are your biggest fears as a facilitator?
group or key person in a group. Individuals playing out personal vendettas
in the meeting.
Spend time in advance understanding the group members and how they work
together. Create contingency plans for uncooperative or disruptive behavior.
Not understanding some underlying tension between or amongst participants,
or similarly not understanding the culture that is one of fear. In both
cases one that prevents you from even breaking the ice to start into the
process, i.e. blank stares.
Doing your homework thoroughly is essential. Probe deeply to
discover issues that may prevent the process from moving forward. If you
feel perhaps the convener or organizer may be holding back in any way,
start interviewing participants to see how they feel about the process
and moving forward. Usually any underlying issues will surface. If not,
you will at least have begun a relationship with participants that may
help in at least starting into the process.
That I won't know what to do in a given situation, i.e., which
quality tool or problem-solving tool to use. That I'll be faced with a
problem or question that I have no response for. That someone will ask
me an "unanswerable" question, i.e., "All this sounds good
in theory, but you don't know my -- 'supervisor', 'manager', 'employees',
'work unit', etc. How am I supposed to do apply this in real life?"
That I'll have a "tough crowd" or just one or two cynical ones
who will challenge everything I say.
What I've found effective for my own fears is that, once I've actually
had the experience, it no longer has control over me. Do I hate not to
know answers to questions? Of course I do, especially when I think I should
know the answer. But I just admit freely that I don't know or that I'm
having a complete brain lapse. I've come to realize that being honest
and authentic with my audience (whether a team or a training group) makes
a huge difference in how much slack I cut myself and how much slack the
groups cuts me. Do I hate having folks challenge everything I say, or
just check out? Sure I do. I've finally come to the realization that I'm
not responsible for everyone else. I can only present the material in
the best way I know how, ask good and thought-provoking questions, challenge
assumptions, and be respectful of differences; the rest is up to them.
I think my biggest fears center around inadvertently opening up
a topic or conflict or concern that a group does not have the intention
or ability to hold in a healthy, life-giving way. I am always aware of
the possibility of harm for the organizations, teams and individuals that
What I've found to be effective is trusting my gut, leaning into
my intuition and always listening intently and asking clarifying questions.
Staying focused on my client's business objectives. Being transparent
about my objective view of what I am seeing--energy, leverage, conflict,
opportunity. Spending time with my client and a representative design
team, creating, testing and validating the session design.
My biggest fear as a facilitator is that my mind will go blank.
I print the 'notes' version of my powerpoint slides where I
have scripted what I want to say. It's printed in a font large enough
to read without my glasses, so that I can glance down and easily pick
up where I
left off. Editor's note: Wouldn't it be wonderful if our minds would actually
be free of thought now and then? The average mind can't go more than 3-5
seconds without one! What if you just surprised yourself and said whatever
you were moved to say?
fear is that I have misinterpreted the sponsor or group's request and
am not effective in helping the group achieve their goals.
combat that fear by asking the group for confirmation each step of the
way and take their advice if the session needs to be adjusted.
Disrespect and "mutiny" or ganging up of the group of
participants for the activity or process being facilitated. Negative attitudes
can spread like wild fire if there is a strong bully(s) in the group.
This is a fear I have had facilitating for youth groups, especially groups
of young men in a correctional facility type program. Participants who
are not engaged and won't allow themselves to be participants, the body
language, the sighs of annoyance, the questions of "when is this
over, are we done yet"? These behaviours build the walls that I try
so hard to break down.
Using experiential learning, the participants can became so
involved and engaged in the process that they lose themselves and aren't
aware of the external peer forces at play anymore. It can be a difficult
process to get to this point, but worth it for the participants.
Have I prepared well enough?
I deal with this by understanding the clients' training needs
and communicating with them about how the program will meet them. A well
thought out agenda helps (as a security blanket) coupled with plenty of
flexibility to respond to learners needs, and knowing that I have more
than enough material for the session.
Will I be able to manage the group dynamics?
Set ground rules with the group seeking agreement on how responsibility
of managing dynamics will be shared with group. Then provide honest communication,
focus on the group, listen actively, and call people on behaviours that
violate these rules.
Having the wrong people in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Recontract with the learners or cancel the training.
Fear that the 'standard' program won't meet this non 'standard' group.
Sometimes there's quite strict parameters and assessments and while I
can adjust the delivery method, am sometimes stuck with unflexible content.
How I deal with this varies from group to group. Do a bit of,
"If it were your job to do this, how would you do it."
