A few years ago I accompanied some close friends on a day trip to Santa Cruz Island, about 30 miles off the California coast east of Ventura. Upon arriving at the island, we were greeted by a park volunteer who gave us a short briefing on the facilities and also offered to guide us on a short one-hour hike. We decided that the hike sounded like a good idea so we joined in.
About 10 minutes into the hike, we realized that this guide (as most every guide I’ve experienced) was talking nonstop about the superficialities of the island. He was in essence, giving us data. We quickly decided to abandon the guided tour to head out for a quiet hike on our own down an alternate trail.
Reflecting upon this experience on that hike, I came up with some questions. Why do guides feel compelled, and likely trained to cram superficial data into us in a place where many of us come to enjoy the now rare peace, quiet, and solitude of a natural setting?
Is this guide and others unwitting participants part of a ploy to keep us out of touch with ourselves through their nonstop barrage of superficial information? Why can’t some guides facilitate our “experiencing” the unique feel of the environment? Or tell us stories that involve what one might have experienced living on the island a hundred years ago?
As usual, I converted these reflections into some related questions and insights for us facilitators to ponder.
– Do you feel that you need to talk “nonstop” when facilitating a group or when giving a presentation? Music without spaces between the notes sounds like noise. Presentations without pauses begin to sounds the same way. People tune out when they aren’t “touched” by the speaker. Listen to your audience while you speak to sense their receptivity.
– Do you think that you need to be facilitating/leading all the time? If at times you find your group capable of facilitating themselves, then by all means, get out of their way! Remember that your role is to serve your group and to help them work together with as light a touch as needed. Encouraging them to do as much as possible without your intervention increases their ownership of what’s accomplished and builds their skills in self-facilitating.
– Do you go into your groups too attached to an agenda to address your client’s agenda? It’s great to have done your homework so that you are clear about your group’s issues and the best way to go about working through them. But the fact is, until you sit down with the group, you don’t know all that needs to be known. Furthermore, things change moment to moment. Be ready to toss your prepared agenda to the wind in service to what’s showing up in the group to serve their desired goals.
– Do you secretly want your groups to see things your way? It’s OK to be honest here. It’s hard not to want others to adopt the perspectives that we take to be true. In fact, it’s often part of our task to help others reach consensus which is in a sense, agreement on perspectives. There’s nothing wrong with this. Just notice when you feel an inner tug for someone to “get it.” It may be right for them to “get” something different, at least at this particular moment.
– Do you only see value in what you do or say? What you say and do as a facilitator certainly has value. But that’s not the only value you bring. There’s value in your authentic presence as well. Your silence, your intent, your transparency, and your attitude are all tangible contributions to your group. Let all things that flow from you come from the place of knowing that your authentic presence is enough.
How have these insights spoken to you today? What do you plan to do or not do as a result? Please click on the Add Your Comments link above and share your thoughts, stories, and experiences around this topic. we’d love to hear from you!