Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Posts tagged ‘adult learning’

Tips for facilitating large groups

2013-05-28 16.14.40Facilitating larger groups provides a different set of challenges for the facilitator. This week Sharon and I ran our Facilitation Skills Workshop in Qld with a group of 30 professionals who work with beef producers.

Here are a few tips for working with a group this size

  •  Have tables set up with five participants per table, this is the maximum I would have at one table to ensure everyone is involved. More that this reduces interaction and provides the opportunity for the quieter members to “hide” within the group.
  • Check visibility – sit in some of the seats prior to the participants arriving to check you are able to clearly see the front of the room, the flip charts, other participants etc.
  • Having two facilitators is very important for variety and the ability to engage with the smaller groups. Our rule of thumb is one facilitators per 12 participants.
  • When developing the group guidelines ask if participants will move tables after each break. This assist with the energy in the room as well as ensuring the participants get to know each other and work with different personality types.
  • Introductions and icebreakers can be carried out at each table, however I still believe it is important for everyone to introduce themselves briefly to the whole group. This can be simply their name and where they are from.
  • Instead of collecting an expectation from each person one at a time and writing these up on the flip chart give everyone a black texta and piece of A6 paper. We asked everyone to write up one expectation, put their name on the paper and stick it up on our “sticky wall”. We then read through the expectations so everyone was aware of what people were expecting. At the end of the workshop we asked everyone to take their expectation sheet back from the wall and write a comment on how well this had been met. These we collected as part of our evaluation.
  • Table activities become very important in groups this size and its important to provide a variety of activities. A few ideas include
    • Group discussion, writing up ideas on the flip chart paper and reporting back to the whole group.
    • Group discussion and then collecting one idea per table – going around until all ideas have been collected. The facilitator can record the ideas from the front.
    • Building on each others ideas – each table has a topic and piece of flip chart they write their ideas and then pass the paper onto the next table who builds on the ideas and so on. Eventually the paper will return to the original table so they can review all of the ideas.
    • The sticky wall can be used to collect ideas or points of view from everyone in the room using the a6 paper and read through by the facilitator.
  • As our session included some training and practice we divided the group into two for a practice session.

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Branding – How do we want to be seen by others?

IMG_0164I had never really seriously considered the concept of personal branding until I came across Matt Church’s books on Though Leadership. Matt talks about “signature style” and the need for it to be consistent, congruent and function.

I was reminded of this recently when Lindy Nelson from the Agri-Women’s Development Trust NZ was visiting Australia. Lindy presented to a rural women’s leadership program we were running and talked about identifying your leadership brand.

One way to get started is to think of some words you would like to come to mind when people think of you in that role. Then think carefully about the “how” you demonstrate this to the world. What have you done, or what will you do, to ensure the brand is congruent with “who” you are.

Asking others is a good way to get feedback and check in with the consistency of the message you are aiming to portray. Ask specific questions so you get clear worthwhile answers. A simple start is “What words would you use to describe me as a….”

As a facilitator, trainer and coach I have been thinking carefully about the brand thats important for me. The words that are important include: professional, inclusive, innovative, creative, outcomes focus, personable and sense of fun.

As Matt Church points out “its an expression of you, rather than an affectation of who you’d like to be.”

www.mattchurch.com

Branding must be true to who you are…what are the words that are important for your “signature style” and how do you portray these to the world?

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Effective Flip Charts

IMG_0801I’m an avid user of  the Flip Chart, or as I tend to call it “butchers paper”. As my skills in facilitation have increased my reliance on powerpoint has decreased to the point I now rarely use it.

