#1 — Connect first

Last week I committed to sharing one piece of advice or a lesson I’ve learned about facilitation each week for 10 weeks. Although I’m sure there’s a way of structuring these in some kind of logical order I’ve decided against that. I’m going to write what I feel motivated to write and they’ll come out in that order. Here goes.

About a year ago I read a quote attributed to Any Cuddy: “Connect first, convince later”. As is often the case, this quote instantly helped me to make sense of my own experiences as a facilitator.

Most of the organisations I work with rarely participate in facilitated events and workshops. It’s the exception and not the rule. The sessions I run require a level of openness and transparency that most are unaccustomed to. They require people to collaborate in ways that fly in the face of cultural norms. For my sessions to be effective I need people to be honest, to invest themselves in the process and in some case to pick away at issues that most would rather leave alone.

For people to be willing to ‘go there’, I need to connect with them first. So I look for opportunities to meet participants ahead of time informally. If it’s in person I’ll camp out at their office and introduce myself over coffee. If it’s online I’ll schedule a check-in a few days before with an open invitation for people to drop in and say hello. I’ll show-up or login early and let people know ahead of time that I’d love to meet them before we get into the work and at the beginning of sessions, I make sure that I share a bit about me as a person. I want to show them that I’m willing to share and to demonstrate that I wouldn’t ask them to do so if I wasn’t willing to myself. Ultimately I want them to know that I fundamentally give a shit about the work, I care about them and that I am there to help and not to peddle my own agenda.

On occasions where I’ve traded on reputation instead of empathy, I’ve fallen short of my expectations. So in time, I’ve learned to always connect first.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.



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Joseph Badman

Joseph Badman

MD @WeAreBasis. I help public services solve messy problems one sprint at a time. Part-time wizard, meet-free meathead & self-management nerd 🎩🌍🤓.