Tag Archive for facilitation

Facilitating leadership

Six leadership typesJeppe Lajer asked me: “What do you think a leader or facilitator can do to raise his/her capacity to love working with groups while being conscious of his/her inadequacies?“. The answer is: “I don’t know”. But of course, i do think.

Leadership and facilitator draw from the same source. “li” or “lea“, is from the Sanskrit “yui“, meaning connection. Ship means to create, to make, as does “facere“. So both mean “making connections”. The main difference, is the location and attitude. Facilitation means making connections between people within a group, while leadership means make connection between inside and outside. Both have to work with the paradoxical tensions from the paradoxes of Belonging: Identity, individuality, Involvement and Boundaries (please note that the latter word implies bond or connection again). See Paradoxes of Group Life by Smith and Berg.

A facilitator works at the border, inside the group, looking towards the group. She or he is usually invited to support a group in solving a problem, reaching a desired goal or clarify a situation. The attitude is to support, to look inside, towards the center of the group. A facilitator tends to use images, metaphors, representations, role play, methods to evoke new meaning. A facilitator can use the different leadership styles (see image) as tools for making connections. From feelings (green) to ideas (yellow), for instance, this is “brain storming”. From structured priorities (blue) to actions, this is called “action planning”. Overall, he or she will use the energy from inside, from within the group (green) to establish results. Facilitators make themselves dependent of the group.

A leader also works at the border of the group – sometimes in a session, I take over the leadership position -, also at the edge of the group, but more-often looking to the outside. That’s why a leader also represents a group. He or she can be seen as “the group”, giving rise to problems of dependency. A facilitator will never represent a group to the outside world. A leader usually uses structure, time, money (blue) to develop and implement a vision (yellow). A leader will find it hard “to come down” and sit with the group. He or she will not be recognized as an equal, which complicates leadership. For instance, the information received cannot be trusted.

Tension between leader and facilitator
It will be evident, that there exists tensions between leaders and facilitators. Engaging a facilitator feels somehow tricky. Here we have the tensions from the Paradoxes of Engaging. Can the leader trust the facilitator and vice versa? A facilitator must trust the leader in, for instance, the freedom of participation. How much distance between the leader and the facilitator? Too close, and they’ll be seen as conspiring. Too far apart and there is no real exchange of information. The leader must be open, willing to share, to disclose to the facilitator what he or she fears or loves most. The other way around: a facilitator cannot say everything he or she hears while working with the group. And sometimes, the group will share insights no leader wants to hear. How to communicate this? Finally, a leader feels regressed when he seems to need an outside facilitator. Like in the following metaphor.

I would label the tension as playing between king and magician (archetypes, not real cabbages and kings). This is – I think – why Will McWhinney uses this metaphor in his Reality Inquiry (Creating Paths of Change, p 18 – 27). Both are male archetypes, taking in strong positions and enabling change. Magician, wise (wo)man, teaches and supports young king. He charms the group with his tricks and fire works. Once established as king, king may feel threatened by the powers of sage, his engagement with the common people, the ease of his traveling up and down. And even have him banned. King will find it hard to employ sage. Sage will stay independent. And also, it gives the impression of king needing help, being weak or even vulnerable. That’s why a facilitator may become fool, jester, joker.

Implication for facilitators
How to deal? what to do? As we’re dealing with the paradoxes of engaging, the most important part is the intake. When we’re meeting a client for the first time, we can only make mistakes. So, Go Slow.

  1. Always start with sharing a personal problem or situation. For instance: “I’m afraid of becoming bald (or gray, or having dandruff,… )”. Or “i feel both exited and impressed by …”. Or even: “I do not know where to sit”. This is an instance of “disclosure”
  2. Always talk with the client about the resistance towards the facilitator (or consultant, or project manager). This can be done directly, “how do you feel hiring a facilitator?” or indirectly: “how does the group feel about hiring a facilitator?”.
  3. Try to sit next to the client, his right hand side. Mirror his or her behavior, maintaining eye-level contact. Don’t look up and don’t be looked upon.
  4. If present: use the white board to summarize point or support the conversation. Invite the client to stand up too. This will also speed up the conversatio.
  5. Be acutely aware of the first few sentences of the client. Write them down immediately, word by word. The client needs to disclose what is bothering him or her. It cannot be done directly, because, well of the differences, the trust-issue etc. It will always be stated symbolically. (the interesting thing is, the theme will re-emerge later in the conversation. So it is not a very big deal, when you’ve missed it.)
  6. Summarize in the words of the client. Just repeat what is being said. Do not try to make an interpretation.
  7. When you do not understand something, just ask. Start with a TLA, Three Letter Abbreviation. If there are too many, just ask one in three things.
  8. Regression is the hardest part. Stay away from Parent – Child communication, like criticizing, or being instructed. Do not ask “why (do you think)?-questions” and re-frame “why?”-questions from the client before looking for an answer. Share your feelings, without attributing them to the behaviour of the other.

