What happens on a workshop, stays on a workshop...

I never meant to make learning my career; it just sort of happened.  One job led to another…and 15 years later I am still hooked. I have delivered all kinds of workshops to people from all walks of life, all over the world.  I have met people I would never have met, visited places I might not have.

From how to serve a perfect G&T back when it was typically served in a (Pat Butcher) goblet (ice and a slice?), to training tyre fitters how to connect with their customers as people, to co-facilitating alongside the CEO of a huge global business where the Exec Team wanted to be on the frontline delivering learning to their people…..I have experienced my fair share of workshop situations.

Nothing gives me more pleasure than the people I meet and how they react to a bit of learning.  I’ve often said I could write a book on what I’ve seen in the classroom! You never can tell what will play out on a workshop. 

People ALWAYS surprise you.  The ones who seem open and up for it might have a mini-meltdown; one who looks completely disengaged might be painfully shy….I have learnt over the years not to judge (hard though that is).

The one thing that always amazes me is the length people will go to NOT learn!  Avoiding development, dodging the content for fear of coming across themselves in broad daylight and maybe not liking what they see.  This ranges from just sharing nothing, or maybe resisting openly by challenging the content, to actually removing themselves altogether from the group.  

The reasons behind this behaviour vary.  Perhaps the learning has come the wrong time for them to get something from it; maybe they’ve had a bad learning experience in the past; or maybe they have been forced to be there.  Whatever the reason, it’s a shame.  I do remind myself regularly that this isn’t for everyone, and that’s ok.

The other end of the spectrum is when you see it make a difference to someone in that moment.  When their eyes are wide and something happens to them internally.  It’s like a light goes on. They suddenly see that they are in control of their own life; that they could be getting so much more out of their work; that it’s ok to be human and not perfect; that they have so much richness to give inside and outside of work.  And every time I see this I get moved and it humbles me.

Only a couple of weeks ago a man was sent on a workshop I was facilitating - he didn’t know why he was there and so naturally was reluctant to be in the room and by his own admission was cynical. Fast forward 6 hours and he shared that he had been on a real and unexpected journey that day…he said we had challenged his thinking and he felt motivated and energised to go back to work and inspire his team. Deep breath. That’s what it’s all about.

In fact it gets even better - he then made the link between what he learnt which would benefit his team and then what he could also apply to his life outside of work. And that’s really exciting for me - when people see that they can make a real difference to their everyday lives; that they can change what they want to change. That’s huge. Goosebumps.

I sometimes forget that not everyone will have been lucky enough to experience great learning before, so may not have seen what I take for granted.  And when it lands for someone, it really lands.  You can feel an energy shift in the room. It’s amazing. 

And that’s why I do this job.  It’s my own little window into the lives of other people.  On a good day, seeing that shift in someone makes it all worthwhile.  I’m really lucky.

Claire Whitehouse