The competencies of the Path, the Ten Commandments of Collaboration, correlate to the Ten Core Values of the Soulful Facilitator. While the values act as our Inner Guide for our outer work as leaders, the Path comprise the outward actions that demonstrate these values and support the Soulful work of Integral Facilitators.
The Path Competencies
- I am empty and present, available in service to others. My ego is in the background. Being fully present is essential to effective facilitation. When you bring full awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and the intricacies of others’ behavior, you will key in to nuances and kernels of truth that you can use to help others shift their perspective—a prerequisite to personal and group evolution. When we refer to ego in the background, we are referring to the habitual movement of mind to past memories of the self or future fears of what might or might not happen. These habits of self-referencing limit the full experience of what is happening now and how you might show up to support what’s needed. The practice of bringing full awareness to the present moment allows this “ego” movement to subside to the background.
What’s the value in being present? For one thing, once you’re there, the present is very easy to deal with. You’re only handling “what is,” not what might be or what used to be. And, since you can handle whatever “is” fairly easily, very little energy is required. In the present you more clearly see creative options for your next action. If you are evaluating, judging, appreciating or regretting anything that has just happened, you’re not present; you’re thinking about or processing the past. Most of our waking hours are spent processing the past rather or fantasizing about the future rather than being in this present moment.
Being present is a matter of constant practice. Simply notice where you are and when you’re not here, choose to be “here” now. Now I know you’ve probably heard this a thousand times before and from your own experience, you know that being present is easier said than done. But it truly is a matter of practice and choice, and is particularly useful during times of stress. One approach you can try is to become aware of your body, or even a part of your body, like your hand for instance. Then your body will serve as your anchor into the present because that’s the one thing about you that can’t be elsewhere.
- I am attuned to my Intuition, using my inner guidance to serve the group. We put great faith in rigorous, rational scientific analysis as our savior in times of trouble. We look for the counsel of experts in areas when we seem to lack “expert knowledge.” Yet every one of us, at one time or another, has had a hunch, an “intuitive hit” or a “gut instinct” that told us something useful about a situation that turned out to be right on. As it turns out, science is discovering that we have within us an enormous capacity to make lightning fast decisions without the benefit of conscious analysis, many of which are very accurate. It turns out that we have a name for this capacity. It’s called our adaptive unconscious. It provides us with hunches or intuitive hits that we can’t explain, largely because their source involves access to huge amounts of unconscious material. As group leaders, we are compelled to listen to and to sense for the whole group. We sense and listen for what needs to be said and to recognize and point out group wisdom. We avoid ignoring the unspoken upset, group wisdom, or pretending the distress will go away. We test our intuitions using language such as: “I sense that…There is something not quite right here…There is something wrong here…We are onto something”…etc.
3. I am content neutral, sharing observations, biases, and responsibility for results. We all have our own personal biases, agendas, cultural perspectives, etc. As instruments of group process, we are invited to insert ourselves into human systems to help improve their functioning. In order to do this effectively, there is a degree of objectivity and transparency we are obliged to provide.
To be an effective instrument of group process we must, to the degree possible, be free of judgments. While a balanced and clear instrument functions best, this is of course a challenge for most of us. So the process of good physical self-care and the continuous discipline of releasing attachment to thoughts or outcomes helps us be the best instruments we can be.
You must report what you sense for the group’s highest and best good. Just as a good instrument shows us what we can’t see on our own, you will likely notice behaviors that can impede or support a group that the group members themselves can’t see or won’t verbalize. Making these known to the group gives them the opportunity to do something about them.
You must be unconcerned with how you’ll look. An instrument faithfully reports what it sees and has no concern about being judged for its report. When you don’t understand what is said, you ask for clarification. When you don’t know where the group is going or what it’s doing, you inquire about that too. You may at times appear the fool asking simple questions and persistently seeking clear answers. For surely anyone who truly understands something can clearly explain it.
You may at times become invisible and unnecessary. When a group is moving forward on its own and does not require guidance, you may fade a bit to the background. If your goal is to help a group become more self-directed, then this is a good sign. If you require the focus of the group’s attention on you as its leader, or if you are invested in particular outcomes, you will be serving your ego at the group’s expense.
Your role at times may be undervalued. At the end of an event that has been effectively facilitated, a group will have done most of its own work and come up with its own decisions. Participants may not realize that their success may have been largely due to your helping them set the stage and the context for success. But alas, once an instrument is no longer needed, it is forgotten.
