Category Archives: VCU Adult 612 Spring 2013

Knowing Your Audience

I said this phrase several times the other day during our presentation on Facilitating Across Cultures….but as much as I believe that this should absolutely ring true no matter where you may find your classroom to be; I hadn’t really considered it in true real life terms regarding a group at my current workplace.  As I think about all of the different groups and teams that I am part of, or have been; I find myself reflecting on how flexible one must be in order to ensure the success of those groups.  I consider how often I have, and still will, bend and flex my methods based on my relationship to the members in the group and what I know of them. So now as I consider our discoveries regarding the paradoxes of engagement, I can see where these tendencies to bend and flex may have been discovered through disclosure,  revealed as trust has been built, understood as intimacy and relationships have developed, and uncovered when one has reached the other side of regression.  Further still, as I reflect on all of the discussions that took place last week in class surrounding the idea of ‘knowing your audience’; I consider the final slide in our presentation and wonder if it does indeed apply to a culture that I am immersed in as I work with the diversity of the employees that inhabit it…..

Good multi-cultural facilitation starts with awareness. As we discussed during the presentation, the face of our workplace has changed so much in recent years.  And absolutely for the good!  But being aware of that diversity can truly be key in ensuring the success of your group, whether internal or externally built.

Grows with knowledge (be curious!).  Curiosity definitely still applies!  As we get to know one another better we learn what works and what doesn’t and often what to do and what not to do.  (The bend and flex :))

Can be enhanced with specific skills. This one absolutely applies.  As I’ve shared through this blog as well as in class, this semester alone has helped me deal with a group dilemma that has been plaguing me for longer than I’d like to admit.  With my newly acquired skills, I am navigating the dreaded and shaping the newly formed in hopes that all will turn out for the best.

Polished through cross-cultural and diverse encounters.  You truly do learn as you go!  No two people will ever be the same, and while you may learn what the traditions of a certain culture may be-that doesn’t necessarily make you an expert on every single person that is a part of that culture.  You must learn as you interact with each individual what works for them.

There are a great many facets and Discourses (thank you Dr. Muth for this new vocabulary word!) that can make us each so unique.  Learning as much as you can about the uniqueness of those that are in your group can be truly, well, priceless….


Is it Time to Ask if They Are Still With Us?

April, you would be proud of me. I think I am finally at a point where I’m seeing the need to face a variety of conflicts head on. If you recall my story in class about the recent beginnings of a committee revamp, I am again finding myself considering this committee and how concepts that we’ve uncovered in class may help breathe life back into it. Remember that this is a committee that for sometime now people have found to be more of a joke than a true working group. They’ve stopped attending, participating in projects, and generally just seem to stay on so that they can say they are involved. Now, I realize that I am also superimposing some of my own assumptions to their reasoning; but it begs the true question, is it time to ask them if they are still with us or not? I’m suggesting to the leader of this committee today to step back and really think about structure (we have no charter or guidelines) and to consider the actual members of the committee with a bit more of a critical eye. To me, it’s really time to ask them to either participate or get off the boat. (In a nice but firm way of course:). We recently decided to redirect the committee and focus more on the passions of the group; but yet, if no one is really willing to participate in the group or its endeveors as it is-what value do these new ideas truly hold? With non-committed members, will we not be left with only great ideas and then the same few that are willing to implement them? I say, we cut those that are riding along and find some that are willing to help us put some of these new passions into practice and meet the goals of our group for this new year. It may prove a long road ahead should we choose to do it, but wouldn’t you rather have those that are willing to do as opposed to so many that consistently don’t? I’m eager for your thoughts fellow Groups & Team members…what would you do if you were part of this group?

Which Hat Do We Wear?

I call myself a facilitator at work…but which facilitative hat do I wear? Which role, as described in Chapter 3 of the Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook, do I really represent in my organization? This chapter provides a great overview of the role of, as well as the importance of, a facilitator in a variety of group settings. It also causes me to consider the role I choose as I enter into a variety of situations while at work. But, is there just the one hat for me? Or is it as the author suggests, several hats may be worn at once?

The mention of the facilitator’s need to remain substantively neutral was first what began this reflection, as it caused me to consider a conversation that I had recently. While the idea of neutrality is important in the facilitation of a group, it can also be important when leading a group of students during a class. The question that began the afore mentioned conversation was whether or not we should first ask a student’s opinion on a topic, or if we should instead first give our opinions as the facilitator and then ask them for their thoughts on the subject. My beliefs have typically been that their answers to our questions help us to not only understand what knowledge, opinion or experience they may already bring to a topic; but they can also assist us in gauging where we as the facilitator may need to go as we continue to discuss the topic to ensure engagement and learning takes place. For if we find ourselves instead leading them to understand our own opinion or ideas instead of considering their own, do we not run the risk of establishing resentment and disengagement as opposed to what we ultimately want-solution and empowerment? My opinion regarding this seems to be supported by the section on coaching as well as choosing the appropriate facilitation role. But it is this opinion that also makes me wonder what role we are choosing while the interaction is taking place. Is it one or several?

