Deepen Your Impact – What Seoul Taught My Soul


In just a minute, you will read and see more about deepening your impact when you facilitate groups. But first, take a tour of Seoul’s, South Korea, incredible depth via a few photos. Imagine what this country has been through and is going through. Breathe in the richness, depth, resilience, creativity of these people! Then, we’ll explore why some facilitators make all the difference in the world and others leave the group with perhaps a feel-good or reasonable experience but do not guide them to deep transformation and long-term impact.

The 2017 IAF Asia conference in Seoul this past weekend reminded me of what makes facilitation soulful work. Soulful work is the part that has lasting, deep impact both on the group and the individuals in the group.

We’ll use mostly photos from our pre-conference and concurrent sessions to illustrate some points about what to be sure to include in your facilitated workshops. If you follow these five points, it greatly enhances the opportunities for deep impact. Some of the photos were taken by Loh Teck Kwang (Singapore) and Yvonne Yam (Hong Kong), two of my co-facilitators.

Note: Some facilitators don’t yet have the skill, training or experience to execute. If you are not consistently creating the possibility for these deeper transformative moments, ask: “Why not? and, “What do I not possess or do to make them happen?”

1. Have People Speak in the First 5 Minutes

Sometimes we think have to tell them everything at the beginning – the context, agenda, objectives, the ground rules, parking lot, about your role and on and on… too much at one time will dull their minds, and decrease their interest and future participation.

Instead, consider doing an intro activity first with some easy but also one deeper question or activity. Look at what we had people do on entering the room in our pre-conference:

Or, here is what we did for our concurrent session. We asked them right away to write and post their name, country and years of experience facilitating. We used this information later to divide the small groups. up to include all levels of experience.

2. Warm Up the Group’s Thinking

First, allow people quiet time to do their own rough thinking and then test their thinking in the safety of a pair. Ideally, give them a chance to share something visually as well as verbally. This will make the sharing more concrete for everyone. It could be a metaphorical drawing or flow diagram they do ahead of time.

This is not their final thinking! Instead it is a time for ideas to be created and shared in the safety of small numbers. Sharing an idea or story outloud with someone’s good listening attention, emboldens the creator/ story teller to offer it to the whole group later. Likely the next version will be even richer and more useful!

3. Provide Co-Creation Time

Now you’ve warmed up their thinking with some relevant questions, ask them the REAL question. What do you really want them to answer? Then, have them co-create answers by e.g., writing on a flipchart in groups of 3-4.

Or, sit and invite everyone to answer the question first individually and then in a circle of 3 – 6. Get them to choose a scribe to record answers on half sheets or a flipchart.

4. Get THEM to Converge!

Converging could include reaching consensus, getting each person to summarize their best thinking, or helping the group choose what will work best for the current situation. In an idea generating session, once they have all participated in co-creating potential ideas, each small group must choose what is most important and align their thinking with the whole group. In other types of sessions, it might be in the form of a smaller list of recommendations, a summary statement or action plan as seen below. Not converging is failing to do what they engaged (hired) you to do! (Thanks to my co-assessor Tony Nash for that sobering thought). And, remember it is not YOUR job to converge at any point. You ask them to do it.

5. Encourage Drama in Sharing Outputs or Results

It is wonderful to celebrate the “outputs” of a group with some dramatic flare. It engages the soul. The laughter and story telling helps each group member “embody” their results or decisions. It fosters a spirit of “Si, Se Puede!” (Spanish for “Yes, We Can!” (Do this!) There will be more liklihood of transformation into the future with some simple 5-15 minute dramatic summaries because the results go into our long term memories.

And, of course, it is always wonderful to have the group’s products graphically depicted by a visual practitioner! This is another way to provide drama to the outputs. Our recorder was Tul Leland-u-tai, architect, visual story teller and columnist from Chiang Mai, Thailand. Thank-you Tul!

Finally, thanks to my co-facilitators Loh Teck Kwang, Peter Seah, Lyn Wong, Jackie Chang and Yvonne Yam from Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong Kong respectively and the combined 57 participants from Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, China, Indonesia, India, Japan, Finland, Hong Kong, Thailand, and USA.



Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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