Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Posts tagged ‘Facilitation’

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.

Personality type and facilitation

This post follows the theme of my last post “Facilitation begins with you” understanding yourself and your style when facilitating.

In the last blog I focused on VARK as a model this time I start personality types. I like to use the Myers Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI). It is more complicated than many other simple types with only four quadrants however it provides a more in-depth understanding – particularly if like me you don’t fit easily into one of the quadrants.

I am an INTJ – in simple terms an introvert, big picture, logical and organised person. What do I need to consider as a facilitator when working with different types?

As an introvert I need some time out to rebuild my energy levels. Lots of interaction can be tiring to an introvert as compared to an extravert who gains energy from other people. When I’m facilitating I see this as an opportunity to practice being my opposite and many people in the group are often surprised to find out my type.

To manage this I need to give myself time out if possible in the breaks and especially at the end of the day if the workshop is for two days. I don’t facilitate for more than 2 days in a row and I make sure I get plenty of rest between workshops.

Co-facilitating works well for me as it gives some break time during the workshop to build up my energy.

Introverts also like to think before they speak – this can be challenging when you are the deliverer and another reason while I prefer a facilitative approach compared to deliverer. As the facilitator I draw on the experiences of the individuals in the group to answer questions from the floor – “What do members of the group think about that?” is a great way to deflect the question, buy some thinking time and draw on all of the vast experiences of the adults in the room.

Keep in mind the “think before speak” and provide time for the introverts to think about answers before group input  – they prefer not to be put on the spot unless it’s a topic they are knowledgable about.

My next blog will focus on the S/N (detail vs big picture) dichotomy in MBTI.

Please feel free to share my blog with your colleagues and friends and provide me with any feedback – it’s the best way to learn!

Facilitation beings with you!

Have you ever been to a workshop with a mate only to find what you thought was a fabulous presentation they found difficult to follow and were disengaged?

As a facilitator have you ever spent time really analyzing yourself? Do we fall into the pattern of believing everyone likes to learn like we do?

Time spent understanding ourselves is not only valuable for us it’s extremely important in making sure we engage our audience more completely. There are lots of frameworks which can be used – we use these in our planning but have we really applied them to ourselves and how this plays out as we facilitate.

One of the frameworks I like to use is VARK – Visual, Auditory, Read-write, Kinaesthetic, if you visit you can complete a simple on line questionnaire to determine your preferences. There are also great resources on this website  you can download and consider for your workshops.

I am a very visual leaner and use lots of visual aids in my presentations – coloured markers, pictures and posters. I enjoy some creativity and seeing flip charts developed throughout the workshop as a preference to power point.

My lowest score is auditory and I find auditory presenters who get up and speak with no visual aids or notes very difficult to concentrate on – I remember in pictures not words. Unless I take lots of notes I don’t retain much of their presentation. Auditory learners enjoy story telling and if stories are told with visual clues this will help me learn.

Read -write preferences have told me about the importance of the notes and hand outs at the workshop. They like detail in the notes and spaces to write their own thoughts and observations or add to the detail provided. For me this has been something I have needed to focus on developing, I would provide brief notes with lots of space for people to write their own ideas and have been told this is not enough for many with this preference.

Kinaesthetic learners like to be doing something. They need to be actively engaged in their learning – build in activities and time to practice new skills in a safe environment. Consider how you react to activities and the types of activities in workshops – for example I hate role plays and dislike being “put on the spot”, however am quite comfortable with small group activities and reporting back.

Consider your preferences and how this might impact on your style – what areas do you need to focus on more to capture all types?

I will continue this theme in future blogs looking more at the role of the facilitator and understanding styles and impacts.

Closing the workshop with Wow

I believe it’s very important to finish on time and close the workshop – don’t let people drift off unsure of the end.

I have attended workshops with very enthusiastic presenters who just keep on going! One I recall missed afternoon tea completely and then half an hour after his closing time participants started to leave. Without a formal end there was no opportunity to reflect on learning’s, evaluate the workshop or celebrate the success.

The closing process begins with referring back to the “Expectations” flip chart you set up at the beginning of the session. Run through the list and check with participants to see if their expectations have been met.

This simple exercise helps them to reflect on what it was they were looking for at the beginning and also provides reflection for the group about the topics covered. It is the beginning of the closure process.

