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Book Recommendation #1 – The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge

“Learning organizations are possible because, deep down, we are all learners. No one has to teach an infant to learn. In fact, no one has to teach infants anything. They are intrinsically inquisitive, masterful learners who learn to walk, speak, and pretty much run their households all on their own.” – Peter Senge

We believe that The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge is a must for anybody who wants to understand the impact of systems and how to change organizations. At the time this book was published in 1990 the ideas seemed radical though today the philosophies and practices are both highly relevant and have started being established in business today. A systemic learning approach is growing and Senge’s book introduces frameworks such as personal mastery, shared vision, mental models, and team learning. We believe this is a great book with both examples and practices that will give you a fundamental understanding of organizational change, strategy, and development relevant for today’s rapidly changing landscape.

You can find the book here 

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How to Gain Experience as a Facilitator

So, you’ve started to grasp parts of what facilitation is about.

Now the question stands: How do I become a facilitator?

First off, there is no right of passage or a board of facilitators that will give you a badge and say “You are now a facilitator!”. Here’s part of my journey and what I believe helped me gain the experience and confidence to call myself a facilitator.

Facilitation was something that came naturally to me as a kid. I always wanted to bring the whole group together & create together, never wanting to make the decisions or make people do things. I never really understood why I should force things.

Though not until recent years did I understand that there was a word for what I was doing and that I could actually apply it to businesses & change the people around me.

1. Reach out, read, interview, discuss

First, I started reaching out to people who called themselves facilitators, talked to people, interviewed, searched for tools and asked for reading material; there are a lot of tool books out there but understanding the mindset and process of facilitation was a bit harder to find.

2. Create the opportunities to try & use facilitation

Secondly, I was lucky enough to be in a creative business school who encouraged facilitative leadership. So I decided to make the room and time to develop that skill. First I started by asking to lead team development sessions, wrap ups of projects and shadow our program managers when they would start off projects.

I listened and analysed how and why they would use certain tools, questions and looked at things such as timing & their workshop designs.

3. Take a course which focuses on foundations and your tailored needs

Sarah Gregersen, whom I work with today at The Other Potential, came to our school to teach a 5-day facilitation course and 5 minutes in I knew I had to pick her brain. She not only taught facilitation, she also applied it everyday.

4. Get a mentor, work for them and do all the nitty gritty stuff

The biggest game-changer in my development was to get a mentor and that mentor was Sarah. I wanted it to be a mutual exchange of time, knowledge and favours and presented it like that. I had no idea of what I could give her but one thing that was apparent was that I wanted to learn.

Facilitation isn’t only about being on the floor and by getting to help a mentor I got that experience. I got the experience of doing the nitty-gritty work; some of it I enjoyed, some not as much. But just like eating is a lot of fun, you can start finding joy in the cooking, the prep work and even doing the dishes if you allow yourself to look at it differently, especially if you’re curious.

TL:DR or to Summarise it

Facilitation is all about the process so look at the process. Look at the bigger systemic process and also look at the process of how facilitators work. I would have never gotten the experience of designing a spreadsheet for a workshop if I hadn’t reached out to do work for my mentor and I would have never gotten the feedback & tips when working the floor.

I would like to highlight that facilitation is about transformational leadership and leaders are chosen when the roll & situation asks for it, some days it might be your mother taking charge of the family dinner or that quiet guy in the corner who knows how and where to go to safety in an office fire.

One thing facilitation does focus on is growth, setting a learning or creative environment for the participants. With some thought and reflections I believe you can imagine those situations and find where you can grow yourself and apply your art of facilitation.

Good luck and if you want to discuss, get tips on material and more then feel free to contact us.

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Facilitator & Project Manager — What’s The Difference?

Lately I’ve realised the need to clarify the differences between a project manager and a facilitator with clients and individuals who have come to see the potential of bringing in facilitators.

Therefore I thought we could take a quick look at the two roles and also introduce a model to have in mind.

