Monday 5 August 2013

Invisible Facilitation

I have been musing on visibility and invisibility of late.  Recently I have presented a number of conference sessions, runs some development workshops, and facilitated awaydays for a number of organisations.

Clearly, when speaking at a conference one is in the spotlight.  Whilst I frequently include quite high levels of participation, there is an expectation that the presenter takes centre stage and delivers some insight.

The same is true when running workshops.  There is more scope for participative and co-created learning, but nonetheless, people expect a certain amount of information to be delivered by the person at the front of the room.

But with the facilitated awaydays, I often think the best thing is for the facilitator to be invisible.  

Frequently my most important work is done in advance of the day:

  • helping define what the issues are that need addressing 
  • devising the best process for addressing them, 
  • helping position people to engage positively with them; 

and so on. On the day itself, I may take a  much less visible  role.

Quiet roles a facilitator may fulfil (sometimes merely by his or her presence and manner) include:
  • creating and sustaining a safe and positive space for the conversation, 
  • agreeing and sustaining ground rules, 
  • managing the time so participants can focus on the issues, 
  • summarising discussions and moving the agenda on; and 
  • ensuring clear next steps are agreed.

One of the facilitator’s concerns, of course, may be that if she or he is not seen to be doing very much, people may conclude that the role is unnecessary, or the particular facilitator is incompetent.  But my experience is the reverse. I often hear tales of (and occasionally observe) facilitators who do too much - who need to be in the limelight for whatever reason.  

But the feedback I get from clients when I seem to do very little is almost always very supportive: here is a quotation from one:  Especial thanks to Andrew.   It takes real skill to be so totally unobtrusive, and yet completely in control!  

So I think we should trust our clients (who, after all, want an effective event, not a showboating facilitator) to recognise our contribution, and not worry about being seen to perform.

No comments:

Post a Comment