That wonderful accelerated learning guru, Dave Meier, says that we should never do what the learners can do for themselves. I learned this truth a long time ago.
While I was conducting a team building session for an agency, the President came over to congratulate me on the session. He then proceeded to say that he wanted my help in converting his organization into a participative management system. He explained that he had run the organization for eighteen years and was now ready to retire and move to France. He wanted his employees to learn how to run the business- and he thought that I was just the person to help facilitate that transformation. The one challenge that he anticipated was convincing the psychologists and psychiatrists on his staff (this was a social service agency). Since they were paid only for client contact time, it made sense that a participative management approach requiring lots of administrative meetings might not be that attractive for them!
He scheduled a mandatory training session for all 150 of the psychologists and psychiatrists, where he expected me to do my magic. In the meantime, I fretted over how I was possibly going to “out-psych” the psychs!
I finally decided to place a flip chart next to the entrance with the focus question: “How will converting to a participatory form of management benefit you?” Everyone saw the question as they entered the training room.
I began the session by referring to the question and asking for their responses. Do you know, that was by far the easiest training day I’ve ever facilitated?
They proceeded to brainstorm thirty different ways the new management style would benefit them, including –creating a new system for compensation.” I spent the entire day in the back of the room drinking hot chocolate while they formed themselves into different task forces and proceeded to plan how to transform the agency! Afterwards, the President was thrilled with the results and thought I walked on water!
I learned a very important lesson from that group. It is much easier and much more effective to let the learners convince themselves!