Facilitating: More lessons from the field


July 13th, 2009

The last couple of months have been so busy I’ve hardly had time to think about what I’ve learned, and sometimes, re-learned. So, now with a bit of precious time available, here’s a few bits and pieces that I’m recording here so as I don’t forget. Some of them might be useful for you too.

Look for patterns

Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s going on. Stand back. Get out of the way. Watch, listen. Don’t do anything. Stay out of the way for what seems like way too much time. And then some. Ignore the glances from the participants wondering what you’re doing – or why you’re not doing anything. Look for patterns. See if the same words or phrases are repeated. Who’s talking? Who’s not? Resist the urge to jump in and ‘fix’ something. Wait. Then act.

Model behaviours

Sometimes the only person you can rely on to act the way you’d like is, well, you. So that’s all you can do.

Just try it!

Not sure if it will work? Try it anyway. The worst thing that can happen is it won’t work and you’ll have to do something else. The best thing is that it will, and no-one will ever know that you didn’t know if it would work or not! Confused? So am I.

Recognise and stay with ‘the struggle’

When the going gets tough, they’ll take it out on anyone, including the facilitator. They’ll attack the process, anyone who’s not present, even the timing and the venue. Sometimes it’s so predictable I have to resist the urge not to laugh. Be the container for all those comments. Hear them. Don’t react to them. Stay present until the individual and/or the group is ready to move on. They will. They’ll run out of excuses and eventually get back to work. Caveat: you just might have to give them a gentle push out of the swamp if they wallow for too long.

Remember the ‘curse of knowledge’

Recognise this in yourself. It’s not a competition to show how clever you are, how much you know, how many books you’ve read. And recognise it in others. Focus on what’s needed now. Less is ALWAYS better. It’s like adding salt to a casserole. Easy to add more when it’s needed. Damn hard to get rid of too much.

Don’t take it personally

It’s not about you, so don’t take it personally. Get out of the way and let them get on with it.

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