Tag Archive for certificeren

How to recognize a CPF?

I’ve added my thoughts on branding the facilitator in a Linked-In group discussion. It illustrates chapter 8 of my book. I’ve added here a few uses of this tension.

Pinning down
I’ve just received my CPF-pin (with the old IAF-logo, so I guess it is already a collectors item) and it brings back my old doubts on branding facilitation and/or CPF. Years ago in the Dutch board, I opposed developing a token – like a pin -, for a CPF. It is not that I don’t have pride on my achievements and our CPF-program. Wearing a pin, being recognized as a CPF, just somehow doesn’t fit our profession.

OVK-06 aangepastOne of the key issues in facilitating, is to remain on the “adult”-level with both the client and the participants, I’ve borrowed the TA-model with the three positions: Child (K) – Adult (V) – Parent (O). The “adult-position”, is between child-position (the group, being regressed) and the parent-position (the client, trying to take “care” of the group, usually called managing, implying the adult is a man* ­čÖé ). The “adult-position” mediates between the two, connecting the creative, play-full, irresponsible “child”, with the over-responsible, superior, limiting “parent”. As a facilitator, I not only mediate between the two, I also learn them how to become more “adult”.

In my opinion, when I use a token, like a CPF-pin, I put myself in the “parent”-position. This is recognized, or acknowledged, and even demanded, by the client. He – most of the time a he – requires more and more certificates. We tend to see this as “good” and in support of a CPF. It recognizes its value. However, this disables him, the client, from having to search for a facilitator that fits him and the situation. It is making a selection a “paper exercise”: just checking the list.

Double pin
This is clearly a “double bind”, as both the client and I, the facilitator, cannot escape from this game. I cannot say “I’m not a CPF”, or “I’m a CPF, but please do not recognize me”. (You’re aware that I’m using the double meaning of recognizing here: acknowledging or confirming (in Dutch: “erkennen”) and identifying (in Dutch: “herkennen”). Here we’re having the paradoxes of “Belonging”). And he cannot say something like, “listen, I do not trust you” or “I feel weakened by having to ask for support”, or even “I feel threatened by your work with my group”.

Putting on a pin, creates a double bind between me and the group too. I’m in a position “above” the group and I have to pretend this is not the case. Participants in the group cannot discuss their frustrations or anxieties or whatever. Any attempt from my side, will be seen as part of the cover up. I cannot ask them to move into the “adult”-position, as I’m in the “parent”-position. I know what is good for them. I also cannot ask the to ignore my CPF, as I’m clearly wearing the pin or have been asked to facilitate them because of it. They cannot say: “listen, we don’t trust you!”, “we don’t need support, we just want our boss to listen to us”, or even “we feel threatened by you working with our manager”.

Prof Homan, mentions this is the foreword of our book on facilitation (Faciliteren zonder Omwegen) : “you can only hope that afterwards the participants and the client will say: ‘we’ve been facilitated'” . This is, I think, what he means by saying that most of the work has to be done before and after the meeting. And that we have to change the power structure, the structure blocking the change it requires itself. So I’m not against CPF or whatever promotes professional development. It is just that I cannot use it.

Implications for facilitators
In working with groups, I do not try to “solve” this issue, as it is inevitable. Use it as a source of energy. I do have some clues:

  1. overdress slightly, even more “powerful” than the client, while adding a twist using a spectacular shirt, tie, tie-pin**) or jewelery
  2. at a key moment, for instance, when planning actions, un(der)dress by removing you tie, jacket or shawl
  3. make mistakes,hesitate, do something clumsy and acknowledge these
  4. define “places” in the room, where you have a “child”, “adult” and “parent” position. For instance, a place the client uses, contains the “parent” position; your adult position is defined in the middle of the room and as a child, you sit with the group, or walk with them. When you feel stuck in either of the positions, just move over to another space. You can do this explicitly, but most of the time it is not necessary
  5. use a method or technique from the “Evaluative mode” (4th game level), like Story Telling, Dialogue, Force Field Analysis (Kurt Lewin), Moving to Where it Matters (! surprise, even for me) or Allocating Resources
  6. in the opening or introduction, use a question about “position”, like “where do you (we) want to be at the end of our meeting?”
  7. .
    *) Of course, you know that management comes from maintener: using your hands (“mains” in French) to steer horses.
    **) here we have a functional use of the pin: make it into a shawl or tie-pin! (Perhaps even overdo it). Then, when you remove you tie, you also remove the pin.

