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How can you face the toughest facilitation challenges with confidence?
That’s our Quest for this week🔎
Let’s jump right in!
💪 Five Steps for Facing the Toughest Facilitation Challenges With Confidence
I’ll never forget the feeling of having someone walk out of my workshop.
It was early in my facilitation journey. I was leading a community-building session at a co-working space in London. As I led the icebreaker, I noticed that one woman was getting visibly upset. And before the icebreaker was over she had stormed out of the room.
I didn’t know what to do.
I was mortified. I never imagined that someone would just up and leave. I felt ashamed and disappointed in myself that I hadn’t been able to engage everyone in the activity. It knocked my confidence so hard that I barely made it through the rest of the session.
Challenges are an inevitable part of leading live groups.
In every group, there are different personalities. There are power dynamics at play. And even you have good days and bad days. It’s like playing cards. You never know what hand you are going to get dealt.
You can prepare yourself to face even the toughest challenges.
I’ve been facilitating for 20 years and I still come across new challenges. But I’ve learned five steps that help me face even the toughest situations. These steps are so automatic now that I no longer feel caught on the spot trying to figure out what to do when issues arise.
Follow these five steps and you’ll be able to face even the toughest facilitation challenges with confidence.
Learning proven facilitation strategies for facing tough challenges is one of the topics we cover in my live online course Breakthrough Facilitation coming up in September. Join the interest list 👉here.
Here are the five steps👇
Step 1. Anticipate
As you lead more live sessions you will quickly realise that there are issues that come up again and again. Managing over-talkers, dealing with conflict, handling resistance, triggers, and more. Anticipating these challenges helps you head off sticky scenarios even before they arise.
How? Take time before your live session to make a list of everything that could go wrong. Come up with ways you can respond to each scenario. Talk to more experienced facilitators about the challenges they have faced and the strategies they use. Rehearse and practice your response before your sessions.
Anticipating challenges helps you identify what could go wrong in general. But you also need to focus on what could go wrong with the specific group you are leading. That leads us to Step 2 –> Know Your Group.
Step 2: Know Your Group
You can reduce the element of surprise by getting to know who’s in your group before your session. Who are they? What are their expectations? What dynamics are at play?
How? Send out a pre-session survey. Talk to the event organizers. Try to find out as much as you can in advance. This will help you tune into potential issues that may arise.
Knowing your group will help you right-fit your session for your group. But you still need to get everyone on board. That’s where Step 3 comes in –> Clarify Expectations.
Step 3: Clarify expectations
It can be easy to assume that everyone is on the same page. It’s better to assume that they are not. Clarifying expectations reduces the chances that things will go wrong because of misunderstandings and confusion. This helps to set your group up for success.
How? Share guidelines and expectations with your group before the live session. Create group agreements during your live session. This builds buy-in and engagement.
Creating agreements is one thing. But it doesn’t guarantee that issues won’t arise. That brings us to Step 4 –> Check It Out.
Step 4: Check It Out
It can be hard to read group dynamics. Especially when things go wrong and no one is willing to speak up. As the facilitator your role is to tune into the group dynamic, find out what may be happening, and find an appropriate response to resolve the issue.
How? One of my facilitator mentors Stef Turner once told me “When in doubt check it out”. When you sense that something is not right, pause and ask the group or the person in question. “I’m sensing X, am I getting that right?” That helps surface issues so that you can respond. And it builds trust in you as the group’s guide.
You can do your best to address issues as they arise. But some things will require you to take action after your live session is over. That brings us to Step 5 –> Follow Up.
Step 5: Follow Up
There may be lingering after-effects when issues come up in your live session. Especially if you have triggered trauma. And you may need to follow up with the affected group members or event organizers after the live session is over.
How? Be proactive. Acknowledge the issue. Be honest and transparent. Try to understand the root cause. And apologize if necessary.
Then take time to reflect on what went wrong, the mistakes you made and how you could do better.
What happened to the woman who left my workshop?
I found her after the session was over. I asked if she was willing to share what happened. She told me that the icebreaker made her feel very uncomfortable. She already felt like she didn’t belong in the co-working space. And the icebreaker made it worse. She gave me feedback on what would have made her want to engage. I listened. I acknowledged how she felt and what I could have done differently. And I apologized.
Working with groups is complex. Challenges and setbacks are part and parcel of working with groups. Follow these five steps and you’ll grow as a facilitator. And you’ll be more confident in facing challenges when they arise.
✍️Quote of the Week
“You can’t control the waves, but you can learn how to surf.”
Jon Kabat-Zinn, American Professor Emeritus of Medicine
via Lead Conversations that Count book by Carolyn Ellis
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