Consider first the mention of the difference between a facilitator and a facilitative consultant. When the students seek us out for a particular topic, they attend training based on a certain need that they have identified for themselves (or at times perhaps someone else has identified it for them:) Does this instead in the beginning perhaps make us a facilitative consultant? For they seek us out for advice on a particular topic; we may also assist them during the course of the class in working through or finding a solution to their dilemma. Do we diagnose and assist still while in the trainer role? Or are we wearing the hat of a consultant at that time?

But then also consider the role of the facilitative coach…”at the heart of the facilitative coaching role is the ability to help people improve their effectiveness by helping them learn to rigorously reflect on their behavior and thinking.” (Pg 30). As adult educators, reflection is a huge part of what we do…as mentioned above in the second paragraph. And that reflection is what can make their learning that much more inspiring….

And while I began to delete this entire post as I came to the section of the facilitative trainer, I paused only because I couldn’t totally embrace one particular statement. The mention that the title of trainer implies that of a ‘content expert’ (last sentence of this section) may be a little misleading, which is perhaps why she chooses to put the two words together instead of either or. Or perhaps why some may simply choose the title ‘facilitator’ when introducing this role. For to say that I should know all there is to know about one particular topic, and that I too could not learn from the students themselves would be unreasonable.

I think I like the simpler title of ‘facilitator’ should I find the need to introduce myself and/or the role I am to play. For to guarantee that I will only wear one particular hat for the entirety of that interaction could provide an unspoken promise that I could have trouble keeping, should the needs of my students call for a different one. I think I am of the mind that as adult educators we will, at some point, wear each of these hats at different times depending on the situation. It may all happen in one class, with one client….or perhaps we are more prone to one role or the other depending on our expertise or relationship with the client. One thing is for sure, the role of the facilitator can be complex but helpful to any group-as long as the right hat for the moment is being worn.

The Reoccuring Importance of Trust in Groups

As I continue to read and reveal the complexities of paradoxes that exist in groups, I am discovering just how important trust can truly be in the success of a group. In chapter 6 of our text, Paradoxes of Group Life, the concept of and paradox surrounding trust in terms of becoming part of a group was discussed. But as I now conclude my readings of chapter 7 on a different set of paradoxes, speaking, I am uncovering trust’s involvement as the group begins to move forward and act as well. As the group authorizes or grants influence to an individual, they must place their trust in that individual and their ability to lead and empower others. When considering group dependency, we find ourselves deciding whether or not we can trust the members of our group before we can strike out on our own to stand against the group and perhaps their current position. And if we do not feel that trust, we could be in danger of entering yet another paradox, the one of Abilene (perhaps?). For the paradox of creativity, consider the account of Glidewell and his student found on page 144. In order for the student to receive criticism on her efforts at creativity, efforts that she held so near and dear, did she not first have to trust her professor and his judgement of her attempts?

One may argue that, in considering the paradoxes of courage, that this is the true connection in all described thus far as opposed to trust. For it is indeed courage that allows us to take the leap of faith necessary for each level of growth an individual must endure in a group. I however still may argue that without trust, whether trust in our own abilities or convictions or trust in the members of the group as a whole, would members have the courage to step outside of their comfort zones so often? Perhaps I am way off base here, admittedly this text at times for me requires a second read in order to wrap my head around it. But if I am considering the meanings correctly, the importance of trust can truly bring you back to the need for proper group establishment in the very beginning. For without the proper beginning, can a group truly learn to trust each other so that they can be as effective as these paradoxes have taught us that they should/could be?

The Power of Disclosure and Non-Disclosure

I really appreciated the points made in our text this week regarding the Paradoxes of Engaging.  I especially enjoyed the reading surrounding the power and importance of disclosure with relationship to trust.  At work I am charged with facilitating classes on a variety of topics, one of which is the process of communication.  We cover a variety of things in a period of three hours; communication style, nonverbal methods of communication, choosing the right method…But we also briefly touch on the importance of disclosure and the influence it can provide, especially during those difficult exchanges.  Disclosure can open the door for the other person(s) to better understand your side of things, truly appreciate what you can bring to the table and perhaps even sway their own perspective.  Disclosure can be a truly powerful tool; but the lack of disclosure can also prove powerful as well-in terms of the negative.  As the text suggests, we often stand back a bit as we join a group; assessing, considering, reading….deciding what to share so that we will be accepted by other members.  Could it be our own insecurities or the incessant need to be liked?  But what a disservice to ourselves to not allow a hint at who we really are and could be to the group.   Even further still, what an injustice to other members of the group! To not allow them to see our real selves and to know our strengths or weaknesses.  How can they trust someone that they do not truly know?   Why should they trust me if I haven’t been completely honest, right from the very beginning?  And, looking forward, if they do not truly trust me will the group be successful in accomplishing its goal(s)? The paradoxes this week have truly reminded me that so often we forget that by limiting what we share, we can also cause unintended distrust and uncertainty in the individual and/or group.   A quote found on page 115 of our text perhaps puts it best: “Once group members start to engage in the dynamics found in the paradox of disclosure, they can then begin to move on to those of trust.  Group life is filled with dilemmas in which one needs to trust others, but where the development of trust depends on trust already existing.”