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The Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0050| April 23, 2002
7,700 Subscribers


The Joy of Facilitation
 Facilitating lightness will often be what's needed to open your groups to their creative nature and to keep them in motion.

The Point

I don't know about you, but I'll have to say that a good deal of the meetings I've attended in the workplace and in my community were heavy, stuffy, and sometimes downright depressing. This was in the old days when I had a job and, caring too much about what others thought of me, I kept my mouth shut, didn't rock the boat, and tolerated boredom...which I certainly don't do anymore! 

It seems to me that there's a reinforcing belief associated with this all too common energy level, that we encounter in poorly run  meetings. I think the belief is this: if you're having fun, you're not accomplishing anything important. This belief probably has something to do with the ancestral puritan ethic that's been passed down to us by parents who were probably severely emotionally over-extended trying to raise their families and make a living. But now, it's time to bid this nasty myth farewell...!

I think as facilitators, particularly if we're coming from outside an organization, we have license to be oddballs and to do things that get people loosened up, lightened up, out of their time-bound minds, and into their soulful potential as infinitely creative and inspired beings. As facilitators, we can give our participants permission to find joy in their work. And most of you have probably discovered that it's when you're feeling light and joyful that your most inspired and creative ideas and solutions come forward.


So what can we do as facilitators to "lighten" the room when things get heavy? A lot of it has to do with how we set the stage from the beginning. We can model lightness AND competence through our facilitation. We can create an environment both physically and emotionally that is light and playful. We can inject an element of fun into all of the days activities, no matter how serious the work before us. We can use appropriate humor and can draw on those in the group that tend to be naturally good at it. We can also use toys and props to get people doing something and keep the mood from getting too serious. 

Lets look at the toys and props idea. Many facilitators have found these to be particularly helpful in that they give people's hands something to do. This keeps their nervous systems engaged but only slightly, similar to keeping a car engine idling instead of shutting it down. It's warmed up and ready to go but conserving energy until it's needed. 

Toys also tend to put people at ease, increase their creative thinking abilities, increase their sense of cooperation, and their attention to tasks at hand, thus improving their productivity. Here are some fun props you might try to keep people in a "lighter" state of mind: 

- Koosh balls--rubber-like balls about the size of a baseball that are soft and fluffy.
- Liquid-filled snow globes--you turn them over and the "snow" falls.
- "Magic wands" filled with liquid and glittery starts.
- Small wire sculptures that you change into different shapes.
- Plastic, bendable animal figures, or small statues of cartoon figures.

When using aides in your facilitation activities, keep the following things in mind when selecting your tools:

- They shouldn't make noise (unless they're intended to for a particular exercise).
- The shouldn't make you have to think like a puzzle does.
- They shouldn't be fragile or breakable.
- They shouldn't roll off the table, wind up, or have movement gimmicks.


This week, bring some lightness and joy into the groups in which you are either leading or participating.  I'd love to hear you're perspectives and experiences. Please email your comments to us.

cartoon image of a talking man.

Reader Survey 

What tricks, exercises, or processes have you used successfully to bring joy and lightness to your groups?

Please send us your input and we'll send the entire collection to everyone who contributes.

Skill-Related Resource
The Big Book of Humorous Training Games
by Doni Tamblyn, Sharyn Weiss

To produce changes that last beyond the classroom, training games must engage restless audiences, keep them interested--and make learning fun! The Big Book of Humorous Training Games uses witty, engaging games to create memorable lessons in numerous basic training topics, including customer service, teambuilding, creative problem solving, time management, and more. Step-by-step instructions work with dozens of reproducible handouts and worksheets help trainers and speakers minimize preparation time--and maximized training success.

If you know someone who might benefit and enjoy this newsletter, please send this link to a friend.

picture of Steve Davis, editor of the Master Facilitator Journal.

About the Author: 
Steve Davis is a Business and Life Coach facilitating others to reach  their full potential in their business and personal lives. Please email your stories, comments, suggestions, and ideas. Or call me at 800-216-3854. I'd love to hear from you. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. Thanks for reading! 

In the Spotlight

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Thank you for reading this issue of the Master Facilitator Journal.  Look for your next issue on April 30, 2002.   

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