"The means is dialogue, the end is learning, the purpose is peace." ~ Founder Dr. Jane Vella

Participatory Decision-Making* :  Dot-mocracy


Often when you are faced with a number of good ideas in a meeting, it is impossible or even undesirable to choose just one from a list of brainstormed options. Multi-voting is one way to poll the support that group members have for multiple options. To facilitate it, do the following:

  1. List the various choices on separate wall charts.
  2. Ask people to express their relative preferences by placing stickers or dots (hence “Dot-ocracy”) next to their preferred choices. Each person can choose to put all of their votes on one option or spread their votes over several options.
  3. Tally the number of dots that each option received to get a sense of the group’s combined preferences.

Multi-voting is good for taking a “quick read” of where the group is at, but take care to provide enough time for discussion in situations where understanding differences of opinion is important. Two further cautions:

  • Pay careful attention to how many votes each person gets. Generally, the number of votes per person can be calculated by dividing the number of choices by 3 (n/3).
  • Be careful not to assume that the “winning” option is automatically the group’s preference since the difference between two competing options may not be statistically significant. For example, if Option A received 39 votes, and Option B received 37, for all intents and purposes, it is a tie and the group would do well to acknowledge that choosing one over the other is really only meeting the preference of about half of the group.


Where/when may this tool be helpful?


Jeanette Romkema is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP.

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10 Ways to Minimize Resistance


Resistance is normal:  resistance to what is being taught or how it is being taught. What we want to do is minimize it so that it does not negatively interfere with learning. Here are 10 ways to do this:

  1. Early agenda. Tell learners in advance what they will be learning or meeting about. Getting rid of the element of surprise will minimize resistance.
  2. Choice. Offering learners choices on how to learn or how to do something, can minimize resistance. They will appreciate the feeling of having input in their learning.
  3. Transparency. Explain to learners why you are doing something if it is different from what they are used to. Once they understand there is a reason, they will resist less.
  4. Relevance. When learners do not understand how something is important in their life they will resist the learning experience. Help learners know why this content is important for their lives or work, and why it matters.  Relevance is key for adult learners.
  5. Check in. You can check in with learners privately during a break or with the entire group at the end of a session. If you invite them to honestly tell you how a session is going and they see you respond to what they share, resistance will be reduced.
  6. Stick to the program. Don’t change the learning agenda unless you have a good reason and explain it to the group. Flexibility is important. However, unless the change will benefit the learners and their learning, you should stick to the plan.
  7. Show respect. Showing respect to all learners can minimize resistance. People will react negatively to feeling left out or undervalued, and when seeing others experience this.
  8. Affirmation. Everyone likes to be appreciated and affirmed. The more you do this, the less resistance you will have from your learners.
  9. Safety. Learners need to feel emotionally, physically and psychologically safe enough to authentically engage with new content and with each other. If they don’t, they may start to resist the process or not fully engage. Learning new content takes courage and a willingness to be vulnerable—learners need to feel safe for this to be possible.
  10. Welcome it! Minimizing resistance is helpful. However, never avoid it when it shows up because it will most likely build and come back stronger. Sometimes the best learning happens from tough debate, uncomfortable challenge and surprising questions.

Why do most people fear resistance?

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Jeanette Romkema (jeanette@globallearningpartners.com) is a Global Learning Partners (GLP) co-owner and Managing Partner of Communications and Marketing, as well a Senior Consultant and Trainer with GLP. She loves talking about the topic of resistance, so don’t hesitate to email her with your questions or thoughts.

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Tell Me How You are Doing with a Card


How does a facilitator know when groups or individuals are hard at work on a task you have set, or are stuck and want some help?  When learners are hard at work for extended periods of time, I don’t hover. These are times for me to get out of the way, so learning can happen.

So, how do learners let me know where they are at and if I am needed?

Here is a simple technique:  coloured cards. You can buy them with words:

Or, I make coloured cardstock tents that stand on each learner’s table. GREEN = “I’m fine and don’t need any help,” YELLOW = “I have question, but it’s not urgent,” and RED + “Help! I’m stuck.” It’s simple, easy to use, and effective.

Let’s stop hovering, so learning can happen.


What tools to do you use in workshops and courses to help maximize learning?

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Tips for Entering and Staying with Tough Dialogue


The toughest conversations often offer the most important learning. Sometimes we really need to enter the conversations we work hardest to avoid. Tough conversations can be hard to navigate and risky. So how do we “go there” in a healthy way?

Below are some tips for entering and staying with tough dialogue. Tough dialogue ought not be feared, and can bear gifts to those who dare the journey.

