#OpeningTheSource 4. “Training — part 1”

Always on my radar is a topic that’s fast becoming an issue for digital companies that want to grow, or “scale” so they can efficiently adapt as online markets constantly evolve. I see it as an issue which is causing businesses to think outside traditional boxes, for the digital management of information has a few differences to our standard analogue system and all thinking is required to address the big “how to scale?” question. Not many online businesses are managing to stay relevant for long periods of time… without hiccups anyway.

Landmark’s Education scaled in quite an ingenious and cost efficient manner, considering our Perth centre had 4.5 paid staff and 200 volunteers, and we still managed to get courses running and bums on seats without any marketing or public relations department. The only way the word spread was through people who had done the programs, especially their leadership program Introduction to the Landmark Forum Leaders Program (IFLP), that was the heart of the organisation, pumping registrations into the Landmark Forum.

When I registered into the IFLP (the first time) it was a few months after Erick had committed suicide in the apartment we’d been sharing. It was also the space from which I’d been running Body Ethics, my exercise business quite successfully. I ‘worked’ 10hours a week, and spent the rest of the time researching and developing my classes to be fun, informative and really effective. My ‘edge’ was taking photo’s of peoples butts so clients could see the before and after effect, it worked, the images spoke for themselves. Quite proudly, I’d worked out the dream life in an ideal location.

Until I was faced with his body hanging from the studio that fateful evening.

The guy who’d introduced me to the Forum broke off our relationship during one of Landmark’s communication courses shortly after, I reminded him of the incident and it was all too much for him. With my home, business, friend and ‘partner’ gone it seemed the right time to jump into a program that would give me direction. From what I’d heard, IFLP would quite literally put the words I needed to survive this harsh world, on documents in front of my face. All I had to do was go through the motions.

I didn’t want to have to think.

Going ‘on staff’ was definitely not on my radar, when the IFLP’ers came into courses to introduce the program and concurrently recruit newbies into it, they walked past me in the direction of the stars. The people who shone, put their hands up, took the mic, and always had something to say, they were the ones recruiters were drawn to, the easy targets.

For that was what Landmark wanted, bold, unabashed people to wear their magnetic name tags with ‘staff’, “communication course leader” or ‘Forum Leader’ etched into them. The rest of us got those safety pin ones with names on white pieces of paper that slid in and out of clear plastic holders, indicative of our transient presence. Like many others, I secretly wanted a magnetic one that said Forum Leader, so I was very curious to know what the IFLP fear mongering was all about.

What did it take to be able to stand in front of up to 250 people and fearlessly address deeply personal issues so that people opened up and spoke with ease? How did they hold the space for 3–4 hours, then cause people to run to the phones and restore relationships that had hounded them since their ‘belongings’ had been broken? I’d witnessed changes in people during each course, shoulders broadened, smiles replaced furrowed brows as wrinkles were ironed out and conversational tones lightened during heavy secret sharing. How did those forum leaders manage to change the being-ness of people through drama-free, straight, unemotional communication in such a short amount of time?

Maybe if I learned how, then bad things wouldn’t happen to me again.

At the time I registered the cost was $400, 4 x $100 to be paid one week prior to each of the 4 weekends. “A bargain compared to other leadership trainings which hardly touched the surface” — I was told by the woman who handled my registration. She’d been in the market for public speaking courses, and apparently “some of them charge up to $10,000 for THREE MONTHS. This is THE most valuable, powerful training programs out there, believe me… you’ll be speaking to groups of 20–30 people by the end of this, with ease and confidence.”

Now that would be a transformation I thought to myself, as she shuffled through the paperwork pointing out boxes I needed to tick, explaining why each section of ‘the form’ was important. I’d hardly touched the microphone during the Curriculum For Living, and in the Advanced Course I’d put an imaginary supermouse cape over my body as I declared myself “the possibility of energy” in front of 70 other participants. I then sat back in my seat quietly for the remainder of the four day course.

Me? Confidently lead to groups of 20–30 other people within 6 months? As long as I regained some of my passion for life, I’d be happy.

Weekend 1.

Prior to arriving at the centre for the first weekend we’d all been given a list of what to bring:

enthusiasm

willingness to be coached

our diaries with all 4 weekends and 26 Friday night classrooms scheduled in

a 3 ring A4 binder NOT FOUR. All documents were American A4 size, with 3 holes punched down the side, we had to be just like every other centre in the world.

