Monday, November 3, 2008 by Dave Blum

Something very unusual is going on in the communication between me and my wife, Jen!  It started a couple of weeks back, when my wife and I were on a plane coming back from Indianapolis, where we had both attended the national conference of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA).  Jen was there to learn more about board game design; I was there as a board member as well as a general attendee, picking up as many team building ideas, team building exercises and team building activities as I could.

Well, there we were  on the plane, and I was confessing my worries about the economy and what it might mean to the training industry. Ordinarily, Jen would have started her response with something like “You should…” or “You need to…”  You see, Jen is a born “fixer”.  She hears a problem, diagnoses the incongruities, generates solutions and expresses them emphatically.  If Jen were to walk into a room and see a row of chairs leaning against a wall, she would immediately notice the one chair that was facing forward; that’s how quickly her mind sees pattern inconsistencies.

This time, however, was different.  Jen looked at me steadily, waited for me to pause, and said, “So, let me play facilitator for a second.  What would be the worst case scenario for you and your business in a down economy, and how might you respond?”   I was flabbergasted.  Instead of receiving a piece of pointed advice, I had instead been offered an invitation to think about my situation and find my own solution.  What a change!

How often do all of us, as training “professionals”, stand up in front of a classroom and lecture people on how they can improve their performance — if they just do the following six bullet-pointed steps?   We trainers so often don the mantle of “presenter” rather than “facilitator”, thinking our job is to be the “fixer”.  But really, isn’t our job both to present new information as well as to have our students find their own solutions?

Jen owes her change of approach to spending a week with other facilitators.  I like to think being married to a trainer had something to do with it. 🙂  Whatever the reason, our communication is certainly going in new and interesting directions.  Be careful what you wish for, though; I think I this morning I was just “facilitated” into doing the laundry!