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ASK, NOT TELL

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

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  • David

Learning from failure

Updated: Mar 13


I facilitated a team building activity earlier for a group of 90 people in a business conference in Shanghai.  Right after the event, I feel quite unhappy with the result.  I should have done better but I did not.


The activity went well – clear instruction, smooth process and lot of energy in the room.  The problem was the debrief session. I found it too short and not deep enough.  Basically, I had a few questions for them to discuss in small groups and invited them to share in the big group  There were only a few responses during the big group discussion.   After attempting a few more questions with lukewarm response, I could only end the session.  Of course, there were inherent challenges e.g. a big group and crowded environment.  Still, I blamed myself for under-estimating the challenges.  I under-estimated how outspoken the participants would be.


I was angry about myself for such negligence!


Done is done.  Time to move on.  I reflected on what happened and here are my learning:


Assign Responsibility – I would have more sharing from the floor if I have instructed each small team to select 1 person to speak up.  Nobody will do anything if everybody is asked to do it.


Idenify the ‘Pioneer’ – I should scout for those who are more willing to speak up before the debrief sessions starts.  I should walk around, observe and invite them personally to speak up afterward.


Ask Specific Questions – I should avoid asking questions like ‘How is your insight from the activity similar to challenges you met at work?’  Questions like this are too broad (or scary) for the participants to answer.  I should avoid this especially in the beginning.  I should have asked easier questions e.g. closed end questions in the beginning to kick start the participation.  Examples of more appropriate questions are:

  • ‘Mr XXX, is the result in your team as what you all expected?  If not, what would be the reason behind?’

  • ‘Did you have a leader in your team?  If yes, how did he / she establish to be a leader?’

In short, I got to prepare.  I need to prepare a lot of questions so that I will run out of them on stage.  I should think through the process.  Preparation is key, always!

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