A good facilitator, and leader, is always at one time being in the conversation and watching the conversation. Watching the conversation means to be paying attention for hidden meanings or opinions, picking out the essence of what I hear and being able to replay it back. Being aware of what is wanting to happen in that space. I have to maintain an open mind. I can’t be thinking about, “Oh, well this person has this hang up” or “I know they aren’t going to like this” or even “I’m not going to invite them to the conversation because they’ll just make it difficult.” This is closing down the mind, the conversation and the possibilities of what could happen.
I have to set aside my personal biases otherwise I won’t hear what is really being said. I’ll only hear what I want to hear, good or bad. I’ll take only what I want to take out of the conversation and not what really was wanting to take shape. It pays to be quiet and listen more than talk. By listening, you can learn what’s truly motivating the other and hopefully come up with creative solutions.
I don’t push for my agenda within the conversation or to make things happen.
Rather, I let the process unfold however it naturally wants to. This means relinquishing the agenda to others. It can look like a series of meetings I held to form the strategic plan of a program I manage. First, I invited anyone who touched the program regardless of how difficult I may have found their personalities. Then, I built a structured agenda in the sense that it was a process to lead us through our planning. This agenda was littered with more questions than anything else. It allowed for complete emergence of the program. I came to the table with my own answers to the questions as I expected everyone else to. I did not come with my predetermined thoughts on where I wanted the program to go but instead I came with the energy to allow the program to become whatever the group created.
I created a process that I could trust knowing that whatever the final product became is what it should be. There is no room for ego with the facilitating leader. There is no room for authoritarian behavior or insisting that things come out a certain way. Only trust that if the process is created for visioning and purpose with no hidden motives, all will come out as it needs to exist. What’s important here also, is that the end then contains a bit of everyone in the room. They all feel that they created it and were listened to. This will later gain trust to move the program forward because of the inclusivity.
It’s like a tree. A tree stands tall and fixed in one place. This is likened to a person who is passionate about a topic and truly believes in its cause. The branches have give and sway with the wind and storms, all the while staying planted. The branches are how leaders facilitate. They let their preconceived notions, agenda and control sway with the wind. They bend while remaining firm in their core values. Its remaining intact, yet bendable, when others pronounce intense fears or desires.