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Facilitation: Calm and Enthusiastic Engagement with the Unknown

Facilitators have been likened to orchestral Conductors. The comparison is apt: the Facilitator also engages individual experts to work together to create a great piece of work.

Another comparison might be to that of an Orienteering Guide for a Team of regular Orienteers. Both calm and enthusiastic, such a Guide has a good understanding of how to: read a map; work the compass; harness Teamwork; and utilise survival strategies. But this Guide, acknowledging the expertise of each of his Team, encourages each individual to make the most of the landmarks that are most meaningful to them in a way that is also useful to the others.

A Facilitator needs to remain calm in the face of the challenge of working with Professionals who are often Leaders in their own field.

Groups and Teams thrive most in environments where they perceive a high degree of trust and safety. The Facilitator’s first role is to create such an atmosphere. This requires an ability to read, and be sensitive and responsive to, participants’ different needs and presentation within the group context. Engaging the diversity within and between each person needs to be respectful and flexible. Authentic naivety and curiosity helps Facilitators to ask the right questions to build relationships.

As the work gears up, the Facilitator needs to know when to step back with vigilance, listening carefully. Familiar ease with group dynamics, and their phases, is essential. The Facilitator knows which statements to reflect, to reconfigure, to put back – and to whom – to elicit the wisdom, fears and visions of each participant.

With quiet and balanced authority, the Facilitator provides a framework for the group to generate as-yet-undiscovered conversations. Constructive energy is built through discussion, useful conflict and humour, and increasing clarity to another level – and a desire for the next.

A Coach Fool of Wisdom

In 17th Century English plays (e.g. those of Shakespeare), the role of the Fool was often to stir things up and challenge perceived reality. Others were prevented from such an approach to life because of their fear of the consequences of upsetting the norms of their environment and the powerful people around them. The Fool could get away with his behaviour because of the self-aware authenticity of his humble character and his trusting, even affectionate, relationship with the person he served.

Within the spontaneous and gentle precision of his humour, the Fool’s patient wisdom – presented as an apparent worldly ignorance – enabled others to vent their uncertainties.

These Fool-ish qualities are not the only ones that your present Coach needs to have, but they’re a good start and I aspire to provide them to my clients.