Master Facilitator Journal

Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0505, September 13, 2011

View Steve Davis's profile on LinkedIn
facilitatoru blog
Dear Friends,

This week's article will be of particular interest to new facilitators who often doubt themselves and fear stepping out to lead a group. And, it may also interest those experienced facilitators who may continue to feel these feelings as well! My colleague and fellow facilitator, Fred Niziol submitted an excellent perspective he entitles, Facilitateaphobia, about the fear new facilitators face and what to do about it. Thank you Fred for this contribution! I look forward to your comments on it.

If you or your colleagues are interested in submitting an article for consideration, please email your ideas. I'd love to hear from you. We hope our work continues to bring inspiration to your world. Thank you for being a part of our growing community and please continue to send your wonderful feedback on this ezine and can better serve you.


Steve Davis


assessment primer
facilitator questions collection
This Meeting Sux

The Point

Embracing the Fear of Facilitation for Beginners

Self Mastery Skill

I’ve trained many facilitators and notice a feeling that appears in the apprentices, somewhere near the end of their formal training. Almost all of them want to watch experienced facilitators work before they go off on their own. This in itself is not a bad idea, but then they want to watch more, and watch some more, and keep watching. At first, I didn’t understand this hesitancy, then one day I had the ”aha”. I call it: Facilitateaphobia – the fear of being the facilitator.

Strange as it sounds, facilitaeaphobia is a condition that occurs when the facilitator begins to think about what it is they're doing while they’re doing it. It’s marked by that little voice in your head asking questions or sometimes raising self-doubt; things like, “What if they don’t like me?” or, “What if I miss something?” It also shows itself in random unrelated thoughts such as, “It’s getting close to lunch” or “I really like that outfit that Peggy is wearing”.

What triggers facilitaeaphobia?

Facilitateaphobia grows out of not being present to the group (see past article, “Your Presence is Your Present to Your Group”) and is aggravated by being unsure of yourself as facilitator.

If you’re not sure of yourself, you allow facilitaeaphobia to take hold. If you’re not present to the group you will begin to think about other things. This “Thinker” (that little voice you hear in your head when you use all your filters and relate things to past experience, future possibilities or just random ideas) is not the facilitator’s friend. It takes away your presence to the group. When you are present, I say “the Watcher” is at work, you're there and because of your training and experience, you know what to do without debating it in your head. When suffering facilitateophobia, you no longer experience the here and now of the group, but instead you experience what you think happened – the magic of facilitation is gone.

The "Thinker" vs. the "Watcher"

Here's a little background on the "Thinker” and the "Watcher." When you know something and are comfortable with your proficiency you are the "Watcher." Take driving a car for example; it is a very present focused activity. When you take a trip, first you plan it. You plan where you are going. You may use a map, a GPS or it may be a familiar destination. Once planned, you get in the car, put the key in the ignition, start the car, check for traffic, put it in gear and off you go. During the trip you speed up, slow down, check your interval, switch lanes and turn signals off and on, always assessing the situation.

Yet, very rarely do you hear the "Thinker” in your head. If you do, it’s usually a reminder about maybe a confusing turn. You acknowledge that thought then move on; this is the "Watcher” in operation. On the other hand, if you drive using the "Thinker” you separate yourself from the act of driving and the "Thinker” starts to put time and attention between you and the act of driving. Soon while you’re thinking about your destination or the conversation on the cell phone you don’t notice that the car in front of you is stopped. If you’re lucky, you only have a close call, but if are still being the "Thinker” then you may fear that all cars will stop in front of you. Your proficiency as a driver is diminished. If you don’t drive, you can adapt this illustration to almost anything you do.

By now you’ve probably said to yourself, OK Fred this driving lesson is all well and good, but, what does it have to do with Facilitateaphobia? Great question Grasshopper (a little U.S. TV trivia!). Read on to find the answer.

How do you avoid Facilitaeaphobia?

