We have already tried this and it did not work!

We tried once. Does that mean we will never be able to try it again? Photo by Becky McCray.

Guest Post by Paula Jensen

When was the last time you heard someone say one:We have already tried this and it did not work!"When I started out as a local leader, these words spoken by an experienced leader often stopped me in my tracks. Their words told me that they had had the experience of knowing what was working and what was not working in the community. Sometimes I asked "Why?" And I rarely got a solid explanation for the failure that occurred, which left me determined to learn more.

My confidence as a leader has grown over the years and I have gained a lot more experience. Now, when someone says:We have already tried this and it did not work!"My answer is …"and what did you learn from that? "

To learn more about unsuccessful attempts, missed opportunities, and community history, honest and focused conversations with local leaders are needed. I firmly believe that as current leaders, we must know the history of things that have been experienced in our community, the work that has been done and why decisions have been made. So often, history repeats itself because leaders do not play their part in the history of the community. We must look back and have our part of the story to go forward.

Let's start by asking a question – How can we engage in an honest and focused conversation with community leaders about what has been learned in the past?

It is an art to initiate and conduct a conversation that creates positive results. Here is a 4-step method that allows your conversation to flow from the surface to the depth. You can lead this conversation through a series of questions at these four levels:

  • Step 1. Objective level – Start with facts, facts and external reality. Ask your participant (s) for the conversation:What did you actually see, hear or read?" or "What surprised you?"
  • Step 2. Level of reflection – Then ask immediately personal reactions, internal responses, emotions or feelings, hidden images and associations with the facts of the first step. Ask your participant (s) for the conversation:What was your instinctive reaction?" or "What were your biggest frustrations? or "What worked well?
  • Step 3. Level of interpretation – Then, draw the meaning, values, meaning and implications. Ask your participant (s) for the conversation:What are your hopes and dreams?" or "In your opinion, what were your most significant contributions?
  • Step 4. Level of decision – Finally, end the conversation by seeking a solution and allowing participants to make decisions about the future. Ask your participant (s) for the conversation:What do you think we should do?" or "What steps could we take to move forward? or "Who else should be involved in local leadership?"

The results of targeted conversations can help develop the awareness of accepting the things that have been done in the past and following the lessons learned from each situation to advance our work. When a leader begins to ask "How can we learn from this?", This automatically affects the future of the community. Having focused conversations is a process of transformation that begins with a person who wants to learn more and ends with a more positive future by learning from the past.

As a local leader, I want to give younger generations the means to take their ideas and make them happen. I want to be asked about the successes and failures of the past. And finally – me, Paula Jensen, swear never to say these words:We tried this before and it did not work! "#Irrural

About Paula Jensen

Paula Jensen's passion for personal and professional life is her passion for community development and leadership. Paula resides in her home town of Langford, South Dakota, whose population is over 318 years old. She is a grant writer and community coach for Dakota Resources, based in Renner, South Dakota. Dakota Resources is a 501c3 community development financial institution that aims to stimulate financial and human investment in rural communities that invest in their communities. Contact her at [email protected]

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