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It started, as ever, with a tweet.


As part of an ‪#LDInsight debate organised by the @LnDConnect gang, we ended up in a place where Julie, some others and I were pondering bravery as a concept in facilitation and other learning & development (or HR) interventions.

As a result I suggested to Julie that we might try another blog experiment. We are wondering about your bravest moments and hoping you might choose to write a blog and share using the hashtag #LDbravery . We would like to bring to life the challenge of doing something which some regard as “the soft stuff”.

A general point – one which I have discussed recently with my coaching supervisor. He and I agree that my coaching practice is at its most impactful, and the most powerful breakthroughs happen, when I work triple-hard to move past any of my own interference and choose to be brave, to take a risk, to go outside my comfort zone. Other coaches will recognise this I’m sure. I’ve talked about it before What’s in the gorge? I offer it not as anything massively original but just as a provocation to those who see coaching as a “fireside chat”. It isn’t.

My specific example:

Picture the scene ….a group of senior business managers. Something pretty big has just happened in their organisation. External consultants have been brought in. A string of facilitated sessions designed to try and help the group become more of a team and coach them towards a new agenda which they will go and deliver together. And towards healthier team dynamics.

Some in the group welcome the work but most are either suspicious or hostile. The culture of the business is, how can I put this, robust.

I’m facilitating. I’ve been around the block a few times, I’ve facilitated very senior teams on many occasions but for these sessions, as is often the case, the ability to switch from a facilitative style to one which is also robust is going to be a critical success factor.

One chap – hostile from the outset and someone who clearly sets a tone in the group – is taking it upon himself to challenge everything we say or do. Cynical doesn’t start to describe it. And it’s putting others off their game so as a group we risk not achieving our objectives, not realising the group’s clear potential. Not acceptable.

After a period of being called every name you have heard and a few you haven’t (“attack the facilitator”) I decided I had to act. Hardly a complex decision but one which required some courage. So I wandered over to him and dispassionately said “You can call me a **** and challenge everything I say for the next three hours. It’s water off a duck’s back. Or we can all work together towards the objectives that have been set for us (subtext: by your Board). It’s your choice. Which will you choose?”

It worked. He sulked for a while – not what I had wanted – but once I had worked to bring him back into the group we all ended up in a more positive place. A place where team coaching could and did happen. And where he fed back that the process had maybe exceeded his expectations.

And, of course, the behaviour in the room mirrored how he interacted with others outside the room so some in the group expressed satisfaction that the challenge had been made.

The requirement to be brave arises regularly for L&D and HR professionals. This is not “soft stuff”. It’s often really hard and requires no small amount of emotional resilience.

So let’s celebrate the breakthroughs we achieve when we are brave. Will you respond with a blog please? And don’t forget that hashtag will you?