‘The revolution will not be organised. Let the power go.’ (Bob Hunter, Greenpeace)
‘No offence intended, Nick, but we don’t want to be here. We were sent. We didn’t choose this.’ This has been the opening salvo from two different training groups I’ve worked with. The first was a group of leaders at an Action Learning facilitators’ training event in England; the second a group of managers at a similar workshop in Wales. In both cases, I loved their open and stark honesty. What a fantastic place to work from, and so much more energising than dancing around issues whilst paying lip service to engagement. It blew away empty superficiality and platitudes from the outset and provided a great opportunity to do something important and real.
In the first case, I thanked them for their honesty and reflected back what I had heard of how they were feeling. I then explained that developing a sense of personal agency lays at the heart of Action Learning – how to expand a person’s scope of choice, influence and change. In a spirit of curiosity, I asked if their pushback was in response to their felt lack-of-choice, and-or to the facilitator training per se, or to something else? They looked thoughtful, then said, ‘The lack of choice’. I responded, ‘So, here-and-now, you do have a choice. If you were to do something really useful today, what would you choose to do?’ ‘OK - let’s do the Action Learning training.’
In the second, I responded similarly. The workshop was being held in North Wales and participants protested that they resented having to speak in English so that I, a non-Welsh speaker, could understand. I acknowledged that it could well feel strange to speak in English if they normally speak with one-another in Welsh. Then I offered the group two options – their choice. We could conduct the skills practice in English, in which case I would be able to offer input and feedback that they may find useful. Or, we could conduct it in Welsh, in which case they could feel more comfortable, but I could contribute less. What would they choose? ‘OK - let’s do it in English.’
How to work with resistance? The revolution will not be organised. Let the power go.
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