What Are Your Plans?

“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitment of possibilities.  Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.”

Courtesy johngushue.typepad.com.

– Gloria Steinem

The New Frontier of The New Year

Although we are in the midst of the holiday season, with parties and functions at every turn, there is the sense of a new year just around the corner.   This feeling of something new and different might be tickling your thoughts, even as you enjoy the joy of the season.

So, how do you plan for the new year?  How do you set goals and determine that which is worthy of striving for with your professional and personal time?

Gloria Steinem’s advocacy for dreaming rings loud and true when faced with the yearly ritual of goal setting or resolution declaring.   As this year comes to a close, what lies ahead looks like a new frontier waiting to be explored and understood.  It does if you have the courage to leap into your imagination and dream, anyway.

Courtesy negotiationplanner.com

We at The Facilitators Studio offer this extra brain tickler for the season and your subsequent planning for future work.

To Facilitate literally means “to make easier.”  Extraordinary Facilitators make learning easier by creating the right environment, offering helpful information, creating compelling statements and setting a model for who we want our audience to become.  Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”  That is, if you want a compassionate world, be compassionate.  If you want a generous world, be generous.  We say, “Be the change you want to see in the classroom.”  If you want to see transparency, be transparent.  If you want to see courage, be courageous.  If you want to see Extraordinary Facilitation, be the Extraordinary Facilitator.

Whatever it is that you want to see in the new year, we encourage you to dream it and then “be it.”  

The above contains excerpts from the book by Barry Shapiro, “Casting Call in the Theatre of Corporate America.”

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Pass the Health Chops and Gravy, Please…

“Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all.”

Courtesy of articles.latimes.com

 – William Faulker

More Health Chops?

As you embark upon the Thanksgiving holiday to spend time with loved ones and feast upon delights of the season, The Facilitators Studio offers up a reminder to mind your Health Chops.

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As you may know, “Chops” refer to the technical skills and/or mindset possessed by an effective performer.  The Facilitators Studio links the chops of a facilitator to one of the three areas of competency.

  • Content Competence
  • Learning Competence
  • Facilitation Competence

These are the three dimensions by which a facilitator’s effectiveness can be measured.

When it comes to the Health Chops (a Learning Competence), maintaining one’s physical and mental well being is a supportive element to the facilitation of an effective program.

  • Develops Physical Stamina – The Extraordinary Facilitator maintains a consistent level of energy and is able to exert him/her self without incurring injuries or excessive fatigue.  Best used after the holiday feast to stay awake.
  • Practice Relaxation – The Extraordinary Facilitator recharges him/her self during the journey to the program destination through rest, stretching and/or meditation.  You can alway substitute this chop in place of the one above, following the holiday feasting.
  • Maintains Mental Flexibilty – The Extraordinary Facilitator rolls with last minute changes to his/her travel schedule and session demands without stressing his/her mind. Most effective at the airport, train station or in the car.
  • Ensures Preparation – The Extraordinary Facilitator  shows up rested, focused and knowledgeable for the session.  If your holiday is like an upcoming session, best to come prepared and focused for feasting.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Faculty and Cast of The Facilitators Studio!

The above contains excerpts from the book by Barry Shapiro, “Casting Call in the Theatre of Corporate America.”

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Are You An Insider?

“When you learn something from people, or from a culture, you accept it as a gift, and it is your lifelong commitement to perserve and build on it.”

Courtesy of Courtesy of nyphil.org

– Yo-Yo Ma

Congratulations to the graduates from the October session of The Facilitators Studio!

Courtesy of Penta Photography http://www.pentaphotography.com

Do You Have Influence?

The extent to which we can influence an organizational culture is related to the extent to which people within that culture view us a positive, trustworthy and knowledgeable force of change.  Cultures are like families in that it is very difficult to change an entrenched family culture or structure.

Courtesy of stephenloudermilk.wordpress.com

In order to create lasting change, secured by a system of accountability, you must have profound influence in the organization  in which you have been accepted, not as an external visitor and learning-room tour guide, but as an insider.  The extent to which you are accepted by an organization can be represented on a continuum:


  Attacked/Ostracized            Criticized/Questioned         Understood/Embraced

 Attacked – You are seen as dangerous to the company and, like a virus, expelled through the mouth, nose and doors of the organization.

