Halfway through the conversation, Robbert Hoving shares: “The way Human Fluency and GroupMapping responded to our needs was tremendously helpful. Franc and Pascal were clearly intrinsically motivated to help us become self-sufficient in strengthening our culture and collaboration, which led to sustainable results and increased job satisfaction. In introducing the art of shadowboxing, they connected with our question extremely well. Theories and models were explained and translated to our practical context which made it easy for us to understand how to use the tools in our daily work. More importantly, because we learned how to apply the tools ourselves, our learning became truly sustainable. With their help we improved our skills, changed our culture and strengthened our collaboration both internally and with our stakeholders – for the long term.”
Together with Robbert Hoving, director, and Roos Broere, senior researcher, at the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children (hereafter: National Rapporteur), we are reflecting on the support of Franc Haverkort (GroupMapping) and Pascal Kruijsifix (Human Fluency).
The National Rapporteur researches the nature and extent of human trafficking and sexual violence against children in the Netherlands, publishes about it periodically and advises the Dutch government. Robbert explains, “First of all, human trafficking and sexual violence against children undermine important foundations of our society such as self-determination and participation. And not only that, exploitation and sexual violence against children can have life-long disruptive effects. As the National Rapporteur we are proud to contribute to the prevention and combat of these issues.
We have a unique position. We are independent and, as such, speak with all those responsible for fighting exploitation and sexual violence against children, both at an (inter)national and regional/local level. This demands a high degree of internal and external collaboration and requires our employees to bring a broad range of skills, knowledge and experience to the table. Not only do they need to demonstrate a thorough comprehension of the issues at hand and understand the administrative aspects of our recommendations. They also need to think and act strategically. And our internal organisational structure and way of working needs to support our legal duty as National Rapporteur and the public expectations that come with it.
We have extremely dedicated employees who are given a lot of freedom to shape their own work. However, their work must always be rooted in the Intention of the institute: Based on research into the nature, scope and policy advise the Dutch government on the prevention and control of trafficking in human beings and sexual violence against children by regularly reporting on it. This requires a shared understanding of the Intention. It also requires keeping a clear focus on the themes we consider important and making strong choices within each theme. Also, our employees are involved in many different conversations and need to approach these conversations in a smart way.”
GroupMapping and Human Fluency contributed to the development of the organisation by offering support around three questions. How to develop a shared understanding of and a common language around the Intention? How to develop a conversational landscape within the organisation in which all conversations are relevant and effective? And how to develop the skills and culture necessary to do the work well (as a team)?
Robert shares, “I noticed that, as a team, we are very capable of developing ourselves. After a while, however, I also noticed an outboard engine would help us to steer and develop just a little bit faster.”
The conversations around the Intention were aimed at developing a shared understanding of the Intention. And as the team explored and exchanged intensively, a common language emerged. Through the various conversational formats offered, the language acquired meaning in the context of the day-to-day work.
Roos Broere reflects on how “learning to conduct a different conversation with each other does not happen overnight. It requires a lot of practice, figuring out and sharing what you notice happening, and not happening, in the relationship, interactions and collaboration. In our work, our discussion partners are often strong personalities. So, how do we articulate our point clearly? How do we get our message across? How do we foster an equal dialogue? Pascal and Franc did a great job at facilitating this learning journey.”
The art of shadowboxing is a helpful metaphor when practicing the art of conversation. In shadowboxing it’s all about learning (as opposed to winning), respecting one’s opponent and going hard on the issue, yet soft on the person. In other words, productive friction. By applying conversational shadowboxing with each other, the employees of the National Rapporteur learned to stand strong on their message without getting personal. The art of shadowboxing proved very useful, both internally and externally.
“Walking in someone else’s shoes was another useful exercise” Roos adds. “What is the agenda of a mayor? What is a policy officer looking for in a conversation? How will what I am going to say impact the other person? Thinking about these questions is a great way to prepare yourself for upcoming conversations. And by practising, we were able to quickly apply this thinking in our daily context.
This skill also helped our conversations with our own colleagues. Asking a researcher to find out as much as possible about a certain subject is too broad a question. Spending time understanding each other’s needs helps making the question more specific. By empathising with the other, you understand their needs and they become more empowered. This is how collaboration becomes truly productive.”
The National Rapporteur’s question was layered. It included not only the Intention of the institute but also practical skills of the team. The culture of the National Rapporteur automatically became part of the equation, too. Robbert: “Changing a company’s culture is often a slow process. Culture depends on those who drive the culture. Because we ourselves experienced how we could do our work differently, we became the new culture. It is up to us as a team, now, to propagate this new culture and way of working. This definitely takes work.”
As a team starts changing its own functioning, its culture and its way of working together, it makes sense to measure the effect on the day-to-day work. Roos takes a first stab at quantifying the effect of the support of GroupMapping and Human Fluency. “There is, of course, no direct relationship. But the reactions to our work suggest that bringing in GroupMapping and Human Fluency has played a positive role in how our work is perceived. Internal collaboration has improved: we recognize and understand each other’s role better, and, in our recommendations, we now make sure to include all perspectives. This results in a better quality of our work.” Robbert adds: “An effective and efficient conversational landscape is important for every organisation, so also for us. We rearranged our landscape and reduced the number of meetings. We now have the right conversations about the right topics in an effective way.”
Roos: The institute of the National Rapporteur is now driven by professionals who are ready for a new phase. They know who they are, what they stand for and how they want to do their work. We have set our house in order; and we have made it sustainable by figuring out together how we want to collaborate as professionals and be effective in advising the Dutch government on preventing and combating exploitation and sexual violence against children.”
About the National Rapporteur
The National Rapporteur investigates the nature and scope of human trafficking and sexual violence against children in the Netherlands. The institute ‘National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children’ consists of the National Rapporteur and a team of dedicated staff members with a multidisciplinary background. The National Rapporteur is independent, reports to Dutch government and is appointed by law for a period of four years.
Thematic studies and regular monitoring publications focus on tracking and improving the approach to human trafficking and sexual violence against children. Based on these studies and information from various sources, the National Rapporteur advises national and local governments, other governing bodies, international organisations and implementing bodies on how to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings and sexual violence against children.
About Human Fluency | GroupMapping
At Human Fluency we are convinced organisations can achieve their objectives, and thereby make a greater contribution to this world, when they put effective human interaction and behaviour at the heart of their daily activities. We design & facilitate leadership programmes, team effectiveness journeys and we help our clients address issues in the areas of strategy, leadership and culture.
Different approach, better results – that is what we are about. We help organisations solve complex issues. We do this in close collaboration with our clients and we do it fast. – Help you give direction to your strategic issues? Any time. – Support you in making change projects and implementation programmes successful? No problem. – Facilitating your teams and (future) leaders to prepare themselves for the world of tomorrow? We’d be delighted.