The sport I most deeply love is cricket. The pinnacle is a Test Match, a gruelling, intense and rewarding contest over four or five days. In an age where shorter versions of the game offer better money and infamy, the players still want to play Test cricket. The players who play for enjoyment and challenge succeed.
This week, I had a four-day workshop, on the road, with six participants. It’s more than a year since I’ve run this one, and also one this long. As I unpacked my bag in the hotel, the three massive folders of notes and guides just seemed way too impenetrable to read again. So I made a few conscious decisions about how the workshop was going to run. It was time to be a Test Match facilitator!
The participants filed in to the room on the first morning, mostly travellers from country outposts of the company I work for. More than any others, I love our rurally-based staff. There are some great characters amongst them, but also a cheekiness, honesty and work ethic that is a common thread to them all. I was looking forward to the four days.
I knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to lapse into lecture. I didn’t want to be a school headmaster chiding for tardiness coming back from breaks. I didn’t want to cram in as much content as I could. I didn’t want to patronise. I didn’t want to be anyone’s best mate. I didn’t want to bore. I didn’t want it to be about me. I didn’t want to repeat the little mistakes of the 30 other occasions I ran the workshop, as a trainer.
I also knew what I wanted to do. I wanted it to be about them. I wanted to it to be for them. I wanted it to be with them. I wanted them feeling relaxed, safe. I wanted to be playful. I wanted them to enjoy the experience. I wanted them to remember it. Like Gibran once said, I wanted to bring the learnings to the threshold of their minds. I wanted them to live the core learnings. I wanted to have more energy at the end than at the start. I wanted to be a facilitator, for four days straight, and know how that felt to sustain it. I wanted to inspire.
I told them on that first morning, it was their workshop. I told them that what they felt like pursuing deeper, we would. I told them it was their decision when to start and finish, when to break and for how long. I told them I was only there for them and nothing else.
We started every session with a chat. I took them to a cafe to sensorily anchor an important learning. I went for a long run each morning rather than fill my head with content. I turned up in the morning at the same time they did. I coached them. We shared lots of stories. We shared the joy and pain of State of Origin football and Julia Gillard’s graceful fading away. We laughed, a lot. We pushed each other to higher learnings when the moments arrived. We made the most of four days.
These four days… in retrospect the use of every second was so urgent and piquant. There was a bond. In every session, the discipline of creating space was my gift to them. This week we nailed it. Learning outcomes and living outcomes achieved.