Do you remember feeling left out when you were a kid? Perhaps you weren’t picked for a sports team…or you were picked last. Maybe when your classmates paired up for a school project, you were the odd person out.
Most people have experienced that uncomfortable sense of not being wanted. It felt lousy when you were a kid. Now that you’re an adult, it doesn’t feel any better.
As a trainer, your one of your most important roles is to help everyone feel included.
A Classic Trainer’s Mistake – And How to Solve It
I recently made a far-too-common mistake. While facilitating a workshop, I asked people to pair up without realizing we had an odd number in the room. While a woman wandered around without a partner, I sensed that uncomfortable “nobody wants me” moment.
Since it isn’t always feasible to count heads in advance, as facilitator you can anticipate this problem and address it several ways.
- Before the group pairs off, make yourself available. Say to them, “If everyone is paired up and you’re still looking for a partner, please talk with me. I will be your partner.”
- If you have a colleague available helping with logistics, suggest that person as a back-up partner. (Ask first!)
- Encourage people to work in a small group of three people, if necessary.
- If you know the numbers don’t work, you can ask an experienced person to sit out and observe the exercise.
Another solution is for people to count off so they are assigned a partner by number. If you’re organizing the group into pairs, you can count the people present, divide by two, and ask for the count-off.
For example, imagine you have 24 people in the group. You ask people to count off to 12, so everyone has a number 1 through 12. Once everybody has their number, ask them to find their number partner.
If you have an uneven number present, you’ll find out when you count off and can implement one of the suggestions above.
This strategy works well for assembling people for any sized small group. If you want trios from a group of 24, count to eight three times. For quartets, count up to six four times – and so on.
Why Counting Is Good For You – And Your Group
This strategy for creating small groups has several benefits.
- You shuffle the deck, gathering teams of people who may not know each other very well. When people work with a diverse group of teammates, they tend to think more creatively.
- You reduce the anxiety about finding a partner, since all groups are assigned by number.
- You ensure everyone is accounted for and no one is left out.
- The participants know you’re paying attention to the details, which builds comfort and trust.
- You can reduce some of the “milling around time” that happens when participants to create their own pairs or teams.
While this concept is pretty simple, it’s easy for people to count off incorrectly. So think carefully in advance about how to do the math so it works the way you want.
After you’ve used this method several times, it will become second nature. Or maybe third or fourth nature…?