It’s amazing what you overhear in cafes.
I was in a café the other day, eating breakfast when I overheard a gentleman welcoming some colleagues. From the way, he started talking it was apparent that this conversation was outside of their normal interactions. My ears pricked up when I realised they were about to attend a course.
The gentleman leading the conversation said something along the lines of, “Well, unless they talk about Health & Safety and the implications for us, I’m just not interested in anything that they have to say.”
He had my attention. He then went on to fire off a long list of things that he felt they were entitled to, things they were clearly not currently getting in their role. Things like;
Pool tables, comfortable sofas, large screen TV’s – all in their break out room.
Now let me be clear, I’m not making a judgement call in any way on this. It was completely out of context for me. After all, I was just sitting in a café, minding my own business but I couldn’t help but overhear what they were saying. I found their conversation completely fascinating and here’s why.
Firstly, as the conversation continued it seemed apparent that what was going on here was this man had invited a couple of colleagues to breakfast in order to amass allies. To create a united front, a force. He was very passionate about his feelings and it was quite obvious he was trying to sway the opinions of his colleagues.
The second thing that crossed my mind was, – what about the poor facilitator who was about to be sideswiped by this behaviour. Because that’s what was about to happen. The animosity that I could see growing around the breakfast table was going to have a huge impact when these people showed up in the room and the facilitator was the one who was going to be left to deal with it.
Which brings me to my main point; as a Facilitator, it’s no longer enough to be able to just stand up in front of a crowded room. You now need to be equipped to deal with what comes into the room. This café scenario is just one example of what can show up in a room. A huge amount of animosity, clearly some unresolved issues, complaints or grips. Unless these issues are resolved these people will have a filter system in place and they won’t hear a word that is said. And it won’t matter how good the facilitator is, how good the content is, they will still be coming at it from a place of, “it’s not fair, my situation is different and I need these issues addressed”.
Some would say it takes a new skill set and some would argue that it takes an old skill set and to be honest, I’m in the second camp. But one thing I’m sure of, it does take a unique set of skills.
Facilitation is not just about being able to string a few words together and create an entertaining day. It’s about bringing a full repertoire of interpersonal skills to a training programme so that you can make sure you really deliver for the people in the room.
So if you’re faced with a group of early morning café dwellers with an agenda – send them our way…….they’ll be in good hands.