Kaleigh Cornelison, MSW
Engaging. Creative. Practical.


Thoughts, Tips & Tools

Keeping the Faith in an Echo Chamber

I think most people who know me would say I’m an optimist. I definitely think of myself as a “glass half full” kind of gal and as a facilitator and trainer I feel like part of my core belief is that people can grow, change and learn. But, if I’m being honest, my positive outlook has begun to waver a little lately.

What really got me thinking about this was something unexpected. I’m a part of a Trail & Ultra Running facebook group (running is one of my #1 self-care strategies). The group is comprised of people from all over the country who usually share tips and suggestions, training plans, gear recommendations, etc. Last week, a woman in the group posted this article. To me, what’s spelled out in the article is pretty commonplace for women in running. We have to go the extra mile (ha. runner pun) in order to keep ourselves safe when we run alone or at night or in a secluded place so when the comments on this post ranged from insensitive to “women shouldn’t be stupid and put themselves in a bad situation” to “SO WHAT I CAN’T EVEN SAY HELLO ANYMORE?!” I added my perspective in what I felt was a balanced, helpful, non shaming way, I wanted to help other people in the group understand the issues with blaming women for their own assaults and harassment and how that perpetuates a culture where perpetrators are not held accountable. Unfortunately, it didn’t go how I hoped and I fell down the hateful comment rabbit hole. Not just with men in the group but women as well. The level of victim blaming was pretty high and people clearly stated that they would “never change their mind” no matter what.

It may be naive of me but I felt so discouraged by that. I got me thinking about how often we train, facilitate and educate in echo chambers, to people who mostly agree with us, or who showed up at the event we’re speaking at because they’re already interested in what we’re talking about. But how do we get to those people who say they’ll never change their minds? Who are so adamant that their way is the right and only way? Often in my trainings I’ll say something to the effect of, “Can I challenge you to look at it a different way?” but what if the answer to that question is “no”?

I’m still thinking about how to tackle this question, but in the meantime I’m trying to keep the faith. Here are some ways I’m working on to take care of myself in the face of this echo chamber.

When everything feel like just too much, what do you do to take care of yourself?


Bonus footage of me running the Santa Monica 10k in September

Bonus footage of me running the Santa Monica 10k in September


Exploring Conflict through Courage, Compassion, & Connection

I was recently asked to develop a training for a community health center. They originally said they wanted something on communication skills. However, when I spoke more in depth with my contact, she shared that what they really struggling with was blame, accountability, and conflict. These are common challenges that I've heard from so many organizations. To be honest, I initially struggled with how to even scratch the surface of this topic. In the end, I reached out to my facilitator community, re-read every Brené Brown book I could get my hands on, and came up with: Exploring Conflict through Courage, Compassion, and Connection. Here's a brief outline of the training I developed.  

Warm Up 

To get everyone talking, moving, and getting warmed up for the day's conversation, I first had them stand up, mingle around, and greet their colleagues until I said stop. Next, I asked them to turn to one other person to chat with about the first of the following four questions. We then repeated that process with the additional 3 questions. 

  1. Why did you first get into this work? 
  2. What motivates you to stay in this work? 
  3. What part of this work is the most important to you? 
  4. When do you feel the most supported by your colleagues? 


I started by asking participants: "When you think of conflict - what comes to mind?" I created a word web of all of their responses. (Not one of the words was positive.) I asked: 

  • Have any of you ever worked in a setting where there was zero conflict? (No one!) 
  • Is it possible for conflict to be positive, productive, and effective? (Of course!) 
  • We often think of conflict as this stressful, negative thing (which it can be) but if we approach conflict in the right way, it can be incredibly productive and an effective way to spark growth and learning. 


I had to give a quick shout-out to Brené Brown's work which was the inspiration for much of the content of this workshop. I shared: 

  • Through her work Brené discovered that some of the keys to having a successful, effective and happy life and workplace are courage, compassion, and connection. 
  • These are tools for working towards a more “wholehearted” workplace.
    • This means that we are able to let go of what’s holding us back to do the very best for our patients and our colleagues and to overall have a happier work environment where we can approach conflict and communication with courage, compassion, and connection. 


Courage, Compassion, & Connection

At this point I had participants form six groups by counting off by sixes (all the ones formed a group, all the twos formed a group, etc so that people who were already sitting together would be forced to sit with people they might not usually talk to). Groups 1 & 2 worked on courage, groups 3 & 4 worked on compassion, and groups 5 & 6 worked on connection.

They answered the following questions as a group: 

  1. How would you define this concept? 
  2. What is the benefit of practicing this concept? 
  3. What makes practicing this concept difficult? 


