I’m preparing to teach a two-day workshop on group facilitation in a few weeks. When I plan a class, I am sometimes overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that I would love to impart to my students; I can never cover it all. So I make a practice of distilling it down to about three major concepts.
When I think about all that I’ve learned and experienced about group facilitation, I can come up with quite a long list of models, processes, tools, tips, and tricks. You can find any and all of them in a book.
But the underlying essence of what makes a good facilitator boils down to three qualities: presence, practice, and awareness.
In order to serve my clients well, I have to be completely and wholly present with them. I can’t be thinking about something going on at home or have my phone beeping in my pocket. I have to stay in the moment with what’s happening, and be willing and able to change directions if that is what the group needs.
I have to be fully aware of all the different things going on in the room – this person is disengaged, that one appears upset, the door needs to be closed because a conversation outside is distracting others. I also need a high degree of self-awareness if I am to be of service. Do I think this particular process will help the group fulfill its goals, or do I just like doing it so I suggest it to everyone? Am I getting worked up about an issue? Is my neutrality being compromised? Does that particular person trigger me in some way?
The only way to foster and grow these qualities is practice – the more I facilitate different kinds of meetings with different groups of people, the better I get at it. I also need to have some personal practices outside of my group work, to keep me grounded and centered so I can be a clear channel.
I just spent three days on a silent personal retreat, to clear my head and revisit my priorities. I feel both more rooted and lighter. Now my task over the next two weeks is to figure out how to give my students a taste of this experience in a classroom setting!