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?


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