A World Class Facilitator is at the Heart of being a Professional Consultant and Trainer Part 8

So, in this month’s blog, let’s have a look at more of the basics…

Last month we discussed learning styles and the importance of understanding them when you are training, facilitating and coaching people. This month we are looking into how to approach the different styles in more depth.


  • Do something new, something that you’ve never done before, at least once a each week
  • Force yourself into the limelight/situation of action
  • Practice thinking aloud and on your feet
  • Deliberately fragment your day by chopping and changing activities each half hour. Make the switch as diverse as possible

Activist learn best from activities where:

  • There are new experiences/problems/opportunities from which to learn
  • They can engross themselves in short ‘here and now’ activities such as business games, competitive teamwork tasks, role-playing exercises
  • There is excitement/drama/crisis and thing chop and change with a range of diverse activities to tackle
  • They have a lot of the limelight/high visibility, i.e. they can ‘chair’ meetings, lead discussions, give presentations
  • They’re allowed to generate ideas without constrains of policy, structure or feasibility
  • They are thrown in the deep end with task they think is difficult, i.e. when set a challenge with inadequate resources and adverse conditions
  • They’re involved with other people e.g. bouncing ideas off them, team problem solving
  • It is appropriate to ‘have a go;

Activist learn least from, and may react against activities where:

  • Learning involves a passive role, i.e. listening to lectures, monologues, explanations, statements of how things should be done, reading, watching
  • They are asked to stand back and not be involved
  • They are required to assimilate, analyse and interpret lots of ‘messy’ data
  • They work in solitude i.e. reading, writing, thinking on their own
  • They’re asked to assess beforehand and appraise afterwards what they will/have learned
  • They are offered statements they see as ‘theoretical’ i.e. explanation of cause
  • They are asked to repeat essentially the same activity i.e. when practising
  • They have precise instructions to follow with little room for manoeuvre
  • They are asked to do a thorough job, i.e. attend to detail, tie up loose ends, dot the i’s


  • Practice observing e.g. at meetings where there are agenda items that don’t directly involve you. Study people behaviour. Who interrupts whom, what triggers disagreement
  • Keep a diary and each evening write and account of what happened during the day
  • Practice reviewing after a meeting or event of some kind. Go back over the sequences of event identifying what went well and what could have gone better
  • Give yourself something to research. Something that requires painstaking gathering of data from different sources

Reflectors learn best from activities where:

  • They are allowed or encouraged to watch/think/chew over activities
  • They are able to stand back from event and listen/observe i.e. observing a group at work, taking a back seat in a meeting, watch a film or video
  • They are allowed to think before acting to assimilate before commenting, i.e. time to prepare, a chance to read in advance a briefing of background data
  • They can carry out some painstaking research, i.e. investigate, assemble information, probe to get to the bottom of things
  • They have the opportunity to review what has happened, what they have learned.
  • They are asked to produce carefully considered analyses and reports
  • They are allowed to exchange views with other people without danger, i.e. by prior agreement, within a structured learning experience
  • They can reach a decision in their own time without pressure and tight deadlines

Reflectors learn least from, and may react against activities where:

  • They are ‘forced’ into the limelight, i.e. to act as leader/chairman, to role-play in front of onlookers
  • They are involved in situation which requires action without planning
  • They are pitched into doing something without warning i.e. to produce an instant reaction, to produce an off-the-top-of-the-head idea
  • They are given insufficient data on which to base a conclusion
  • They are given cut and dried instructions of how things should be done
  • They are worried by time pressures or rushed from one activity to another
  • In the interests of expediency they have to make short cuts or do superficial job


  • Practice spotting inconsistencies/weaknesses in other people’s arguments
  • Take a complex situation and analyse it to pinpoint why it developed the way it did
  • Collect other people’s theories, explanations about events – anything provided it is a topic with many different, and preferable contradictory, theories. Try to understand the underlying assumptions each theory is based upon, and see if you can group similar things together
  • Practice structuring situations so that they are orderly

Theorist learn best from activities where:

  • What is being offered is part of a system, model, concept or theory
  • They have time to explore methodically the associations and inter-relationships between ideas, events and situation
  • They have the chance to question and probe the basic methodology, assumption or logic behind something. i.e. by taking part in a question and answer session, by checking a paper for inconsistencies
  • They are intellectually stretched, i.e. by analysing a complex situation, being tested in a tutorial session, by teaching high calibre people who ask searching questions
  • They are in structured situations with a clear purpose
  • They can listen to, or read about ideas and concepts that emphasise rationality or logic and are well argues/elegant/watertight
  • They can analyse and then generalise the reason for success or failure
  • They are offered interesting ideas and concepts even though they are not immediately relevant
  • They are required to understand and participate in complex situations

Theorist learn least from, and may react against activities where:

  • They are pitchforked into doing something without a context or apparent purpose
  • They have to participate in situations emphasising emotions and feelings
  • They are involved in unstructured activities there ambiguity and uncertainty are high, i.e. with open-ended problems, on sensitivity facilitating
  • They are asked to act or decide without a basis in policy, principle or concept
  • They are faced with a hotchpotch of alternative/contradictory techniques/methods without exploring any in depth i.e. as on ‘once over lightly’ course
  • They doubt that the subject matter is methodologically sound i.e. where questionnaires haven’t been validated, where there aren’t any statistics to support an argument
  • They find the subject matter platitudinous, shallow or gimmicky
  • They feel themselves out of tune with other participants i.e. when with lots of Activist or people of lower intellectual calibre


  • Collect techniques, i.e. practical ways of doing things. The techniques can be about anything potentially useful to you
  • In meetings and discussions of any kind, concentrate on producing action plans. Make it a rule never to emerge from a meeting or discussion without a list of actions either for yourself, for other or both.
  • Make opportunities to experiment with some of your new-found techniques. Try them out in practice
  • Study techniques that other people use and then model yourself on them

Pragmatists learn best from activities where:

  • There is an obvious link between the subject matter and a problem or opportunity on the job
  • They are shown techniques for doing things with obvious practical advantages i.e. how to save time, how to make a good first impression, how to deal with awkward people
  • They have the chance to try out and practice techniques with coaching/feedback from a credible expert i.e. someone who is successful and can do the techniques themselves
  • They are exposed to a model they can emulate, i.e. respected boss, a demonstration from someone, with a proven track record, lots of examples/anecdotes, a film showing how it is done
  • They can concentrate on practical issues, i.e. drawing up action plans with an obvious end product, suggesting short cuts, giving tips
  • They are given techniques currently applicable to their own job
  • They are given immediate opportunities to implement what they have learned
  • There is a high face validity in the learning activity, i.e. a good simulation, ‘real’ problems

Pragmatists learn least from, and may react against activities where:

  • The learning is not related to an immediate need they recognise/they cannot see an immediate relevance/practical benefit
  • Organisers of the learning, or the event itself seem distant from reality, i.e. ‘ivory towered’, all theory and general principles, pure ‘chalk and talk’
  • There is no practice or clear guidelines on how to do it
  • They feel that people are going around in circles and not getting anywhere fast enough
  • There are political, managerial or personal obstacles to implementation
  • There is no apparent reward from learning activity i.e. more sales, shorter meeting, higher bonus, promotion


Martin Gummery

Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd

Contact us:

Tel: 01905 425209

Email: headoffice@newleafinter.co.uk