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.
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.
One 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* 🙂 ). 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.
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:
- overdress slightly, even more “powerful” than the client, while adding a twist using a spectacular shirt, tie, tie-pin**) or jewelery
- at a key moment, for instance, when planning actions, un(der)dress by removing you tie, jacket or shawl
- make mistakes,hesitate, do something clumsy and acknowledge these
- 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
- 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
- in the opening or introduction, use a question about “position”, like “where do you (we) want to be at the end of our meeting?”
*) 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.