11 Lessons from a Facilitation Marathon

And then there are the weeks when you barely even come up for breath, when it’s client engagement after event after workshop. That was the caserecently when I glanced up to see the calendar for the week was almost completely booked with solid blocks of activity.

We started with a team alignment session in Williamsburg with the emergency department leadership at Bon Secours’ Memorial Regional Medical Center, followed by a te am retreat with the staff of the Virginia Poverty Law Center. Midweek found our team huddled with a project group representing the Virginia Society of the American Institute of Architects. We wrapped the week with a workshop on leadership for a large group of board and staff leaders with the Virginia Society of CPAs.

In the moment, the lessons that bubble up from intense back-to-back work feel ephemeral. As breathing space emerges, however, so do the lessons.

Here are 11 things I learned, relearned, or affirmed during our busy mid-May marathon:

  1. Emergency department physicians deal with team alignment issues in exactly the way you’d expect – diagnosis is quickly followed by treatment and action. It wasn’t surprising that we ended our day early. And with a plan.
  2. Very early morning meetings are the worst. But they’re not as bad as a very early meeting + a one hour commute.
  3. It’s great to engage with new clients. Work with new groups is laden with new discoveries, and opportunities to be curious about entirely new areas.
  4. It’s great to reconnect with long-time clients.  Working with people we know is comfortable, familiar and fun. Planned well, it is not rote!
  5. All meetings should be held at the Roslyn Retreat Center overlooking the James River, especially on sunny, spring days. If Roslyn’s not an option, meetings should take place in any 500 square feet of the 54,000 square foot Branch House.
  6. Never underestimate the value of an extra mind. Having a thought partner at the table makes breaks productive, and helps our facilitation keep up with changing group dynamics.
  7. Never underestimate the value of an extra set of hands. Collecting 200+ Sharpie markers, Post-It Notes and more than 800 Insights Discovery playing cards is hard to do in 15 minutes. Even with help.
  8. You cannot get any other work done easily on weeks you are facilitating for 35 hours. Or plan the dinner menu for your family.
  9. Accountants are pretty smart.
  1. The answers are already in the room, and the best facilitation happens when we let our clients answer their own questions.
  2. One of the best aspects of our work is the variety – of relationships, of experiences, of learning, of engagements.