What I will share with you below, is key to your success as a facilitator, and merits some focus. Before we get into the nitty gritty of facilitation design, processes, how to’s, logistics and resources, I’d like to point your attention to something that comes from somewhere much deeper and has a significant influence on the quality of your facilitation.
The #2 RULE to being a great facilitator is:
Find your own style.
So, how do I find my style, you might ask?
To be a facilitator is no easy feat. You are on your game, dealing with a lot of varying energies in one space, and stepping in and out of keeping an eye on the bigger picture and another eye on the details of how to get there. You want to make sure you communicate instructions correctly, tune into participant needs, address group questions, and feel the energy in the room. I find myself exhausted, though exhilarated, especially at the end of whole day workshops.
In fact, myself and my project partner, Eirini (a quick plug: together we traveled on a 12-month facilitation journey across South America, hosting 24 Círculo de Soñadoras workshops in 7 countries, and soon we are launching the Freeing Dreams Institute- stay tuned!), worked with groups so diverse spanning from women, to employees on team building days, to teachers with school boards, to directly working with CEOs, to training community stakeholders, to change agents and so on, and we experienced that facilitators in any context will get very sensitive to energy. They are giving so much of it and taking in so much from the different types of personalities present. This is a diplomatic way of pointing out that there are those in your audience who will be nay-sayers or critics, those who will be distrusting initially, judging you maybe, those who felt an obligation to be present but aren’t really sure why they are there (because you were not the one in charge of creating the “irresistible invitation”, right?), and so they are really distant and disconnected. On the other other hand, there are those who will be overly excited, deeply engaged with your process and possibly borderline dominant. Yes – all of these will take their toll on your ability to manage the energy in the room and your facilitation performance.
Here’s my best advice to you, coming from personal experience. If you want to stay on your game and better manage energy levels, voices in your head (limiting beliefs) and fears (because we all have them), then you need to first and foremost find your style and your authentic self. You may be inspired by other facilitators you know, and feel the tendency to want to do it like they do, but I assure you, there is nothing you can do, or no one you can copy, that will be better than you when connected to your authentic self and flaunting your own style (modestly).
What are the different facilitation styles?
There is a comprehensive article written by Wayne J. Vick covering literature review on research about different facilitation styles. You might want to take a look at it to identify your style, and here is what I recommend to ask yourself:
AM I MORE DIRECTIVE (OFFERING INSTRUCTION), EXPLORATORY (ASKING MORE QUESTIONS), DELEGATING (ASSIGNING TASKS AND ROLES), OR PARTICIPATIVE (TAKING PART IN THE DISCUSSION AND INVITING OTHERS TO DO SO AS WELL)?*
AM I AN ENERGETIC (HIGH ENERGY) OR CALM & COMPOSED FACILITATOR?*
DO I LIKE MORE CONTROL OR DO I LIKE TO GIVE SPACE FOR THE UNKNOWN TO EMERGE (FLEXIBLE)?*
AM I MORE CREATIVE OR EVIDENCE-BASED?
AM I WARM, FRIENDLY AND OPEN, OR SERIOUS, PROFESSIONAL AND TASK-FOCUSED?
AM I A UNIQUE COMBINATION OF SOME OF THE ABOVE?
Your authentic self is that YOU that shines when you are your best version. It connects you with your purpose – in which case may be to offer the best experience to everyone present in the room for this particular gathering. When you tap into this space of presence and genuine connection, you will feel your facilitation style shift, you will see how people’s reaction changes and you will give the best you can offer; adjusting to the needs of the context, better than anything you can pull off trying to imitate things you have seen others do. And trust me, it will reflect in the process and outcomes of what you co-create. How to do that? This is something I will be developing material around. So stay tuned, and for now try the exercise below as a first step to connect with your authentic self.
Let's tap into collective wisdom: Here's an observation activity for you.
Close you eyes for a moment and tune into your genuine self and thoughts (so, my ask is that you try to be present for a moment). Imagine yourself in your BEST VERSION. WHAT MOVES YOU TO BE IN YOUR BEST VERSION? What do you look like when you are in your best version? How do you carry yourself? How do you feel? What values do you feel represent you? Feel free to Share some of your observations in the comment section.
1. Facilitation Styles: A Review of Published Theories
2. Developing Facilitation Skills; A Handbook for Group Facilitators by Patricia Prendiville © Combat Poverty Agency, New Edition 2008 (Chapter 2; page 14) Styles of Facilitation.
3. “Facilitation Made Easy: Practical Tips to Improve Meetings & Workshops” Esther Cameron (2nd Edition) 2001 (pages 3 – 6).