I have a hunch that as a reader of this blog you lead adults and care about their ongoing development. With my “Practical Pam” hat firmly on, let me encourage you with my top three non-negotiable adult learning tips. You will notice similarities between them.


I challenge you to identify an upcoming adult meeting, small group, or important gathering, thinking about how to integrate these strategies as you lead.


1. Ask and Include.

Resist the urge to be the answer-man/woman. There is so much more to be gained by asking and including participants’ input before you begin, when you gather, and all along the way. “Why did you choose to come? What expectations do you have? What will make this a good use of your time? What do you hope for?”


In the process of including others through our questions we gain so much more than answers. We demonstrate our ability to listen, earn respect, observe, build enthusiasm, show that we are in this together, and create a warm, safe, trusting environment.


2. The power of dialogue.

A couple of statements we repeat around VP3 are, “conversation creates culture” and “the answers are in the room.” Both mandate a way of being together that put a priority on contribution from everyone, through a process of questions, reflection and generous conversational space.


3. Let adults find their own answers.

Resist telling adults what to think, what they ought learn, or what’s best for them. Respect their ability to reach conclusions and discover on their own. Good questions for this are, “What are you learning? What’s becoming clear to you? What is unanswered for you? What are you taking home with you?” Adults learn best when they have space to discover their own answers and applications. For some of us, this takes more patience. And we can all keep getting better.


Applying these adult learning gems comes with a cautionary note. It will take you MORE time to prepare good process, considering and including the participants, developing good questions and getting clear yourself on the use of time for conversation. But trust me, it will be worth it.


I will bet my pumpkin patch (and it’s a pretty good one) that if you pause and apply an element of these reminders to the preparation for your next gathering–with these fundamentals in mind–you will be surprised at the conversational and organizational harvest.


The key to creating or transforming community, then, is to see the power

in the small but important elements of being with others.

The shift we seek needs to be embodied in each invitation we make,

each relationship we encounter, and each meeting we attend.

For at the most operational and practical level,

after all the thinking about policy, strategy, mission, and milestones, it gets down to this:

How are we going to be when we are together?

~ Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging, 2008. p. 10


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