Meeting the right needs first.

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In education there is often the presumption that a good teacher will be able to facilitate good training. In business it is often assumed that a person who performs really well in their role will be good at training others to do the same. We probably all have experiences that demonstrate the error of that thinking.

I was recently part of a group receiving training from two members of social services. They seemed to be highly competent and experienced social workers, with a strong pedigree in leadership and management. They, however, had limited expertise in facilitation. Twenty minutes in and the room was restless; attention levels were low. The two facilitators were, at least unconsciously, aware that something wasn't right but their anxiety did little to improve the quality of facilitation.

Which of the following would have diminished your ability to focus and learn?

  • Luke warm tea and coffee on arrival.
  • Air conditioning that was set at 22c in a room where no windows were open.
  • Tables configured so that half of the participants had their back to the screen.
  • A screen too small to read by the participants at the back of the room.
  • A thirty six slide PowerPoint, with each slide very text rich.
  • A facilitator who reads through each slide as it comes up.
  • No printed schedule for the session.
  • No praise for the responses from the participants.
  • No stated outcomes for the session.
  • No movement of groups and participants.
  • The same process of 'talk in your group and then share with the room' used four times in a row.

A couple of these may have been inconveniences that you could have overcome, but all of them?

What are the steps to effective facilitation? A great place to start is Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Published in 1943, Maslow's developmental psychology, analyzed the stages of growth necessary for humans to become autonomous, self-actualizing beings. Good facilitation requires that the needs of the participants, enabling them tomove towards taking charge of their own learning and engaging fully in the process of learning.


Where do the issues in the failing session occur? Take Maslow's hierarchy from the bottom up:
Physiological - Too hot, cricked necks, mild back ache and unhappy with the poor refreshments.
Safety - Uncertain about the format of the session.
Belonging - Ignorant of who was in the room, outside of the small group that we were in, and unaware of what we needed to do in order to succeed in the session.
Esteem - Not praised for participation and not recognized for the experience and expertise that we brought to the session.

With so many needs unmet the potential achieve a room of self-actualizing participants was minimal.

This is not a reflection on the expertise or sincerity of the two leaders of the session. It does, however, demonstrate that these to qualities alone are insufficient to effectively facilitate a training session.

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