Last week I trained 14 people in facilitation skills, at the quirky and rather wonderful Creekside Discovery Centre (see more below). I came up with a metaphor that I quite liked, to tie together the main strands of the training - the three legged stool.
Facilitators help the group through:
- Clarity on the purpose and aims of the meeting - helping the host, convenor, planning group be clear about these, ensuring the group is happy with them.
- Choice of techniques, meeting design - to meet the aims, suit the time/space/people.
- Interpersonal skills - listening, reflecting, clarifying, responding, intervening to help the group hear and talk to each other, see what's happening and make choices about what to do.
Carpentry prizes for most beautiful stool?
But when I was explaining this, I realised that I hadn't given enough emphasis to the underlying basic assumption and values of facilitation: the desire to serve the group and the assumption that the group can, through conversation, work together to further its own aims and purpose.
So my three legged stool needs an addition: the group, supported by the facilitator, doing something great together.
It doesn't matter how well you clarify the aims, design the meeting and intervene, if at heart your intention is misplaced. If you believe that you know best, or the group is not capable of finding its own best solution, or your intention is to show what a great facilitator you are....
So, the three legged stool is there to support the group, not to win carpentry prizes.
More on Creekside
This venue is just 5 minutes walk from Greenwich Station (DLR, Overground) in London, and has the most beautiful collection of found objects, scavenged from the Thames mud. Like this amazing old typewriter.
It has some lovely more recent touches too - gates below.
"But can you blu-tack flip chart paper to the wall and move the tables?" I hear you cry.
I trained 14 people and it was comfortable working flexibly with this number.
So check it out.