Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Golden Rule

We have been to two local network meetings this week - one for trainers and one for facilitators working in the Geneva area. We go to meet people, to contribute something and to learn about the particular topic they are discussing. Last night at the facilitators network meeting we created an interesting taxonomy of icebreakers and introduction exercises, organized by application (group size and level of formality needed). At the trainers meeting we had a demonstration of the power of people's energy fields- both the impact of your (positive/negative) thoughts on you and on others around you.

At these meetings, I also find myself learning something about these fields of practice more generally, through observing how the community members talk to each other, how they model their messages in demonstrating skills and knowledge to each other.

One thing beamed out at me this week. In these professions, there are some golden rules. One of the most important ones, one which sounds simple but is incredibly subtle, I believe, is: Be nice.

Whether you are facilitating or training, when people come together for any purposeful reason, you can be sure that in addition to their pens and papers, they bring with them a range of powerful emotions. They could be curious, excited, exasperated, stressed, bored, or all of these things at once; and you, as their process leader, get to create an experience for these people as individuals and together that works with all those feelings.

Whether you use facilitation or training as a blunt instrument or a fine tool, everything going on in that room is precipitated or mediated by you. As you feed back and summarise, it is also filtered by you. As you guide and build the process, it is directed by you. How people feel at the beginning, middle and end, is somehow affected by you. Where are you? Standing at the front or side of the room, moving in and out of their line of sight? What are you doing while that person is speaking, are you grimacing, talking to someone else, asking hard questions, smiling, affirming, paying complete attention. Are you modelling the behaviour that you want others to have in your session?

We want to walk into a room of nice people. We ask people to open up and dig deeply inside themselves for ideas, answers and questions. We ask people to stretch, to nudge themselves out of their comfort zone to learn and experience behaviour change. One of our responsibilities surely in intervening in these processes is to bring our good will and good intent, and leave aside everything else, but our genuine desire to help others. I really think one of the golden rules for process leaders is: Be nice. Be deeply and genuinely nice. And I think everyone can feel it when its there. I am thinking about what that means for me - think about what that means for you.