Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Facilitate … with attention to time and truth!

Time is important yet truth is more important than time! I’m not sure of the source of this statement or if it is one that I created many years ago. Regardless of the source, I have adhered to it over the years, particularly when participants of a group discussion appear to place more emphasis on rushing to a decision than on taking the time to make the right decision for their group. I was reminded of the importance of “time and truth” while facilitating a group last week.

Members of this group contracted me to help them develop three year goals and actions. During discussions with the group’s representatives about the purpose and outcomes of the one-day session, they acknowledged that some members may still have questions about their mandate statements even though the group had talked about the mandate many times before. Therefore, we planned and designed a session for three-year goals and also prepared for the possible need to discuss the group’s purpose and role.

During the session, it quickly became obvious that members wanted to talk about and understand the mandate statements. I stated what I was seeing and hearing; that is, members were saying “I like the first statement but don’t like the second one”, “I think we need to revise the statement”, and “What does this mean?”, etc. In my facilitator role, I stated what I heard, advised that I interpreted these statements as an indication of the need to devote significant time to talk about the mandate, and told them what I saw as the impact on the session design. I advised that we would likely not have time to develop three-year goals. The group members quickly and strongly stated that they needed to take as much time as necessary to achieve their “truths”, that to understand, revise, and accept the mandate statements. We then proceeded with a lively and meaningful discussion about the statements for the remainder of the day.

The group members understood that “truth is more important that time”. They knew that they had to fully know their mandate before they could plan goals and actions. While they had devoted a weekend day to participate in the session, they stated that they feel very satisfied and the time was worthwhile. In fact, they booked a second session to now develop the three-year goals.

My conversation blog question is: How do you pay attention to, and effectively balance time and truth as a participant and a facilitator of a group discussion?

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