May 22, 2008

Focus on Facilitation: Facilitating with a Motive (a.k.a. When Facilitators Attack!)

You'd think that trained facilitators would always do The Work straight-up, just four questions and a turnaround, no maneuvering and manipulating the client, no cross-talk, no inventive or invasive questions...just as you'd think that doctors would never lose a patient, mothers would always do the right thing by their kids, and politicians would always keep their campaign promises.

As we know, this is hopeless. Human beings doing their best can still be clueless sometimes.

That's why we Certified Facilitators of The Work, early in our training, are shown right away how to evaluate ourselves, and it's expected that this be an ongoing process. Hopefully we are always available to hear feedback from our clients and colleagues as well, and that we see ourselves as life-long learners. I observe this "student" quality among all of the exceptional and most experienced facilitators of my acquaintance, including my mentor, Byron Katie, founder of the process, who has of course been doing this longer than anyone. Continued self-evaluation, and receiving the observations of my clients and peers, have all been enormously helpful to me, as sitting with the reasons I may veer off course keeps me honest and in service as it "gentles" me.

Nevertheless, motive has a way of creeping into the work of even the best facilitators, particularly when we experience a client as resistant. We want our clients to "get it." We want them to see us in a certain way. We think we have something to teach. (I was guilty of that last one during a recent tele-seminar, noticing even as the words flew out of my mouth that I was over-explaining what I was doing "for the audience's sake," and in those moments, abandoning my client, the host of the call, rationalizing that he'd be okay with it. Whether he was or not, I acted out of motive, and that's good to see so that I can do a better job next time for my sake.)

Here's a sampling of what can happen when facilitating The Work with a motive:

1. The Mack truck thing; see illustration. Should our clients be "easy" or "get it" for our sakes? Aren't we supposed to be in service here?!!

2. Spinning. Example: "How do you react when you believe the thought, 'I need to make more money'?" "I get nervous and I worry about the future. I see myself as homeless." "Ah, that's the heart of the matter. You'll be homeless, is that true?" What happened to the client's original statement? Not good enough? Who knows what gold lies in them thar hills? How would the facilitator know what's at the heart of the matter, when the client has barely said anything? This hypothetical facilitator, so intent on bringing about a result, is not allowing the client to find their own answers, even though s/he appears to ask questions.

3. Negative self-talk: "Oh gosh, this isn't working. I'm doing it wrong. The client will think I'm incompetent. I'm not helping them." Believing thoughts like these, we may be more liable to pulling out all the stops, including excessive nodding and making encouraging sounds, or making superfluous bordering on arrogant remarks like "Good job!"...asking lots and lots of sub-questions, quickly, so the client can see how masterful we are at moving them towards a "big bang"...leading the client by peppering them with our own clever examples so that they can have the epiphany we think they need in order for us to look good.

Facilitating with a motive always means that we've made the facilitation all about us, even while we're in the client's business mentally. Whose session is it anyway? It's mine for sure, every time—I've never witnessed or facilitated anyone's work that wasn't also my own—and that's perfectly fine, as long as we don't make it ours at the expense of the client.

(Thanks to my friend D. over at the Institute for The Work community board for the lively discussion and wonderful subtitle that inspired this article.)

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

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