By Jeff Klein
Facilitate means “to make easy.” Facilitation is the art and practice of making things easy (or easier), and facilitative behaviors foster ease of movement. Facilitation may be one of the most essential skills of a Conscious Leader – it’s up there with Conscious Awareness, Social and Emotional Intelligence, and a few others.
In any situation we have multiple options for our orientation and approach. We often see and respond to situations along a spectrum: somewhere between defense and offense, or control and resistance (or control and surrender) or other such poles. Facilitation offers another option: to work with what is given, to respond in the moment to the moment, inquiring into and sensing possibilities, and teasing out where the process can flow.
People who take this stance recognize that the possibilities inherent in any situation and the paths to realizing possibilities are beyond what we might imagine. This is especially true in the context of collaboration where collective intelligence and synergies ignite infinite possibilities.
The objective of facilitation, and collaboration, is to establish shared responsibility for success. Because facilitation respects people, relationships and processes, while purposefully leading to results aligned with the desired outcomes of the participants, it is a powerful tool for engaging the hearts and minds of all involved in order to generate unified action. Facilitation is a high leverage skill as it produces better results with less energy.
Facilitation is a skill, which can be learned and developed. My principal training was with Arnold Mindell, (whose book, The Leader as Martial Artist, I highly recommend), an Essential Facilitation training with Interaction Associates, and lots of practice and learning from colleagues and collaborators.
Facilitative behaviors foster the flow of collaboration. Some set the context for ease of collaboration in meetings, projects or other processes. Other facilitative behaviors serve to restore ease when it is disrupted.
The practices of Conscious Awareness, deep listening, dialogue, and wise speech are fundamentally facilitative behaviors. Making and keeping to our agreements are also facilitative behaviors. Establishing clearly defined roles and decision-making processes are highly facilitative, as they establish a clear context for collaboration. Checking in with one another to ensure that we are on the same page, suspending our judgments, and asking one another to do the same are facilitative. Interventions include reinforcing previously agreed upon ground rules and agreements, engaging the group in addressing challenging questions, and checking in to see whether members are in the same place or the group needs to realign itself in some way. Slowing down is almost always facilitative, unless the group process calls for speeding up.
We can embody facilitative behaviors whether we are serving as a facilitator or participant.
The Bottom Line
In every situation there are multiple options for how we orient ourselves and respond to people and dynamic circumstances. Facilitation offers the opportunity to find a path of least resistance in any situation. While it can sometimes call for courageously entering into the heat of conflict and crisis, facilitative skills and behaviors ultimately aim to foster resolution, wholeness and ease, and to support people and processes to move to higher levels of creativity, intelligence and functioning – outcomes which can create a flourishing business and deliver value for all stakeholders.
In the next post in this series I will explore the idea of Stakeholder Engagement Marketing™, which is a focus of much of my work.
Jeff Klein is CEO of Working for Good, a company that activates, produces and facilitates mission-based, Stakeholder Engagement Marketing™ campaigns and Conscious Culture development programs.
Jeff is a founding trustee of Conscious Capitalism, Inc. and authored the award-winning book, Working for Good: Making a Difference While Making a Living, to support conscious entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, leaders and change agents at work. He is offering a 6-week tele-course entitled It’s Just Good Business, through the en*Theos Academy for Optimal Living.