Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

The “Carbon Resolution”

Twelve months ago Bill released “The Wild Radish Song” to raise awareness of herbicide resistance. This week he has released his next song “Carbon Resolution”.

The song aims to encourage advisers and farmers to have a conversation about how farmers can reduce green house emissions and slow global warming. The lyrics address the small changes farmers can all make, that accumulatively as an industry, could have a big impact on emissions.

This song has been a family affair in our house with son Will playing the lead guitar, daughter Alice putting the video together and Bill writing the lyrics, playing acoustic guitar and singing. It was inspired by John Butlers Revolution.

We have also embarked on a social media campaign to promote the song with Alice running a Facebook page, tweeting and releasing videos of Bill talking about the video in the two week lead up to the release.

The Facebook page www.facebook.com/TheLongPaddockProductions reach over 300 likes in the first week. As a social media extension experiment we are looking forward to seeing how far and wide the song will go. After nearly 12 months the Wild Radish Song has reached over 24000 with Bill receiving emails from across the world.

The song has been produced as part of a Carbon Extension and Outreach program to raise awareness about the agricultural sectors impact on climate change funded by the Australian Government. The Building Farmer and Advisor Knowledge in Carbon Farming Project aims to train farm advisers and improve their understanding of carbon farming.

Please share this with your friends and industry colleagues to raise awareness of carbon farming and to see how powerful social media and song can be as an extension tool! Send us your thought too.

What is extension?

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 11.38.13 amI have recently taken on the role of President of the Australasia Pacific Extension Network (APEN) and I am often asked what does extension mean. Extension is a word commonly used in agriculture and natural resources management but not often used elsewhere.

APEN defines extension as working with people in a community to facilitate change in an environment that has social, economic and technical complexity. This is achieved by helping people gain  knowledge and confidence so they see the need for change and provide support to ensure it is implemented effectively. APEN goes on to say that an important part of extension is capacity building.

A recent paper published by the Australian Farm Institute defines Extension as – activities by both the public and private sector to transfer knowledge to and between farmers about ways to improve farm productivity and sustainability. The knowledge may be transferred either directly to farmers, or indirectly through farm service providers.

Traditionally extension was seen as a transfer of knowledge, what I like about the APEN definition is it highlights the importance of people and capacity building. People make change and adopt new practices based on the information they receive and how well that data fits with their personal values, beliefs and attitudes. Without a good understanding of people, decision making processes and the impact of change data alone can pile up on the desk.

As the model suggests the extension process is about people and technical information. To ensure the research and development carried out on farmers behalf is adopted farmers it is best to engaged them in the process. This enables ownership and understanding to be developed throughout the research rather than data being provided at the end.

If the data has been generated in relative isolation from a farmer audience then the people working in extension need to think about how they can engage farmers with the data to help them develop that ownership. Let’s become more creative in our methods – add some marketing and basic psychology skills to our extension practices.

The facilitators tool kit

2014-10-04 10.14.09I was asked recently what a facilitator should have in their toolkit. Hence today I thought I would go back to basics.. what does the facilitator/trainer need in their tool box?

The basics

  • Permanent markers – I like Mr Sketch coloured markers
  • White board markers & eraser
  • Blu tack to put up flip charts around the room
  • Flip charts, or as I call it butchers paper
  • Masking tape – great for name tags, it stays on rather than falling off!
  • Post it notes
  • Highlighter pens
  • Coloured markers for participants
  • Spare pens for participants who forget to bring their own
  • Scissors
  • Data projector, power board and extension cord if required
  • A whiteboard that doubles as a flip chart stand

For the facilitation sessions

  • Cheap plastic table cloth
  • 3M repositional glue
  • A5 paper
  • Black markers – enough for every member of the group
  • Coloured dots, helpful for prioritising and voting
  • Large post it notes can be very useful too

And the extra bits

  • Pipe cleaners for the kinaesthetic learners to play with
  • Balls and toys
  • A clear clock to put on the desk so its easy to keep track of the time without looking constantly at our watch!
  • A bell can be handy when working with large groups to get their attention or change tasks – be aware not to over use it
  • Timer for short activities
  • Note books/paper for participants if required
  • Camera/phone to capture some piccs or take photos of the information generated by the group
  • A speaker to play music in the breaks or sound for videos

And to easily move all of this about, a box on wheels is very useful.What else do people have in their toolkit?

The impact of energy

IMG_6968In the last two weeks I have attended two very contrasting workshops. Both were delivered  by internationally recognised speakers, both with very different energy impacts and outcomes for me, as the participant.

