Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

2013-04-20 11.44.12What does shifting a mob of sheep and building rapport with a group have in common? Good question!

I am often asked how to build rapport with a group of people … and have been reflecting on how I do this when facilitating.

From my childhood I shifted sheep on the family farm with my parents and continue to do so with my husband Bill. We were bringing the sheep home for shearing a few months ago … a good time to reflect and think. I was observing the mob, watching for the leaders, preparing for the break away when we got to gate and keeping eye contact with the “rogue” who was waiting for the opportunity to lead the others off in the wrong direction.

Powers of observation built up from childhood – scanning and watching for body language, making eye contact when required to hold attention, looking out for the signs of discomfort, boredom or time for a rest… developed subconsciously over many years. Skills learnt in one situation, which perhaps I have taken for granted, and applied to a different situation with equal success.

Just like the sheep groups of people will often have the rapport leader, the one the others copy and take the lead from. If you have the opportunity to sit an observe a group watch for the matching and mirroring of gestures and body language. The person leading is most often unaware of the role they are playing. When the facilitator is also in rapport with the this person the rapport is developed more quickly with the group. Being in rapport provides the opportunity to really connect with people, enhancing the whole learning process.

To develop the your skills of observation take some time out when catching public transport or take time to sit and watch large groups of people, look for the body language – train you eye to pick up on the signs of frustration, boredom and interest.

When at the front of the room it’s important to be present for the group, silence the “voice in your head” and be there for the group, watch for their signals. After a while this becomes innate and without realising it we are picking up the vibes of the group. If you are co-facilitating check in with each other about what you are each picking up from the group and reflect with each other afterwards about the rapport.

Go beyond merely communicating to ‘connecting’ with people. Jerry Bruckner

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Comments on: "Building rapport … and sheep?" (2)

  1. Congratulations on your 50th blog! A wonderful collection of great tips and useful information.

  2. Paula McKay said:

    Hi Jeanette, I have just read your ‘Building Rapport… and Sheep?’ blog and absolutely agree with everything you have said. How lucky were we to have grown up on farms and unknowingly built up a bank of knowledge about what makes people tick, and what and why they may behave a certain way? Simply from our observations as children… being a part of a family farm exposed us to ‘life’, ‘work’, ‘co-operating with siblings to get the mob in’, a sense of achievement and contribution towards the family business, and all at such a young age. We have noticed with our own children that their observations and handling with farm animals has already given them an amazing insight into ‘life’, as well as giving them a few resilience skills. When my daughter complains her horse is flighty for no particular reason, I often say ‘welcome to parenthood… but don’t give up!’ Our eldest just participated in the SA Junior Heifer Handling Expo 2013 in Adelaide and WOW… what an amazing experience. She is still on cloud nine at the sense of achievement, meeting new friends, learning how to handle a heifer, and gaining a lot of knowledge about the cattle industry. Great times! Cheers, Paula

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