Todays’s blog is a few strategies in how I use Flip Charts effectively

  • Use colour – Mr Sketch Markers are a fantastic facilitation tool. I like to use lots of colour, borders, headings in different colours and usually write each line in a different colour so it is easier to distinguish as a participant.Be careful of some of the lighter colours, orange can be hard to read – however it is still great for headings.
  • Always, and I mean always, use the participants words. As soon as you change the words you have taken the ownership away from that person. This can be challenging with some extraverts who like to talk. Let them talk and then ask “What would you like me to write up here to capture your thoughts?”. If you remember from an earlier post extraverts like to think and speak at the same time- they will work through their thoughts out loud and then are usually very good at brining it back to a sentence. Listen carefully to the key words used by participants and always ask permission before changing anything. If you don’t understand what they are saying ask them “What would you like me to write down?”.
  • Put the flip charts up around the room so people can refer back to them. Once you have turned over the page no-one can see what has been discussed. Participants have told us they like the sheets to be put up in order and numbered so they can follow the flow of the session more easily.
  • Don’t worry about spelling – we are all human, if, like me, there are times the spelling simply disappears from your head, tell the group and someone  will almost always help – or put a “spell check” button on the corner of the page and make light of it.
  • Practice writing on the butchers paper – use print and make it large enough that people can read it around the room. It takes time to write neatly in straight lines on a flip chart.
  • Whenever you can, ask participants to work in small groups and let them record their own ideas – this can create more ownership in the process.
  • Keep the process underway while you are writing on the flip chart if possible, however don’t talk to the chart instead of the group and don’t hide behind the chart when reading comments back to the group.

I have received lots of great feedback about my pieces of “butchers paper” and find it a fantastic interactive facilitation tool.

Hope you all enjoy a great ANZAC day.

Top tips for running training workshops & facilitated groups

2013-04-04 16.21.18Thanks to the GRDC Extension, Adoption Training and Support Group for their top tips on how to run effective training workshops and facilitated groups. The group met in Canberra last week where we reviewed farmer decision making, personality types, extension, adoption and evaluation.

The top tips are not prioritised – they were developed during a facilitated brainstorming exercise.

Training workshops

  1. Plan the event early
  2. Clear training packages and outcomes
  3. Topical and relevant dealing with current issues
  4. Accommodate different learning styles
  5. Evaluate the process
  6. Follow up after the workshop – ensure learning put into practice
  7. Interactive sessions – not all chalk and talk
  8. Recognise the knowledge in the room and draw this into the discussion
  9. Good presenters / facilitators
  10. Introduce the agenda and stick to it
  11. Practicality,think about – Relative advantage, trialabilty, observabilty, simplicity, compatibility
  12. Good take home resources
  13. Logical progression throughout the workshop
  14. Venue that works

Facilitated groups

  1. Establish the ground rules in an inclusive way
  2. Establish the group – take the time to do this properly and build ownership in the process
  3. Good facilitation skills to engage participants – ownership on driving the agenda of the group
  4. Good process and skill
  5. Group has purpose and expectations
  6. Understand the desired overview and stick to it
  7. Include everyone
  8. Stick to agreed timeframes
  9. Manage  the group and individuals energy
  10. Review and reflect effectively
  11. Evaluate
  12. Good planning
  13. Use a range of methods to accommodate learning styles

The power of mentoring

2013-01-03 20.35.24We have all had a hero – a role model we have admired and shaped ourselves on.

One of mine was Meredith – Meredith was the chair of the SA Women’s Advisory Council – my first role outside of my local district.  I admired Meredith’s skills as a chair – she was warm, inclusive and kept us on track. Meredith was my informal mentor.

Imagine how powerful the relationship could have been if I had had the courage to ask Meredith to be my mentor – instead of watching and learning from afar I could have discussed with her what she was thinking, how she planned those meetings – and fast tracked my learning.

How many of you have had an informal mentor someone like Meredith you admired from afar?  What about a formal mentor?

What is mentoring?

“The mentor knows how to answer many great questions asked by the mentee and pass on their experience.”  The Forton Group.

The key for me in the definition is “questioning” The mentor is a guide who walks with the mentee – they have some of the  knowledge to answer the great questions however we don’t have to know everything to be a great mentor It’s more about sharing and developing of the skills of our mentee,  sharing our networks and questioning the mentee to assist them to develop their own skills and knowledge.  Creating possibility.

We have formal and informal mentors and it the formalising of the process that makes it powerful. We should encourage people to approach us to formalise the process and approach mentors ourselves. We are never too old to have a mentor, its not about age.

I will share of couple of personal mentoring examples …

1. Last year I was a volunteer mentor for APEN (Australasia-Pacific Extension Network) where I mentored a young woman for 8 months. I enjoyed working with her enormously – the benefits for me were fantastic – the sharing of her achievements and watching her grow in confidence.