The first was delivered by a motivational keynote speaker. It was high energy and high impact, I left each day with my head buzzing, excited by what I had learned and looking forward to the following day. I even had trouble sleeping at night as the concepts were rolling around in my head keeping me awake. Since leaving the workshop (now nearly two weeks ago) I am still thinking about what I learnt and how I can apply into my work.

I left the second workshop feeling grounded and rather tired. The presenter didn’t provide energy from the front of the room and wasn’t able to extract the energy from the participants either. I’m sorry to say I would be unable to recall some of the main points from this workshop and it was more recent that the first.

There were some similarities between the speakers – both were passionate about their topic, both delivered a similar number of points in the same timeframe, both used stories and both asked us to discuss their key points with the person beside us. A similar workshop framework being used and yet such a different impact on me as the participant.

What did I take away from this experience – it was an important reminder that we learn and remember more when the learning is attached to emotion. Emotion for me is connected to the energy and enthusiasm of the presenter.

I’m not suggesting we should all go over the top and be “cheerleaders”. However we do need to think about our own energy levels and  the impact we are having on our participants. What works for us will not work for everyone.

Experiment with your own energy level at the front of the room, watch and monitor the group reactions.

From now on when I develop my session plans I will include a new column “energy” and determine for each section the energy level I believe is required and how this can be achieved for the group. Varying the energy level throughout the day to maximise learning, I will also include this in my personal workshop review.

I would be interested in your comments about the energy levels of presenters – when does it become exhausting? what is too much or too little? How do you change your energy for groups?

 

 

The power of mentoring

sharon mentoringGuest blog by Sharon Honner

How many of you have been to Bali? Yes I have been to Bali too!

I was there a couple of weeks ago with my four beautiful children. While we were there my oldest daughter and I visited a butterfly farm and in the nursery we were able to witness butterflies emerging from their Chrysalis, it was an amazing experience.

What does a butterfly farm have to do with Mentoring? As I pondered on what I gained from being a mentor it hit me that one of the most rewarding aspects for me is watching my mentee transform as does a butterfly.

So how did I end up being a mentor? In 2004 I was fortunate to win a bursary to attend the Rural Congress for Women in Spain and as part of that experience I set myself a goal to give back to industry that had supported me to attend.

The first step was, as a volunteer, to join a National Reference Group. At one of the first meetings in Melbourne we had a guest presenter on Mentoring.

My eyes lit up, what a wonderful way to give back to industry; however what I wanted to know was what underpinned being a great mentor?

The lady who presented at the meeting shared that for her it was the art of coaching, so full of enthusiasm, I promptly did some research and enrolled to complete coaching training, from that day forward the coach approach has underpinned the way I facilitate, deliver workshops and mentor.

There are several significant people in my life who have believed in me and given me the confidence to give something new a go. They also have challenged my thinking. On reflection this would have been what I refer to as INFORMAL mentoring.

The downside for me of informal mentoring is that often the relationship is not declared as a mentor/mentee relationship. In fact sometimes INFORMAL mentoring may simply be that I have chosen some-one that I admire to role model myself on or I may choose to support some-one who I can see potential in.

This year I was a Mentor for the YWCA SHE Leads Program. What excited me about the YWCA program is that it’s a FORMAL Mentoring Program. As a volunteer I appreciated that it gave me a start and a finish point.

  • Our relationship was declared and I was very privileged and honoured to be partnered with Dr. Lisa Bailey, Programs Manager, RiAus.
  • This gave us the opportunity to discuss how we were going to work together giving our relationship the best opportunity to be beneficial to Lisa.
  • For example we discussed: what were Lisa’s goals, what motivated her, what were her current challenges, where we were going to meet, when we were going to meet, how we were were going to communicate.
  • Also for Lisa how will she know our relationship has been of value?
  • For me also because Lisa was sponsored by her workplace it was important Lisa, her Manager and myself met to discuss what his expectations were and also the importance of confidentiality in our relationship.

It is my understanding if someone attends a workshop and then returns home or to the workplace if they do not implement their learnings 80% of that knowledge is lost in 3 months. When you are looking at Return on Investment that is a scary statistic.

Adding coaching or in YWCA’s instance mentoring to a program enables participants to retain up to 90% of their learnings.

Speaking of learnings, I enjoy bringing my own learnings to Mentoring, whether they are good or bad.

As Mentor I bring wisdom, however it is important the Mentee learns by finding their own solutions. An example is that as we support our mentees in reaching for the stars, ask them to take a moment to think about what if things don’t pan out how they had planned. What are their contingency plans?

When I first met Lisa I thought wow I know nothing about science and I have been paired with someone from a pure science background. This brings me to something else I value about mentoring. The skills and strengths I bring to a mentoring relationship doesn’t have to be within my industry, it can be across any industry, and by doing this, it keeps me fresh because the way I think is being constantly challenged.

