Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0403, August 4, 2009

Dear Friends,
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During this past week, I co-facilitated our Journey of Collaboration and Facilitation workshop in Vancouver, BC. As usual, it was a fascinating and dynamic experience. One of the persistent beliefs that I notice many facilitators hold, is that they need to always "know" what's going on in their groups. In reality this is impossible no mater how experienced and masterful you are. Groups can be very complex and there will always be times when you don't know what's going on nor what to do.

While it's natural as professionals to be concerned about what we know, from the standpoint of empowering others, sometimes what we don't know can be even more powerful. In this issue, Finding Value in Our Ignorance, we review some advanced perspectives on the self-management aspect of facilitation and what it means to be a facilitator. I look forward to hearing about your thoughts and experiences on this.

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The Point

Finding Value in Our Ignorance
What facilitators don't know can serve their groups

Group Dynamics Skill

In most cases, facilitators are highly regarded professionals. We must present a strong and professional image as we're "on stage" much of the time, performing an important function for our clients, employees, students, neighbors, etc. And as is often the case with people standing in front of a room, orchestrating processes, offering feedback and advice, we are looked to as authorities, as experts, as wise men and women.

So it's not surprising when we begin to believe these things about ourselves and feel we have to live up to the "image" of the professional expert. As this image takes hold in our own minds, it may be difficult at times to not have the answer or know where to go next. In and of itself, this is not a bad place to be, however, we can really short change those we serve by withholding this information.

Huh? What are you talking about? Are you asking me to share my weakness with my group? My clients? That would be suicide! I think it's time to unsubscribe from this journal!

Now hold on dear reader. There may be another way to look at this. You see, I view Facilitation, or Facilitative Leadership, if you will, as a kind of a spiritual task. I suggest that one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader or as a facilitator is to empower your people to access and utilize their own wisdom and problem-solving skills as a group. This is not likely to happen when they are focused on you as the authority.


The following are some suggestions to making the shift from a preferred image to a group servant.

Hold the space for truth and honesty. There are few places one can venture in the world where private truths can be fully shared and respected. The facilitator that gives voice to those subtle perceptions that no one sees or admits is very empowering, e.g., "I'm sorry people but I'm experiencing complete confusion right now and don't know where to go next. What to you see right now?"

Be willing to be unliked. Putting yourself in the position of not knowing, shining the light on an unflattering behavior, or giving air time to a minority opinion can piss some people off. This may sometimes prevent you from sharing your full truth. Giving up your need to be liked by those you serve will, in the end, serve them best, and garner respect in the long run. 

Find strength in your vulnerability. If you can view yourself as simply a catalyst for a dynamic and ongoing process, that process will evolve. A catalyst is not attached to its greatness. It is transformed in the process it seeks to catalyze. Sharing what's real for you is transforming for all concerned. Surrender to being transformed by sharing your truth irrespective of your judgments about it. "I've never been here before, I'm not sure where we're going, but I'm willing to be a mirror for you on the journey."

See through eyes of innocence. A child doesn't anticipate the outcome of sharing her truth, and as a result, is granted the gift of living fully in the present moment. Your innocence will allow you to release the sludge of judgment, fear, and withholding. If you begin to risk trusting your truth, your vulnerability, and your innocence; if you step into who you are, not what you know, you will help lead people to themselves, and their true strength.


Where is "knowing too much" hanging you up as a leader and/or facilitator?. Choose one of the above actions to practice this week and journal your experiences. Please share your thoughts and experiences with me by replying to this email.

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