“I had what I thought were a lot of professional difficulties but through mentoring my mountains became molehills and  I  learnt a variety of new skills to deal with my work. I gained work life balance which was practically non existent – my mentor taught me skills for life.”

2.   Over a year ago I approached a young woman who had transferred into South Australia in an agricultural role and offered myself as a mentor – the gremlin in my head was busy telling me “what did I have to offer” however I stuck my neck out and offered anyway – the young woman took up my offer and we continue to work together regularly.

In Ag Consulting Co we often work with young people who have chosen agriculture as a career and build mentoring into our training programs. These young people tell me regularly about the need for more people with mentoring skills in the industry

Mentoring is a skill underpinned by coaching and understanding the role of a coach greatly enhances the skills of a mentor. Training in the art of mentoring makes the relationship even more effective – the next blog will be about coaching.

It would be great to hear about some of your mentoring experiences… I look forward to some comments.

Facilitating with passion

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I love to facilitate – both facilitation in the pure sense helping a group develop a new strategic plan or way to work together, to facilitation of workshops which include delivery of some material and lots of activities which draw on the knowledge and experience of the participants to deepen learning.

It’s been 12 months since I started Workshops with Wow and it has been an exciting year for me, I have travelled to many parts of rural Australia and New Zealand working with wonderful rural people dedicated to agriculture and rural life. It is so inspiring to see the passion of people for their industry, group or organisation and to play a small part in their ongoing development.

My work with the Agri-Women’s Development Trust in NZ has provided me with a unique opportunity to work with NZ rural women. As I have fortunate to be part of them learning to “own their skills and talents” and identify their passions – I have also developed a deeper understanding of myself, my passion for people development and ownership of my skills.

Facilitating with my life and business partner, Bill, on farmer decision making and extension and adoption in the grains industry has been a highlight. We hope to continue this into the future – traveling together instead of in different directions – combining our interests of people and agriculture.

Writing this blog has provided me with the opportunity to share my passion and desire to enhance adult learning and facilitation – particularly in rural and regional areas.

Thankyou for following my blog and sharing in my journey I have really appreciated your comments, emails and personal feedback and look forward to continuing the facilitation discussion. Please feel free to share my blog with your friends and colleagues.

May 2013 be an exciting fulfilling year for you all – Jeanette

Learning to ski

2013-01-22 11.12.57Welcome back to Workshops with Wow and my first blog for 2013. I hope you have all enjoyed Christmas,a break and a great start to the year!

During January I was fortunate to travel to Japan, to Niseko, for a Skiing holiday with my husband Bill and son Will. I can’t ski ..so decided lessons would be good idea to get me started.

It was a great reminder for a facilitator and trainer to go through the process of learning a new (and challenging!) skill like skiing. My instructor was a young Englishman who had learnt to ski at the age of 2 1/2 ….he was completely unconsciously competent skier and had little teaching experience. For him I was a challenge – completely unconsciously incompetent !! I had no idea what I didn’t know and needed to be told exactly what to do in order to stay upright on those skis!

I left the lesson somewhat frustrated having learnt a few tips but not enough to get me off the magic carpet with the toddlers and onto the beginner slopes. Bill came to my rescue … a consciously competent skier … who had enough experience to know what he was doing and not enough that it had become a natural skill. After some mentoring by a very patient Bill I progressed to the beginner slopes.

The whole learning experience made me think carefully about the need as a trainer to be consciously aware of our unconscious competence! (That’s a bit of a mouthfull!) How important it is to go back and think through how we learnt the skill in the first place and then how we can teach that skills to a beginner. What were the key elements of the learning for us?

My poor young ski instructor learnt to ski as he was learning to walk …. how many of us could go back and teach someone to walk? Maybe more challenging than we think.

My other reminder was that there is a time to TELL – there are times when we don’t know what we don’t know. And equally importantly, when to move onto a mentoring or coaching role as people develop some confidence and practice the new skill.

Personality J’s and P’s

In NZ with Sara Heard

Welcome to the fourth blog about the Myers Briggs  Type Indicator (MBTI) and a few tips about how I relate this to facilitation.

Judging Types (J) like to get things settled and finished, work best when they can plan their work and follow the plan. Are self-regimented, purposeful and exacting. So yes you guessed it; J’s like to have the agenda and stick to it. They like workshops to run to time and finish on time. J’s can find it stressful if the workshop runs over time as they probably have something else in their schedule.

