The Next Step

August 17th, 2016 by Sophie Huggins

Over the past week I’ve been getting a glimpse of what Steps does on a daily basis and getting an insight into their work from every angle. I’ve discovered so much! They are such a friendly, welcoming company and so much work and effort goes into their drama training programmes.

I sat in on a meeting about a programme for a major service organisation, where the facilitators discussed what was going well and what could be improved. It struck me that it was important to get it right – facilitating a group isn’t as clear cut as designing the programme and then sending it off, never to be looked at again. It’s about trying it, testing it, improving it and implementing it in order to get the group to move closer towards ownership of their behaviour. I was interested to see if any of the changes they discussed would manifest themselves in the sessions I would watch over the next couple of days. 

I also did some research to help prepare a pitch to a prospective client, during which they were giving a flavour of what Steps does. This really made me think about the creative aspect to planning the sessions with the groups– what are the boundaries? How creative can you go? I wondered what kind of exercises could potentially be beneficial for a group? I guessed there was no limit to what you could do – as long as it stuck to the client’s needs – and this fascinated me. I was informed of  a course in which managers had to learn a choreographed dance – seems that creativity and learning can bring some really interesting results if the client and the delegates are up for the challenge...! 

Then I got to watch some programmes in action: a short session with a publishing organisation and a two day course at a major service organisation. Through watching Steps in action I realised the imperative value of their bespoke research – something they do to be able to put appropriate, tailored sessions together. Without the depth of knowledge about what their clients do, it would be impossible to be relevant and show that you understand the world that the group come from. 

The role plays and forum theatre that Steps facilitators enacted held up a mirror that provoked and induced discussion; something both groups responded to. The facilitator’s role – something I’m very interested in – is a delicate balance between friend and teacher. They guide the group to the outcome they wanted to get to, drawing the learning from them - and all of them were brilliant at it. They have to highlight the importance of the session to the group and inspire recognition which leads to a change in their behaviour. 

What was really interesting in these sessions, particularly at the two day course, was the initial capricious group mentality. There was a spectrum that stretched between acceptance and resistance, containing every opinion in-between (literally – everything!). Either the group was empowered and unified by a shared experience or they were sabotaged by a smaller percentage, succumbing to their doubts and defensiveness. To me it showed the difficulty of owning behaviours – not everyone wants to accept the same degree of ownership and this can hugely influence the entire opinion of the group. 

But, and this is what Steps encourage so well, discussion took place. This was very important as people in life are not always given good opportunity to reflect, and by the end most participants walked away with a more positive outlook, talking about the changes they were considering making to their role and work. It is hard to measure the immediate impact of these courses as it’s an ongoing process and a thought or perspective that someone might dismiss in the session might surface a few months or even years down the line. Changing your perspective can take time - some took ownership, some didn’t and I think that’s not just the nature of this kind of work but the nature of life! 

People are different (but the same in many ways) and this is something I’ve extracted from all the observing I’ve done this week. It’s been such an eye-opener to watch the work that goes on, learn about facilitating and about behaviour change and it’ll definitely be an influence on whatever steps I take next.

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