Ostracized – You are ignored and seen as impotent or irrelevant.

Criticized – The organization openly challenges you or your ideas.

Questioned – The organization is intrigued, but skeptical of you and your methods.

 Understood – The organization respects you but doesn’t always agree with you.

Embraced – You’re valued and accepted as one of their own.

 It is important to know where you are on the (OAC) Organizational Acceptance Continuum in order to identify and move business opportunities forward to affect the long range and sustained culture change begun in your work in the learning-room.  More than your efforts, your participants become your “Evidence Ambassadors” walking passed senior sponsors in the halls of the organization, unconsciously, but passionately demonstrating new behaviors in the organizational culture as a result of experiences practiced in the learning-room.

The above is an excerpt from the book by Barry Shapiro, “Casting Call in the Theatre of Corporate America.”

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What Do You Do After Everyone Goes Home?

“No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.”

    – George Burns

Congratulations to the graduates from the October session of  The Facilitators Studio!

Courtesy of Penta Photography http://www.pentaphotography.com

Working With Participants After The Workshop

Because most people want to create their own destiny, you can help your participants become Extraordinary Facilitators by helping them live into great facilitation, on their terms.

The guided development of another facilitator’s skills allows them to excel independently and increases the facilitation capacity in an organization.

  • Assess Others’ Skill Levels:  The Extraordinary Facilitator ensures participants have the skill and influence to apply learning from development sessions.
  • Practices Systems Thinking: The Extraordinary  Facilitator considers the impact of behavior changes on other parts of the client’s and/or particpant’s organization.
  • Established Accountablility: The Extraordinary Facilitator leverages cohort groups within the participant population to ensure sustained application of learningand measurement of impact.

When the session is over, and you engage in follow-up work, ask these questions to set a framework:

  • How can you involve others in the assessment of their own strengths and weaknessess?
  • To whom should you communicate about how they affect behavior in your participants?
  • Where, in the client organization, can you publish or distribute the progress of your participants?

The extent to which you can influence an organizational culture is related to the extent to which people within that culture view you as a positive, trurtworthy and knowledgeable force of change.

Next time, we’ll explore the Organizational Acceptance Continuum.

The above is an excerpt from the book by Barry Shapiro, “Casting Call in the Theatre of Corporate America.”

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A Nap, A Stretch and You’re Ready! Showtime!

“I always feel I can play a role – just give me the time to do the preparation and I’ll be it.”

Courtesy of upi.com

– Mira Sorvino

Tips for Preparing for a Session

Like you, the night before the program, your participants are in a vast array of emotional states and are moving across spectrums of time and geographic locations. Some are traveling great distances across the country or even enduring travel dramas overseas. They may spend an entire day traveling-changing planes as apprehensively as you would feel about changing an infant’s diaper several times during a journey. Irritated by a prolonged Custom’s line, they stand agitated and confused about the location of a hotel shuttle bus or the conversion ratio to the American dollar or the Euro. Others are walking distance from the training room, and they will drag themselves from the warm cocoon of their hotel beds twenty minutes before the start of the class. Likewise, each of the participants has different expectations about the days to come. There are those who, regardless of their circumstances, approach new things with vigor, excitement and the open-mindedness of a good-natured child. Others bristle at “hello.” Therefore, the greater the extent to which you can create an environment that makes each demeanor more comfortable, the more likely each of your participants will engage comfortably at their own pace.


Courtesy pxleyes.com

Catnap or not, fatigue is a challenging byproduct of continuous travel. Therefore, it must be managed like any other obstacle. While traveling, short naps aided by a sleep blindfold and earplugs can provide welcomed bursts of energy, akin to spare battery packs for your electronics. Periodic stretching in the aisles and walks up and down the airplane will aid circulation and prevent those nasty little bedsores. In the same way, drinking plenty of water will give you an excuse to get out of your seat, much like keeping a travel size toothbrush and tube of toothpaste nearby will surely keep you and your fellow passengers refreshed. After all, after a nap, moose breath has a tendency to garner quite a bit of negative attention from the people next to you, who may have been eyeing you nervously as you slept.