Perceiving Types (P) adapt well to changing situations, they are happy to leave things open for alterations as time progresses. They live according to the situation or moment and adjust themselves easily. P’s love a constant flow of new experiences -they are curious, flexible, adaptable and tolerant.

From a facilitator perspective (as a J myself) I always have breaks on time and finish on time. I have learnt over the years to take a flexible approach to the material or process in the workshop and not provide a “too exacting” or detailed agenda. (remembering to provide enough detail for the “S” Types) This approach enables to J’s to feel we are on time and a sense of control but enables to P’s to explore the material in the workshop and satisfy their curiosity.

One of the challenges for me is co-facilitating with a P who may not have the same “importance of time” I apply to my sessions. As a J something I find the most challenging is when we have agreed on a timeframe for topics and the P I’m working with runs overtime – reducing the time for my section of the agenda.

You have probably worked out the MBTI is a passion of mine – I love to observe personality and behaviour – link to frameworks and consider how this might apply to my work and life. I’m currently developing a workshop on adoption of technology which I’m finding really engaging – working in flow with the time disappearing as I become more creative! Typical behaviour for an INTJ 🙂

More of this in later blogs.

I would love to hear your thoughts or comments on my personality blogs areas for more discussion. 

Personality Types again

This blog brings us back to the discussion about personality types in facilitation and workshops. We are up to discussing the Feeling/Thinking dichotomy in Myers Briggs which is how we make decisions.

Thinking (T) types make decisions more logically and analytical, focusing on facts – they can appear critical. Feeling (F) types take into consideration their values and beliefs and the impacts on people in their decisions.

As a T, it wasn’t until I co-facilitated with an F several years ago that I realised I didn’t do a very good job of catering for F types. This wonderful woman looked after the comforts in the workshop, she focused on lollies, food, water on the tables, making the environment as comfortable as possible – all common sense I know but what I noticed was the way she went about it.

She also was fantastic at hosting people as they arrived, ensuring they were introduced to someone and felt welcomed into the training room. I watched and learnt from her warm friendly approach.Years later we were complimented by a workshop attendee about how comfortable she felt when arriving at one of our training events, something she told us, wasn’t wasn’t common for her.

The theory of MBTI refers to F children who don’t like the teacher having trouble learning and how T types look for competence in the teacher. In adult education this reminds us of the importance of establishing competence with our group as well as making them feel comfortable.

T’s like to know the person in front has the skills, qualifications, experience and credibility to be facilitating or delivering on a topic. Once you have established competence they are more open to learning and enjoy debating and analysing information.

Finally I have found F types are very good at “picking up on” emotions in others including myself as the facilitator.  Be careful about your own projections – leave your emotional baggage at the door and be there 100% for the participants.

Next week I will focus on the final dichotomy – Judging and Perceiving.

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Personality type cont…

In my last blog I began unpacking the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) and impacts for the facilitator. We looked at Introvert and Extravert – this blog will focus on Senate ( S – detail) and Intuition (N – Big Picture).

The S and N dichotomy in MBTI refers to the way we take in information and learn. I am an N – so big picture person. I go along to a workshop wanting to know “What will I get out of this?” “What will be the outcome?”, I’m not so concerned about the detail until I understand the big picture. This is the opposite to the S Type who requires the detail to clearly understand the big picture.

In simple terms an N builds understanding from the top down, an S builds understanding from the bottom up.

So what are the considerations for the facilitator?

  • We need to cater for both types – provide the big picture of the workshop and then give the detailed agenda. Be careful about going into masses of detail early in the workshop as the N types will switch off – find a balance between the two.
  • When presenting information give the overall model first to capture the N and then break into the detail – review the model at the end to satisfy both types learning.
  • In strategic planning recognise that while N’s love this type of activity, particularly the visioning stage, the S’s are looking forward to getting their teeth into the action planning. Ensure that participants understand the process so they know their needs will be met.

On a personal level I ensure that I plan for the S types – as I’m not one! I ensure I provide a detailed agenda and run through it with the group, I focus on the detail required for learning and think about how to structure my content.

I enjoy facilitating the MBTI as it provides me with the unique opportunity of discussing with the different types what they prefer in a workshop and how they like the process to work.

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