The benefits of closing the day

  • Provides time to reflect on learning’s
  • Pick up ideas for others as to their key learning’s
  • Facilitators gain a sense of what has been valuable to the group
  • You know the day has ended

Closing can take many forms and simply be a “closing comment” from each person. As a facilitator I like to know something people will take away so often ask “What is something you will now do differently?”

During the close I like to use the ball as I did at the beginning of the workshop, throwing the ball around the room randomly as people provide a closing comment. Make your closing comment the last one of the group so you can include your thankyou and reminder of any follow up activities.

If the workshop has included a lot of ‘sitting’ at tables standing in a circle is an effective way to change the dynamics at the end.


Feedback – it’s something we all like to have so we can improve .. even though sometimes we might not like what we hear!

Good constructive feedback helps us grow and learn, develop our skills and become better at what we do. Without it we may tend to keep doing what we have always done because it works for us.

I like to evaluate every workshop using several techniques if possible. These might include

  • Finishing off the day with an ORID – this is asking an Objective, Reflective, Interpretive and Decisional question of the group, it aims to captures the facts, feelings, key messages and changes.
  • If there isn’t time for an ORID …as a minimum asking for a closing comment from everyone
  • Evaluation forms
  • On-line surveys
  • Discussion with a co-facilitator or trusted colleague  (who you know will be honest!) What worked well? What could be done differently?
  • Contact a participant or two after the event and check in with them. Plan a few questions rather than having a general conversation. I like to know what they have implemented or changed since attending the workshop.
  • A self evaluation – if we are really honest with ourselves we know when things have gone well or could have been better – I like to think this through and make some notes in my journal to refer back to. Remember can be our own worst critic so don’t be too hard on yourself!

I’d really like to hear from all of you about feedback ..

  • What is the best way to get the feedback?
  • Are you really honest on evaluation forms?
  • Is it better to reflect and then provide feedback via an online survey later?
  • Will you complete a survey after you have left the workshop or is this too late?
  • What is the best way for a facilitator to receive honest feedback from you?

Finally as Ken Solly told us at an Adaptive Management workshop last week – “Milk every mistake for all it’s worth.”

Looking forward to hearing some thoughts …..

Ignite Leadership Coaching

The Ignite Leadership Coaching Course is one of those training events that made me go WOW! I did the training with Tony Draper from the Forton Group and Sharon Honner a couple of years ago in Queensland.

I was so impressed I went back to Queensland in October last year and completed the course again along with the Train the Trainer so Sharon and I could facilitate this course together.

We facilitated our first workshop in Adelaide late in June and were thrilled with the feedback we received. We were very fortunate to have Tony come to Adelaide to support us as we facilitated this for the first time.

The Forton Group is an international organisation who has designed The Professional Leadership Coach Training Programme to meet the needs of organisations and the people who work in them. The Programme is accredited with the International Coach Federation, and consists of four modules – The Ignite workshop being the first of these.

The concept of coaching is often not clearly understood as we often relate to Sports Coaching or coaching for a skill. The Forton Group define coaching as “Supporting people to get what they want, without doing it for them, or telling them what to do. The coaching conversation is an art, a science and a practice.”

In contrast to a mentor who has experience in a field and acts as a guide, a coach knows how to ask great questions so the coachee can discover for themselves and experience their own journey.

I also particularly like the Forton Groups definition of leadership; “Leadership is about people being successful and enabling success in others. Leadership is more than a position: it is who we are, what we achieve and how we do it.”

The Ignite Leadership Coaching is the foundation course, it introduces the professional leadership coaching model. It touches on emotional intelligence, how we coach to develop peoples’ emotional capacity, introduces the model and focuses on leadership vision and accessing resources.

Sharon and I hope to offer this fantastic program again later in 2012 or early in the new year. If this sounds of interest to you let us know.

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Facilitation Skills workshop

On Thursday and Friday last week Sharon and I facilitated our “Facilitation Skills Workshop”. We enjoyed working with our enthusiastic participants in this interactive workshop.

The workshop aims to provide practical hands-on skills to facilitate effective sessions.

Our focus for facilitation is – a structured session where participants are guided through a process to achieve an outcome. The outcome is created, accepted and understood by all.