Let’s start by taking a look at the dictionary definitions of the two:

Project Manager

noun
1. the person in overall charge of the planning and execution of a particular project.

Facilitator

[fuh-sil-i-tey-ter] noun
1. a person or thing that facilitates.
2. a person responsible for leading or coordinating the work of a group, as one who leads a group discussion.

There’s already a few clear differences in the definitions:

Project Manager — Plan & Execute
Facilitator — Lead & Coordinate.

I would like to introduce the content-process model which is great to have in mind when thinking about the differences.

Content-Process Model

content-process-model

A project manager will often have the mandate to make decisions on the content. Ex. if a product will be launched or who will execute which task. Facilitators on the other hand don’t have the mandate to make decisions or telling who will be creating or executing.

As a facilitator your focus is on leading the process, making the most value for the participants and in no way creating, deciding, or changing the content.

Meaning facilitators can be brought in for short term to long term projects. Everything from a 30 minute meeting to a blended learning project which can span a few years. They are often brought into help with planning as process consultants and can give advice on how to plan a process or design a process for a client. Though in the end it is up to the client to decide on what kind of content they want.

There are of course many situations which people can switch between the roles. The facilitator role can be adapted by a project manager when needed but I urge to make it explicit which role you are in; not only for yourself but also the people you surround yourself with. The outcome will be very different if you are there for the participants process or the desired content.

I hope to have been able to bring some clarity to the two and feel free to use the content vs process model as an example when you are facilitating.

Before I finish off I would like to share a quote by David Sibbet which we at The Other Potential believe is a good definition of facilitation:

“Facilitation is the art of leading people through processes towards agreed upon objectives, in a way that fosters participation, creativity and ownership from all involved”

– David Sibbet

Signing off for now and do give us a shout if you’re interested in discussing deeper on the subject.

Photo credit: Julien Harneis / CC BY-SA

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Why You Should Stop Trying to Motivate People

A bonus here, a raise there. Or maybe we should use fear instead? The classical carrot vs whip dilemma to either increase efficiency or lower the turnover rates. There are a lot research papers showing that employees are engaged somewhere from 17–35%. I find that a bit scary.

Extrinsic motivators such as carrots seem like the good guy way of doing it but it never really pans out in the end. If somebody else is offering a tastier carrot people will go for that one instead.

You’ve most likely come in contact with sales-driven companies where there are constant competitions between individuals and teams on who can sell the most or figure out a solution the fastest. Yet I don’t need to state a bunch of statistics to argue that their turnover rates are pretty high. Sure, people get stuff done on short terms but how many get left behind, irritated, hating their job, just for a little bit more money? How many of those go on to having 40 year old crises and totally changing their career path, get totally burnt out or depressed? A good amount.

Instead of making sure they get what they want, start asking why or how things drive them.

The room for reflection is often the first thing to go in stressful situations and in my opinion it should be held onto the most. We don’t learn from failures without the time to reflect on what happened and if we don’t have the space to talk with others and share our reflections we lose out on all those chances of connecting on a deeper level. The connections that enable us to collaborate.

How many times have you been in situations where small petty things became huge over time because somebody didn’t take the time to talk it out?

You can’t motivate people; though you can ask the right questions which will make them find their inner motivation. Giving people the space for reflection on intrinsic motivators create meaning which creates participation on a much deeper level. When each person isn’t resisting their own feelings and is able to go to bed thinking: Ah, that felt meaningful today. Then you can actually keep them engaged.

Too many of us are scared of letting people think for themselves believing that once they do; they will leave the company or get disengaged from the project, etc. No, quite the contrary; if you create the space for self-leadership, reflection on own motivations for every team you will get a team or company that aren’t a bunch of happy dogs running around for treats but actual people. People who will figure out creative solutions to whatever task they have at hand. People who are driven by their inner monologues and meaning. People who are happy and want to share that happiness. People who are motivated.

So, next time you are thinking:

 Ah, we need to get this done fast and much better!!!

Why not try slowing down & take your foot off the gaspedal? Start talking about what’s going on, what people are feeling, why they’re feeling like that and don’t forget yourself.

