Two facilitation lessons from Strictly

Facilitation means making something easier. It isn’t about controlling; it’s about following, listening and enabling. In a workshop setting, it’s about having the confidence to let go of control and see what happens, and if things don’t go as expected, being confident to step back in and help everyone get back on track.

Watching the Christmas Day Strictly Come Dancing highlights show I saw two pieces of facilitation gold, which are a lesson in what to do when things go wrong and how to put them right again.

Check it out below. In this clip, Mark Ramprakash and pro-dancer Karen Hardy are about a minute into their routine when one of the dancer’s clip-on mic becomes tangled round the other dancer. This is what happened.

Start watching from 1:53, when the couple take to the floor.

Lesson one – know when to call it off

The lesson from is from the Karen Hardy. When it is clear that there is something going wrong, she calls the dance off. It’s easy to say this, but let’s remember that this performance of the show, in front of millions of live television viewers.

It is a professional who can say, ‘this is not going well, we need to stop.’ Whatever the costs, the cost of not stopping could be worse.

It is tempting to think I will be judged if something goes wrong, but in reality we are more likely to be judged on how we respond when something does go wrong.

Lesson number one – know when to stop and reset.

Lesson two – name it and make it all ok

In rolls Bruce Forsyth, and what does he do? He makes it all ok. He facilitates.

First of all he gets control of the band. Everyone needs to stop. Then he assesses what is going and acknowledges the emotion of the dancers. He provides a connection between the dancers, the audience and viewers at home.

Next he explains it as it is. ‘This is live television’. This is part of the magic of the format. Things go wrong, but we are all on board, aren’t we?

When it turns out the problem is with a mic he asks what we are all thinking, ‘why do we need a mic? Can we get rig of the mic?’

He is kind with everyone. He pleads with an invisible producers, we can do it again can’t we. He is on our side.

When the production team member comes on to fix the mic, he names what we are thinking. Who is the person? We don’t know her. He takes pressure off the situation by pretending the he is the one who is baffled by what is going on.

By the time the stage is reset, everyone is routing for the couple to succeed, and you can see the extra sparkle with which they return to the dance floor.

That’s good facilitation. It isn’t controlling everything. It’s responding with kindness and confidence, naming what’s happening without fear and making it ok to continue.

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