Reflections on an action learning facilitator training set

As a relative newcomer to action learning, and the prospect of becoming a facilitator, I entered into the 3 day training session with an open mind, and feeling a little curious about how the training would unfold.

The three day course began with an initial getting to know you session which allowed us all to reveal some very interesting details about ourselves, our past, where we had come from and why we all found ourselves in the room together on this particular programme, at this moment in time.

It worked well as an ice breaker, building rapport and setting the ‘trusting’ scene that was needed for the work to follow. It was an interesting mix of people, from different backgrounds, the public and private sector, people I wouldn’t normally come into contact with in my day job, so there was plenty of opportunity to learn about different work challenges.

Our facilitator covered the theory of action learning, the story of its founder, and what happens practically in an action learning set. The story of Reg Revans was inspiring; he was an innovative thinker, not afraid to tackle conventional wisdom.

Our trainer was highly knowledgeable, and able to draw on previous work and experiences to illustrate some points and add depth to the course content. She allowed us the space and time to explore certain aspects in more detail too, so we could expand on some of the topics and share our own thoughts and experiences.

Practical sessions

Much of the course was focused around practical sessions, interspersed with some theory. We all took turns to facilitate an action learning set, and to ‘present’ on a work issue we were grappling with at the time so over the course of the three days we became increasingly familiar with the process of running and facilitating an action learning set, and how to manage the different scenarios, feelings and emotions that we experienced.

It was OK to step in as a facilitator when the questions being asked were not following agreed protocols. The group understood and respected that we were all learning, and mistakes were an opportunity to take note of the do’s and don’t of taking part.

By the end of the three days, we felt far more comfortable with the notion of facilitating our own action learning sets than we were at the beginning. What’s key I think is putting that learning into practice soon after the training, to embed the skills and keep the momentum going. The session on the practical applications of action learning was particularly useful in helping us visualise how we could apply the skill to meet a wide range of challenging scenarios – in different sectors and work settings.

The light bulb moment

During my time as a presenter, I received questions that took me to places I hadn’t expected. The open questions were intriguing, and allowed me to really think about my issue from lots of different angles. And whilst the aim of the session is to arrive at an action plan, for me it was not so clear cut. It was only later, when I had time to sit and think about the session, make personal notes and reflections, that I experienced a ‘light bulb’ moment. I had clarity.

Writing this piece one month later, that clarity transferred into an action plan, and I’m pleased to be making progress on the ‘knotty issue’ I presented. This all serves to underline my faith in action learning as a transformational process. To be a facilitator, you have to believe in the power of action learning, and nothing achieves that quite like experiencing it first hand.

Reflections

Taking time out, away from family and business is a big commitment. It felt right to afford myself that time and the opportunity to explore action learning facilitation in more detail. It was a rich learning experience, feeding my desire to carry on learning and developing.

The workshop format worked well over the three days. It kept everyone engaged and fully immersed in the process. Whilst quite intense, it was a very enjoyable experience, and by the end, I’d have been happy to carry on for another day, to dig even deeper into this topic.

I met some lovely people on the course, all valuable members of the group. Whilst I felt anxious travelling down to London on the first day, I knew that once there I’d enjoy the experience, and I was right. I’d recommend this course to anyone working as an independent coach and I can see its value as a skill for learning and development professionals, business owners and anyone leading teams.

And finally, I am happy to report that I have used the techniques learned already in my work, and to great effect. It’s good to have new skills available to me for problem solving and I’ve no doubt they will come in useful many times over in the future.

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