Air Travel 

More than likely you will also be traveling by air to get to your work destinations. Despite some irritations, airplanes can be effective study rooms, if managed well. Noise canceling headphones can help to minimize the distractions of shrill cries from agitated babies or from the incessant chatter of excited new acquaintances. Inserting small earplugs in addition to the headphones will create a hermetically sealed environment while still allowing glorious music in. Bring an additional charged computer battery and spare portable music device batteries for longer domestic flights or international journeys that don’t provide access to electrical outlets. This will ensure an uninterrupted tunnel of focus.

Courtesy of blog.afundedlife.com

Checking your bags will add thirty minutes to your travels, so pack light and board properly. Boarding a plane properly carries with it etiquette akin to meeting the Queen. Mired in restrictive policies, Flight Attendants, frustrated from a long day’s travels, are more than happy to sublimate their irritation through you and your belongings. Our goal is to remain polite and neutral. Unlike the protective measure against an approaching bear in which we are taught to act big, act small when approaching a rabid Flight Attendant. Carry your bags on the opposite side from the attendant, and be sure to smile and maintain eye contact with them as you pass to your seat. This will keep their focus on you and not your bags. Such intentional posturing is meant to avoid separating you from your luggage.

When packing your bags remember that a few extra pair of clean socks and t-shirts will add immediate vitality to an upcoming 13 hour day. To free up room for such necessary items, remove the pages from the bulky participant manual and bind the pages, coverless, with three separate rings. Most office supply stores sell a variety of rings for just such occasions.

Keep the items you will need like a pen, yellow highlighter, manual, music, and headphones in your carry-on bag under your seat. And, don’t forget to keep your cell phone handy so that you can use the plane’s taxiing time to make that important call ten minutes before exiting the aircraft.

Courtesy of jonathanandmelanie.blogspot.com

Travel Tips

  • Pack and stow your luggage efficiently in order to save time de-boarding.
  • Pamper yourself while traveling (i.e. MP3 player, noise reduction headphones) to reduce stress and fatigue.
  • Use your time on the plane to prepare for your upcoming session.
  • Attend to your physical health, through napping and stretching, in order toremain rested so you can facilitate at your peak performance.
  • Anticipate ways to make your participants feel comfortable after their journey in order to set a comfortable tone on day one.

The above is an excerpt from the book by Barry Shapiro, “Casting Call in the Theatre of Corporate America.”


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Focus On Success from Becky Rentzel at McDonald’s

“I have learned how to give the power of the learning to the learners.” 

     – Becky Rentzel, McDonald’s World Wide Training, Learning & Development and Graduate of The Facilitators Studio

What Happens After The Facilitators Studio?

We sat down to chat with one of the graduates from The Facilitators Studio to see what happened after the workshop.   Becky Rentzel leads the team whose primary role is to deliver McDonald’s Mid-management curriculum to participants from all areas of the world. She also is leading the deployment of the newly revised Mid Management leadership curriculum and is working closely with training leads from all areas of the world with the implementation of the new curriculum into their markets.  She lives in Plainfield, Illinois with her husband and two young children.

So… Did anything change?

Did she experience results?

FS: What business challenges were you and your team facing before you attended The Facilitators Studio?

BR: As a team dedicated to delivering leadership training, we are always trying to up skill our classroom facilitators, which in itself is a challenge. As a system, our biggest opportunity that consistently shows up on employee commitment surveys is that employees do not feel that they freely and openly express their thoughts and opinions. For me personally, I wanted to be more effective at facilitating tough meetings to get people to open up, providing for more innovation and problem solving- and encouraging that freedom of expression.

FS:  How did The Facilitators Studio address your specific business challenges?

BR: Because the workshop included such a diversity of colleagues, I was able to best practice ideas to take back to my team. Additionally, I was able to give and receive feedback to my studio cohorts. The feedback I received was so impactful to me. It was so specific and allowed me to make a plan to improve my personal effectiveness- especially in those tough meetings. Because of my new and improved skills, I am able to be more influential with leadership.

FS: What changes did you implement in your business or on your team as a result of The Facilitators Studio?