Or, "If this was just the material you wanted, how would
you use it?" Or, "Who do you know who would use it and how."
Or, "Which bits are useful and which bits will be you able to pass
on to someone else?" etc. Do what you can to create and maintain
a feedback loop between the needs of the participants and the content
czars, doing your best to communicate that when the needs of both are
served, all of our jobs will be easier.
the program that has been slashed to two days from three but still has
the same learning outcomes will be too rushed.
I usually find out what the participants personal objectives are anyway
and manage them first.
this highly technical group, to whom I am delivering a 'standard' program,
will find it too simple.
I usually get them to tell me which bits they relate to and which bits
they think we can skim over.
are the most common fears you encounter in participants?
games" and looking silly.
Understand in advance the level of "game playing" the group
will be comfortable with. Also explain the purpose of the games and the
kinds of benefits others have received by engaging in them.
Opening up in front of their superiors.
Encourage superiors to model vulnerability for their subordinates. Also,
give people "permission" to sit out if they are uncomfortable.
Dissenting when the rest of the group is in agreement.
Set up group norms with the group prior to the meeting to create a safe
environment for the minority opinion to be expressed. Protect individuals
from attack. Keep participants focused on the idea and issues, not on
Nothing will come of their efforts on the team; i.e., nothing
Inquire into the source of this attitude. Ask what kind of changes
or outcomes they'd like to see. Ask how their attitudes and behaviors
are helping to maintain the status quo. Ask them what price they're willing
to pay to make the changes they seek.
They will have more work to do as a result of a team project;
i.e., things will change.
Set up criteria for changes that will assure that they are sustainable
both structurally and personally.
They will have accountability for the outcome and can't blame
it on someone else.
Very possible. Make self-responsibility--No Blame--a ground rule.
Suggest they explore the prices of victimhood and benefits of being self-responsible.
I may have to tell the truth.
Seek to uncover reasons that make truth-telling unsafe and address
them directly. Alternately, provide ways to acquire group inputs using
This is going
to be a waste of time.
out what participants do value and would like to see come out of their
group work. If some participants are truly unwilling to engage and see
no value in it for themselves, invite them to leave. No one is served
when participants feel forced to be involved in a group.
I hope we
don't have to hold hands and sing!
the learners in the process and content as much as possible. Also warm
up the group in the introduction to reduce fears and to make the rest
of the program much easier. When I say warm up I mean warm up
to the topic, to each-other, and to me.
to offer input.
do my best to make them feel comfortable with easy questions to get communication
going, often of a personal nature, and if possible before the meeting.
Also, I really do 'love' my learners. I mean that when I am with them
I care about each of them and I give them my focus. I don't take my work
home with me, so it's not a 'burden', but I have a 'train with love' approach
that seems to work....or has so far!
Fear of self expression "breakthroughs" that can happen
in a group of peers. The vulnerability exposed through experiential learning.
Overcoming the pressure of the bully(s) in the group. It isn't "cool"
to play these kind of games, or the bully and his buddies will tease me
if I look like I am having too much fun or participating too much.
Planning for the most active/engaging roles for a challenging
group where everyone is in a position that is meaningful for themselves
and for the rest of the group. Employing safe strategies that can "silence"
the bully, using humour, setting the stage with metaphors for the role
playing and the scenarios to fully immerse everyone in the process mind,
body and hopefully soul. Having a solid debrief planned and changing the
timing of the debrief if needed to allow the learning and the shifts in
power that occurred to sink in.
What will be the expectations placed on me in the workplace as a result
of this training?
expectations beyond the training room with participants. Identify and
record particular workplace challenges during training, develop strategies
with participants, and provide links to formal and informal support networks
Can I do this, i.e. understand this, take in all this information,
and do this back at work?
Feedback to participants, share stories of previous experiences, allow
time for review and reflection throughout course.
Fear of failing. That is, the fear of making mistakes, of looking
foolish, of ruining the experience for everyone else.
use humor to directly address theses fears before we start. For example,
I will often start one of my corporate team building drumming programs
by saying (after the participants see the drums and
percussion instruments in front of them), "I know none of
you here would be thinking right now...but I ain't got no rhythm!"
This always elicits laughter from most of the group, because, of course,
exactly what some of them were thinking at that moment! I
will then say, "Group drumming works because everyone has a part
to play on their instrument, and the parts fit together to create the
complete rhythm. This is the same as in any successful group;
everyone contributes their individual skills, talents and personalities
to shared goals and values. No one person is responsible for making
the entire rhythm work, and no one person can ruin it for everyone else."
Aha! They get