1.       Be genuinely curious. When we don’t want to learn, understand or see the viewpoint of another, we won’t. Enter dialogue with open questions you really care about and with a real desire to deepen your understanding of where the person is coming from and what is behind his/her position. Expect information that may actually challenge your ideas in a healthy way and encourage personal positive growth.  

2.       Don’t enter to “win.” Open and honest dialogue is not about winning a fight or taking sides:  it is about hearing each other, respecting one another’s viewpoints, and believing we can both move to a better place as a result of the interaction.

3.       Talk less, listen more. When we are passionate, especially when the person we are talking to is not as passionate as we are, we can get excited, talk faster and fill more of the time. This can shut the other person down or make them defensive. Watch how much you talk, and know you will learn more by listening. It takes courage to share what we are most passionate about. Work hard to invite people in; help them feel safe; ensure they know you are genuinely curious about their viewpoints. In other words, be quiet.

4.       Use good questions for understanding. Ask open questions to gain understanding: “What do you think about … ?” or “What has been your journey to … ?” Ask digging deeper questions to encourage deeper sharing: “Tell me more about … .” or “You mentioned …, what more can you tell me about that?” Ask powerful open questions: “What would you need to hear or see to have you … ?” or “What would have to change in your work or family to enable you to more fully … ?”  These types of questions (and taking time to truly hear the response) tells the person you are with that you care and want to understand.

5.       Ask head and heart questions. Our beliefs and passions are directly and deeply connected to our heart and our emotions. It is helpful to ask what people “think” about things as well as how they “feel” about them—both will offer insights. Head and heart questions shed light on what they believe and why they believe it. Both are part of who we are as human beings.

6.       Be gentle. Talking about issues we care deeply about and feel strong about is not easy, for either side. Be attentive to energy and know when it is enough for now. If the dialogue was respectful, then seeds have been planted and there will be other opportunities to further our learning journeys.

7.       Prepare yourself. We don’t always know when we will enter tough or challenging dialogue. However, when you are aware this is likely to happen preparing yourself for it is wise. Calm yourself, know deep listening will be needed, and enter the dialogue with genuine curiosity.

8.       Stay humble. We all know and believe what we do because of our personal experiences, education, faith, family and environment. Since this is unique to each of us, it makes sense that our beliefs are also our own. We all have insights to offer others and also have much to learn. Enter with humility and know life is a journey of surprising discovery.  


Entering into dialogue with someone about challenging topics that are important to us can be rewarding. Which of these tips do you find especially helpful?

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Facilitation for Real Ownership


The key to optimizing learning and building long-term memory is to create ‘ownership’ of learning content. (Jensen, 2005; Poldrack et al., 2001)

Below are facilitation skills I have been especially aware of lately in my work. These go beyond technique. They are more about “being” than “doing.” See which ones you practice and which ones you want to pay more attention to.

Authenticity. Being genuine with the learners is critical for building a relationship of trust in the learning event. Listen deeply, ask questions with real curiousity, and acknowledge when something they say gives you a new insight. Be honest about your own questions, concerns and enthusiasm for the topic.

Autonomy. Adults’ lives are their own and as such they need to have full ownership of their decisions. Although as facilitator you may create the structure for participants to set goals, frame plans and discuss accountability, the learners are the owners of those goals, plans and accountability. Autonomy reinforces ownership. Create space for people to decide. Celebrate when they ask for autonomy instead of clearer instructions.  It is a sign of ownership

Brevity. Only share the right information for the exact moment with your specific audience. Learning events can fail due to too much content – “less is more!” A few ways to check what you may need to adapt in your workshop design are:

  • How many people are coming? Who are they?
  • Why are they coming? What do they need?
  • What is your vision for change as a result of this 1-hour workshop? What is realistic?
  • How much time do you have?
  • What kind of space will you be in? How are people accustomed to using this space?

Get out of the way of learning. After setting a learning task or activity we often want to hear how the discussion is going or see how the work is unfolding. Don’t. We need to get out of the way so learning can happen – it is through the struggle, decision-making, and debate that learners engage and personalize the content being learned.  

Personalize. As much as possible, refer to examples and stories shared as well as topics and themes of interest to the group. New learning needs to hook into existing knowledge and experience, so get to know your audience at every opportunity:  phone, email, breaks, conversations, check-ins, and the like.

Silence. So often we say too much. Don’t be afraid to sit in silence or wait 5 seconds before adding something or redirecting a question – people need time to think.

Purpose. Be ready, at any time, to reconnect the learning to the purpose for including it now as you understand it. When you own it, they can own it too.


QUESTION: So, which of these do you want to work on for the next while in your work?  Share in the comments section below.

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