BR:  With my immediate team, I covered a part of the workshop with them that will help them to identify and defuse derailing behaviors of participants. I used some of the tools and icons to help educate my team and we even have planned to use the role-play activities and our next team meeting.  This will impact literally thousands of learners in our

Becky Rentzel, McDonald’s Worldwide Training

instructor-led training by the use of the new facilitator techniques. For my meeting facilitation, I have had the opportunity on several occasions to bring out better thinking by being more aware of the meeting participators and their engagement and/or derailing behaviors. Last week I facilitated a “team norm” session with the team to determine how we can be more further-faster in 2011. One of our problems is avoidance of conflict. Our new norm is to bring the stuffed elephant into the room to surface conflict. People are now asking to have the elephant passed to them so they can “warn” the team of impending conflict.

FC:  How do your improved facilitation skills help the performance of your business? or help to save time/money?

BR:  I have learned how to give the power of the learning to the learners. The easiest way to seed this concept is by reinforcing that we are “the guide by the side, not the sage on the stage.” Last month I was asked to facilitate a tough decision-making meeting with some of our top executives. Normally they would have paid an external facilitator thousands of dollars to facilitate this session. Just yesterday at a project team meeting, I heard my colleague (the professional “lemon-face”) mumble something under his breath. Dan, the brilliant, yet underappreciated IT guy mumbles again. I stopped the meeting and asked him to elaborate. His insight was so valuable to a new technology that we are implementing that we could had made huge mistakes in a GLOBAL solution that impacts over 30k restaurants around the world. These kinds of mistakes cost unbelievable amounts of time and money. That’s the importance of effective facilitation. It is somewhat immeasurable in dollars, yet priceless at the same time.

FC:  Why would you recommend The Facilitators Studio to other business leaders?

BR:  Certainly I would recommend this course to business leaders for all the reasons I mentioned. Several reasons lie behind my recommendation: networking opportunities; self-awareness exercises; up skilling your facilitation skills; achieving break-through thinking at business meetings, and most importantly of all- improving business results with the talent on your teams.

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Facilitation Aikido

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t
turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work
around it.”

-Michael Jordan

Courtesy of harlemcondolife.com

Have you ever wondered why some speakers, after receiving the reigns of an excited learning room, slowly drain the life out of its inhabitants, while others, who receive a dead fish, breathe life into it and teach it to Samba?

Courtesy of http://bit.ly/oq253L

The energy, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the energy is blowin’ in the wind. We can learn to harness energy like a giant sail on a boat in the ocean, but we must take care not to rip the sail.

Generating energy is a powerful force in your learning room, however energy brings with it  some very specific challenges. These challenges, if navigated poorly, can cause energy problems. Energy problems become exaggerated when your thoughts, values  and actions are misaligned or when your energy level does not track smoothly with your participant’s energy level.

In order to understand how to properly harness the energy in the room, let’s start with the night before your program. The image of the session that we forecast in our minds while
lying in bed the night before a program may be quite different from the reality of the group dynamics the next day. Surprises waiting for us, if known, might keep us from stepping inside the classroom. I’ve heard new facilitators joke that teaching would be easy if it weren’t for the participants. Participants can be difficult, provocative, and irritating. They may not have your best interest, the company’s best interest or even their own best interest in mind. And, they can create obstacles that are challenging, but not impossible, to navigate. Our  positive mind-set and competent skill-set about managing energy is critical as we step into the learning room.

Energy challenges often mask themselves, or get marginalized, as “people problems.” But
the problem is not ultimately with a single person. The problem often involves specific group dynamics. Under the right environments, all people flourish, even criminals, the physically disabled or the mentally ill.  Effective group dynamics require creating the right environment for each individual participant to flourish.  The suggested methods that we teach in The Facilitators Studio make up what we call “Facilitation Aikido.”

Courtesy of http://bit.ly/qGDhCc

Aikido, as you may know, is the Asian martial art of using another’s energy against or with him or her to prevent harm or to generate a more productive outcome. Aikido is
often translated as “the Way of unified spirit.” It was developed in the 1920’s by Morihei Ueshiba. One of Aikido’s guiding principles is that self defense should be possible without hurting your attacker. Aikido techniques redirect the
force of the attacker rather than opposing it.  Facilitation Aikido is the
application of this philosophy to the group dynamics in your learning room.

If you’d like to learn more about the five specific participant obstables and how to use Facilitation Aikido, please visit our website and register for our upcoming workshop in October.  You can receive certification in Facilitation
Aikido and take those tools back to your workplace.

The above is an excerpt from the book by Barry
Shapiro, “Casting Call in the Theatre
of Corporate America.”


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