Do You Have the Soul of a Facilitator?

By Michael Wilkinson, CMF
Managing Director, Leadership Strategies, Inc.

What does it take to be an excellent facilitator?  Great facilitators know that it requires knowledge, skills and experience.  However, they also know that wisdom and experience in using techniques is not enough.  Great facilitators bring a caring persona to their work that I like to call the "soul of a facilitator." 

What are these characteristics?

Facilitators care about people.  They value people, their views and their input.  They want each person to walk away from a facilitated event feeling welcome, heard and understood.  They model positive affirmation and demonstrate their caring through their words and actions.

Facilitators want to help.  The word "facilitator" comes from the Latin word "facil" which means to make easy.  Facilitators receive great pleasure from being of assistance.  They genuinely enjoy using their expertise to help others succeed.

Facilitators place their egos aside.  Facilitators recognize that they are servants of the group.  They understand that their presence is secondary, that their personal views are inconsequential, and that their value is defined by their ability to help the group achieve the group's objectives, not the facilitator's. They don't get upset with a participant’s difficult behaviors.  They don't take concerns personally.  They are willing to play as little or as great a role as necessary to help the group be successful.

While my first book, The Secrets of Facilitation,provides you with numerous tools and techniques for executing successful facilitated sessions, these same methods can be used for group manipulation and selfish pursuits.  Someone coined the term “facipulation”, which is used to describe any situation when facilitation is used for group manipulation or when the outcome is pre-determined and the facilitator is asked to “facilitate” the group to the outcome. 

I believe the three characteristics that make up the soul of the facilitator gives you an inner guidance that can detect when “facipulation” is being requested and gives you the opportunity to either help the sponsor transform the goal or walk away.

When facilitating a group, consider asking yourself the following question.

"Am I trying to achieve my own outcomes or someone else’s or am I seeking an outcome that will maximize the group's buy-in and success." 

Or, when in a situation where you detect “facipulation” is being requested, consider asking the sponsor this question.

"Are you open to the group coming up with a different solution than what you desire?”

I believe the essential difference between a manipulator and a facilitator is all in the intention of the soul. 

Interested in learning more about facilitation?  Check out our course, The Effective Facilitator.

About the Author

Michael Wilkinson is the Managing Director of Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company, and a much sought after trainer, facilitator and speaker.  He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a Certified Professional Facilitator.  As a past president of the Southeast Association of Facilitators and a board member of the International Institute of Facilitation, Michael is a national leader in the facilitation industry.  You can get more tips from either of Michael’s books, The Secrets of Facilitation or The Secrets to Masterful Meetings. You can receive a signed copy through our website.

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