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20 Lessons for Third Sector Facilitators

Posted by admin on January 30th, 2011

1. The overall objective for a Directorate’s “Away Day” is of primary importance – yet this must be separated from the initially imagined process design for achieving it.

2. The person holding the overall objective (e.g. the Director) may well not be the best-placed person to design the day, though their ideas will help the facilitator notice important nuances of their support needs.

3. Designing the day requires an understanding that goes deeper than the vocalised objective. It requires attention to the un-vocalised dimensions of the overall objective as well.

4. If you don’t pay attention to the un-vocalised dimensions, and you only do what is ‘logically’ expected, then your process design and the Away Day’s outcomes will simply be “as expected” (at best).

5. An Away Day is not time-bound to “the day” away. It begins in the moment of its inception. This is because the twinkle in its sponsor’s eye contains the DNA of its success.

6. The facilitator’s “DNA analysis” of the twinkle in the sponsor’s eye will reveal the undercurrents that are influencing the overarching objective. These undercurrents are the necessary ingredients of a recipe for success.

7. The moment someone is made aware of the pending Away Day (and their expected presence in same), the Away Day has in fact effectively begun – and with it, the undercurrents that will be affecting the actual day away will have as a result broadened, deepened and sped up.

8. Navigating the surface requirements of the design and development process – while adjusting to the changing undercurrents as additional people come into the frame – requires more than meets the eye of a casual onlooker.

9. Like a duck moving smoothly forward on the surface of a stream converging with other streams, a lot of swift and artful paddling may be required beneath the surface to maintain both balance and momentum.

10. Managing this discrepancy between observable activities and the actual underlying momentums can result in a greater time and attention investment than logically predicted at first. Each time new undercurrents are identified, another review and revision process to the process leading to – and then flowing into – the day away is required.

11. Additionally, the time required for the actual “Away” period itself may not be optimal, as its duration will have likely been set from logical (rather than psychological) parameters. But chances are, you will need to deal with this time constraint – and design for the pre-set duration, e.g. and “away day”.

12. During the away day, if you have designed it well, the process can essentially run itself, freeing the facilitator to provide appropriately subtle steers in directions that increase the potential for realising the desired outcomes in support of the overall objective.

13. Providing “appropriately subtle steers” (aka skilfully facilitating) is easiest when the facilitator is free to observe and interact with everyone present. The administrative side of event management is therefore best handled by another person. This will leave the facilitator free to focus on the human dynamics as they are shifting in every moment.

14. When facilitating for sustainable change, the following perspective on human dynamics can be helpful;

  • An emotional state, repeated over time, creates a mental state.
  • A mental state, repeated over time, creates a behavioural pattern.
  • A behavioural pattern, repeated over time, creates a personality.
  • A personality, repeated over time, creates a character.
  • A character, repeated over time, creates a destiny.

15. The destiny of a Directorate is the result of the diversity of characters making up the Directorate. Sustainable change across a Directorate can only come about constituent-by-constituent. It’s very valuable therefore, to check in with and account for the emotional state of the Directorate’s constituency.

16. Sustainable change at any level (individual or group-wide) requires a continuous re-aligning of emotional, mental and behavioural patterns. Without this internal aligning, any suggested external “process” changes that come out of an “Away Day” are likely to be still-born or not survive the first week back in-office.

17. Back in the office, it’s survival of the fittest. The fittest suggestions for change coming out of an Away Day will be the ones most closely aligned with the emotional well-being of the Directorate’s constituency. There’s little point extending out beyond the Directorate with a change suggestion unless the Directorate is itself strong about the change in relevant ways.

18. When reaching out beyond the boundaries of those involved at the Away Day (where they recognised and acknowledged the need for a change and identified the next steps towards making this happen), it’s important to keep the following four challenges in-mind;

  • “Not True” (re: accuracy of situational assessment)
  • “So what?” (re: logical/organisational importance)
  • “Do I care?” (re: personal relevance)
  • “Who are you?” (re: your personal state of engagement with them)

19. You can verify this for yourself by recalling the response everyone had to the last “communication” coming down from your Executive Group. Any two of these challenges can kill a change initiative dead – sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. So plan in advance for these challenges, so you can detect and respond to them effectively when they come up.

20. They will come up.

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