It is important to know that what goes on in a group happens below the thinking level and below participants conscious awareness. It is the facilitator's job to bring these deeper levels into participants awareness so that they may be wholly effective.
Given that most innovative, creative, inventive, and visionary developments are born at these deeper levels, progressive teams will benefit by developing awareness of them. In the book, Art Of Facilitation,the authors Dale Hunter, Anne Bailey, Bill Taylor do an excellent job of describing the characteristics and actions an effective facilitator must attend to each of the following levels of being:
- Physical Level
- Thinking Level
- Emotional Level
- Intuitive Level
- Energy Level
- Spiritual or Ritual Level
- Synergistic Level
We've summarized the details of each level below to help you identify what level a group is operating from and which level will help them further their purpose at any given time. You can get better at working with these levels by noticing them in your groups, sharing your observations with them, gaining group agreement to shift levels, and experimenting with processes designed to shift levels.
Physical Level: Plan and check for physical comfort needs, and utility of tools and props required to support specific group intention. Handle things like temperature, fresh air, comfortable seating, lighting and visibility of people and props, food and drink, restroom facilities, tools and props required to support specific group intention, and special needs of participants (interpreters, childcare, accommodations for disabled, etc.)
Thinking Level: Primary mode of most groups and the level where much of the "concrete" work gets done. At this level, encourage people to fully participate, speak of possibility, focus on forward motion, share ideas, embrace diversity, etc. At this level, these types of words are used: "I think...I've noticed...I understand...My vision is...Can you imagine...We need to consider"...etc.
Emotional Level: This is the level of feeling where we share experiences, feelings, pain, joy, compassion, concern, etc. Encourage sharing from the heart, trust, participants owning their feelings, empathy and compassion, etc. Avoid letting people shut down their feelings or those of others, filling up the silence, or projection of feelings on others. At this level, these types of words are used: "I feel...I care...I'm concerned...etc.
Intuitive Level: This level focuses on the essence of macro experiences. Encourage participants to listen for the whole group, for what needs to be said, speak the unsayable, and to recognize group wisdom. Avoid ignoring the unspoken upset, group wisdom, or pretending the distress will go away. At this level, these types of words are used: "I sense that...There is something not quite right here...There is something wrong here...We are onto something--I've almost got it"...etc.
Energy Level: This level focuses on nonverbal energy ques. As a facilitator, at times you'll need to help move the energy from low to high or vice versa. Encourage awareness of participants' energy levels, key energy points and shifts, and times where a shift is needed.
Spiritual or Ritual Level: At this level you tap into the higher purpose and higher consciousness of the group. This can be done by using music, meditation, dance, art, and ritual to invoke higher spiritual energies such as compassion, love, planetary awareness, joy, essence, or a spirit of peace. Encourage development of group rituals, fun, joy, and self-expression, practices that deepen group experience, embracing of cultural diversity, and inclusion of all concerned. Discourage implanting rituals designed by others, that don't inspire everyone, that have become meaningless or boring.
Synergistic Level: This is the level of transformation where a group becomes aligned, attuned, and integrated. At this level, participants are aware of group mind and can tap group wisdom at will. This is a magical level where the most powerful and creative work can be done. Encourage alignment with group purpose, clearing, attunement, spontaneity, deep sharing, appreciation, lightness, and humor. Discourage discounting self and others, cynicism, negativity, small-mindedness, and clinging to positions.
About the Author
Steve Davis, M.A., M.S., is an Facilitator's Coach, Infoprenuer, and free-lance human, helping facilitators, organizational leaders, educators, trainers, coaches and consultants present themselves confidently, access their creativity, empower their under-performing groups, enhance their facilitation skills, and build their business online and offline. Does leading or participating in groups frustrate you? Subscribe to his free weekly ezine at www.MasterFacilitatorJournal.com and contact him here to schedule a free exploratory coaching session.
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