When I first started facilitating and training, I thought I needed to have it all together up there in front of the room. I thought that I was supposed to know what to do in any circumstance and if the group got stuck and looked to me for answers, I thought I was supposed to have them.
How effective could I possibly be in facilitating learning and empowerment of others with an attitude like that? And what a great burden to carry! I didn’t know that I actually believed that I needed to look good up there. And that when I carried that burden, I didn’t look very good at all. It took some time and gentle feedback from peers and participants to shed light on this for me. This was a “shadow aspect” that I couldn’t see. Once I did see it, I could be free of it.
The term “shadow,” borrowed from Jungian psychology is that aspect of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts. I use the term shadow in this context to refer to unconscious beliefs or tendencies common among facilitators counterproductive to their group purpose. When we become unconsciously fixated on any beliefs or philosophies, facilitative or otherwise, we restrict our ability to see and flow with what’s present.
So, what facilitative shadows might you have in your closet? Let’s have a look shall we?
What you see in your mirrors may be closer than it appears.
Reflect on a group event you facilitated that really stands out for you. In other words, a meeting where you had strong feelings show up or that had an impact on you in some way. This could have been an especially positive or negative experience or one in which you took away many lessons about facilitation or leadership.
Now with this event in mind, take a moment to collect some observations. Consider the setting, the meeting goal or purpose, the meeting structure, your role, etc. Then, reflect on the following questions. What was your intention before the meeting started? What patterns or behaviors did you exhibit that seemed off? Who were you serving? Did you notice any default behaviors or triggers that took you out of the moment? What blind spots do you sense may exist in your approach to facilitation?
When finished reflecting, complete the following self-assessment.
Facilitator’s Shadow Self-Assessment
Instructions: Place a check next to the areas that seem to strike an inner chord for you. Also consider having a close colleague or two fill this out for you.
|1. Need to be the expert and know the answers (Inhibits integration of learning)|
|2. Need to look good (Discourages transparency)|
|3. Takes responsibility for group’s success or failure (Unwilling to let group struggle within healthy structure)|
|4. Need to be liked (Unwilling to challenge participants)|
|5. Discomfort with silence (Keeps awareness on the surface)|
|6. Need to entertain group (Disempowers participants)|
|7. Presses for my vision of success (May limit what’s possible)|
|8. Need to be in control (Inhibits emergence of leadership)|
|9. Tendency to over process (May inhibit achieving results)|
|10. Tendency to seek consensus on everything (Wastes time and dilutes group energy)|
|11.Tendency to devalue hierarchy (May undermine healthy structures)|
|12. Tendency to equally value all perspectives (May inadvertently support destructive energies)|
|13. Tendency to disown authority (May withhold necessary leadership)|
|14. Tendency to feign neutrality (May cloud group with your biases)|
|15. Tendency to project your values, including role values listed above, onto group(May not meet group where they are)|
|16. We need to have answers|
|17. We need to know who’s to blame|
|18. We value expedient vs. complete, holistic solutions|
|19. A bottom line that disregards long term economic, social, and environmental costs|
|20. We avoid conflict at all costs|
What did you discover? Did you get a charge, or feel resistance around any of these questions? If so, perhaps you have a shadow in need of the light of your awareness. Please share your thoughts, stories, and experiences in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!