You may have heard: ‘one way of knowing that the process of facilitation has worked well is when you were invisible to the group.’ What does invisible mean to you? Invisibility has nothing to do with disappearing in physical form and yet has everything to do with the absence of ego. What does absence of ego mean? It’s the absence of self-importance, absence of ‘I know it all’, absence of ‘I am superior,’ and so forth. In the truest sense, it means absence of ‘it is all about me.’ Being invisible is knowing when to get out of your own way.
4. I am understanding, honoring and respectful of participants, who they are, and what they do. Facilitators are leaders who must often take strong control of their groups or share things around sensitive issues. Therefore, it’s important for us to lead from a compassionate heart. Leading with compassion means that you value everyone in your group and treat them with respect knowing that anything that feels uncomfortable or annoying about their behavior may be a reflection of a sticking point (a hot button) within yourself that you’ve not yet fully embraced. Be strong in guiding your group toward its purpose with kindness and diplomacy.
Being compassionate with the group includes embracing all feelings that arise, and when appropriate to group purpose, encouraging sharing from the heart, and for participants to own their own feelings. In means that we avoid letting participants shut down their feelings or those of others by filling up the silence, or projecting their feelings on to others.
5. I am keeping my promises, coming clean when I don’t, and sharing the whole truth. So many of the problems individuals and groups have in getting along and getting things done results from lack of accountability or withholding some part of themselves. As the group leader, one of your greatest contributions is to model integrity to be worthy of the group’s trust and to be an example for healthy communication and collaboration. When you make mistakes or break a promise, own up to it. If you have to break a commitment, let people know as soon as possible to minimize negative impact.
Sharing the whole truth sometimes means taking the risk of exposing some of your own thoughts and feelings, especially those that often don’t get voiced in groups, like fears and anxieties. This opens space for participants to express their concerns and fears. Thank and encourage people for taking risks.
6. I am light with the group and serious about the task at hand (yet detached from outcomes).Leading a group is not a life or death proposition. Bringing a lightness and sense of humor to our groups will not only make them more entertaining for our participants but will make leading them a much more enjoyable experience. When people are feeling buoyant, they’re more creative, resilient, and cooperative. Focusing seriously on things that go wrong make mountains of molehills. Bringing a sense of lightness to our work allows us to sail over the little speed bumps that will inevitably show up.
Effective facilitation requires a balance of diplomacy and autocracy. You need to be polite, respectful, protective, and diplomatic with all participants and, fiercely guard the process and maintain the integrity of the container you’ve helped them create. The container is largely defined by ground rules or operating agreements. Enforcement of these rules inspires a discipline of integrity and safety among its members. Behaving in accordance with many common ground rules isn’t familiar behavior for many people so they are often broken early in the process. Therefore, intervening early is part of the process of educating the group on what they really are.
7. I believe in the group possibilities, challenging participants to stretch. If you are genuinely interested in your participants and assume that everyone has some unique idea, perspective, or attitude valuable to others, you will eventually experience this to be true. Choose to believe in the brilliant possibilities of your group and that they can achieve more than they may currently believe. When you believe it, your participants will begin to believe it too.Believing in what’s possible for your group also means calling them to a higher standard. To challenge them to be honest with themselves and each other…to face resistance, inner and outer…that may be in the way of what they say they want.
8. I am pragmatic, keeping my eye on the group’s desired results. Facilitation is ultimately about helping groups clarify and commit to a common task. Whether that task is learning a skill, solving a problem, creating a plan, building consensus, or resolving a conflict, the basic skills of facilitation apply. Once the tasks are clearly defined, you’ll know when your group is off course. Obviously groups work best when everyone is focused on the same objective. Facilitation is about attending to multiple dimensions simultaneously. Having an eye on the results the group seeks to achieve is one more of those all important tasks, much like a compass heading that pilots use to stay on course. And just like pilots, you are mostly likely constantly making adjustments to stay the course.
9. I adapt to the unexpected, changing course when necessary to support the group’s best interest. A flexible leader can change course and go off the agenda in a moment’s notice to honor and follow the dynamic energy and interests of the group, or to linger on a provocative point that shows up. A flexible leader is able to dance with, and even benefit from, unexpected challenges. Being flexible requires you to surrender attachment to your best laid plans and be willing to embrace the unexpected events that invariably show up. Going with the flow of what shows up that is in service to your class objectives will make the most of the group experience for everyone.
10. I approach facilitation with a beginner’s mind, open to feedback, learning, and coaching. Inserting oneself into a group to support them to be and do their best is a very challenging role to take on. To do this effectively requires the cultivation of many skills and attitudes, as well as ongoing refinement of our attention and awareness. There is no end to this growth path and given that each group presents and new dynamic at any given time, most of us experience a significant challenge anytime we are leading a group. To master this path, we are well advised to always be open to and solicit feedback, learning, and coaching from peers and participants alike.