Monday, September 27, 2010

Giving Good Weight

The title of today's blog comes from the lead essay in a collection written by John McPhee that was published in 1979. The story deals with greengrocers in New York City. When vendors give good quality produce in full measure, they are said to be "giving good weight."

Giving Good Eight
As a facilitation trainer, my teachings depend both on students eager to learn the craft, and on hosts who are willing to provide live meetings as opportunities for students to learn (in exchange for room and board for the students during the training weekend). I offer a facilitation training program that runs for two years and is comprised of eight weekends. Naturally, it's important that I deliver materials and guidance that build synergistically over all eight weekends, so that the students steadily improve and are able to deliver an increasingly superior product as the training progresses.

A weak spot in all this is the challenge to give good weight during the first weekend or two, when the students are especially green. During those opening weekends it's rare that the host group is receiving anything special in the way of outside facilitation. It helps balance the scale that I offer a professional report on what I've observed of the host's process and that I typically facilitate at least one session as a demonstration. Mostly though, we depend on hosts that are willing to believe in the long haul, in the hopes that their early generosity will be repaid down the road when their members in the training blossom into more skilled facilitators.

Giving Good Weight (this week)
We just completed Weekend II of my Integrative Facilitation Training in the Mid-Atlantic States (that I'm conducting with my wife, Ma'ikwe), where we were hosted by Heathcote Community in Freeland MD. While there was some frustration with our fairly deliberate start on Friday and Saturday, we picked up enough steam—and delivered enough valuable product—that by Sunday Heathcoters felt well rewarded for having the class facilitate their weekend retreat. Whew! It's always a relief when we cross into the black.

Everyone in the class who attended both of the first two weekends has now gotten up front to facilitate for at least an hour of live meetings, and this gives us a much better read on everyone's capacity (helping us trainers assess better who can handle what, and who to pair up with whom to make an effective partnership). After only two weekends, students can already see improvements in their facilitating and in their ability to discern what's happening in a meeting. It's thrilling to watch the students grow right before our eyes.

Giving Good Wait
Part of the program format is that Ma'ikwe and I, as trainers, reserve the right to step in and redirect or clarify in the moment if a student facilitator is straying or otherwise being ineffective in their offerings. While we do this rather freely in the early weekends (both to help guide the student and to safeguard the quality of work being given the host), by Sunday we were starting to get push back from the students who assured us that they could handle what was happening. Hah! We usually don't start seeing that kind of spunk and confidence until Weekend V! Already, they're starting to ask Ma'ikwe and me to wait a little longer before stepping in.

All in all, it's been an auspicious start.

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