Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0401, July 14, 2009

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This week we explore an interesting twist to the usual articles on facilitation by reflecting off of a "Yanni" concert I attended. I was struck by what I could learn about facilitation by observing this group perform. I summarized my reflections in the article "What Yanni Taught Me About Facilitation," which includes some tips that review how we can apply these insights to our work with ourselves and others.

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The Point

What Yanni Taught Me About Facilitation
Empowering metaphors are available everywhere.

Group Dynamics Skill

Some time ago, I attended a Yanni Concert in Las Vegas and was intrigued by how much I could learn about facilitation by watching this group's inspiring musical performance.

Empowerment. The first thing I noticed and appreciated was the fact that Yanni not only invites musicians into his group who perform at or beyond his own musical prowess, but he showcases them and encourages them with a sense of reverance and pride in "their" abilities. As the "leader" of the band, Yanni's music tends to take a back seat to the performers he highlights. He beams at them when they play, seemingly delighted in their abilities and the opportunity to show them off.

Orchestration. As a composer and arranger, Yanni obviously puts a great deal of preparation time into his band's performances. With around 25 members performing complex arrangements, with little if any visible cues, he obviously puts a lot of work into orchestrating this complex "process" performance in a fashion that appears seamless.

Embracing Diversity. I marveled at the cultural diversity in his group. Many, many races, nationalities, and musical styles are represented, highlighted, and blended with exquisite taste and beauty. In his introductory words before one of his performances, he stated that they had assembled an miniature United Nations where each loves the music they are able to make through this mix while still loving their own cultures, countries, and roots. Through this music, diverse peoples come together to celebrate the beauty of their differences, while in the process, their performance is strengthened and enriched by them.

Use of Story. Several times during his performance, Yanni would tell a short story to paint a picture for us of the inspiration or the setting of the piece that was to follow. This helped to give the music more depth of meaning and caused me to listen more closely to nuances and how they may relate to my life. His use of story and humor enhanced my experience and interpretation of his music.

Innovation. It seems that though there are scores of people who reach a certain level of competence in a field, whether it's an aptitude in music, teaching, sports, or what have you, there are a certain few who reach just a little farther such that there work appears fresh, new, and above the fold. I thought about this as I listened to many of Yanni's star musicians. They somehow go a step further, or possibly surrender something within themselves, so that what comes through them has an uncommon aliveness and uniqueness that simply seems to bear the mark of not only mastery, but of regenerative, limitless innovation.


Let's review how the elements of facilitation discussed above can be employed our groups.

Empower. Remember that the best facilitators, leaders, teachers, and coaches are those who lift up and encourage those whom they serve. Though you may be in front of the room, look for opportunities to surrender the lime light to your participants. See the group as theirs, and yourself as a catalyst for the realization of their competence, mastery, and greatness.

Orchestrate. Plan well for your processes. Pay attention to not only the content you wish to deliver, and put extra effort into the design of processes, mood, interactions, logistics, and environment you wish to create to make it the most empowering and effective engagement possible.

Embrace Diversity. Embrace and encourage the voicing and expression of differences in your group. These differences may take the form of race, culture, subculture, opinion, or beliefs. Know that only by creating a space where they may be respectfully voiced and heard will their harmonious integration be possible. Healthy integration of diversity will weave a fabric of strength and resiliency that will rival that of a homogenous group.

Use Story. Encourage the use of short stories, music, or metaphor to illustrate and enhance the points being made. These forms of expression make our abstract thinking personal and easier for everyone to relate to and understand.

Innovate. Challenge yourself and those you work with to take that little extra effort to stretch just a little bit more to better express, create, or imagine that which you seek to attain as individuals or as a group. Imagine that the degree of quality you achieve corresponds to your level of willingness to stay with your process.


Go the extra mile with one or more of these elements of facilitation with yourself or your groups this week. Please share your thoughts and experiences with me by replying to this email.

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