Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leadership at Work: Facilitating Groups at Play (Part 2)

Breaking the Ice

Icebreaking is a popular activity in public seminars and conferences. It is a simple process of reducing differences, and increasing similarities. Participants re expected to become more comfortable with these ‘small games’ so that they may be more open to the event, its facilitators, and new possibilities. You can get them to look for information under stringent time considerations, design and deliver their war-cry/cheer and form different team configurations. We need to be sensitive and mindful of the audience and which types of activities may be useful and relevant. One of our signature pieces is dubbed the Handshake Challenge, as we not only review and revise the Universal Handshake we also use international handshakes (taught to me by Dr Peter J Stark) to enhance the level of openness of our students. This is a popular process, and has been ‘borrowed’ by many trainers.

Solutions Focused Approach

Most of us tend to take a logical approach to problem solving – by taking a problem-centric approach. Instead, we take a solutions-focused approach with

Solutions-Focused Coaching and Appreciative Inquiry ( Problems tend to focus us on the past (and impossibilities), whereas solutions focus us on the future and what is possible. Solutions focus on ‘what ought to be there’, instead of ‘what is’.

Adventure-based Learning

Activities are useful because it engages the body, mind and spirit. Physical exercise alerts the body to what is possible, and what our perceived limitations may be. Adventure-based learning includes low-element and high-element activities; low-elements are described as physical challenges that are performed less than 30-centimetres off the ground, and vice versa. Rope courses are also useful in that we secure ourselves with safety-harnesses and rope, and are bound by rules and restrictions, and we attempt to release our self-imposed limitations. Other activities that inject a sense of adventure are circuit driving, off- road driving, trekking and climbing, water-sports, and aerial-manoeuvres. Each challenge is designed to bring out aspects of our personality, talent, abilities and capabilities we do not, normally, apply at the workplace or classroom.

Are the Answers in the Questions?

THE ANSWERS ARE IN THE QUESTIONS. Expert facilitators know that there is always one more question that may not have been asked. I am always concerned that THE QUESTION is not usually asked in discussions, especially if staff experience and sustain dysfunctional dynamics, or when staff feel helpless and hopeless. In comprehension, there are at least 7 questions to ask, NOT 6! The missing question can retard our progress in accelerating personal change for our students. This question builds a promise and premise for possibility; asking it builds a sense of entrepreneurship and opens the door to innovation. In the Solutions Focused approach, coaches are trained to facilitate the Miracle Question and it may change your life once you have considered it.


Currently conducted in Singapore by Focus Adventure Pte Ltd (, this is the next best thing to sliced bread – well, almost – NOTHING beats sliced bread. What has been sliced is the border separating Adult Play and Child’s Play. Players construct familiar and abstract, 3-dimensional structures to reflect their perception and impressions of their relationships with colleagues. After the creative effort of building their own sculpture, they then relate it to their colleagues’. The experienced facilitator will be able to successfully draw from the abstract learning afforded from the concrete experience of actually putting the snap-on, bricks together (with Child-Like Curiosity) into unique configurations. 

Focus on the abstracts and abstract learning

Abstract learning may be subjective however it is still part of our human experience. After all, our experiences are subjective and no two persons describing the same one can express it identically. The tools and techniques found in Experience Orientated Management (EOM™, found at focus on the abstract learning of managers. When a facilitator describes an experience with ‘a sense of’, then abstracts are being considered; this includes sensations, emotions, and feelings. In team physical challenges, we can discuss abstracts like ‘a sense of adventure’, ‘a sense of anticipation, and ‘a sense of optimism’. We cannot avoid the abstracts as these complement the concrete part of human experiences.

(THE INNER PILOT newsletter, incorporating Inside Leadership © Enrico Varella & Associates 2007) 

No comments: