Facilitation, vanishing mediators and ego being a dirty word

I subscribe to FacilitatorU.com (and you should too!)

There’s a recent article (well, a repost from 2009) called Facilitating Ego Surrender in which Steve Davis argues (cogently) “you serve your group to the degree you release ego identification.”

I’ve reposted it below with a couple of bits that seem particularly difficult to do but essential highlighted.

Vanishing mediators? A Jameson and then Zizek thing. Ego is not a dirty word? A Skyhooks thing. And somewhere there is a wikipedia article about how if you edit wikipedia pages for the kudos/recognition it will end badly. Or is all this just the sort of self-abnegation that Nietzsche dismissed as slave morality? Discuss…

Facilitation can have a great deal of impact on our personal and spiritual development. Let me share a metaphor that illustrates this point. In my previous career as an electrical engineer, one of the most common instruments we used in our work was an oscilloscope. This device has a display screen that shows the voltage and frequency, i.e. energy level and vibration, of any point in a circuit we choose to measure. When this instrument is properly calibrated, it unerringly provides a faithful reading of what is occurring in a system. The “view” this instrument provides is essential to the design, troubleshooting, or repair of any system.

And now for the metaphor. I see facilitators as instruments of group process. We are invited to insert ourselves into people systems to help improve their functioning. Because of our insights and experience in group process and human dynamics, we are able to provide a readout of what’s going on in a system to the system. In order to do this effectively, there are certain attitudes and behaviors required of us. Let’s have a look at these.

You must remain effectively calibrated. To be an effective instrument, you must to the degree possible, be healthy, energetic, centered, and free of judgments. 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. A balanced and clear instrument functions best.

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 to a six-year old.

You may at times become invisible and unnecessary. When a group is moving forward on its own and does not require guidance or instrumentation, 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, this may be bad news for your ego.

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. Again, once an instrument is no longer needed, it is forgotten.

So how does a human come to terms with being forgotten for doing a good job? This is somewhat contrary to typical workplace rewards. But it is often common in the world of parenting, mentoring, and of course, facilitating. Being OK with this prospect requires a larger view of ones role in the world. A view that has you seeing yourself as part of something much larger than yourself. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.


About dwighttowers

Below the surface...
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2 Responses to Facilitation, vanishing mediators and ego being a dirty word

  1. Sam Gunsch says:

    Facilitation as form of leadership where it is essential to function as per Lao-tzu…


    Inspirational Quotes › By Teacher › Lao-tzu

    A leader is most effective when people barely know he exists. When his work is done, his aim fulfilled, his troops will feel they did it themselves.

    I was only google searching for the first quote, but the next two that were next in line at the site, also seem to cover some of the ground in your post.

    ~ Lao-tzu Quotes

    Self-Development Quotes on: Love, Leadership, Leader, People

    Build up virtue, and you master all.

    ~ Lao-tzu Quotes from The Tao te Ching

    Motivational Quotes on: Action, Excellence | Areté

    Don’t think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness.

    ~ Lao-tzu Quotes

  2. Sam Gunsch says:

    As a facilitator, “your troops” aren’t your troops, of course.

    And *they* will have done the work.

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