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ASK, NOT TELL

....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning

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  • David

Dancing with the Surprise

Updated: Mar 26


Less than 12 hours before starting a 2-day Leadership Development workshop, the client told me that they need to take the first 1 hour away from the workshop. The new country head as the sponsor will introduce an ‘Action Project’ to the participants. The first thought came to my mind was that it may not be a good idea because:


· The ‘Action Project’ means demanding work for the participants in the coming few months. Introducing it in the beginning would probably take away the participants’ attention from the workshop

· The country head is new to most in the room. We have little idea how his speech and his project will be in the line with workshop

· Last but not the least, the participants did not know in advance that they need to work on an ‘Action Project’ at all!


Yet, on second thought, I found myself curious to let go. I chose to experiment with this unpredictability. After all, my client could not do much about it at that time. I was very much in the state of ‘Be prepared and prepared not to use what you prepare’ in my previous blog post.


At the end, it turned out to be an enhanced learning experience for the participants. Basically, I leveraged the participants’ strong attention towards the project to land the learning for the workshop content. For example, a piece of workshop content is about the notion that people have different behavioural preferences. I challenged the participants to apply the learning to prepare for the Q&A session with the sponsor on day 2. The driving questions are ‘What behavioural preference did XXX demonstrated and why? How would you engage him better tomorrow given your preference?’ I also facilitated them to talk about the possible dynamics within their respective project teams using the behavioural preference language.


The underlying learning philosophy is very much the ‘Action Reflection Learning’ (ARL) I mentioned before. Learning retention is higher for ‘Just-in-time’ rather than ‘Just-in-case’ learning. You may be interested to read my previous posts - ARL approach (2011), Learning Sustainability (2012) and Action Learning in Action (2014).


The more important reflection is that I can let go better. It is driven by my rising inclination to work with ‘what is in the room’ rather than ‘what I prepare’ or even ‘what is on the PPT’. The fact that I have spent majority of my time on executive coaching certainly contributes to this inclination.


I am curious how else I could be different in the future…. Let the learning continues.

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