Facilitation is one of those under-appreciated, supposedly “soft” skills that can make all the difference in an organization’s learning or change effort. It involves a lot more than being comfortable leading a meeting. It entails the skillful management of group dynamics, processes, and contexts to foster learning and positive change.
At the National Equity Project, we often facilitate extraordinarily difficult group conversations, in schools and communities that have long suffered injustices, where anger and disgust and despair and guilt and other strong emotions have been simmering, bursting out, or otherwise shaping the conversation — about school improvement, closing a school, a community initiative, etc.
On of our main resources for facilitation practice is John Heron, someone our team discovered several years ago. Now all our coaches study his Complete Facilitator’s Handbook (wow, no one has reviewed this book yet at Amazon, he is still not well known) in order to be much more aware and intentional about how to facilitate. We provide the main ideas of Heron’s comprehensive catalog of facilitation strategies in our coaching institute.
Facilitation as an art is part of the ongoing “revolution in learning“:
The basic and very simple premise of this change is that student learning is necessarily self-directed: it rests on the autonomous exercise of intelligence, choice and interest… Teaching is no longer seen as imparting and doing things to the student, but is redefined as facilitation of self-directed learning. (John Heron)
There is a useful page that applies Heron’s six categories of interventions to success in the workplace. Heron is a psychologist, and an awareness of these interventions helps managers, colleagues, coaches, and anyone who works with people take the whole person into account. Becoming more aware and strategic about how to “intervene” (help, influence) with people makes one more socially and emotionally intelligent, and thus more effective and, I suspect, more fulfilled in their work.