Facilitating an action learning set – for real – is at the heart of our training course for facilitators. Just as the best way to understand action learning is by doing it, so too the best way to understand the challenges and opportunities of being a facilitator is also by doing it. Although we cover some key theory on the course, and also help participants to consider how they will put use their skills in their individual contexts, most of the course time is spent facilitating action learning, with each person taking a turn to facilitate. It’s an intensive experience – participants have come together to learn how to facilitate, and at the same time, they are working as a temporary action learning set.
When I ran a facilitator training course last month, with six participants from very diverse backgrounds, I was struck by how this intensive, repeated experience of action learning operates on different levels. There is learning about the skills of facilitation, but there is also learning about being in an action learning set – both as an issue-holder and as a supporter. We noticed over the three days how much more skilful participants were becoming as set members, as well as honing their facilitation skills. By the end of the course, the quality of questioning had deepened, with more probing and challenging questions, and the group was working more effectively together.
How did this happen? Simply, by reflecting each time someone facilitated and sharing our thoughts. We asked what had worked well and what could have been done differently; we reviewed those moments which had puzzled or surprised us; and each person received rich feedback on how they had facilitated the set. Although there was repetition of the process, the content was always different.
As the saying goes: “you can never step in the same river twice”. Or, as one participant commented at the end of the course: “I have to admit that when I saw that we were going to do seven action learning sets, I thought that by the end I’d be bored… but the reality was that each of them was so educational”. For me, each time I run a course, it reaffirms that the process of practising, reflecting, and having dialogue with open-minded people is, quite simply, an enormous pleasure. If you think you might enjoy it too, why not find out more about our open action learning facilitator training courses?