A large group facilitation…

DCP_3777Last Friday I did a workshop for a large group. The venue was a hotel ballroom and a nice lunch was put on for everyone by my client. I was contracted to deliver a full day of experiential team building to help a diverse group come together. I was told to expect an attendance of 60, which is fairly hefty for one person, so I was joined in the process by a counselor co-facilitator I knew well and 2 assistants on top of that.

The day went very well and the participants came out really happy and excited about what they had experienced and learned. But it did not go off exactly as planned! Firstly, Friday was the last day before a long weekend. Secondly, the event was voluntary for participants.

The net result? Only 40 people turned up. And when I put self-assessment questions up on the computer projector for the group to determine their mix of success orientations, a sea of hands rose whenever the answers were process oriented. No hands rose for the goal oriented answers and only 2 or 3 hands went up for relationship. The goal oriented folks were likely off doing goal oriented stuff at the start of a beautiful British Columbia end of summer weekend. Hiking, cycling, or kayaking, I would guess. The relationship oriented types were off getting to know new folks from their cultural communities – I often see groups of them doing this on the ferry to Vancouver. They are heading off to have some fun and meet friends in the big city.

So there I was, working through success orientations and trying hard to create a nice hum of contrast and what I find was that the only ones who had come that day were those who followed established processes – in this case a day of team building experiences. Hmmmm…

When I reflected later on this situation I noted again the challenges we have working with people of different orientations. I am not a process oriented person by nature. By nurture I sure am, but it is easy for me to drop the veneer and get back to my true self. When working in a workshop environment under pressure, my natural strengths come out and I like to let them fly. So my co-facilitator had a chuckle along with me as we saw the emerging pattern of attendees. Not what we had expected, but also not a problem. Some quick adjustments to our plans and we pulled off a great day for the attendees. Lots of structured exercises ending in a raffle for a variety of items that resulted from an earlier experience in the day. Thankfully we are both experienced facilitators who can work outside of our natural orientations.

But it did irk me a little because what the process oriented attendees needed was exposure to other people with different mixes of orientations. And vice versa. Getting these different types of people together can be a challenge, but it is really worth it to see the sparks fly and help them see through the initial tension. That is what I love to do in facilitation: Help people move on to new and more productive modes of working together. From a starting point of friction caused by very different ways of doing things and ways of seeing the world, you can help them see others in a new light, one that is far more positive and respectful. I have found that you can never eliminate frustration, but you can minimize it and build tolerance through helping people feel good about themselves.


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