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A Community of Listeners

Sunday, December 04, 2022 10:37 PM | Hallie Knox

Our current member spotlight falls on Genyne Edwards, JD. Co-founder of P3 Development Group, Edwards is a sought-after thought leader and the recipient of many awards, including the 2021 Milwaukee Business Journal’s Diversity in Business Award. Edwards is an Executive Process Consultant and hands-on facilitator and practitioner in the areas of organizational development, communications, and DEI. She was instrumental in the creation of the Society’s pilot PCT 102 program, designed specifically for consultants of color through a partnership with the African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee (AALAM). Read on for her reflection on the timely and necessary components of process consulting in her work and in today’s world.

We are only as good as the listening that we do.

Extrapolate that statement however you want – I’ve found it applies to relationships, professional efficacy, personal development, and more. Most of all, I’ve found it to hold true in my work with clients. Throughout my time as an attorney and a consultant, I’ve seen how powerful a truly good question can be, as long as the answer is deeply heard and reflected upon with intention. Listening is the bedrock of the practice.

A few years back Kim Stezala, CEO of the Society for Process Consulting, reached out to me with an invitation to participate in an all-day session focused on talking through the urgent need to diversify the consulting field. A lot of discussion and a lot of listening later, my co-founder Dominique Samari and I were involved in creating an approach to supporting people of color interested in process consulting. We partnered with the African American Leadership Alliance Milwaukee (AALAM) to run a PCT 102 cohort for 8 amazing leaders with an incredible array of backgrounds and skills. There’s a whole population of black and brown leaders out there interested in diving into consulting, and we were able to be a part of these individuals’ stories because we listened, we collaborated, we reflected - and we responded adaptively to what we heard. If you strive to support change, however large or small, in any arena, you have to start by listening.

More and more the world is moving towards a greater understanding and appreciation of consultants who model co-creation, act as “guides on the side,” and emphasize the client’s centrality and lead role in the process. You’ll still get pushback from some clients who are looking for an expert to swoop in and “fix” things, but in general you’ll find that people understand they live in a deeply complex world that simply does not contain quick and easy solutions. They’ve been listening. People may always have trouble being “helpable,” but there is a slow-down that is happening – a growing awareness that something has to change, especially in conversations around both diversity, equity and inclusion and environmental, social and governance – and we can be a part of those conversations if we step into our clients’ processes with our eyes and ears wide open.

You can’t turn on the TV today without seeing an environment and culture rife with polarization, complexity, ambiguity, and conflict. More than ever, there is a need for sensitivity towards people who are unlike us as our surroundings and conversations shift. There is a need for change, not just in group settings, but on an individual level as well – there will be no organizational change without buy-in from the individual managers, or without engagement and modeling from the CEO. What tools are available for individuals and organizations interested in engaging in change in the midst of all the chaos and conflicting voices? Collaboration. Conversations. Listening.

I learned about appreciative inquiry and design thinking long before I ever heard the term “process consulting,” but the tools I’ve gained through my involvement with PCT 102 have allowed me to increase the efficacy of my work on a practical, daily level. Beyond that, process consulting has connected me with a network of like-minded leaders who are having conversations that matter. It has placed me in a community of listeners. What could be more impactful than that?

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