We all have breaks in our facilitation practice and I’ve found recently it takes some effort to get the wheels in motion again when we return to working with groups.
It’s been years since I’ve been out there facilitating as a consultant. I’ve been in leadership roles, managing teams and leading projects where I’m informally facilitating every day.
But a few weeks ago I was back on the boards as a facilitator in the flesh. What a buzz!
I found I spent extra time in preparation, understanding the organisation, reading up on their website, strategy and programs. I also spent more time with the client unpacking their needs, getting clear on the purpose and the outcomes of the session.
Then I found I needed more time with my co-facilitator, crafting the day, drafting and redrafting until we got the session just right. I’ve always gone by the principle that more preparation allows for more flexibility on the day.
I spent yet more time getting my kit ready. I made a special trip to the stationers to restock on essentials and to the shopping centre to buy some new facilitation pants. Feeling comfortable and looking the part is important!
Again I put the hours in getting ready on the morning of the gig … I left my home in the hills leaving extra time just in case of traffic jams and arrived at the venue 40 minutes before my co-facilitator! This was a blessing in disguise and enabled a slower than usual set-up and time for a stride to the coffee shop.
Before the gig, along with my co-facilitator, we set an intention for the day – to be at service to the group and to each other. At the start of the gig I held my trusty wooden heart in my hand as I introduced myself and we worked on the participant agreements, keeping me grounded and slowing me down.
Throughout the day I leant on my co-facilitator, watching and re-learning all the micro-processes that are so important for building groupness and establishing trust. I led different parts of the day and worked with my co-facilitator to frame segments, capture learnings, change up the activities to respond to the needs of the group on the run.
After the gig (that went really well), my co-facilitator and I took the time to reflect on the session and provide each other feedback.
Over the next few days the learnings from the day started to percolate and I went back to my old facilitation journal where I have written reflections and learnings from gigs I’ve done since I did the Advanced Group Facilitation course in 2008.
I captured my reflections and then flicked through some of my old entries, remembering some of the gold I’d captured. I had no idea how valuable that would be.
I have another gig next week. I’ll still invest in preparation, probably just as much. I’ll also continue to work with an F2 until I feel I’ve reintegrated all my past learnings before I undertake solo gigs. I feel blessed to be working with such deeply practised facilitators who are supporting me to get back on the boards.
My key takeaways:
- Preparation is key
- Get back on the boards with a trusted facilitator
- Be open to being the learner again
- Seek feedback and listen deeply
- Know what grounds you
- Reflect and document learnings always
Virginia (Gini) Gough rejoined Groupwork Centre as co-director late last year after a break of five years working with World Vision and Collaboration for Impact.