In summing up what Mentoring gives to me – It is much more than the transfer of knowledge and insights.

I am passionate about women developing their leadership skills and if I can support some-one to reach their goals then I will beam from ear to ear.

Mentoring gives me the opportunity to reflect on my own goals, practices and learnings and deepens my personal leadership and coaching style, it challenges my thinking and keeps me fresh.

To all the prospective Mentors and Mentees may you do as a butterfly does …. emerge and spread your wings.

 

2013-05-28 16.14.35“To lead a workshop we must first understand the people who are in it.” A wise quote from Brian Stanfield.

If we are asked to conduct a workshop for a client group one of our important tasks is to find out about the people who will be participating so we can prepare appropriately with their needs in mind.

The ORID provides a good framework for thinking this through, starting with the facts. How many people will be in the group? How long have they been associated with this organisation? What age demographic are they? What are their qualifications? What time of the day do they normally attend work? What is their knowledge of this topic?

Followed by some reflective questions; What is the mood of the group in relation to this topic? What are the personality styles of the members of the group? How are they feeling about participating? How cohesive are they as a team? What barriers may get in the way of their participation?

And some interpretive questions; How important are the outcomes to the group? What are they keys/influences to how the group operates? What previous experiences have they had with this type of process? How well do they respect each other and work as a team?

Armed with this knowledge a facilitator can then go through the decisional phase and plan the process to engage the group. How will I build the group rapport? How will I engage all styles? What processes will I use to engage the group? What behaviours will I need to be aware of and have strategies to manage should they arise?

 

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2014-07-28 15.28.44What makes a mentoring program successful?

Having been involved in mentoring programs as a facilitator and mentor I have been researching other programs to find out the key success factors.

My motivation for this .. we are about to embark on establishing a mentoring program as part of a rural women’s leadership program and are very keen to build a model that is robust and sustainable.

The mentoring program will be a formal one as opposed to informal. For my thoughts and definition of mentoring follow this link to a previous blog The power of mentoring 

From my discussions and reading I have found the key success factors include

  • Training for the mentors and mentees so everyone fully understands their roles and responsibilities. This should be carried out separately so mentors can develop knowledge of some mentoring frameworks and key skills such as communication skills, questioning, listening, feedback and being non judgemental.
  • Guidelines, the how we will work together discussion is critical to success.
  • Clear boundaries around the length of time the relationship will last and when it will be reviewed.
  • Evaulation process – continual feedback
  • Support for the mentors, this can take the form of a group mentor discussion so the mentors can learn from each other. One on one support is also important should challenges arise in a relationship.
  • A mentee who is highly motivated, has a clear purpose and outcome they are looking for from the relationship. This could be a personal or professional goal, clarity is whats important.
  • Matching mentors and mentees – there is some debate about the best way to do this. However an element of choice on both sides was highlighted as important. The program need to allow opportunity to get to know each other, one program used a speed dating and networking activities and then asked the mentees to nominate their top 3 choices. The mentor then chose which mentee they would like to work with.
  • A strong sense of commitment to the process from both parties.
  • An industry culture that recognises and values the benefit of mentoring
  • Other ideas included a robust skills analysis for the mentors – they don’t always know what they are good at.

Thankyou to Jill Greenhaigh and Philippa Rawlinson from Lincoln University, Ruth Nettle from Melbourne University, Belinda Griffiths and Jenny O’Sullivan from Dairy Sage for their research and comments, past participants in our programs and past mentees for their insights for this blog and our future program.

If any readers have any thoughts about what would make a successful mentoring program we would love to hear your thoughts.

2014-06-26 08.51.29Sometimes I need reminding by a group of participants about the “What not to do at the front of the room”. I recently attended a Australasia Pacific Extension Network  (APEN) Roadshow – “Designing Effective Events … by understanding how adults learn”  facilitated by Andrew Huffer. One of the discussion points was what are some of the things we dislike from presenters – the things we should take note of and change! There was nothing really new however some good reminders so we make all of our presentations “Wow”.

Some of their key points raised

  • Repetitious behaviour such as jiggling keys or coins in your pocket or swaying – something to be aware of when we are nervous. The key jiggling seems to be more common with males, because of pants with pockets containing the keys rather than handbags I suspect. Participants report finding this type of behaviour distracting.
  • Reading from the power point presentation, demonstrating no awareness of  the audience and not connecting with them. The power point should be there as a guide not be “the presentation” the audience is looking for a personal connection with the presenter. We learn and remember when we are emotionally connected with the presenter or the material in some way, think about how you can connect and do this very early in your presentation. for a few tips on power points https://workshopswithwow.com/tag/powerpoints/
  • Not catering for various learning styles, perhaps the presenter is only considering his or her own learning style rather than being inclusive of all. I am a very visual learner and like to see colour and visuals as part of a presentation not just words and audio, others prefer activities. To review learning styles follow this link    https://workshopswithwow.com/tag/vark/
  • Too many acronyms, only those in the know know them! Avoid acronyms were possible or write them in full.
  • Overload of too much complex data. Remember the famous quote “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler,” Albert Einstein. The complex data may be very meaningful to you, however, what are the key messages you need your audience to take away.

