Recently I was facilitating a team building session for a young, enthusiastic group of government employees, and  a new colleague who would serve as my back-up for this particular session sat in the back of the room to observe.  I thought the session was going particularly well; I had put an unusually high number of creative activities into the training design to keep the participants moving, and they seemed to be actively engaged, learning, and having fun.  But during a break, my colleague said to me, “Why are you holding back?”

I was baffled.  He doesn’t even know me, I thought, indignantly.  How could he possibly tell that I was holding anything back, even if I was?

The next day I asked him what he meant.  After struggling to put it into words for a moment, he said, “It just seems like you get your energy for the session from the participants, rather than them getting it from you.”

This was food for thought for several days.  Over the years, I had gradually made a change to the extent to which I injected “myself” into a meeting or training session; always fearful of making it look like “the me show,” I had been focusing less and less on the amount of time I spent introducing myself or telling personal stories, whether relevant and illustrative or not.  I’ve so often seen trainers that go overboard with this, and had once, years ago, received feedback that I needed to be careful with it myself.

But after really thinking about it, I began to see my colleague’s perspective.  It’s a simple concept, but it was truly an “ah ha” moment for me.  Sometimes the personal stories and other things trainers do to bring the material to light isn’t just about injecting yourself into the session; it’s about the energy in the room and where it comes from.  The participants will get energy from each other if you structure things appropriately.  But there will be times that they’re just sitting and listening to you, and perhaps checking out and going to sleep.  So I see now that it’s appropriate to ask; are you putting energy into the room?  Or are you letting someone else do it, and maybe even feeding on that energy yourself?

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