On the first day we started filling those binders with documents, documents, and more documents — the 36 page format. you’ll be learning this format word for word, you’ll be assigned into 3 groups of five, plus one group of four, and you will be coached by one of these people. Kristal (standing slightly separate from the rest) is the head coach, she coaches the coaches because she’s been an IFLP coach before.”

On the stage stood 5 people, proudly beaming their toothy Landmark smiles in our direction, dressed professionally, smartly, nametags with ‘coach’ clearly marked and clipped onto the right hand side of their neatly pressed suits. They were just a handful of the ones who’d survived the summer program, keen to give back their wisdom and guide us through our six months of training, for free.

“Read out the names in your groups.”

I was happy I’d been allocated to somebody who was also on staff. They’d be tough I thought to myself.

You’ll meet with your coach once a week, plus a standard WEEKLY 3 hour agreement here at the centre, weekly one-on-one calls with your coach to manage your progress. They’ll assist you when you feel like it’s all too much because you will want to quit at some stage… and these guys amongst other things, are here to pull you back on track, to call you to account for you being YOUR WORD. 
Go meet them.”

As we shuffled around to get in our groups she continued:

“Landmark Forum leaders have an extraordinary relationship to their word, to stay in integrity, they do what they said they’d do by when they said they’d do it. That’s a major part of this program, YOU being YOUR WORD, we’re going to train you how to do that.”

The coaches beamed heads nodding, giggling, eyes radiating in our little groups as our centre manager spoke from her assisting agreement as the IFLP leader— staff were *ENCOURAGED* to have voluntary leadership agreements on top of their standard 63 working hours per week — relayed the story of a famous American baseball umpire I’d never heard of, “he’s the one who called the shots, it wasn’t a strike until he called it.”

“Imagine living a life like that.”

Agreements. Have you all read though your agreements, do you have any questions?”

Somebody put their hand up “I’ve got a holiday scheduled for one of the weekends”

“Do we already know that or is this news?”

“It’s news”

See, this is an example. What if you had looked at your diary first and organised your life around your schedule? You’ll learn to do that. For now, see your coach in the first break and work out where you can do that weekend.

where?

Yes. Melbourne, NZ… America if that’s the only country where the dates work. Or, you could look at that holiday you’ve booked and see if you can shift those dates. Whatever works, your coach will have the schedule for all the IFLP’s around the world. This is about you fulfilling on everything you’ve promised. You will get to experience what it’s like to be the author of YOUR life.

Only then will you really have any choice with where you’re headed.

We have a communication curriculum as well, in the Communication Access To Power and Communication Performance and Power weekends. THAT’s where you learn more about the art of communication, how to communicate powerfully, with love. Some people even call it the Curriculum for Loving. It is highly recommended you participate in both of those weekend courses during the IFLP if you haven’t already done them— $1000 when you pay for both at once. That’s where you’ll learn the power of communication. Who’s done the CAP and CPP?

A few hands went up.

Who wants to share what you got, and why it could help people with being their word?

As the the volunteer sat down after sharing her breakthrough, the leader continued “Your coach will have the dates for the CAP and CPP as well. Does anybody else have any questions about your IFLP agreements?

OK, so, we all agree to be here ON TIME, to do the homework, to be coachable, take on what your coach says, to try what they say ‘on’. They’re doing this for nothing, because they got so much value from this program. They’re here for YOU, use them, they’re resources… they’ve done what it takes to stand here and offer their time, to assist you meeting your targets. They too have very busy lives now that they’ve been trained to be their word for six months, make their lives easy.”

Coaches heads started bobbing yes with HUGE grins, laughter escaping their mouths, body language showing OMG you can’t possibly imagine how busy we are now.

In true Landmark style, the first weekend completed as we were given our homework. More sheets of paper, with poems:

The fiddler played his violin
fiddling furiously.

The guests ate their dinner
and drank their wine.

The waiter scurried about,
shouting:
“hot stuff, OUT OF THE WAY”

And in the kitchen,
next to a BIG vat of chicken gumbo
The cook
laughed quietly”

on the second sheet of paper:

No two mosquito’s 
ever land on a sheet of flypaper
in quite the same way.

