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EEK! – I did Kinharvie’s Facilitation Skills Programme!

So, I have been on a “journey” recently – no not the X Factor (you haven’t heard me sing!)  After a good few years of administrating Kinharvie’s Facilitation Skills Programme, I decided that maybe I should be a participant and experience it from the other side.  

After trying to talk myself out of doing it with excuses like: ‘it’s not good to be leaving my role’, ‘I would need someone else to cover’, ‘the trainers might find my participation difficult but not wish to say’, ‘I will wait and see if the cohort fills and I take the last place if one becomes available’ – I finally signed up for the programme and took the last place on the website.  No going back - now or never!  

Having no part of the arrangements for the programme – apart from the initial booking stage – felt strange, not doing the welcome email and all the other associated tasks – handouts, flipcharts etc.  For me to experience the whole programme as a participant, I had to let go.  
The facilitation programme has been a big part of the work I do, fitting around all the other things, but it kind of felt like I was handing over something I owned and I had become so used to doing it my way (rightly or wrongly).

I have lost count of the number of times I have printed the handouts for the programme. I tend to look briefly at the printed materials, making sure it’s formatted correctly and maybe having a quick read over, thinking I have a grasp of the subject. Hopefully I would have a better understanding of the whole programme at the end of the 6 days.  Phenomenology still gets me – just pleased I can spell it!

When I was arriving, in all senses of the word on Day 1 at least, I had the advantage of knowing what I was coming into – I just had to remember to turn left rather than right to go into my office.  Going into the kitchen area as a participant felt strange at first, but then I realised that at least I didn’t have to think twice about where things were – coffee, toilets, the rooms we were using.  It was also interesting to hear how other people felt about being there and more than 1 person said they were anxious.  At least I had a notion about what the course was about.  I had lots of bits to a puzzle which would not actually be completed after 6 days but certainly filled in.  As the trainers said you can’t take in all the information given out and it will filter in.  After the first 2 days were over, I spent the next day in a haze at work and then mildly panicking that I wouldn’t remember anything before Days 3 and 4 started!  Fortunately most people felt like this also.  

One of my biggest takeaways from Day 2 was the Cycle of Experience.  I could see right away where I would place myself and have since started to think about how I approach my work – the little things.  I am very much for getting everything done and jumping to action but maybe it is better to think about how to approach something and not hash and bash to get it done.  I also enjoyed journaling and have kept this up.  It is something that can be done so easily and for personal gain.  

I was aware that part of the training was a skills practice sessions which participants were invited to take part in during days 1-5 and then on the last day there is an opportunity for everyone to do a session.  This probably was the biggest elephant in the room for me.  I didn’t volunteer in the first 2 days but did on Day 3 and it was awful.  But you can’t ride a bike without falling off and I certainly fell off doing the practice session.  After that, there was only one more to go on day 6 and that was to get better – it really couldn’t get any worse if I tried but at least I remembered to breath (top tip from a colleague).  Again, I was so pleased that I put myself in that situation and even although I was very annoyed with myself for the first practice session I did, I was glad I did it and would definitely do the practice session on Day 6 – even just to prove to myself that I could do it again and better!  My learning from the session was that, as facilitator, you don’t have to do all the work and that the group can do the work instead.  Also, to be aware of the time and keeping things simple is sometimes the best thing. Also I probably had a tendency to focus on the things I did wrong, rather than a few things that went well. The encouragement of the trainer and the other participants were brilliant.  It wasn’t an exam and no-one was being tested - it was all good learning.

The final 2 days came around and I couldn’t believe how quickly the time had gone. That time of year at Kinharvie is always busy and I was trying to make sure that my other work was done so I could fully participate in the training and not be thinking what was in my office next door that needed doing.

On Day 5, we received our tasks for the skills practice - I had to be honest, I never knew how this was done – I know now but won’t say, so if you do the training you will find out for yourself.  One thing I was sure I wanted to do if I could, was to do my skills practice first so I could get it over with and then be present for the other participants.  So I was glad when I got the first slot.  I felt OK on the morning of the skills practice.  I was more in control and had time to think about what I was going to do in the session, what tools I was going to use and hopefully getting the timing better.    Of course it wouldn’t be a skills practice without something going a bit askew – e.g. writing out the agenda but forgetting to use it - but it seemed so much better than the first time.  It was also good to see how people did their practice sessions and what could be taken away for use in the future.
I thoroughly enjoyed doing the facilitation skills programme and it has probably taken me since I finished in November to have time to reflect.  The week after the autumn programme finished, the winter programme started so I was back to doing my usual work for that.  But, I could say to participants that I know what it is like and not just say to them on Day 6 it will be alright, because I now know it will be, as I have done and lived to tell the tale!

Even if you had had colleagues who have done the training, you will have your own experience of the programme – the trainers at Kinharvie and the other participants - and take away what you find most useful for your work or on a personal level.  Everyone has different expectations at the start and will take away different things at the end of the 6 days.
If you are interested in the doing the 6-day Facilitation Skills Programme, the next available course starts in the Autumn of 2019  - for more details visit here.

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