If you need some tips & tools on how to create that space for reflection you can contact us anytime!

Photo credit: Allegory Malaprop CC BY-ND

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The Art of Listening or Rather Learning How To Listen

When was the last time somebody actually listened to what you had to say?

One of the core fundamentals for any facilitator is the ability to listen; an ability I would strongly argue is a core fundamental for anybody working with people.

Many studies show that we only pick up 25–50% of what people are saying but by honing our skills a little we can get closer to understanding the full spectrum of what is being communicated.

We at The Other Potential often talk about the 3 Levels of Listening; a framework I personally use on a daily basis both when talking with team members in a internal small meeting and facilitating a conference with a variety of people.

What are the 3 Levels of Listening?

1. Internal Listening

Often when we talk to people we tend to relate a lot; inner dialogs & emotions that we would love to share. Ever been in a conversation where somebody cuts you off after every sentence?

“Yeah, I’ve also been to Copenhagen!”
“Oh, yeah. We also ate at that place!”
“That was my favourite bar to go to!”

Internal listening can be great for connecting with people on first basis though when it comes to understanding where or what they want our relating thoughts tend to come in the way.

2. Active Listening

Active listening also referred to as focus listening is one of the more popular frameworks to be taught. By tuning down your internal dialog of references and the need to relate you gain the ability to listen to what is actually said.

One tends to hear the whole story and gives room to complete sentences. Thus giving the participant time to react and/or reflect over what they are saying instead of being cut off in their trail of thought.

Sometimes the best way of getting information from somebody is to sit quietly and wait rather than trying to evoke the answer. By actively listening you create both the comfort & trust for the one sharing but also gain the broader spectrum of what is being said enabling you to create assumptions & questions which you might have overlooked if you were to share your own experiences.

3. 360° Listening

By utilising not only our sense of hearing but also the rest of our senses we start reaching the stage of 360° listening. By gaining awareness of both one’s instinctual and intuitive consciousness you start deciphering what is being said around you.

Your eyes may notice that the person in front of you is more passionate about a subject than what they are actually saying or that another participant in the room is reacting to the story in a different way compared to the rest.

Listening to not only the words being said but also to the tone of voice or the tempo you may notice subtle hints that can lead you to uncovering hidden needs or opportunities in the group you are facilitating.

3-levels-of-listening

Learning the 3 Levels of Listening is a lifelong journey

I believe these skills of listening will open up opportunities to train other facilitation skills such as timing, maintaining energy & flow in groups & knowing when to intervene or not.

I hope this basic overview of the 3 Levels of Listening creates the desire to keep on developing your art of listening to the people you want to connect with in your lives.

Feel free to connect, discuss or share some examples where it was obvious that you or the other person was in of these 3 levels.

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The Other Potential Courses

For a project to reach its maximum productivity we need to look beyond the individual. Look at the psychological factors that transform a group of people into a cohesive team. We can only truly reach our full potential by optimizing this team. This is where facilitation comes to play. Facilitation is your key competence and your path to enhance creativity and productivity.

A Guide to Facilitation teaches the principles of facilitation and provides a solid foundation for anyone who leads meetings, workshops, group processes or organizational change initiatives.

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About The Other Potential

The Other Potential is a tribe of people that believe in facilitation as a fundamental way to solve the challenges we are facing in the world. We are passionate about facilitation, leadership and education and we have immersed ourselves into experiences, on all continents, within facilitation in the last decades. We train people in facilitating collaboration and team development.

In a world where we have to respond to constant change and innovation, the ability to turn employees’ knowledge and skills into concrete results is vital. We believe that facilitation is the ability to create constructive processes, that bring teams towards the realization of their goals, visions and values. The art of facilitation builds on knowledge from several disciplines and fields of study such as psychology, education, sociology, organizational development and business management. By using our expertise within process design and facilitation we have helped businesses with organizational development, implementing innovative strategies as well as trained teams and leaders to be more creative and responsive.