Today I just started a new position and can call myself the Innovation & Process Manager at Molamil. Don't worry, I'll still be at The Other Potential, just a little less than usual. I was feeling so rusty coming into Molamil and was thrown into the deep end of the pool, as I am going to be facilitating tomorrow morning. The thing that was so nice to feel was that feeling of riding a bike. No matter how long ago it was, it still feels natural. That is the same with facilitation. I knew exactly how and what was needed for this meeting in the morning and had an arsenal of other tools I could use in case something else was needed. That's the thing with facilitation; once you learn it, you will always have it with you. And most likely you will also live through it in your daily life causing positive impacts of change in people.
So, you’ve started to grasp parts of what facilitation is about.
Now the question stands: How do I become a facilitator?
First off, there is no right of passage or a board of facilitators that will give you a badge and say: “You are now a facilitator!”
Here’s part of my journey and what I believe helped me gain the experience and confidence to call myself a facilitator.
Facilitation was something that came naturally to me as a kid. I always wanted to bring the whole group together & create together, never wanting to make the decisions or make people do things. I never really understood why I should force things.
Though not until recent years did I understand that there was a word for what I was doing and that I could actually apply it to businesses & change the people around me.
First, I started reaching out to people who called themselves facilitators, talked to people, interviewed, searched for tools and asked for reading material; there are a lot of tool books out there but understanding the mindset and process of facilitation was a bit harder to find.
Secondly, I was lucky enough to be in a creative business school who encouraged facilitative leadership. So I decided to make the room and time to develop that skill. First I started by asking to lead team development sessions, wrap ups of projects and shadow our program managers when they would start off projects.
I listened and analysed how and why they would use certain tools, questions and looked at things such as timing & their workshop designs.
Though the biggest game-changer in my development was to get a mentor. That mentor was Sarah Gregersen, whom I work with today at The Other Potential.
She came to our school to teach a 5-day facilitation course and 5 minutes in I knew I had to pick her brain. She not only taught facilitation, she also applied it everyday.
I wanted it to be a mutual exchange of time, knowledge and favours and presented it like that. I had no idea of what I could give her but one thing that was apparent was that I wanted to learn. Facilitation isn’t only about being on the floor and by getting to help a mentor I got that experience. I got the experience of doing the nitty-gritty work; some of it I enjoyed, some not as much. But just like eating is a lot of fun, you can start finding joy in the cooking, the prep work and even doing the dishes if you allow yourself to look at it differently, especially if you’re curious.
Facilitation is all about the process so look at the process. Look at the bigger systemic process and also look at the process of how facilitators work. I would have never gotten the experience of designing a spreadsheet for a workshop if I hadn’t reached out to do work for my mentor and I would have never gotten the feedback & tips when working the floor.
TL:DR or to summarise it:
1. Reach out, read, interview, discuss.
2. Create the opportunities to try & use facilitation
3. Take a course which focuses on foundations and your tailored needs
4. Get a mentor, work for them and do all the nitty gritty stuff.
5. Once again, get a mentor.
I would like to highlight that facilitation is about transformational leadership and leaders are chosen when the roll & situation asks for it, some days it might be your mother taking charge of the family dinner or that quiet guy in the corner who knows how and where to go to safety in an office fire.
One thing facilitation does focus on is growth, setting a learning or creative environment for the participants. With some thought and reflections I believe you can imagine those situations and find where you can grow yourself and apply your art of facilitation.
Good luck and if you want to discuss, get tips on material and more then feel free to contact me either on Twitter @kblimling or here.
Lately I’ve realised the need to clarify the differences between a project manager and a facilitator with clients and individuals who have come to see the potential of bringing in facilitators.
Therefore I thought we could take a quick look at the two roles and also introduce a model to have in mind.
Let’s start by taking a look at the dictionary definitions of the two:
the person in overall charge of the planning and execution of a particular project.
a person or thing that facilitates.
a person responsible for leading or coordinating the work of a group, as one who leads a group discussion.
There’s already a few clear differences in the definitions:
Project managers — plan & execute, facilitators — lead & coordinate.
I would like to introduce the content-process model which is great to have in mind when thinking about the differences.
A project manager will often have the mandate to make decisions on the content. Ex. if a product will be launched or who will execute which task. Facilitators on the other hand don’t have the mandate to make decisions or telling who will be creating or executing.
As a facilitator your focus is on leading the process, making the most value for the participants and in no way creating, deciding, or changing the content.
Meaning facilitators can be brought in for short term to long term projects. Everything from a 30 minute meeting to a blended learning project which can span a few years. They are often brought into help with planning as process consultants and can give advice on how to plan a process or design a process for a client. Though in the end it is up to the client to decide on what kind of content they want.
There are of course many situations which people can switch between the roles. The facilitator role can be adapted by a project manager when needed but I urge to make it explicit which role your in; not only for yourself but also the people you surround yourself with. The outcome will be very different if you are there for the participants process or the desired content.
I hope to have been able to bring some clarity to the two and feel free to use the content vs process model as an example when you are facilitating.
Before I finish off I would like to share a quote by David Sibbet which we at The Other Potential believe is a good definition of facilitation:
“Facilitation is the art of leading people through processes towards agreed upon objectives, in a way that fosters participation, creativity and ownership from all involved”
- David Sibbet
Signing off for now and do give me a shout if you’re interested in discussing deeper on the subject.