I was facilitating a workshop recently on holding self and others accountable for respect in the workplace. I was excited about the opportunity for two reasons: 1. It was for the local municipality in which I live, so there was a civic connection and 2. I love facilitating and helping achieve change in organizations.
The workshop was generated from an employee survey and the leadership wisely followed up on the results by asking me to conduct a workshop that addressed the topic. So, I did my homework and developed a 4-hour workshop that I believed would meet their needs. The timing was set, the flow made sense, and all the preparations were complete.
But, anyone who has ever facilitated knows to expect the unexpected. I arrived 40 minutes early, as is my practice to ensure the room was set up properly and all the required materials were present. With that done, I sat and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally one person appeared. Then, together, we waited, and waited. The start time came and went and still we sat. A few more people wandered in. We waited some more. At this point, I'm wondering if I had the right time, and double checked all communication. Yes, 8:00 it was. Finally, a little before 8:30 people started flowing in. They'd decided to have a team event prior to starting the workshop.
So, right off the bat, I was 30 minutes behind schedule in a very time-driven, exercise-packed workshop. What to do? I simply made last minute adjustments to my plan. I learned a long time ago to always, always have a Plan B. The workshop got off to a great start. Everyone was actively participating and engaged. A little more than halfway through, we hit a topic that was a hot spot for the group. Rather than the 10 minute debrief that was planned, we had a 20-30 minute discussion around this topic. It was clear to me that this was something that was needed. People needed to voice their thoughts and listen to one another. Since the topic was central to the purpose of the workshop, I chose to let the discussion role. There are times when, as a facilitator, you have to recognize when the spontaneous, free-flowing discussion will have a more significant outcome on the group that what you may have brought. This was one of those times.
As the conversation wound down and people felt heard, we were able to move on, and return to the now modified workshop schedule. And it went well. People stayed engaged; were perhaps even more engaged. Much was accomplished. Outcomes were realized. People walked away with immediate actions they could take to have an impact.
Later that night, I received an email from the leader of the group about how much people were still talking about the workshop and what they'd learned. As someone dedicated to helping organizations evolve and solve problems, there's not a higher compliment.
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