Thoughts from Lumina CEO & Founder Dr Stewart Desson

As a Practitioner who’s passionate about facilitating teams to help them achieve higher performance levels, I have found nurturing self-awareness and awareness of others is critical for both myself and for the teams I strive to empower.


At a personal level, my own self-awareness is key to managing the dynamic between myself and the team I am helping. Sometimes my self-awareness helps me see I need to intervene strongly and provoke a change of direction in the team. At other times, it enables me to see the need to get out of the way as the team reflect and select their course of action. Lumina Learning CEO Stewart Desson


For the teams I work with, fostering their awareness of self, and each other, is a pre-requisite to performance improvement. Through experiential and practical team exercises, I help a team and its members understand who they are as individuals and how their approach can, on occasion, enhance and, on other occasions, inhibit team performance.


Today I will explore how Practitioners like myself can use the Lumina Spark model of personality, and its supporting 4 Principles, as a useful lens for deepening awareness of self and others and as a foundation for facilitating team performance.


Awareness of our good intentions vs our actual behaviours

Facilitating teams has never been more challenging than it is today. The vast availability of research and advice on how to drive up team performance has mushroomed over the last decade, while at the same time, the complexity of facilitating teams to improve their behaviour is as much of a challenge as it has ever been.


The 4 Lumina Spark Principles, when applied using the 24 Quality Lumina Spark personality model, can help Practitioners explore the distinction between team members’ underlying personality preferences, their well-intended behaviours and the actual impact they have across the team.


People using Lumina Spark to develop self awareness




Role modelling Lumina Spark’s 4 Principles

Lumina Spark 4 Principles PyramidFigure 1: Lumina Spark 4 Principles as an ‘up hierarchy’



Each of these 4 Principles is best practised by the Practitioner themselves as they role model them as part of their team development practice. When they do this, the Practitioner fulfils dual roles through directly coaching the team towards higher performance whilst simultaneously encouraging the team to embrace the 4 Principles through role modelling their application with the team. This engages Rogers (1983) humanistic approach to social learning, which is a powerful approach to team development, suggesting that one very effective way to support the team to apply the 4 Principles with each other is for the practitioner to apply them in their relationship with the team.


This approach can also trigger parallel processes. In a parallel process, what is happening for the team in the organisation emerges and gets re-enacted in the team building session between the Practitioner and the team itself (Clarkson, 2002). The benefit of this approach is that it can surface unresolved and out-of-awareness team issues. When skilfully facilitated by a self-aware Practitioner, this further supports the raising of self-awareness for all the team. This technique’s veracity depends on the practitioner being self-aware and articulating their internal process authentically, drawing out into the open the parallel process for the team to see and discuss.




The 4 Principles as an up hierarchy

These principles form an ‘up hierarchy’, whereby the principles at the lower level of the pyramid are best mastered before moving up to apply the next level.


Self Knowledge

At the base of the pyramid, the first principle is ‘Self Knowledge’. This is the foundation stone that underpins effective 21st-century teamwork. Raising self-awareness is the first step for working effectively with others and an essential trait for successful Practitioners to role model in facilitating teams. The understanding of self and others is deepened by appreciating the range of personalities, strengths, work styles, and communication preferences detailed in the Lumina Spark model.


Valuing Diversity

The second principle is that of ‘Valuing Diversity’, and here the Practitioner shows respect for each unique individual in the team, their work and their life purposes. When a Practitioner creates an inclusive environment for team development, they increase engagement in the team-building process and support everybody’s self-development. Every team member can become more authentic, open, and confident in the knowledge that they are valued as unique human beings, supported by the Practitioner’s thoughtful interventions.


Building Rapport

The third principle is termed ‘Building Rapport’ and enhances the connection between the Practitioner and the team. Understanding and adapting to each individual’s communication style is the key to building a closer and more trusting relationship with everybody. This essential component of the Practitioner/team relationship ensures that time is no longer wasted on miscommunications or negative assumptions. Everybody’s energy can be focused on developing a fruitful process to improve team performance.


Co-creating Results

At the top of the pyramid is the principle of ‘Co-Creating Results’ – the final step in supporting the team to achieve their true purpose. There is extensive evidence that real collaboration and mutual support provides better results for the team. This includes the Practitioner knowing when collaboration means intervening in the team to change the team’s direction, as well as when to support the team by getting out the way to make space for the team to reflect and plan action themselves.