I’m sure my readers have many other “What’s not to do’s” and I would love you to add some comments to this blog. A big thank you to APEN and Andrew Huffer for making the workshops across the country a success.

After a slow time with my blog due to a busy workload and a trip overseas I am back on deck, you will be receiving more regular blogs once again. Thanks for your support and ongoing messages which keep me motivated.

The ORID

2013-02-05 13.13.52The ORID technique came into my life during the first facilitation workshop I ever attended and I have found it to be an extremely useful tool.

As described by R Brian Stanfield in his book, The Art of Focused Conversation, the ORID provides a framework for conversations to solve a problem, make a decision, evaluate an event, generate commitment, explore options or to build on a vision. His book provides 100 examples of using the technique in our everyday life.

I find it particularly useful as a review or evaulation process and to assist with decision making. So how does it work?

O Objective question – these are the questions to analyse the facts and external reality. I often think of this as the ‘head’ or logic questions. Examples include :

  • What are the topics we have talked about today?
  • What is the financial position?
  • What are the key facts?
  • What were the most important facts in this report?

R Reflective question – this checks in with how we feel about the situation or the facts. It focuses us on the personal internal reaction. I think of it as the heart question – what emotions or feelings do we have.

  • What surprised you in the presentation?
  • What challenged your thinking?
  • Where have you been frustrated by the process?
  • What’s it like to be in this situation?

I Interpretive question – these questions aim to examine the meaning, the values and the significance of the topic. Interpretive questions provide the opportunity to draw out the significance of the O and the R. For me it’s the gut question – what does this mean for me?

  • What does this mean for the organisation
  • What challenges need to be resolved?
  • What are the key messages in the workshop?
  • What alternatives are worth considering?

D Decisional question – aim to bring a resolve to the conversation, a consensus, create an action plan or steps forward.

  1. What will you differently as a result of this workshop?
  2. What is the first step?
  3. What kind of future situations could these learnings be applied to?
  4. What would you do differently next time?

It is particularly important not to overlook the impact of the reflective questions – the feeling and emotions when we are making a decision. We are comfortable dealing with logic and often go straight from facts to interpretation without dealing with the  feelings as we perceive them to be more challenging to quantify.  Feelings and emotion are an important part of decision making and when overlooked actions are often not followed through on or decisions are regretted later.

For more information on the ORID I highly recommend Brian Stanfields, The Art of Focused Conversation – 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace, (2000) published by The Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. My well worn copy has been a valuable facilitation and coaching resource.

2014-03-11 13.49.56How can we ask more effective questions?

Asking great questions is an important skill for a facilitator, coach and mentor. It’s something that takes practice and planning.

We all know the difference between an open and closed question … The answer to a closed question is yes or no…. and open questions begin with  -What Why, How, When, Where and Who. A very simple concept, however how often do we catch ourselves asking closed questions? Admittedly most people give more than yes or no as the answer, however the question is …how could we be even more effective with our questions?

What about the Why question? From a human communication perspective think for a minute about the impact of questions starting with Why? 

Why questions can make us justify and become defensive, they can shut down open communication rather than open it up.

If we have been trained to analyse Why will be a common question – and certainly have a place, however be aware of the impact when working with people.

Another way to think of Why is in terms of a time line Why questions take us back into the past and make us justify why we did something. 

In contrast a good What question will more us forward into the future and open up possibilities, create brainstorming and solutions.

  • What are the options?
  • What might be a solution?
  • What outcomes are you hoping for?

How is a great start to a question for action planning.

  • How might you start that project?

Tone in questioning is also very important as facilitators we are aiming for questions that are non judgemental, neural and genuine.

A few other tips

  • Keep the question short and succinct
  • Ask one question at a time – if we ask two we often only get an answer to the second one.
  • Be careful about leading questions … This is where we give a solution in the question.
  •  Ask the question and allow for the person to think …. There is nothing wrong with silence. Often the best questions are the ones that really make us think and we do need processing time. If the question was not understood trust the person will ask you to repeat and/or reframe, don’t assume silence means they have not understood.

I will leave you with a challenge …. Next time you catch yourself asking Why reframe the question to start with a What. Reflect on the impact it has on the conversation.

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