Blog > Facilitation reboot

May 16, 2010

HT to Johnnie Moore, Chris Corrigan, Geoff Brown and Anne Pattillo. Inspiring mates and co-conspirators all.

After an intense period of facilitation, I always seem to come away with new insights and ideas about facilitation in general and my role in particular. Some of these are pretty clear, others are half-baked. And, as always, my motivation for blogging is to keep a record of my thoughts, and if that’s also helpful for you, then that’s a bonus.

It’s a liminal experience for the participants
When people come to a workshop – whether it’s a 10-day marathon or simply a day out of the office – they experience a time in liminal space. Or that’s what they should experience. If a workshop is just like work, but at another location, then why bother? A workshop, time away from the everyday, provides an opportunity to experience alternatives, to step back and see what’s happening, to reconsider, to discover and to experience change. The manifestation of that change may not happen immediately – it may never happen – what is important is that people are given some opportunity to have a different experience and to return to their work with something they didn’t have before. This could be anything from a new awareness of themselves or others to a different way of working.

Disruption is what it’s all about
I have now completely let go of any notion that facilitation is about making it easier. That’s a mechanistic interpretation and one that certainly doesn’t apply to my style of facilitation. Nor do I believe that it is in the best interests of participants. You can read more about my thoughts on disruptive facilitation here, here, here, here and here.

It’s adults we’re working with
That means people will debrief themselves and find the meaning that is well, meaningful, for them. Leave them alone!

Working alone sucks or why having two, or more facilitators, is NOT a luxury
Much of my work is done alone. Not any more. It’s hard to be present for a group and notice what’s happening and decide what is the smallest intervention that might be needed and silence that annoying, critical voice in my head. During these last four weeks I’ve experienced intense periods of working alone, working with one other, and working in a team. What a revelation. It’s the feeling of working with others that will stay with me – a feeling I’m happy to repeat.

Letting go doesn’t get any easier (but it helps if there’s someone else)
See above two entries. Doing nothing is much harder than doing something. There’s an expectation that we should be doing something to be effective, when sometimes the most effective thing to do is actually to do nothing. Or appear to do nothing, because while doing ‘nothing’ a facilitator is in fact aware, watching, noticing and letting go of all those interventions that would just get in the way of people getting on and doing what needs to be done. This is the type of conversation I have with myself when facilitating alone. These types of internal conversations get in the way of me noticing what’s happening, so having someone else there with whom I can verbalise these thoughts allows them to disperse more quickly so I can get back to doing my job of noticing. I still have to work on having more conversations with others rather than in my own head.

Laughter produces endorphins – and is (generally) easier to access than exercise or sex (in a workshop)
Endorphins are good. Games produce laughter. Laughter produces endorphins. Enough said.

Taking risks means some people will love what you do and others will hate it
And the challenge is not to take it personally.

Focusing on applications is a distraction
When people focus on application they’re making a judgment – will this be useful to me in the future? While this is understandable, sometimes they miss what could be happening here and now, maybe even useful information about themselves and their colleagues; insights even.

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