The 24 Quality Lumina Spark Mandala

Furthermore, each of these 4 Principles can be best applied through the Practitioner’s understanding of their own and the team’s 24 Qualities displayed on the Lumina Spark Mandala. An individual’s style can be effectively displayed as a painted Splash on the Mandala, as shown in Figure 2.




Lumina Spark Mandala and Splash


Figure 2: Lumina Spark 24 Quality Mandala (Desson, Ensor & Cannon, 2018).




Developing self-awareness

Fundamental to the Practitioner’s working with all 4 of the principles, is the need for self-awareness using the Lumina Spark mandala. With 24 Qualities around the outer rim, the Lumina Spark mandala allows us to understand which of our instinctive Underlying Qualities are fundamental to our being. It also enables us to see which Qualities are most appropriate for us to express based on who we are with and the given context, and how these may impact on our team interactions.


People using Lumina Spark to develop self-awareness


The Lumina Splash app helps coaches deliver highly interactive virtual and face-to-face personal development 





Facilitating team ‘Aha!’ moments

Practitioners seek to provide their teams with a genuine ‘Aha!’ moment. To support this, they can use the easy-to-grasp language and impactful visuals of the Lumina Spark Mandala to highlight the Qualities and behaviours within a team. This can help the team investigate its own character as well as understand how other people view them.


The key to creating a high performing team lies in really understanding each other’s personality, motivation and preferred communication style. Understanding deeper values and preferences fosters the respect necessary for people to work effectively together. With this awareness, team members can then co-create a high-performing team environment.



The benefit of using the Lumina Spark framework for team building


  1. Through a deeper understanding of the team’s shared strengths and possible blind spots, everybody will commit to their personal and collective growth.
  2. The Practitioner can help the team members visually explore their dynamics through an animated online App – see Figure 3.
  3. Through the Practitioner role modelling inspiring yet practical language to describe team behaviours, the team learns to value the diversity within it.
  4. The team benefits from deeper connections, stronger communication skills and a sense of shared purpose.



Lumina Team Viewer



Figure 3: Lumina Team Mandala – each dot is an individual, and the large dot is the team’s most commonly used communication style




How does this help the team close the gap between their good intentions and their actual impact?


Human beings, not human doings

Firstly, the Lumina Spark approach helps practitioners take a humanistic approach – viewing people as ‘human beings’ rather than ‘human doings’, and so helps the team transform their own performance.


Seeing people without bias, labels, boxing or stereotypes

Secondly, the model helps the Practitioner and the team view themselves and others without bias. The Lumina Spark model avoids labelling, boxing, or stereotyping. Everybody has a tool to understand their whole way of being and to explore the team’s potential without limits.


Embracing the Paradox

Thirdly, this approach fundamentally avoids false dichotomies. With Lumina Spark, individuals are not simply polarised into being (say) ‘extraverted’ or ‘introverted’, or a ‘head’ or a ‘heart’ person. Unlike other approaches, Lumina Spark shows us how to work with all aspects of our personality. In a nutshell, everybody can now embrace the paradox of who they really are and better support their development and performance improvement.


The Three Personas – Underlying, Everyday, Overextended

Finally, this approach measures three parts of who a client is, termed the ‘three personas’ – the Underlying, Everyday, and Overextended you. This helps individuals understand the full dynamic of their personality. The three personas are presented in an easily grasped graphical format that helps people quickly make sense of themselves and take meaningful action to enhance their own and the team’s performance.

The Three Personas


In summary

All good Practitioners know that at their core they are expert communicators. Interestingly, it turns out that to communicate well, we actually have to start by turning our attention inward in order to claim our sense of purpose and increase our self-knowledge. Using the Lumina Spark framework is a perfect catalyst for Practitioners to raise the self-awareness of the teams they work with, bringing a focus onto team development and performance improvement.


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Clarkson, Petruska. (2002) The Transpersonal Relationship is Psychotherapy. 2002. London: Whurl.


Desson, S. G., Benton, S. & Golding, J. (2014). Measuring Both Ends of the Big Five Personality Scales Independently. Presented at International Conference on Psychotechnology (ICOP) September 2014, Faculty of Humanities, Bina Nusantara University, Jakarta, Indonesia. Accessed online


Desson, S. G. (2017). Development of an Integrated Adaptive and Maladaptive Personality Model for Measuring the Big Five. PhD thesis awarded by the University of Westminster. Accessed online


Desson, S. G., Ensor, J. & Cannon, J. (2018). Validation of Lumina Spark and Emotion against the Great Eight Competencies. Presented at BPS DOP Conference 2018. Accessed online


Rogers, C. R., & Allender, J. A. (1983). Freedom to learn for the 80’s.



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