After the groups shared out what they discussed in their small groups, I made a few connections for them:

  • What do courage, compassion, and connection have in common? All of them require vulnerability (risk, uncertainty, allowing ourselves to be seen, asking for help).
  • Often when we think of the word “vulnerability” we think of weakness but vulnerability isn’t weakness – it’s true bravery.

I asked the group to reflect on these questions: 

  • Think about your interactions with your colleagues without courage, compassion, or connection. How does it feel? 
  • Think of a time when you had a colleague show courage, compassion, or connection towards you. Or a time when you practiced it yourself. How did that feel? 


At this point we got into the skills for how to strive for more vulnerability, and more courage, compassion, and connection. We covered three main techniques: 

We went through each technique, one by one, and everyone participated in role plays in order to practice and get more comfortable with each of the techniques. In a perfect world, we would have had a whole half a day to practice each set of skills but in the real world we had two hours so participants were able to get just a taste of each approach. 

shame & blame

We started wrapping up with a short video (again from Brené Brown) on how blame and shame have an inverse relarionship with accountability. 


take away 

Finally, we did a quick wrap up with some reflection questions: 

  • What's one thing you learned today?
  • What's one thing you will strive to practice moving forward?
  • What follow up do you need?

At this point it is up to the group to make the decision to enact these techniques, which requires buy-in from all levels of the organization, especially leadership. I've found that organizations are most successful in creating culture change when leadership buys into the change, models the change they want to see, and regularly reminds and holds the rest of the staff accountable. 

Has your organization struggled with similar issues? We've all been there. Contact me to chat about how we can work together to bring your organization closer to courage, compassion, and connection. 

"Conflict" Word Web 

"Conflict" Word Web 

Follow Up Items 

Follow Up Items 

How Creating a Mission Statement Can Transform Your Team

If an organization's mission statement is done well and revisited often it can be an essential part of the fabric of the organization. However, it's not just the organization as a whole that should have a clear statement of purpose. Whether you call it a mission statement, a vision, or a team objective, having a shared and stated goal can also transform the culture of your team. 

A couple of years ago I was working for a school-based youth development organization. I had the privilege of starting and growing my small team of two from the start - I was able to set the tone and expectations right up front. However, about half way into my second year with the organization I was asked to take over a different and slightly larger team. This team had been together for less than a year and their supervisor was resigning. After a couple of weeks with the new team, it was clear we weren't always on the same page and were often working from different frameworks and with different goals in mind. 

I decided to take my team on a mini retreat. We met at a local park's visitor center on a Friday morning and spent the day working on creating a team mission statement. I used some of the exercises from A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating a Mission Statement to facilitate the process. We ended the day with a team mission statement that we hung in our office the rest of the school year. 

As a result of that small but simple exercise the team: 

  • Got to know each other's frameworks and goals 
  • Clarified what we all needed to work toward, together 
  • Bonded over a shared purpose 

The best part was that the mission statement didn't come from me or the organization as a whole, it came from the team which allowed every single member to feel bought in and motivated to achieve the common goal. We revisited that mission statement at every team meeting and looked to it often in difficult times. This wasn't the end of the process, it was the beginning, but this gave us a north star to guide us. 

Starting Strong: Quick & Easy Check-In Questions

One way to simply and easily build rapport within your team is to consider using a fun or creative check-in or icebreaker at the start of your team meetings.  Go around and hear everyone's answers or if you have a large group, have people pair up and tell each other the answer to a check-in question and then have a few people share with the larger group. This can be a quick simple way to get people talking. 

Here are some of my favorite check-in questions - some silly, some serious – choose the question that’s right for the mood of the group and what’s been going on with the team lately. Or take turns asking a different person to come up with or choose a check-in question each meeting.

  • If your life had a theme song, what would it be?
  • If you were a vending machine, what would you dispense and why?  
  • Share a joy and a concern (Or a crappy and a happy)
  • If your mood today was the weather, what would the weather be?
  • If you could have any super power, what would it be?
  • If you could spend one day in someone else’s life, who would it be?
  • If you could describe your mood in one color, what would it be and why?
  • If your life was a movie, what would it be called?  
  • Give one word to express your mood today. 
  • Rose (a bright spot), bud (something that has potential), and thorn (a pain point). 
  • What one thing that you’re proud of?


Additional Check-in Question Resources

600+ Icebreaker Questions

Check-in Questions (My favorite list)

Icebreaker Questions



Over the past 10 years I've accumulated an awesome library of resources that I use to inform my training and facilitation and I'm excited to share them with you! You can anticipate a variety of posts including helpful videos, articles, podcasts, book recommendations, and websites - all of which you can use to enhance your own training and facilitation. I really look forward to sharing those thoughts, tips and tools!