Monday, January 18, 2010

Experience-based Facilitation: A brief look under the hood

The facilitator

A few reminders...

  • Talk less, ask simple intelligent thought-provoking questions, listen, REPEAT
  • Remember, its not about the facilitator, its about the participants
  • Worry less about agenda and more about flow and enhancing the fun factor
  • Don’t: take yourself too seriously or have an “attitude”
  • Seek to reach the heart rather than the mind by avoiding “death by PowerPoint” instead, learn to be a good story teller
  • Speak well and confidently which improves credibility and believability
  • Make eye contact which increases trust
  • Dress better than the participants giving a visual of leadership
  • Admit when you are wrong or do not know.

A good facilitator is much like a good sports referee. If he/she is doing a good job, the group learns to self-facilitate, plays by the agreed upon rules and relies less on the facilitator.

Workshop design

Design the workshop with simple, heirloom and neo learning opportunities based upon what was learned from assessment and interviews. Remember, its the participant’s agenda, not the facilitator’s.

Prime the pump! Allow participants to begin the workshop in his/her “comfort zone...dress, comfort food, music all become the welcoming entrance to changing behaviors and learning.

Minimize distractions not only in choosing the location and surroundings but make sure ALL turn off cell phones and electronic devices! Use a check list to make sure you have everything you need as well as in good working order. Use the cabinet maker’s mantra, "measure twice, cut once!”


Always be looking for opportunities to build trust:

  • in oneself
  • in and with others
  • in the vision of the workshop including its desired outcomes
  • in the content and processes
All of these trust issues are foundational and paramount.

Practice repetition

Design the workshop recognizing the primacy effect and recency effect. In the beginning of the workshop, participants’ energy level is high, listening is more attentive and they tend to remember the first few things. The recency effect says we tend to remember more of what’s at the end of a workshop. Repetition can reinforce as well as make the message(s) more believable. While research has found that people tend to eventually believe things they’ve been told many times, experiencing things creates deep belief!

Choose wisely!

Choose your experience-based learning initiatives wisely and thoughtfully! If your experience-base learning initiatives are strong and convincing, participants will connect the dots, discover personal meaning and make behavior changes. If the initiatives are weak or not convincing enough, there’s little hope of discovery or change. At the core of good facilitation, make the components of the workshop personally meaningful to them. This boosts the participants chance of remembering the learning opportunities. Always end the workshop with a challenge to the participants to reflect on what will be taken away, what one thing they would like to change, define the possible roadblocks, identify support and set a timeline for change.

The willing, the vacationers, the prisoners

Every workshop is made up of the willing, the vacationers (who enjoy a day away from the office and still get paid) and the prisoners (who see this workshop as a waste and adding stress to mounting work back at the office). The prisoners have major phantom rules, blinders and fun house mirrors at work in their minds. The facilitator's goal should be to move the prisoners to become vacationers!

Social Loafing

The bigger the group, the greater chance of social loafing. Social loafing is when participants check out of an initiative and let the more engaged do the “lifting.” It can be a sign that participants are not committed and accountable. It can also be a sign that the facilitator chose the wrong initiative for the group size. No matter, if social loafing occurs, it can be a great debrief topic. Challenge the group how all team members can be inspired to avoid or prevent social loafing and increase productivity.

Continuously Ask

Finally, the facilitator needs to ask, “How am I doing?” Seek feedback from participants and from fellow facilitators. When critiqued, say, “Tell me more!” Don’t become defensive.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reaching Out, Letting Go in 2010

What are you looking to reach out for in 2010?

What are you looking to let go of in 2010?

“There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 MSG

A good friend of mine, Steve McCullough (See says he tries to do three things everyday - Think, Laugh and Cry! Interesting how these three word initials, TLC, are also the initials for Tender Loving Care. Steve might be onto something. A little TLC for one’s personal well being may prove to be as beneficial as regular exercise, eating right and getting enough sleep! Might prove to be good New Year’s Resolution. Simple. Easy to accomplish. It is also in keeping with Henry Moore’s quote:

I think in terms of the day's resolutions, not the year's.

Personally, I like to use Covey’s 7th Habit, Sharpening the Saw, for my daily resolutions - Spiritual, Emotional, Physical and Mental


  • Continue to seek the "Light" with daily meditation first thing in the morning. I've been breaking my conversation with God into gratitude, forgiveness, others, discovery, grace and action. I find when I do this, my day seems to be richer, easier to deal with problems, less chance of feeling alone and generates a sense of peace.
  • It’s here where I seek to prevent creating ugly stories. Ugly stories - the stories of judgment, the stories built upon fear rather than love, the stories that focus on the negative rather than the positive.


  • Write one hand written note a day to someone and send via snail mail. The older I get, the more I value relationships. I want people who touch my life to know that I think of them, recall a common 'AHA' moment and send best wishes.
  • Seek to shine the light into the dark places. We all have dark places in our lives, the challenge is to seek the Light and share it with others to help them get out of the dark places.
  • Seek to smile and laugh more and help others to smile and laugh more. After all, that little voice in the head wants to always be serious and worried about what others think.
  • Talk less, ask better questions and listen more!
  • Play more games with friends and family


  • Continue to get 4 to 5 30 to 40 minute workouts a week. Much like daily meditation, I find a good, intense workout of at least 30 minutes is like drinking a good glass of wine! Again, it helps me deal with the daily challenges.
  • Continue to eat right and drink more water.


  • Read books of all kinds. Reading reduces ignorance and fights the fear factor. As I’ve written before, I believe fear is the opposite of love. Fear separates.
  • Seek more opportunity to live in my passion - helping people to "play" better together. In the past, I’ve facilitated over 70 workshops per year. Last year took a hit with all the transition in my life as well as the economy. I seek to get back on track!

So it’s back to Think, Learn and Cry, TLC. To jump start you to your own TLC... Check out