As a facilitator for a team building company that conducts activity-based workshops, I pride myself on adding something meaningful to the participants. However, from the outside, it looks like just a bit of fun and games… more like an entertainment event. So how do I justify my rigorous academic background and USP of bringing a change to the audience members? Can’t we just have anyone organize these “games” and get it over with? Why the need for someone more experienced, or senior, or “better”? And how do you even judge the quality of facilitation?
There is a reason why companies like Shell are spending around Rs.3 lakh per participant, per day, on soft-skills workshops, and why the industry is valued at around Rs.20,45,000 crore! In the same way, there are facilitators who charge Rs.5000, and those who charge Rs.5 lakh per program (per day). Here’s why:
1.Setting the Context :
Most participants either don’t know or don’t agree with why they’re actually in the training room, to begin with. If it’s a large group (above 40), then this is even more of a concern. The facilitator is an “outsider” and must establish a connection with the team so that they are “genuinely” in sync with the flow of the program. Therefore, the context or the theme or the reason why the program is happening must be communicated in a way that resonates strongly with people. If there’s strong buy-in from the participant’s side, the program goes much more smoothly
2. Mastering the Flow: Starting, transitions, and conclusion.
After setting the context, everything needs to flow, like a movie. The first activity/scene needs to segue into the next, and so on. There needs to be a weaving of the messages as they flow from the first hour to the next. The entire program is to be made into an “experience” with a balance of reflections, sharing, experiential activities, and breaks. A break in the flow could be a section of people just waiting, either because they are bored, or because they don’t relate to what’s happening in the room, or because they’re just waiting patiently for half the people who are not on time. The entire flow must be managed in a way that is seamless… and trust me, it’s an art! Throw in the unexpected situations of a sudden change of plans – delayed start or a Director who suddenly decides to give a speech for 30 excruciating minutes!
3.Going beyond the “fun”
The word “beyond” is key here, because you absolutely need fun, but a successful team building company will do a lot more than that. Activities must be designed in a way that engages introverts as well, not just extroverts – otherwise, half the audience will be sitting quietly without much involvement. The activities must also be realistic simulations of what people likely face in their real world, and thus, forces them to confront the difficulties. (One criticism I hear from HR professionals is that team building companies in India are mostly focussing on fun, and not so much on other areas.)
4. “Making” people open up, and creating authentic discussions.
Now if the facilitator has designed the flow and activities appropriately, he/she must elicit authentic responses from participants during the discussions that ensue. This is a function of how genuinely the facilitator can create an environment of “acceptance of vulnerability” and a desire to “speak your mind so as to achieve stronger team results”. There has to be a key message (or multiple messages if the program duration allows) that is sent to the participants with each module or activity. There needs to be new or insightful information presented to people – hopefully, something they haven’t heard 1500 times already. Thus, smart facilitators stay updated with the most relevant research findings, so they can be echoed during the debriefs.
Compared to the western countries, Team building companies in India are way behind, mainly because they focus on only the “Fun” element. When choosing a facilitator for your team offsite, it’s advisable to check the other factors highlighted above.