How Facilitation Mastery Redefined My Career and Revitalized Our Team Dynamics

As a UX professional deeply immersed in the world of user experiences and design thinking, I’ve always believed in the power of empathy and understanding, traits that are the lifeblood of good design. However, my journey has been anything but straightforward. I found myself grappling with the complexities of team dynamics, the chaos of unstructured meetings, and the silent frustration that often went unaddressed in the digital workspaces we inhabited. This is a glimpse into my transformative journey through facilitation training, a voyage that reshaped my professional landscape and personal outlook.

The Tumult Before the Transformation

In the realm of UX, where human-centered design reigns supreme, I found myself ironically struggling with human-led interactions within my team. Despite being a seasoned professional, I was navigating murky waters with no compass at hand. My role wasn’t just about creating seamless user interfaces or intuitive digital interactions; it was about leading a team, driving collaborative sessions, and making decisions that would impact our products’ journey and, by extension, our users.

The challenge was multifaceted. Our team, though small, was a powerhouse tasked with conducting numerous UX meetings and design thinking workshops. However, alignment was a star we couldn’t seem to reach. Each meeting felt like a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces — stakeholders would invite others, leading to a cascade of voices with varying degrees of relevance to the discussion at hand.

We loved design thinking, but were we truly embodying it? Meetings bled into one another, with decisions hanging in an eternal limbo. We were stuck in a loop, meeting for the sake of meeting, without progress. It was draining, pulling us away from the very work we were meant to be doing.

My Facilitation Certification Journey

Realizing that change was no longer optional but necessary, I turned to facilitation training. My discovery of Voltage Control came at a time when I was ready to unlearn, learn, and relearn. The decision to enroll was propelled by my interactions with Jay, an instructor whose insights I valued deeply, and Lizzie, a colleague who echoed the potential benefits of such a program.

Walking into the certification process, I was apprehensive. Would my novice facilitation skills be glaringly apparent? However, the environment I stepped into dispelled my fears. The background music, the diversity of eager participants, and the welcoming ambiance was a refreshing start. I wasn’t just a UX professional seeking skills; I was a learner in a space that embraced mistakes and growth.

The program wasn’t just about learning how to lead meetings; it was a deep dive into understanding human interactions. The alumni portfolios were a revelation, highlighting that there wasn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. I learned about the ‘groan zone,’ a concept that resonated with me. It was okay to be uncomfortable, to not have immediate answers, and to explore the chaos before finding clarity.

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The Post-Certification Landscape

Armed with new knowledge, I returned to my professional arena, ready to implement my learnings. The changes were incremental but significant. Meetings now had structured agendas sent out beforehand, providing attendees with a clear understanding of expectations. The ‘groan zone’ became a recognized phase in our discussions, an acknowledgment that discomfort was part of our path to progress.

One of the most profound changes was my approach to communication. Inspired by Eric’s advice, I shifted from asking, “Are there any questions?” to “Is there anything I can clarify?” This subtle change was empowering. It removed the onus from the team to ask questions and placed it on me to provide clarity, fostering a more supportive environment.

Feedback started trickling in, first as a hesitant stream, and then a steady flow. The team appreciated the transparency, the clear agendas, and the respect for their time. Our meetings became more than just obligatory gatherings; they transformed into productive sessions with active, meaningful participation.

A Story of Adaptation and Empathy

About two months ago, I encountered a situation that underscored the importance of adaptability in facilitation. Several team members, usually silent, had reservations they weren’t voicing in our larger meetings. Instead of dismissing their silence, I reached out for one-on-one sessions. These meetings were eye-opening, providing insights that were invaluable to our collective progress. They also communicated an essential message: “I see you, I hear you, and your perspective matters.”

This approach didn’t just provide me with feedback; it helped build trust within the team. We were no longer just professionals working on projects; we were collaborators invested in our collective success.

A Call to Fellow Professionals

If there’s one insight I’d like to offer, it’s the value of self-reflection. In our pursuit of professional milestones, we often overlook our own role in the hurdles we face. It’s crucial to step back and assess not just what’s going wrong, but how we might be contributing to it. In a world that’s increasingly remote, understanding your audience and actively listening becomes not just valuable, but necessary.

Know your team, understand their dynamics, and be prepared to adapt. Not everyone communicates in the same way, and recognizing that is the first step in being an effective leader. And remember, alignment doesn’t mean absolute agreement. It’s about finding a common ground where all voices are acknowledged, and concerns are addressed.

The Ongoing Journey

Facilitation is not a destination; it’s a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. It’s about more than just leading meetings; it’s about creating spaces where collaboration, innovation, and productivity thrive. My journey through facilitation training with Voltage Control wasn’t just about gaining a certification; it was about evolving my understanding of myself, my team, and the spaces we inhabit.

To all professionals out there, especially in fields like UX where human interaction is core, invest in your facilitation skills. It’s not just an investment in your career, but also in your personal growth. The skills you gain will transcend the boundaries of your professional life, providing you with tools to navigate the complexities of human interactions in every facet of your life.

As I continue on this path, I’m reminded of the words of facilitation expert Priya Parker, “The way we gather matters. Gatherings consume our days and help determine the kind of world we live in.” In every meeting, every workshop, and every interaction, there’s an opportunity to shape that world. It’s up to us to seize it

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