Each One, Teach One

I’m a bit of a facilitation junkie. I love watching A-ha moments happen for individuals and groups. Just about every time I’m asked to facilitate, I say yes! It’s actually quite a privilege to be invited into a group’s work to support them moving through a learning or change process. Facilitation is not for the faint of heart. To be a skilled facilitator is to serve as a guide, a creator of opportunities for learners, to share an experience in a safe and comfortable environment. It’s a skill that has served me well; one that’s taken years to develop and I work to improve every time I’m out there.

jdaOne of the best ways to learn to be a facilitator is to watch an expert, someone you admire. I found that person about 12 years ago: Jennifer Davis Allison. The organization where I was working contracted her to facilitate our strategic planning process. The committee was made up of board members, highly visible community leaders, and content experts. I was tapped to be the staff representative on the committee. I did not, at the time, feel as though I was particularly expert in anything, and was somewhat overwhelmed by the group in which I was now expected to participate.

What I admire most about Jen’s style is her attention to how the group is “feeling” about the work they’re doing. In other words, for Jen it’s more than about getting a group from point A to point B; it’s always about the people, too. She listens intently and is able to summarize a discussion without influencing the direction or decision. I appreciate her ability to draw into the process the quietest or seemingly disengaged participant. She does it without calling someone out in front of the group; rather, she creates the space that requires participation. Jen pushes without being pushy.

Much of what I learned in my first experience with Jen facilitating, I try to recreate for the groups that I have been invited to support. Someday I’d like the chance to actually facilitate with her. Thank you Jen, for being one of my teachers!

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