Ever noticed
how one will turn this way and that
while the other
apparently no different
than the first
will turn 
that way and this.

But,
try as they might

Stuck is stuck.

Learn these words verbatim, you’ll be generating one of them at the next weekend. Weekend two is all about self expression, who’s done the Self Expression and Leadership Program?

Hands flew up as a measure for how much we were enjoying the program — stay enthusiastic, even when tired.

“well, that has nothing on what you’ll be doing next weekend. Organise times to meet as a group and schedule your one-on-one calls. See you next weekend.”

She left the room to become a centre manager again while we sat for a further hour and got to work on our diaries.

During the following four weeks poems could be heard coming from the strangest places… like, alternating from toilet cubicles “no two mosquito’s” “ever landed” “on a sheet of (toilet) paper” giggle giggle giggle.

Weekend 2.

I walked in to the course room, nervous and excited for what was about to happen over the following 48 hours. The weekend started as per usual, with people sharing about what had happened since the first weekend.

One person walked in late and we all got the drill about the impact his lateness had on others. “you missed what Claire said, why are you 10mins late. Did you think we wouldn’t notice?”

He started with “my children…”

ah, so you have someone to blame… your children?? How long have they been your excuse? Is this the story of your life? You’ve done the advanced course, when are you going to stop with this story?”

“Now?”

“Great, so you won’t be late again, is that what I’m hearing?? Just be on time for the next five months, organise your children 10 minutes earlier and experience yourself as the master of your life.”

Once the sharing was complete “who’s done their homework?”

All hands shot up in the air.

“great, we’re going to see some transformation this weekend. Put your bags at the back of the room and move your chairs into a big circle”

Seated in our new formation “who wants to be first? Who has the courage to do their poem first??”

The stars put their hands up.

“ok, Julia, you’re it — let’s hear the gypsy”

She stood in the center and proudly regurgitated the words exactly as was written. We all clapped, how cool was she!

“hhhhmmm, you remembered the words, that’s great. However NOT what we’re after. Who’s next? If nobody puts their hand up I’ll just choose someone”

Frank gave the mosquito’s a shot. Again, word for word, this time a little more dramatically with lengthy pauses between sections.

“yeah, another good regurgitation with a hint of life. Who can do it with a bit more animation?”

The drama student stood up and did her best to act out the scene. Her teacher probably would have been proud.

“ok, better. See, you can either read a document, work from it… or generate it. be the author, have people believe you wrote it You gotta OWN the content, have there be zero doubt in who you are. Kristal, would you like to give an example of what we mean by self expression? Do mosquito’s”

The head coach stood up and started to run between our chairs, buzzing in peoples’ ears…. bbbbzzzzzzz bbbbbzzzzz bbbbzzzz….

She flew into the center and landed on her back in the middle of the room shouting to the ceiling “NO. TWO. …” before standing up for dramatic effect, “bbbbzzzzzz…. MOSQUITO’s… E V E R land on the ground again feigning stuckness on a sheet of flypaper sitting up like a puppet in quite the same way. Ever noticed” she waggled her finger around the room… “how one will turn this way” flat to the floor again, right side ‘stuck’ to the ground “and that” body rolled to the left before she jumped to her feet and ran around the room again buzzing in peoples’ ears. “bbbbzzzzz…. while the other, apparently no different than the first, bbbzzzz will turn that way and this she rolled around on the carpet outside the circle, drawing our attention her way. Then she started to crawl, feet and shins stuck to imaginary fly paper but either way. Try as they might… bzzzzz… stuck is bzzzz stuck

OH. so that’s what you mean.

“Who wants to do the gypsy?”

Two hands raised. “OK, Michael this is all yours, a chance to make up for being late”

He did his best, however we’d all been given an example of what was meant by full self expression and try as he might, he didn’t quite have his expression down pat.

She looked at Rosemary, one of the coaches “would you like to show us how a gypsy plays a violin?”

Rosemary happily complied and danced around with imaginary fiddle on shoulder, adding presence the room so that we felt like we were the guests of a restaurant drinking and eating while waiters scurrying about shouting… and a cook chuckled to himself in the kitchen.

THAT was how our documents were to be generated, all 36 pages of them over the duration of the following 5 months.

weekends 3 and four coming up :)

NOTE: (these are fictitious characters and accounts of similar that happened during the program I participated in)