Kung-fu Panda
So, like Po, lead your life: becoming what you destined to become. And again, this is not a destination, this is a becoming. When you do your work, love working with groups, groups will support you in becoming conscious of your inadequacies. They’ll aways do that, by the way, but when you don’t recognize your own shadow, they’ll tend to use you to block their own development. (see “how do I recognize a CPF?” http://www.faciliteren-als-2e-beroep.nl/2015/01/how-to-recognize-a-cpf/)

Crossing over

The core paradox has been described by Spencer-Brown in Laws of Form: “make a distinction”, or O . This creates a boundary, | . He proves how space and time can be derived from this, as well as logic. “Making a distinction” (differentiating) off course somehow presupposes something or someone being able to make, to create or initiate a distinction. So any distinction made (distinguishing), makes (or implies) itself too. In Hebrew, I’ve been told, the verb to create is the same as to separate, to create is also to make a distinction.

So naturing nature is the very source of herself and our being. From this, we can easily see how nature “has to” find ways and means to become conscious of herself. There really is no other option. Conciousness is an emergent property of the paradoxes created through the separations. The distinctions distinguishing themselves. The paradoxical tensions also supply the energy to both maintains the differences and annihilate them. This is the dynamics of the world. (The other way around would be: “we could only become conscious, when there is something like consciousness”. This could be perceived as being given, created or acquired. In my view, this doesn’t make a difference)

Facilitators make connections (“li”). Off course, you can only make connections, when you have distinctions, differences. If this is the distinction: |, the connection would be — so we would create a cross, + . Interestingly, this is the same word Spencer-Brown uses, when we “cross a distinction”. A network, connected crosses, is just the way nature organizes herself into. So, in the same way, we create networks.

What I find interesting, is that the word “work” is in networking. In my view, “doing the work”, is about becoming conscious. In Dutch, it is even funnier, because there network sounds like “sounds like work”.

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. )

One principle of facilitation

Martin Gilbraith asked: Is there a single universal principle of facilitation and learning?

Hoofdstuk 4 6 wijzenYes, of course not. No and yes, Martin, more or less. It is + (cross, plus-sign) : any universe unfolds itself in a fourfold way. That’s why everything can be presented in 2 x 2 matrix (use of x intentionally).

When I was at university (MBa), I was told never to present to management something more complicated than a two by two scheme. Higher/lower and less/more. “They cannot understand more complicated things”, I was told. Later I understood, that our understanding is universally framed into fours, as this is how universe (or System) develops, evolves, unfolds and even creates itself.

The + also works as a frame, a window (you might have noticed that Windows logo consists of four coloured “windows”). This process of framing in fours is universal: four elements, four directions in the compass rose, four psychological types, four gospels, four yoga’s, four learning styles, … (Off course, this is a generic structure, giving rise to fractals, which may not look like + any more, sometimes we’ve got 5’s, 8’s some models contain 64 elements, there are over 120 elements in nature).

So is there a single principle? No, there are four principles to be singled out, one of them being “principles” (which i tend to colour “blue”). The other three being actions (red), feelings (green) and ideas (yellow). Standard facilitation usually connect feelings with ideas, creating meaning in a group, also know as community.

In my book “Faciliteren als Tweede Beroep”, which is largely based on McWhinney’s “Creating Paths of Change” (highly recommended) , I show how each an every model or theory can be mapped on a four colour map. As this map is part of the mapping, this map is inconsistent or incomplete AND we cannot prove which of the two it is. (Does this map contain itself or is the map the same scale as reality?)

This four-fold leads us to six different combination or interventions. I show that we’re stuck with two types of facilitating change: the sixth intervention: Emergent, connecting groups, feelings with ideas, dreams, and deciding which of the other five interventions to use.

Interesting: the + also represents the connection of opposites. This is the what, how, who and where of facilitating: making (“facere”) connections ( “li”, as in relationships). So, your single is more or less plural, as you contribution on the four steps of ORID shows (it also figures in my book). There are twelve (6 combinations, 2 directions) methods, ways and means.