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An article for Professional Organisers everywhere

Shoes and organising – two of my favourite things!

What better way to start my account of the recent Japanese Association of Life Organisers (JALO) international organising panel in Kyoto.

First to shoes….
A great travel tip I got before departing, was to ‘take slip-on shoes & good socks’. (thanks Laurene) As anyone who’s been to Japan will know, you do alot of shoe removal whilst there. I loved the house shoes to wear once inside. Not every shoeless interior around the world offers that. In my home state, for example, I am used to leaving my shoes at the door - I live in Queensland, we go barefoot inside. It’s about the climate. And the timber floors.

Other cultures shed their shoes at the door too. Winters in parts of Europe & North America necessitate ‘outside shoes’ and ‘inside shoes’. Leave your snow boots at the door - that’s practical. And although I’ve never been brave enough to be in those places in winter(!), I have removed my shoes at countless doorways throughout Sri Lanka and India out of respect for their customs. And in Australia, at friend’s and client’s request for religious reasons.

So we know, many cultures shed their shoes at the door for varied reasons: practicality, respect, habit, tradition, religious reasons. Millions of people all over the world leave their shoes at the door. For different reasons, in different ways.

So too, millions of people all over the world are getting organised. For different reasons, in different ways.

They are choosing to change.
And Professional Organisers around the globe are facilitating that change.

Being a panellist at JALO Conference in December 2013 really highlighted this for me.

This ‘agents of change’ theme weaved its way through the conference, from panellist’s responses to speaker’s presentations. Each question and each response from around the globe told somehow of our ability and passion to facilitate our client’s desired change.
To take them from where they are, to where they want to be.
As Professional Organisers, that’s what we do.

The international panel helped celebrate JALO's 5th anniversary and included Professional Organisers from Japan, USA, Canada, The Netherlands, and Australia. The panel convened 2 days out of the 3 day conference, responding to different questions on each day.

Day one was open to the public and panellists responded to questions about best and worst organising stories. The questions from Professional Organisers covered topics like spacial issues, difficult client situations, special client needs and perceptions of hiring an Organiser. It was evident that Organisers all around the globe have a passion to facilitate change & a desire to continually learn how to do this better.

photoThe Panel L - R: Roz Howland Australia, Laurene Park Canada, Heleen Blazer Netherlands, Mary Dykstra, Denslow Brown, Judith Kolberg, USA.
Front - Niina Saeki, Mayumi Takahara Japan, Junko Bradley our amazing interpreter & Noriko Kokubu Japan.
Judith Kolberg, articulated it in her presentation “One Size Does Not fit All’. One of her key messages was how we need to work with our clients to know the appropriate organising methods, to pull from our toolkit to help them best. So of course we need to know our clients (learn how to observe & listen) AND we need to have a well equipped toolkit (professional development).

There’s way more to this ‘agent of change’ stuff than meets the eye! Ongoing, quality professional development for Organisers was another major theme throughout the conference.

This was also beautifully conveyed by Denslow Brown in her presentation on ADD coaching where she encouraged Organisers to ‘recognise and respect the line between organising & therapy’ and learn how to coach our clients through their own desired change. Since returning from Japan, Denslow has received the exciting news, that her Coach Approach training program has been approved by the International Coach Federation (ICF). Another huge step for professional development that’s tailored to professional organisers. We sure do have some super quality PD to choose from!

Laurene Livesey Park,Certification Program Director at Institute for Challenging Disorganization is also playing a huge part in assisting Organisers to be agents of change. Laurene marked the ICD Level 2 CD Specialist Certification exams taken by 23 Japanese Organisers at conference. She has worked tirelessly with JALO to get the ICD manual and exams translated, making study available to all JALO members.

Certificate GroupJALO members receiving ICD certificates

Mary Dykstra, NAPO President gave some great client stories where she is a critical part of her client’s journey and outlined scenarios where she has worked with clients for many years. For our clients, getting organised is so often a journey not a destination.

Mary encouraged Organisers to be creative in the ways they can be change agents and told the group “A PO is only as limited as their imagination and their ability to market”. Wow – now there’s a challenge!

Helen Blazer from the Netherlands described the huge advancements the Dutch Association, NBPO, have made by striking an accord with the Dutch government to include modules of organising in the school curriculum. What great news for the Dutch industry, Dutch children (& parents!) But it’s more than that – Effectively, it’s changing a way of thinking throughout an entire culture. Way to go NBPO!

We were fortunate enough to have Dr.Toshinori Kato, MD from the KatoBrain Method as keynote at conference. Having studied the brain for many years, Dr Kato asserts the brain can be re-trained at any age. (phew, that’s good news) And to be agents of change, we need to understand our own brain and those of our clients. Organise to our client’s strong points. Educate ourselves on strategies to assist clients with their not so strong points. Yet another link to being an agent of change and professional development.

An inspirational example of this link, is Mayumi Takahara and her team at JALO  advancing the industry in Japan. The growth in membership is phenomenal (sure, Japan has 6 times the population of Australia – But JALO's growth is still impressive to say the least). Just five years old with over 700 members. There are a lot of change agents in Japan!

 mayumi introducing panelJALO President, Mayumi Takahara introducing the international panel.Part of JALO’s success is their significant professional development component. In addition to their own courses for Master Life Organisers (who go onto recruit and teach other Life Organisers)  they have worked tirelessly with ICD to offer education to JALO members and many Japanese Organisers have an ICD qualification.  The ICD manual has been translated into Japanese.

They have tapped into an existing resource to educate their members – so not only did they avoid reinventing the wheel, they now have a very strong collegial relationship with one of the only institutes offering specialised education for POs in the world. Impressive!

Attending JALO’s 2013 Conference and being invited to participate on the international panel has been a career highlight. It was such a privilege to be there, an amazing learning experience and a wonderful opportunity to strengthen my relationships with Organisers from all around the world.

May we continue to work together, as Organisers (& Organizers!) around the globe, to constantly improve our ability to take our clients from where they are, to where they want to be.

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