How to become an effective facilitator?

Pharmacist: A healthcare professional licensed to engage in pharmacy with duties including dispensing prescription drugs… (Def- Taken from m-w.com)

Sometimes a facilitator is called upon to dispense the ‘drug’ / training program without being given the chance to understand the context, design the program and develop material for the training. All of that has been done by someone else and in a sense, the facilitator is being asked to play the role of a pharmacist. In these cases, especially where the design may be good but you are unaware of the context you are training in, how do you ensure you make your training relevant to participants and the organization?

While we all would like to begin our training programs/workshops with a diagnostic / analysis (even if it is restricted to a few chats with the relevant stakeholders), clients sometimes don’t give us that opportunity. Either they are worried about the costs or have some fears about letting you lose within the organization. Also, sometimes they may have run too many surveys, focus groups, that now the analysis fatigue has set in. Given these many scenarios, they won’t let you talk to the participants or some of the stakeholders prior to the workshop. 

The aim of this post is to share some methods of how you can still get a workshop to be relevant to people even though you’re coming in cold.

Consider the situation when a client says to you – “Here’s a design, it contains all you need including a very detailed facilitator guide. It’s coming directly from our global office set somewhere in Europe and you can’t make any changes. Run it the way it is and get good feedback.” 

What do you do?

Iceberg Training

Assuming that you would go through the facilitator guide in detail and are well versed with the content. Next, divide a fresh page vertically into 2 halves. On the left side of the column, write down, one underneath the other, the main topics of the training program. Leave the right-hand side blank. I’ll tell you what goes in here a little later.

Almost all training programs start with introductions. While people introduce themselves, and talk about their challenges or share their expectations, insist that they do so with a very specific example or incident that happened recently. 

For instance, if someone, while introducing himself,  says: “I would like to learn about how to co-create a solution with my client, rather than sitting at my laptop and creating it all by myself.” 

For most people that would be specific enough. I’d spade for much more detail – I would say, “Ok, tell me about the last time you tried to find a solution with your client what was your context, what did you say, how did the client respond, at what time did you feel the resistance kicking in and so on.” I’d get really specific. You don’t need to do this for the entire batch – just for about 5 or 6 people. Going deeper will give you a good understanding of their content and will serve as a mini diagnostic. No facilitator guide I have seen prevents you from asking for details. But that’s not all…

Remember the fresh page you had divided vertically into 2 halves and the right-hand side of the column that you left blank? When you get these inputs from the group, align the inputs from them to the training constructs that you had written on the left-hand side. I have used another example in the following figure to illustrate what I mean.

“My team members used to be colleagues but due to the restructuring of roles within the organization, they now report to me. We used to be good friends but now he doesn’t work on my feedback, because he feels let down that he did not get promoted and to top it off is now reporting to me…”

Let this be a kind of cheat sheet. When you arrive at the topic of Situational Leadership, you can take the help from your cheat sheet into your facilitation at the beginning, middle or end, depending on where you feel it is most required. 

As a matter of fact, whenever I find myself in such a situation, I try giving people at least 3 examples (which I would have gleaned from the introductions) upfront and as soon as I begin setting the context for the upcoming topic. I also keep at least one example up in my sleep after the concept has been covered and people are trying to apply it. I call this method Iceberg Training because people see the tip of the ice-berg – the examples that you are using and assume the rest.

Similarly, it is required that the facilitator acknowledges and brings the discussion to the table from the said organization or an individual and suggests a solution out of it. 

Each department’s objectives must align with the corporate strategic goals. The structure must relate to the corporate norm and the systems must be coherent throughout the organization. 

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