Perceiving perceptions

Jan working In the explanation to the question Facilitators unite! A brand new brand is coming our way…. , we can read: “…how we are perceived by both our members and the public at large…” hints at the paradoxes of perception (and engaging) and at the fundamental paradox of facilitating itself. I added this comment:

Trusting the certificate

1. The paradoxes (Smith and Berg, Paradoxes of Group Life) are: disclosure, trust, intimacy and regression.

For instance, a CPF can be seen as a sign of trust. At the same time, trust is also very personal, belonging to an individual. Somebody can have all the certificates in the world, and still proven to be unreliable – in a certain situation. No amount of certification will compensate for a client having to trust a facilitator “blindly”. Trust is not in the content of the message, but the relationship. Trust me, I’m a facilitator, I know.

(and it can be as simple as this: I tried to call somebody, because I had to leave to another country for two days. There was no answer. When I was back the next day late and called again, the other one was furious: I didn’t answer my home phone and why did I went away, without telling? I clearly couldn’t be trusted. (cause: worry about health))

Trusting butter
2. The very fact that we want to control, to direct or to brand how we are perceive by peers AND others, creates a fascinating facilitation problem. The problem is something like this: “In what ways can we create a group of facilitators, as an entity over and beyond the individual facilitator, while managing the perception of clients of facilitators (= non group members) about this group?”.

This is relatively easy for an product organization, with a product that can be standardized and branded, like Shell, of – classical example – Standard Oil (Esso). It is slightly harder for capacity organizations, banks or an employment agency. A service organization, like an accountant or a consultant agency, will continuously battle with its perceptions. The IAF as an association of facilitators, is at the very top of the pyramid. This is why, associations on Project Management, Open Space or AI or creativity or Systems Thinking or … have it “easy”.

It is not that I’m against an association of facilitators; I do think that we must organize ourselves; but we cannot be or become an ordinary organization. I’m not against certification, I do think we should certify; but will never be a certificate you can trust. (It never is, but that is a closely guarded secret.

It reminds me of Alice and the Mad Tea Party:

`Two days wrong!’ sighed the Hatter. `I told you butter wouldn’t suit the works!’ he added looking angrily at the March Hare.

`It was the BEST butter,’ the March Hare meekly replied. )

2nd Professional Facilitator

Hoe Faciliteren als Tweede Beroep ook te gebruikenMy first book is named: “Facilitation as a Second Vocation“. Professing comes from “to speak forth”, “having declared publicly and freely”, “making a vow”, to use one’s voice. I used “second vocation” or “second profession” for different reasons.

Paradoxes of Expression
1. because of this paradox: facilitators work with the paradoxes of “speaking”, “expressing”. It takes courage to speak in a group, because of its pressure. We enable participants to speak; all our speaking is aimed at this. The second voice or violin.

Success breeds disaster
2. nobody was born a facilitator. We all started out in a field of expertise, were we became “professional”, proficient. This is were our competencies are best applied. Here we had success. This (early) success however – it is the voyage of the hero – is nice and fine, but the beginning of a decline. We’re asked to develop a second profession, based on our “weak” competencies.

3. there has been, for over 10 years, a very good Dutch book called “Consulting as a Second Vocation”.

4. We organized a facilitators conference with this title. It emerged from a brain storm.

Ambiguity and doubt
In my opinion, there is something “double” with the profession of facilitating: everybody facilitates. In the same way as everybody communicates. I’m having a conversation with the IAF, as they tend to “brand” the professional facilitator, CPF. I’m not against certification – I’ve introduced in The Netherlands myself -, I just don’t agree with the current view that a certificate says something different than “I’ve got a certificate”. When the certificate (also true with quality certification, like ISO 9000) becomes more important than the relationship, you’ve migrated from professionalism to professionality –> it has become “a nation”, a group. You’ve created two groups: “the professionals” and the “not so professionals”. This is not the nature of facilitation.

to CPF or not to CPF
When a client ask me if I’m certified (I am), I first ask him (mostly him) what he requires of me. If he is uncertain about the fact that I’m professional and he wants to be sure through a certificate, then this is the issue: “what makes you uncertain, that requires me to have a certificate?”. The professionalism is in this: being able to question your own doubts. I know that everybody will become a “professional facilitator”. But that’s another story.