Friday, October 28, 2011

Facilitate ... within someone else’s design

It’s good to get “shook up” every now and then! I normally facilitate and design discussions, meetings, and workshops myself or with one or two co-facilitators; based, of course, on conversations with the clients as to purpose and outcomes. Recently, I was energized and challenged by facilitating within another facilitator’s design for a large conference. 14 facilitators arrived on-site with a design that had been emailed to them; participated in an orientation to fully understand the intent and design; and then worked with small groups of 12 to 14 participants to host four conversations over two days.

Wow! I learned a lot!

Firstly, I enjoyed strong evidence of my foundational belief in the wisdom of people. The participants in the group that I was privileged to facilitate were passionate, articulate, respectful, thoughtful, intense, inspiring, and fun! I appreciated their willingness to engage fully in the conversation, to try new things with a sense of play (toe tag, anyone?), to listen deeply to each other, and to challenge and contribute ideas with great respect and curiosity.

Secondly, a big “shout out” to the lead facilitator and designer who showed grace under fire –listening and responding to advice (solicited and unsolicited!) from the facilitators; balancing this advice with the purpose of the conference and the directions from the conference convenors; honouring the desires and feedback from the participants; and when necessary, standing firm on outcomes and principles of facilitation. He set an example that I will follow in similar circumstances.

Thirdly, while the processes and methodology for the overall conference and small group discussions may not have be my first choice, I re-learned that someone else’s design and methods are effective when based on sound values. I facilitated within the process; only adjusting the specific discussion techniques I used. Someone else’s process worked!

And lastly, I loved learning how 13 other facilitators approached the same process and methodology. This was a fabulous way to gain new insights, ideas, and activities. We all had the same questions to use in the sessions, and the activities ranged from “walk and talk” meetings in the outdoors to around table discussions of the questions in a linear fashion to drawings to small group work to free-flow conversations. And each worked! Of most importance, most of the facilitators co-decided with the small group participants about the preferred technique to use.

I heartily enjoyed myself, gained much, contributed much and reflected on my design and facilitation approach. Shake it up now and then! Enjoy and do what works well for you AND stretch yourself by working within someone else’s design.

My facilitation blog question is: What have you learned from facilitating within someone else’s design and process?