Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Facilitate … by talking to yourself.

Talk to yourself! It might be the best conversation you ever had.  Talking to yourself takes on a whole new dimension when facilitating.  How many internal conversations do you have going on within your head when you are facilitating?   I have learned to value these conversations and intentionally listen to them.  When I start to feel the buzz in my brain that may indicate a variety of emotions: anxiety, excitement, nervousness, passion – I now pause and think about what is going on.

 I use two excellent sources for this self-reflection.  I learned the Focussed Conversation Method from the Institute of Cultural Affairs Canada (http://ica-associates.ca/).  This method, called an ORID, guides an individual or a group through a flow of Objective, Reflective, Interpretive, and Decisional perspectives. When I am facilitating with a group and feel that something is happening that needs to be examined, I initially use an ORID in my head to assess the situation.  I ask myself:  O - What do I hear and see?  R - How do I feel about it?  I - What do I think the group participants are feeling and thinking?  D – Do I need to share my observations with the group?

The second source is the Mutual Learning Cycle from The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz (http://www.schwarzassociates.com/).  With this method, I talk to myself by Observing – What do I see and hear?, then Making Meaning of what I think it means, and then Choosing whether it is worthwhile to say something to the group. 

Knowing and using both of these methods helps me stay calm when facilitating; which in turn, hopefully, helps the group achieve better discussions and decisions.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Facilitate … with a new perspective from a vegetarian

“Put meat on the bones”.  While facilitating a workshop, I used this old saying as a metaphor to describe the point in the discussion that we had reached.  We had decided about an important outcome and strategy, and our next step was to determine the details.  “Put meat on the bones” is a metaphor for adding substance or detail to an idea; to fill out a plan.  The saying likens the idea to a skeleton or bones and the need to add the meat or flesh on the skeleton by adding the details.

 At the next break in the workshop, a participant told me privately that she was a vegetarian and was offended by the saying.  She felt it implied that meat was important and necessary; a belief she did not share.  I thanked her for her courage and willingness to share her opinion with me and then asked her to help me think of a different metaphor that would convey a similar powerful image and, to the best of our knowledge, not offend anyone.  We both struggled with a comparative image and finally settled on several possibilities:

 Add the finishing touches
Put the drywall on the house frame
Accessorize an outfit

 I learned that I need to re-think the casual use of sayings in workshops.  Yes, the reaction of the vegetarian might be a case of political correctness or over-sensitivity; yet, I am glad for the wake-up call to remember to carefully choose my words.

 My facilitation blog questions are:  What sayings, metaphors, and analogies do you regularly use?  How might they perceived by someone else?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Facilitate with … Your Whole Body

As part of an Art of Hosting Conversations gathering (http://www.artofhosting.org/), I facilitated an activity to allow each participant to share backgrounds, skills, experiences, interests, and passions.  As a former 4-H member and leader (http://www.4h.ab.ca/), I built upon the four H’s in the 4-H Pledge (head, heart, health, and hands) and created an activity for sharing.  Each person drew an outline of her body on a flipchart page.  For the following body parts, they drew pictures and wrote words to depict:

 Head – intellect and knowledge (What is your training, education?)

Heart – emotion, passion (What you love doing the best? What lights your fire? What you like doing?)

Core body – foundation (What do you believe you are best at?)

Hands – experience (What have you done/do?  What are your core areas of work and service? What are examples of your work?)

Legs and feet – movement and action (What do you want to do? What do you want to walk into? 

 Here is the Activity Template and a few examples.  Have fun using your whole body to share information and learn about others!


Activity Template
Participant's Example 1
Participant's Example 2

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Facilitate … with tweets!

Tweet the message!  Recently, in several facilitated sessions, when participants work in small groups and report back to the entire group, I have asked them to summarize the key message from their discussion in a tweet.  The tweet is either written on a flipchart on in a laptop to project. My only rule is to keep the tweet to 140 characters.
The summary tweet is met with great enthusiasm!  Participants respond much more positively than when they are asked to write a summary statement about their discussion.  It’s a twist that is fun and motivational and even a bit challenging as some people know nothing about Twitter.

