Group as expert

I’ve just debriefed with Denise and Annie, fellow Turning The Tide folk . This weekend we co-facilitated a residential on “effective group working” as part of a year-long course that TTT offer.

A lot was learnt  – including about the vulnerability of the facilitation role as well as the need to sometimes tell a group like you see it,  to hold up the mirror even if the image in it isn’t pretty. For their part, one of the many things the group struggled with (and learnt) was about their own authority, their ability to decide the rules, to question, and to direct their own learning.

And then I read the FacilitatorU post on Finding Value in Our Ignorance – an appeal for facilitators to step away from the role of expert for the sake of the group’s empowerment. Many of the same themes run through their post. Here’s a taste:

“In most cases, facilitators are highly regarded professionals. We must present a strong and professional image as we’re “on stage” much of the time, performing an important function for our clients, employees, students, neighbors, etc. And as is often the case with people standing in front of a room, orchestrating processes, offering feedback and advice, we are looked to as authorities, as experts, as wise men and women.

So it’s not surprising when we begin to believe these things about ourselves and feel we have to live up to the “image” of the professional expert. As this image takes hold in our own minds, it may be difficult at times to not have the answer or know where to go next. In and of itself, this is not a bad place to be, however, we can really short change those we serve by withholding this information…

… I suggest that one of the most powerful things you can do as a leader or as a facilitator is to empower your people to access and utilize their own wisdom and problem-solving skills as a group. This is not likely to happen when they are focused on you as the authority.”