A guest blog by Julie Luscombe, Head of Education and Training at Jersey Hospice Care.
Along with a group of inspirational colleagues and supported by our expert facilitator, I spent three intense days last June immersing myself in the protective bubble of an action learning facilitator training programme. We laughed and sometimes we cried but above all we learned.
We took ourselves out of our comfort zone and explored the part we all play in our own work related issues. We learned from each other, recognising our own challenges in the experiences of others. Most importantly we learned how to facilitate action learning sets back at our bases.
I left full of excitement and ideas about how I could put all of this into practice. As Head of Education, Learning and Development within a charity, I wanted to use the action learning model to promote learning outside of the classroom. However, once back at work, I soon realised that I had more questions than answers and that I needed to do quite a bit of preparation before getting started. Everyone had their own ideas about what action learning is or isn’t. It seemed I had requests left, right and centre to use it to solve any problem that arose at work.
Keeping calm and carrying on
My confidence began to fade. Away from the safe air lock of the training room, I started to question my ability to follow this through – that fear of the unknown that comes with attempting something new with an uninitiated audience. So I went back to the manual and talked to other facilitators. I found articles by new facilitators who had experienced similar anxieties to me and how they had overcome obstacles. I looked at how I could use my transferable skills such as coaching, mentoring and group facilitation within action learning. Bit by bit, my questions turned into a feeling of I can do this!
I loved the ethos of sharing your questions rather than your cleverness and the spirit of receiving feedback without comment but these are approaches that do not come naturally for most of us. So, I put together my elevator pitch, and presented my plans to the Senior Management Team with a view to piloting the approach with two groups of staff across the organisation to capitalise on an established training programme.
I was ready to take the plunge! I held two introductory sessions with the two potential groups to explain the process, show a short video from the Action Learning Associates’ website and do some exploratory exercises so that all were aware of the process and could make an informed choice as to whether it is something they would find helpful.
I broadly followed the guidance given to us on the course regarding running an introductory meeting. This allowed me to start to build up trust and establish the safety of the process. Luckily, they all agreed to join me on this journey. Voting with their feet – they showed up!
Success comes to those that try!
So here I am, with two action learning sets taking place with a group of enthusiastic and committed colleagues from diverse teams within the organisation who are valuing the protected time to support each other solving common challenges and developing a real sense of community within the groups. My next challenge is to move towards self-facilitation so I can roll out the process amongst other groups.
Focusing on the sharing of questions instead of cleverness has been the key to helping people understand the true value of action learning. Feedback has been great so far and they are still coming so something is going right!
I think if I were to be called upon to advise a newly trained action learning facilitator, I would share this story, about how I kept the faith, used the support and materials supplied to during my 3 day training with ALA, and stayed true to the action learning process. With this guidance and structure, I was able to educate others on action learning, present a compelling case for its use, and perhaps most importantly, create action learning sets with truly appreciative participants who are finding new ways to resolve workplace challenges.
My doubts have gone away, I’m now a confident action learning facilitator and looking forward to refining and using these new skills going forward in my career at Jersey Hospice Care.