The facilitator is “content free” their role is to guide the group to achieve an outcome, not to have knowledge of the topic. They draw the information from the group in an inclusive manner so all have ownership in the outcome.

This concept can be a challenge for people who normally provide information to, or chair, a group of people. It requires a change in mind set from being in control to being there to build consensus.

Our next “Facilitation Skills” workshop in scheduled for November 1st and 2nd in Adelaide.

This workshop was funded by GRDC and DAFF Caring for Country as part of the Grain and Graze 2 program, Adaptive Management theme for East SA. This project is managed by the Ag Excellence Alliance. 

Thankyou for the comments about my last couple of blogs – I’m sorry I haven’t answered them – I will soon. Look forward to continuing to hear your thoughts. Jeanette


Love them or hate them icebreakers are a good way to build trust and used well create a positive group group atmosphere. There are lots of activities to use as icebreakers and if you google “Icebreakers” you will find lots of ideas available on the internet.

Why use them:

  • to help people relax and share their ideas
  • to break down social barriers and perceptions
  • to energise and motivate the participants
  • to help people think creatively
  • so participants get to know something about the others in the room
  • to get the introverts involved

Some tips

  • Make the icebreaker relevant to the workshop topic. For example in a leadership workshop I will often ask the participants to think of someone they admire as a leader and share some of the characteristics they observe in that person.
  • Picture cards are useful tools. St Lukes Innovative Resources in Bendigo Victoria have a great range of cards available. In our recent resilience workshop we asked the participants to choose a card that represented resilience to them and explain this to the group as part of their introduction. I have a great set of goddess cards which are fun to use with women’s groups.
  • In technical workshops make the icebreaker relevant to the topic of discussion. “What do you find exciting/challenging about X?” or  “What previous experience have you had with X?”
  • With groups of people who work together on a regular basis I ask them to share something the other members of the group wouldn’t know about them. This often leads to great discussion in the breaks and deepening of relationships through new connections.
  • When working with a group of farmers a simple question (if appropriate) might be …How much rain has everyone had in the last week?
  • If you are asking something that requires a bit of thinking time – provide the thinking time.
  • Some facilitators ask the group members to talk in pairs and then introduce each other. This can work well, my advice is to check in with the person being introduced to make sure what is said is accurate and if there is anything they would like to add. It can be embarrassing to be wrongly represented as a result of someone else’s perception.

What other fun icebreakers do people use in their workshops? Anyone game to share in the comments?

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Co-facilitation with Wow

I often co-facilitate, sometime with someone I know really well and have well established rapport and understanding and sometime with someone new. It adds another dimension not only for the participants, I have the great opportunity to watch and learn from someone else.

Co-facilitation is great for groups and for the facilitators the benefits include:

  • Different approaches will appeal to different participants
  • Provides the ability for one person to be focused on the group process and participants while other facilitates
  • Facilitators can manage their energy – hopefully be less tired at the end of the session
  • A blend of skills, knowledge and experiences
  • Opportunity for one facilitator to work with individuals at times while the other works the room
  • Its particularly good to have more than one facilitator with large groups who are working as small teams during the day
  • Learning from each others way of operating

For co-facilitation to work really well spend time establishing the ground rules before you start

  • Have a well developed and agreed session plan
  • Be clear on each persons role. Who is doing what when and who is the lead when.
  • Be clear about sticking to time frames. Flexibility with time can work as long as this is discussed prior. Personally I put a lot of effort into preparation and to have my time cut significantly through poor process is very frustrating and compromises the ability to facilitate well.
  • Stay focused in each others sessions – determine what you might be watching for in the group, in each other and about the process.
  • Bouncing / value adding or interrupting …  determine what are your boundaries around this. Done well it can appear seam-less and be very effective, done poorly the participants will be frustrated and observe frustration in the facilitators. Set up some signals for engagement and withdrawal (or to shut each other up!). This can be a simple as a “I’ll throw a question your way if I need your input”. Be respectful of each other.
  •  Allow time for feedback afterwards. What worked well? What could be done differently? Be open and honest with each other – this is a great way to develop skills and learn from each others way of operating. Analyse the process and how the participants reacted to it, were the defined outcomes met?

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