003 : Timing and clarity – get sharp.

Timing and clarity. These go hand in hand.

Timing and clarity. These go hand in hand. Facilitators who aren’t clear about timings are often pretty lousy when it comes to more complicated instructions. For example:

“Come back at 3.45pm, in this room, with one person from your group ready to share 2 findings”, is better than saying, “Work on this as a group for 20 minutes and come back ready to share.”

Over a project workshop (let’s say 3 or 4 days back to back) or a series of 1 day sessions spread over a month or too, time is going to be mentioned, er… time and again!

Get sharp on this. Crisp timing helps creative thinking; contrary to all the creative ‘experts’ out there who say timing is a restrictive factor in the creative process. I say no! Timing creates part of the framework off which creative thinking can begin. Remember a creative thought is a new connection. A new route. Something that wasn’t there before. A great deal of how to think creatively is predicated on breaking norms and inherited rules. You can’t break a rule with a creative thought if there isn’t a rule to break! Thinking this way comes naturally for some people. People who just ‘get’ it and seem to have ideas easily. But for most people in business, it’s hard. They think in the safe and predictable environment of ‘business as usual’. It’s the facilitator’s role to teach people how to think creatively by breaking down the familiar into small steps. Each step taken one at a time so people can ‘re-learn’ how to make connections…

Re-learning how to think, for the adult learner, is exposing and can be scary. Adult learners need something understood and familiar as a support. Time can be that support as everyone knows how it works without explaining. Time can be framed as moments to experiment in. Spaces of ‘no rules thinking’ that people can get to grips with. “Let’s think out of the box” instructions work a lot better when they’re phrased with “…and come back at 2.35, which is only 10 minutes away”. You’re subconsciously letting people know you expect things from them, whilst also setting safe conditions for them to perform and respond.

And if you say you’re starting at 09:15. Start at 09:15. I have a good friend who talks brilliantly about permission fields; when what is being said doesn’t match the behaviour displayed. If you get solid on timing and start and end things crisply, pace and energy accompany your project. People will learn. They will trust your instructions more and more and be more willing to experiment for you when you ask. This is not being a headmaster about time, but time is an indicator of engagement in the project.

Watch what you say, when you look at your watch…