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The Road to Facilitation
                           What follows here are my ramblings on the topic of facilitation.

Facilitation is the design and management of structures and processes that help a group do its works and minimize the common problems people have when working together, or in the short words of Ingrid Bens in her recent book, Facilitation With Ease, "facilitation is a way of providing leadership without taking the reins". In today's world there are an array of people, who, within group situations, believe they hold the prerequisite skills to take the reins.




Facilitators are like ice cream; they come in many flavors. Some are plain and some with chips and nuts and still others with a cherry on top. In the words of the talk show personality, Dennis Miller, "I don't mean to get off on a rant...but". Well, how should I say it? If I had a dollar for every pseudo facilitation I've run across, I'd be on a beach in the Bahamas sipping a pina colada. Like the Coca-Cola attest, "there're many imitators on the market today". Stores are packed to the rafters with self-help books on a plethora of business topics telling us how to be the great facilitator.  Within the pages of many articles, books, and hours of seminars, all the hard facilitation skills have been thoroughly documented. My intention here is to share my empirical knowledge in an area less trafficked, the effective side of facilitation.


You Can't Hatch Chickens From Fried Eggs


In my many years as an educator, trainer and practitioner in the field of management and experiential education, I've learned that effective facilitation is as much about caring as it is about leading.  It's as much about going the wrong way as it is about going the right way.  As a facilitator, I've learned you must not only care where you are leading your charges, but you must lead them to place that resides in their collective vision of their group goal. Experience can tell you that it's not always an easy task, or a straight route.


Sometimes, for a world of reasons, the group may lack a concerted and coherent vision. That's when the real work begins. I called it "masonry work" because it's hard, and like building a foundation, you have to start with one brick, one concept, or idea at a time.


The OZ Principle


In a developmental exercise of building one idea on top of another, the group's collective vision begins to grow. Cemented by a thought, equilibrium is created between the individual’s desires and the group goal.  A stasis of trust and authentic understanding that "the one is more important than the many and that the many is not more important than the one." Whoa! I know what's your thinking, we're not in Kansas anymore...but we are. Let's bring it back down to basics. People stay and work well together if they can trust that their interests, concerns, and welfare will be taken care of by the group. In the fable The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy, the Tin Woodsman and the Cowardly Lion all trusted that they would help each other get their heart desires.  Once that balance of trust was established, everything else was possible because the individuals had full access to the reservoir of knowledge and creativity.


Finally, it is that unleashing of team power that lies at the core of a good facilitator. There's no "right" way to facilitate.  Much depends on your personality, the situation, and the nature of the people in your group. Remember the role of a facilitator is based on flexibility and accommodating to the needs of the group. Let team-building flourish!


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