Tag Archives: Group Facilitation

The Training Equation

All of us have been through different training programs throughout our lives; wouldn’t you agree?  For most of us it started at five years old, heading off to kindergarten.  The standard learning progression is elementary school, middle school, high school.  After that some go off to college and graduate work.  Once in the workforce everyone is engage, at one point or another, with different courses and one-the-job/life training and learning.  If you take some time and remember back to any of these programs you can probably remember teachers who you felt really taught you a lot and those who you wish you never encountered.

At each of these levels of training, the equation for learning remains the same:

Learning = Knowledge Capacity + Teaching Technique

This simple equation contains a number of details: Learning is about retaining more facts about a topic, increasing our understanding or gaining a new skill.  Knowledge Capacity pertains to the person who hopes to gain the Learning.  It is a combination of a person’s ability to take in new information, their enthusiasm for the topic and their willingness to be taught.  Teaching Technique includes the knowledge of the material by the presenter, the pace of the program and how the teacher interacts with the students.  Basically, increasing Knowledge Capacity, Teaching Technique or both will lead to better Learning.

Unfortunately, the complexity of this equation increases because different forces influence each of the pieces.  Let’s take a person falling asleep during training as an example.  Obviously their Knowledge Capacity has been greatly diminished thus reducing the Learning.  What we don’t know is the reason for their falling asleep.  It could be any of a dozen or more reasons like not getting a good night’s sleep or not feeling well, becoming bored with the training, being overwhelmed by the material or not connecting with the trainer’s presentation style. 

I use this equation to help make me a better trainer.  Before the training begins I work to maximize the Teaching Technique as much as possible.  Learn the material to present, learn about the proposed audience so the pacing and be adjusted and how to best interact with them.  Once the training begins I pay close attention to the people: who is falling asleep, who looks bored, and who looks confused, as well as who’s asking and answering questions.  Based on what the audience tells me physically and verbally, I adjust my teaching to accentuate the positive factors and diminish or eliminate the negative factors.

Great Learning is a dance between keeping Knowledge Capacity as positive as possible and adjusting Teaching Technique to meet the people’s needs.


The Process of Group Faclitation

Groups are created for a purpose – a specific work project, a corporate department or for social good.  Many times difficulties arise when attempting to achieve the group’s goals or even to set those goals.  The range of problems is huge, including everything from personality conflicts to unclear expectations to political agendas.

Each group I’ve worked with has a uniqueness all their own but my starting point is always the same.  I listen to the members and sometimes those who created the group; I read their body language and assess the overall dynamics.  This gives me a feel for where the people see themselves in the group and where their group fits into the overall picture of the organization.  From here a plan can unfold the combines the individual personalities of the members with the larger personality of the group.

There are two rules I live by when creating these plans: only win-win solutions are allowed and not be attached to the ideas that get tossed onto the table.  The win-win solutions get everyone to support them and are the only ones that truly get support from everyone.  A win-lose solution means someone isn’t going to be happy which means someone isn’t going to be fully supportive of the solution.  Win-lose solutions quickly turn into lose-lose situations.  The win-win is always there – even if sometimes you have to dig really, really deep for it. 

The second rule, not being attached to ideas tossed onto the table, helps tremendously when it comes to finding those win-win solutions.  Groups rarely seem to have problems coming up with ideas that can solve a problem, develop a new product, or satisfy a customer.  By not being attached to my ideas I’m freed to keep looking for better ways to meet the need presented.  When we attach ourselves to an idea our brain starts looking for ways to make that idea work; justify its existence; and be the top of the heap idea that will be used.  When we let go of being attached to an idea our brain starts looking for ways to make it better; listens for cues from other people for better ideas; and turns the competition into finding the best solution, not one particular idea.