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Continuous Competence in Core Learning Tools

(This article was first published in our September, 2007 newsletter.)

In my 13 years of running a facilitator business, I’ve found there are 10 top skills you require as a facilitator to meet the needs of your clients as well as your own. Below I offer my brief thoughts of what the core learning areas are, why each is important and what a few of my favorite resources are. There are so many good ones. I offer just a sampling of ones I use regularly. We also have café handouts online for sale on these topics here.

  1. Conflict resolution and negotiation skills. Every client group usually has some internal struggle or several interpersonal conflicts going on. When a client asks you to do team-building, you can usually bet this is a code word for conflict. If you are not comfortable handling and accepting conflict, you might want to consider some skill-building in these areas. Two of my favorites are non-violent communication (www.cnvc.org) and Dynamic Facilitation (www.tobe.net)
  2. Sales and marketing. You will not be facilitating unless you have some clients whether you are an internal or external consultant. Know how to “sell” the gift and resource of facilitation and the concept of a neutral third party to help groups think well together. Find out how to help the client see what is lost everyday in productivity without this essential tool and skill. Know how to close a sale. My favorite local person is Bill Raymond from the Sales and Marketing Leadership Group. He has some excellent seminars.
  3. Building self-awareness and healing from your own life’s traumas. To skillfully guide a group, you need to be aware of your own biases and places where you might get triggered by a particular type of behavior in a group. Much of this is related to what was hard for us as young people. Healing from the effects of our own childhood traumas and doing self discovery work is key to us being able to be authentic and powerful facilitators. Luna Jiménez Seminars and Associates will be offering public courses in the near future in Portland, OR and they are available for in-house courses anywhere. Visit www.lunajimenezseminars.com or call 503-281-5570 for details. personal and low cost resource is Reevaluation Counselling. There are huge resources available in NW USA through www.rc.org.
  4. Problem-solving and decision-making techniques. Every group at some time is going to need to solve a problem and or make a decision. My least favorite decision-making tool is dot voting. My favorites includes tools from ICA’s Focused Conversation Method in their Group Facilitation Methods course, OneSmartWorld and Dr. de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats.
  5. Organizational development models and concepts. To ensure you understand what it takes to help an organization make a culture shift or move to new levels of teamwork, collaboration or effectiveness for example, you need to understand systems. My favorites include ICA’s(www.ica-associates.ca) “Mapping the Organizational Journey”, “Facilitating Change in Whole Systems”. You can also join your local ODN chapter.
  6. Oral and written communication skills. Imagine a facilitator who cannot give clear instructions, tell a compelling story to inspire the group to action, articulate clear provocative and thoughtful questions, or write a clear document to synthesize the groups’ work? For verbal communication try a local Toastmaster’s group. For writing, practice, take a one day course and get coaching.
  7. Self assessment tools and profiles. There are many great tools that benefit teams and individuals by helping them accept and work more skillfully with learning different styles in the group. My current favorite is the OneSmartWorld 4Di tool ( www.onesmartworld.com) because it is simple to learn, include 18 different strategies for thinking and has a personal spirit dimension which I’ve not seen in any other tool. My other favorite is the Herrmann Brain Dominance instrument (www.hbdi.com)
  8. Consensus building and planning techniques. Every group will need to build lasting agreement and create plans together. There are many tools. My favorites have been developed by ICA (Institute for Cultural Affairs) (www.ica-usa.org) including their strategic and action planning models and consensus workshop method. Another consensus decision-making model that like is the gradients of agreement scale by Sam Kaner.
  9. Accelerated learning techniques. Everyone learns differently. Are you able to tap into the kinesthetic, visual and auditory learners on a continuing basis? Are you able to help a group play at their work, laugh together and enable their creative spirits? My favorite conference to learn this theory and how to apply it is the Alliance for Learning at www.ialearn.org
  10. Techniques for gaining meaningful participation from every group member. Do you know how to work with both dominant and reluctant participants? Do you know sure-fire techniques for making sure every voice is heard for every topic? There are many courses available to help you figure this out. ICA course are great models of this. ( www.ica-usa.org)