- Be competent in the art of facilitation. Become a student of the facilitator’s craft. Work on your skillset so that you don’t need to be the Thinker talking to yourself in your head, telling yourself “if this happens then I’ll do that."

Thoroughly plan and prepare for the session. You will know what to do or you will know the options to present to the group for them without the complications that the "Thinker" brings. Fear comes from memories and possibilities rooted in the "Thinker”. You will not suffer facilitateophobia. You have no fear of what might happen because you, as the "Watcher,” are in the here and now and this is where magic happens.

Be present and honest with your group. As a beginning facilitator, you may fear that you'll run across a situation that you haven't experienced before, didn't prepare, and didn't anticipate. Well guess what, that happens to all of us. Human dynamics are just too complex to be fully predictable all of the time. One thing is assured however, by being fully present and honest about what you know and don't know, you provide the group with a clear mirror about where they are now. This is the grand gift of the "watcher." Armed with this perspective in the here and now. Then you can help them decide what to do next. As a facilitator, you act as a catalyst for the group's decision-making, you are not the decision-maker!

About the Author: Fred Niziol facilitated for the US Social Security Administration for 8 years doing IT groups, labor management IBB sessions, strategic planning and facilitator training. He worked with community organizations and served as a member of the IAF and the Mid-Atlantic Facilitator Network (MAFN). He's also a contributing author to The IAF Handbook of Group Facilitation.

Add Your Comments


Do you suffer from Facilitateaphobia? If so, what can you take away from this article that will help you deal with it? Click reply and email your comments to me. I'll love to hear your insights.Just click on Add Your Comments to share your questions, feedback, or experience on this topic.

This Week's Offer

Facilitator's Questions Collection

This 35-page collection contains 20 sets of questions grouped according to the many themes upon which groups typically focus.

Use these lists in preparation for working with a group or use them as catalysts for the development of your own questions. You can put this practical guide to use right away with your groups without hours of study and contemplation.

This question collection can travel anywhere, from the classroom to the boardroom. Its templates are adaptable to your unique area of work; just be a little creative and the question will happen for your context. The Facilitator Questions Collection has become a desktop reference for me in both my writing and behavioral coaching work.

These questions support and instruct the facilitator as well, because so many of them are thought provoking, inviting the facilitator to pause and think about the possibilities in a given question. These menus of questions underscore that people learn differently, hence they are designed to tap into various learning styles to help people access their intelligence and draw out their best.
Ellen Mossman-Glazer M.Ed., Life Skills Coach and Behavior Specialist--

Table of Contents


Types Of Questions

Six Serving Men: Open-Ended Questions
Bloom's Taxonomy
Five Types of Questions

Focusing Questions
Questions to Clarify Group Understanding
Questions to Facilitate Commitment
Questions to Scope a Project
Problem-Solving Questions
Data Gathering Questions
Questions to clarify and focus on the problem
Organizational/Process Questions.
Decision-Making Questions
Questions to Assess Solutions
Questions to Stimulate Creative Thinking
Planning Questions
Questions to Facilitate Change
Questions to Evaluate Results
Questions To Improve Teamwork
Questions to Facilitate Participation
Questions to Identify Group Dysfunction
Debriefing Questions
Metaphor-Making Questions
Intervention Questions
Debriefing a Traumatic Situation
Questions to ask Yourself to Form Better Questions
Questions to Improve Your Facilitation Skills

Cost of this Guide: $29.95

Click here to order and download now


Special Offer: Buy the Facilitator Questions collection above
and the Facilitation Checklists Collection for only $49

Questions and Checklists Collection for $49

Click above to purchase for immediate download

Questions Collection Only for $2

Click above to purchase for immediate download Membership Option

Become a member of and receive these ebooks for free along with a host of other items and benefits. An exceptional value. Click here for details.


About the satisfaction guarantee
If, for any reason, you are not satisfied with this training, simply email us with a request to refund/credit your credit card in the full amount and we will do so immediately. It's our policy to do this and we honor this in every single case.

©2001-2013. Powered by, Madison, WI.. All Rights Reserved.