Monday, November 24, 2014

Learning and Growth

I've been writing about a facilitation workshop I recently attended--a workshop to learn how to be a better facilitator and how to teach others to do the same. And it's probably time I mentioned that it was organized and led by Jeffrey Cufaude of Idea Architects. I got a lot of takeaways that are relevant to the work I and my staff do with our association's Board, committees, and task forces. Here's another.

When facilitating a meeting of members, remember that learning and growth result from the appropriate mix of challenge and support.

Many of the volunteer groups that associations bring together represent not just mechanisms for accomplishing the work of the association, they also represent opportunities for learning and growth for the participants. In my own association, we intentionally emphasize this aspect of our committee and task force work, using the learning and growth opportunities as a specific recruiting tool.

As such, we have to think and act more intentionally about this aspect of the encounter. A certain amount of organic networking and peer education will take place during any kind of committee work, but there are ways to increase the growth potential of the activity for the participants.

As the workshop helped me realize, the conscious alignment of group and task so that participants are professionally challenged by the work put before them, but provided with the support they need to be successful, creates just the kind of learning and growth environment we're looking for.

Create an unchallenging task and you risk having your volunteers drift away or phone it in. They question why they're being asked to do something so simple or tactical. Isnt this what we have association staff for? Create a challenging task but provide no support and you risk having your volunteers give up. They'll realize they don't have the time or the resources needed to do the job and they'll simply bow out. How do they expect me to do this? Don't they realize I have a day job?

The sometimes difficult balance to strike is a challenging task with the support needed to accomplish it. We need to stretch our volunteers enough so that they engage productively with the work we need them to do, but we also need to provide them with the right amount of intelligence, tools, and logistical support so they can see clearly a path that leads to success.

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This post was written by Eric Lanke, an association executive, blogger and author. For more information, visit, follow him on Twitter @ericlanke or contact him at

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