One of my clients, a learning and development manager from a major mobile company, stopped me recently (after I'd been facilitating a strategy session for a group of her senior executives), "How did you do that Neil? There are so many big egos in that room. How did you read them? They're not normally creative, how did you get them working together to come up with all those innovative ideas? And then, what magic did you use to get them to align and agree to a path forward? That's never happened before. I wish I could learn to do that."
"You could do it easily" I replied, knowing her skill as a coach and L&D consultant, "I'm happy to mentor you if you like."
She looked a little confused. "Mentor? You mean teach don't you?" She knew, after all, that I run one of the UK's most successful change facilitation schools.
"No, I think mentoring is much more appropriate for developing facilitation skills, don't you? The trick, I believe, is 'trying on skills and attitudes', assimilating the ones that work for you until you become a very best facilitator you can be. It's a continual learning process. It's not just about just learning skills or a set formula, it's about 'being' and 'doing'. That way you have true behavioural flexibility when you're working with a group and you can flex to their needs rather than forcing them to play by your rules. Like great coaching, great facilitation is a conversation with a purpose. It's more a set of ideas and principles working together, rather than a rigid plan. I'm willing to share the bits that I think make the most difference if you like."
My client was delighted and over the next few months I mentored her to become a really effective facilitator. And I'd like to make the same offer to you here on Udemy. I'd really love to have the opportunity to share what I believe are the most important ideas, tools and distinctions for a facilitator to have at their disposal. And I'd like to encourage you to try them on. I really do believe that if you throw yourself into this programme you can significantly increase your effectiveness in working with groups and in facilitating learning or change.
Mentoring, after all, is simply about me saying 'I've walked this path before. And I've been pretty successful at it. I've learnt a great deal, and have tried on even more. Would you be interested in hearing about the best bits of what I've learnt? And would you then, like to try on those ideas to see if you can get similar results in your professional life?'
If this sounds of interest, then I'd love to get to know you better and do my very best through these videos to help you accelerate your facilitation journey.
Now, you may have already noticed that this isn't the shortest course on Udemy. In fact it runs to over 7 hours of video and that's without time for the exercises and practice that we suggest throughout. This isn't for the fainthearted. It's for people who really want to step up and facilitate. We've put in a huge amount of effort to develop a programme that layers skills in much the same ways as I'd do it face to face if we had the opportunity to work together in person.
If you are only curious about facilitation and want a bluffers guide, or you want someone to be prescriptive and tell you what to do, then this course probably isn't for you - you'd possibly be better off starting with one of the lighter, shorter courses available on Udemy. Then, after that, if you want to ramp up your skills and accelerate your skills, then we'd be delighted to welcome you here onto our mentoring programme.
Why have we made it so long? Well the simple answer is we had a lot to say. But that doesn't really do the question justice. It would have made more commercial sense to make it shorter or to chop it into four courses, but we have a bigger mission. I really do believe that the world needs incredible facilitators right now and this course is intended to add value to people who share our vision and want to be part of making a positive difference in the world. I believe that facilitation skills really are that powerful. The world and business is changing at an ever increasing pace and highly skilled facilitators are already at the heart of helping people navigate change and find ways to thrive personally and professionally.
You are very welcome to join us if you're a complete beginner as long as you have a facilitation project in mind that you can apply the learning to. This material comes to life through application. It isn't intended as just theoretical knowledge. And also please remember this is mentoring not a formulaic programme. You need to be willing to layer your own learning and experiment to build your skills.
Of course having some sort of experience as a coach, trainer, consultant, youth worker, manager, counsellor, learning and development professional, charity support worker, change activist, project manager, or similar, will be massively useful.
There are five key categories of student that we tend to attract to this programme.
Coaches, consultants, L&D professionals and 1:1 change agents who wish to develop their ability to work with groups
Trainers who are recognising that the training landscape has changed and less and less classroom based training courses are being commissioned because students don't have time to attend, theirs an increased environmental impact to travelling to courses and most important here on Udemy is that traditional classroom learning is increasingly being replaced by e-learning. But these challenges are also what makes high quality facilitation skills so valuable - facilitation is about so much more than skills.
Existing facilitators who are self-taught who want to compare their skills against other industry experts. It is sometimes hard to improve when you don't have anyone to benchmark against.
Charity professionals and civil servants who are increasingly being asked to facilitate focus groups and stakeholder engagement sessions
People changing profession who want to gain a deep understanding of facilitation and have an inkling it might play a role in their future career.
Of course, you might not fit into any of those categories, but at least it's nice to know the amazing company you are keeping.
So what do we hope you'll get by the end of the programme? Well here are a few things that we think you should be able to do:
Develop a personalised framework for facilitation that enables you to elegantly structure a facilitation session
Structure frames to help steer a group towards positive change or learning and avoid potential pitfalls that could have derailed your facilitation
Differentiate between surface and deep structure language and recognise when and how to challenge the words used by group members to unlock learning
Build and cleanly set up group exercises so they run cleanly and maximise their impact
Set clean learning or change objectives that help you align the needs of sponsors with those of individuals within a group
Given the over 6.5 hours of video, you can probably guess already that there will be so much more than that available on the programme, from opening the session with impact through to challenging dominant group members so everyone can speak. Sarah and I have tried our best to download everything we think you need to consider to build a powerful facilitation profile.
Let me tell you a little bit about me. I'm a professional executive coach and facilitator. I specialise in managing effective change and supercharging high performing teams. But previously, I've also facilitated a lot of personal development experiences. I've facilitated groups of disenfranchised young people through to blue chip boards. I work with charities, start-ups and international brands. I've facilitated sessions at 10 and 11 Downing Street with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown and have had the privilege of working with industry leaders such as Sir Richard Branson.
But what's even better, is the mentoring on this programme doesn't just come from me. I've invited Sarah Smith, one of the most extraordinary facilitators I know, to join me and share her knowledge and experience too. Sarah is an incredible coach and positive psychologist and former Head of Development at Cranfield University. Like me, she has huge experience working for some of the world's top organisations and blends a number of different modalities in order to maximise her impact with groups.
The programme varies between taught modules recorded especially with this programme in mind and classroom recordings from our 14 day NLP Trainer Training and Change Facilitation programmes. This makes the course feel much more interactive. It also saves you a lot of money. Students on the course in Bristol paid up to £3500 to attend and you get to share much of the same material for a fraction of the price. And of course you'll have a 30 day money back guarantee, so there is no real risk, other than the investment of your valuable time, if the course isn't for you. We really want you to be successful, and experience shows the skills and attitudes we're sharing really can make a massive difference.
Thank you so much for considering joining us on this journey. I look forward to the adventure ahead.