A few weeks ago, I was helping a colleague design and run a session with 20+ participants. The goal was to update a large physical roadmap holding information for many teams and many large stories for the next release.
In a traditional meeting roadmap workshop format, such a discussion can take a very long time with few decisions being made and people leaving frustrated and drained of energy. To avoid this, we decided to experiment with an activity packed half hour format, heavily inspired by techniques described in “Training from the BACK of the Room”. We deliberately used a space with no chairs or tables, we had plenty of sticky notes available and the roadmap was on the wall.
The energy in the room, the knowledge shared, the connections created and the information gathered during the 30 minutes was in itself impressive and thought provoking, but that will have to be the topic for another post as I want to point out the power of neutral facilitation and the notion of holding space.
My colleague was the primary facilitator. I was just there to be the timekeeper and observe the room. From my point of view it didn’t look like she did much during the 30 minutes other than providing a few instructions when needed. However, behind the scene it took a lot of courage to facilitate in this gentle manner. She needed to be well prepared, show up with a clear intention and at the same time let go of all expectations of a specific outcome.
From experience, I know that being the facilitator can be a lonely and demanding job. You need to be present, sense what the group needs, offer instructions and stay out of the way – all at the same time. This is a lot to ask from one person, particularly the first few times you try out a new meeting, workshop or training format.
During the session, I realized that my colleague made a very clever move by ask me to be the time keeper. By asking me to monitor time and observing the room, she had in reality asked me to be her facilitator and to hold the space necessary for her to do her job well. Having a co-facilitator in the room allowed her to be fully present and rely on me to offer gentle guidance to her.
The 30 minute session reminded me that asking for help and teamwork is very powerful. In other words co-facilitation rocks!