. image by freshots.ca, Steve Hilts

I work from a home office in this beautiful mountain town in southern British Columbia.  I recently wrote a post about feeling isolated so I thought it only right to also share why most of the time, I am grateful!  Here are 10 reasons why I love Rossland:

1. Rossland is a winter town – people come to town, walk the streets and are happier when it snows, including me!

2. One of the best ski hills in North America is a 3minute drive away or you can x-country ski there on the trail connecting town and the hill.  There are also 50 km of groomed x-country ski trails.

3. Ferraro Foods has everything a great grocer and health food store could supply.  Miso, chia seeds as well as the staples.

4. Affordable.  This is one of the few places young people can still buy a house.

5. Friendly people often stop to chat on the streets.

6. Gypsy at Red serves amazing high end food when you simply don’t feel like cooking.

7. Yoga, Spin Classes, Pottery…there are many extra curricular classes available.

8. Winter Carnival when the streets close to cars and fill with people, bonfires, bobsleds and rail jams.

9. A compact community where you can walk almost anywhere.

10. I met my husband here!

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Reflections of a home-based consultant living on the edge of the woods

“Be patient.  Good things come to those who wait.”

This is the Chinese fortune cookie wisdom I received Sunday night after eating out in a town nearby.  The town of 10,000 people is the hub of the region I live in which most likely has more trees, wildlife and clean running water than it does people.  Yes, I am feeling a little isolated.

My small town on the edge of the woods

I wonder if it’s the remote geography, working alone in my attic during the dark November days, or lack of strong professional networks to share the daily grind with.  Being patient is interesting advice as I have been thinking about my professional life lately and how I can enhance it from good to great as well as being less isolating.

For anyone that works on issues related to improving people, places and making positive change, you could imagine that doing this alone in your attic, mostly by typing into a computer box, could be a lonely place (despite my online friends – thank you friends 🙂 ).  Given that it’s a not so bad trade-off for living next to bears and powder skiing, I have been seeking advice lately to find that magical work-life balance.  Here are some of the nuggets that I plan to work on in the New Year:

–       Have a filter for work you take on.  Here are four criteria my inspiring colleagues at Bright Green Learning use: Impact, Creativity, Interesting, Learning.  I may add people/team to that list.

–       Network.  Go to conferences to meet people you want to work with and keep in touch with them.  This may mean dedicating two phone calls a day as follow up which is very possible (That is my brothers advice and he owns a successful HR magazine so I’ll take it).

–       Develop a local network of professionals who may also be looking for people to connect with.  I will use my community building experience to start this in 2012 with the domain being ‘professional development’ and the side benefits of deeper relationships and networking (this is an idea that has been on my mind since I moved here – time for action).

This is only the start to my 2012 ‘good to great’ list as my mind is burgeoning with ideas for connection, social media is at my finger tips and I should not forget my widespread community of friends, colleagues, alumni…who I should make more time to get in touch with.

Blogging is important to me as it is a place to reflect and share thoughts with others.  The professional world (even for someone living at the edge of the woods) has lots to offer.  So do I wait patiently for taking my professional life to the next level or work to make it happen?  Drop a line if you have a thought.  My top of mind response is that it will be a bit of both.


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Beyond Graphics…Our Love Journey Continues

Just Married...added after all the guests left and before the tear down. The flowers are my bouquet from the wedding.

Francois and I were married on Saturday, August 6th, 2011.  I used a graphic planning tool to help us see the big picture including all the events from start to finish.  Each week over a period of 5 months we checked off items on the list as we got closer to our wedding day.  The red pen was a valued item in our house!

Tonight we ensured that all boxed were checked, added a rainbow to symbolize our first dance “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and filled in the corner for ‘Just Married’.  The graphic has been a unifying symbol for staying on track and working together.  We know the journey will continue off the page 🙂

Our full wedding graphic August 10, 2011.


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Online and Offline Tools for Weddings

Anyone who has organized a wedding likely knows that it can come with its fair share of stress.  As someone who often plans engaging events for others, the pressure is on for my own wedding!  I have found two tools that are helping me organize over the next 5 months.

1. An online website.  www.weddingwindow.com has become a saviour.  I now have a website to share my information with guests as well as guest list forms, E-vite options and a budget tracker to name a few of the handy tools.  This online forum is fun to use and helpful!

2. An offline visual.

I am just starting but this is the outline for key events!

After thinking about all the things I need to do and plan in my head, writing lists in different locations and seeing words and more words…I finally decided to map out my wedding plans visually.  This has helped me see the ‘big picture’ (literally) and keep me focused. My spacing needs work and I will likely re-do it before it gets more detailed.  However, for a start, this has calmed me and I am thankful to my visual mentors for their ongoing inspiration to make the invisible visible.

I will keep you posted!

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Is herding cats a career?

Sometimes when asked what I do I have been known to say, “I herd cats”.  Given that I spend a lot of time coordinating initiatives that involve many people of diverse and wandering natures…this may be a very appropriate title for the present state of my career.

A colleague sent me this on ‘herding cats’ a few days ago and it made me laugh out loud.  Not a bad career choice!

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3 Bears and Random Postings

I was inspired to reinvigorate my blog after the fantastic Northern Voice conference.  There was a fascinating session on if blogging is dead that has led me to believe that no- it’s not dead.  Blogging has a purpose.  For me blogging is very much about reflective practice.

Blogging did start to die off for me in the past year when I looked at my blog as part of my profession.  In that case I limited the scope to topics that strictly dealt with Knowledge Management.  I didn’t write about other work I do related to climate change, sustainability or my rural life, which I used to comment on from time to time.  I know people look at blogs for work or to find out about a person so I felt timid to share openly.

The people that I met at this conference and the discussions I had (even on the topic of openness) have led me to think about my blog more broadly.  I will write on whatever inspires me, KM, sustainable development or my life.  This has opened up all sorts of creative thoughts. I now have a list of ideas I want to blog about… when I find the time.

I sign off with this reflection.

Tonight, as I was walking home from a community meeting, I saw 3 bears crossing the road.  It startled me and I stood still.  I was living in the moment for those few seconds.   As someone whose profession is dedicated to reflecting, learning and planning, I appreciate being forced into the here and now.  Thank you to the bears.

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