'Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity.' (Roy T. Bennett)
Action Learning facilitators sometimes feel concerned about what might happen in a set (a small group of peer-coaches) and how they might handle it if it does. When we discuss these kind of troubleshooting scenarios in training, I often notice that facilitators feel a sense of personal responsibility to manage anything and everything that might happen. Apart from placing a lot of pressure on the facilitator which could, in the moment, inhibit psychologically their ability to handle any challenges that may arise anyway, it also misses the self-resourcing potential of a group.
The key often lays in shifting the facilitator’s stance from control to curiosity. This doesn’t mean abandoning the governance role of the facilitator altogether, for example to ensure that agreed ground rules and process are followed appropriately. It does, however, mean approaching any challenges that emerge in an invitational tone. For instance, if the group is very quiet, or conversely very talkative, and this leaves the presenter perhaps with little stimulus or space for reflection, the facilitator can offer this as a judgement-free observation, like holding up a mirror to the set.
‘I’m noticing the group seems very quiet. I’m wondering what that might mean?’ Or, ‘I’m wondering what we might need?’ It could be that participants don’t know and trust each other well enough yet. It could be that they don’t believe they have understood the presenter’s challenge and feel nervous to admit it. It could be that they feel insecure about posing a ‘wrong’ question in front of peers. It could be they have an introverted preference and simply need time to reflect before framing a question. A spirit of curiosity can open things up, release stuck-ness and move things forward.
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