 I usually hear participants say, “What fun!” or “How do we do this?”  For the participants that are apprehensive, I find that other group members help them to get into the spirit of the tweet.  Age makes no difference.  I heard a 16 year old girl say she had never tweeted and I have had an 80 year old woman immediately write a tweet.

I have used the summary tweets in Open Space Technology, World Café, Technology of Participation and Appreciative Inquiry processes.

Here are tweets from a recent community development session Connecting Silos: It Takes a Region.  http://www.kiboodle.ca/connectingsilos/. 

 Folks like ourselves need to take a second look at people in community to tap unused resources.
Ask how you can make a difference as an agent of change. #community

Training is necessary for community leaders to move us forward.

And, here’s a few from students at a high school Leadership workshop to foster a welcoming and inclusive community.
Creating opportunities for new people to feel welcome.  #committee #survey #clubs

Incorporating all ages from teens to seniors #welcoming #friendly #students #respect #participate #volunteer

Tweet the message!  It’s a way of encouraging people to think differently.

 My facilitation blog question is:  How have you, or could you use tweets when you facilitate?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Facilitate … to achieve simplicity

While perusing the Internet recently, I found a wonderful quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., an American jurist.

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity. “

This quote may sound complex; yet, is really simple!  And profound.  I think this quote applies significantly to facilitation.  I help people in organizations recognize that they often need to discuss and decide about very complex issues and situations in order to achieve simplicity.  It does not help to try for a simple and “quick and dirty” solution.  Rather, people need to dedicate the time to know as many facts as possible about a situation, consider all of the alternative actions and their consequences, and make decisions that will have impact for a long time.  Once these decisions are reached and implemented, the group often is able to carry out its activities in a simple manner.  The group has achieved simplicity “on the other side of complexity”.
As an example, some years ago, I worked with seven organizations wishing to create a formal partnership.  In our first session, the participants reviewed a document that provided an analysis of each organization; outlining strengths, liabilities, and interest in working together.  Many of the participants said that they knew everything about the organizations and did not need to waste time on reviewing the document.  I asked them to commit to two hours to discuss the document and then decide upon further review.  Once the two hours were over, the participants acknowledged that they knew little about each other and were trying to simplify and hurry a process that was complex.  We then designed and conducted a four month process that culminated in a collaboration model for the organizations.

 As facilitator, I simplify whenever possible; yet recognize when complexity requires more time and attention in order to achieve simplicity.

My facilitation question is:  what examples do you have about complexity and simplicity?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A facilitator comes full circle with food and fellowship.

Years ago, at the start of my work in community development, I was a Recreation Director in a rural Alberta community.  To introduce myself to the residents, I joined in as many community events as I could.  One afternoon, I went out to a small hamlet to attend a ladies’ social gathering.  Admittedly nervous, I was quickly put at ease by the warm welcome from the women.  We sat around a kitchen table in a mobile home, enjoying coffee, tea, and cake, and chatting about the recreation and social needs of their families.  And, at the end of the visit, I won the door prize, which as the newcomer in the group, I really didn’t think I deserved.  I don’t remember what the door prize was.  I do remember the kindness and the willingness of the women to accept me into their group.  I went back for many visits and work projects.
Fast forward (and the years have flown by!) to last week.  I sat with a group of interesting, passionate, and funny women; all dedicated to improving their community. We gathered in one of the women’s lovely home; drinking coffee, tea and water and eating the most yummy fruit crepes and banana bread.  Like the conversation at the gathering many years earlier, we laughed, vented, discussed passionately, and made plans to make their community a more welcoming and inclusive place.  And yes, as I left, I was given a parting gift.  It wasn’t a door prize yet was a gesture of generosity and camaraderie. 

 Some things are different between the two community meetings.  Fashions have certainly changed, food choices are healthier, and we were not texting or emailing over three decades ago.  I doubt that I owned a cell phone.  Yet, so much more is the same.  Food, fellowship, fun, fervor, and a focus on being part of a wonderful community.  I look at the years I have been involved in community development and appreciate again the power of food and fellowship.