Sunday, February 23, 2014

Facilitate … with inspiration from the Girls!

After the 2014 Olympics women’s hockey gold medal game (won by Canada – Yeah!), a cute cartoon surfaced.  A hockey coach is telling the Canadian men’s hockey team “to play like girls”. 

I laughed and then I thought of the message that this cartoon sends about gender and sport stereotypes.  Then I thought about the messages for facilitation. 

 The Canadian women’s hockey team were down 2-0 with less than four minutes left in the game.  It looked all over but then, the Canadian team scored two goals and then won in overtime.  What perseverance!  What belief in each other, in their team and in never giving up!
How can this perseverance apply to facilitation?  I think of the groups of people who cope with difficult, challenging, and at times, threatening, discussions about contentious topics.  Often, people will want to give up; to believe that failure is inevitable.  When we, as facilitators, work with people who have reached this stage, we need to “play like girls” and persevere.  We need to believe and need to help the participants believe that success is possible; that the conversation can continue; and that understanding and agreement can be achieved.

To help with these difficult discussions, I often refer to Sam Kaner’s “Facilitator’s Gide to Participatory Decision-Making” book, ( and particularly, the Dynamics of Group Decision-Making model.  I explain the Divergent Zone, the Groan Zone, and the Convergent Zone to participants to let them know that it is possible to continue through the disagreements, to “groan”, and then to come together with mutual understanding. 
Now, I will use the Canadian women’s gold medal win to show how perseverance works – in hockey, in facilitation, and in conversations.

 My facilitation question is:  What lessons did you take from the 2014 Olympics to help with your facilitation skills?


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Facilitate ... with an Olympic focus!

Where have all the athletes gone? (with respect to Pete Seeger).  It seems like it was yesterday when I was cheering loudly, proudly, and patriotically for Canadian athletes at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.  Here we are again – four years later!  Cheering Canadian and world athletes as they display their amazing physical and mental prowess at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.  Four years ago, I wrote a bog about using Olympic medals as symbols of success in organizations, communities, and individuals.  Here it is again with a few additional discussion activities using an Olympic theme.  Have fun with it and use the Olympics experience to enhance participants’ discussions.

ü  Medals of Success:  I bought Hershey chocolate candies wrapped in gold, silver, and bronze shiny paper. At various sessions, workshops, and meetings, I spread the candies on the table and told participants that they were gold, silver, and bronze medals. I asked participants to select a candy and describe the success it represented in their community, group, initiative or organization. What fun and focus! People responded extremely well because most of us are interested in the Olympics. The success focus came through quickly and profoundly. Participants would laugh and then seriously think about successes. We had many gold medals yet also silver and bronze as participants explained what efforts they still wanted to do to enhance a success.

ü  Bobsleigh Teamwork:  In pairs or foursomes, have participants use a bobsleigh analogy to develop teamwork.  To solve a problem facing the group, ask the bobsleigh teams to act out racing down the track.  Use chairs as the sleigh.  Who will steer?  Who will brake?  Who will push off?  How do all team members contribute for the fastest and safest result?  After the fun of the race, ask the teams to apply the race experience to the problem.
ü  Olympic Energizers:  Lots of Olympic ideas to encourage participants to move, to stretch, to refresh!  Lead them through exercises simulating skiing, bobsleigh, skeleton, curling (hurry hard!), ice hockey, etc.  Sit in chairs or stand and make the moves!  Pair up and have a goalie and a hockey player shooting at them.  Laughter will be the score!!
ü  Imagine the Olympic Experience to face Challenges:  Ask participants that may be facing a challenge or tough time in their organizations to talk about what they think Olympic athletes experience as they go to a new country, new facilities, new accommodations, and new food and carry extremely high expectations.  Then, ask participants to develop the ways that they think the atheists prepare and cope with these changes.  Invite participants to apply their ideas about the athletes to their organizational challenges.

Ride the Olympic bandwagon (or bobsleigh) and use as a theme in your facilitation. 

My facilitation question is:  How could you or have you used the Olympics to inspire your facilitation approaches?