PHOTO: Matt Davenport
Care and Feeding of the Master Facilitator Care and prepare yourself physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to maintain peak performance.
Facilitation is a demanding role that can take its toll on you if you are not prepared at all levels. A master facilitator must have fine-tuned awareness and intuition to sense and act on the nuances of group process. They must stand tall in the face of conflict, willing to walk participants through to its resolution if required.
They sometimes endure standing in a room for long hours, staying attuned to everything going on. They can't afford to space out and miss something important to the process. It may even be true that the facilitator, acting as a coach and role model, will challenge participants only to the level of her internal fortitude.
This week's article Care and Feeding of the Master Facilitator describes habits and practices we can employ that will help to fortify us for the awesome and challenging task we call facilitation.
So how can we fortify ourselves for this awesome and challenging task we call facilitation? Will Spinach on Special K for breakfast do the trick? Or is there more? Though there are some things that you can do for yourself shortly before each event, there are also "habits" that take time to develop and cultivate over time, just as the Olympic athlete cultivates and prepares to maintain herself in peak condition to meet the demands of competition. We'll review some examples of these habits and practices below.
Whatever nurturing habits you decide to cultivate, just be assured that if they help you to nurture the high energy, awareness, and perseverance of a facilitative leader, you'll be a model for others and a master of your fate no matter what role you play.
There are many self-care actions we can take that will have immediate impact on our ability to be present and attuned to our work as facilitators. Here are a few examples in each of four major dimensions.
Eat light and healthy, especially prior to a facilitation session. Heavy food, sodas, coffee, or junk food will not support you. It will impact your ability to pay attention and reduce your endurance. Gift yourself with massages, hot baths, spa visits, etc. to help you relax and to affirm your self-worth. These actions affirm to yourself that you are important as are those with whom you work. Breathe! Pay attention to your breathing while facilitating. This is particularly important during moments of stress when we tend to shallow breath. Steady, deep, and slow breathing will help keep you present, and provide your brain cells with optimal levels of oxygen for acute mental clarity.
Check the messages you're sending to yourself prior to your facilitated events. If you hear negative, self-defeating, or judgmental thoughts, stop and replace them with thoughts about how you'd ideally like things to turn out. Most successful people talk about visualizing their success prior to it happening. Yet most of us are drawn to visualizing failure. Our thoughts about what might happen are only fantasy anyway, so doesn't it make sense to win in your own fantasy?
Attend to any nagging feelings you might have about anything prior to your event. If something is bothering you that can be handled with a quick conversation or action on your part, get it handled so it's not sapping energy from you while you're facilitating. If you have heavy feelings about something that can't be handled right away, give yourself permission to have the feelings. Express what you can through journaling, conversation with a friend, or private reflection prior to the event and make an appointment with yourself at a time when you can deal with this issue further.
Grounding, centering, or connecting with the source are very important to effective facilitation. People use such practices as meditation, prayer, Tai Chi, marshal arts, etc., to enhance their connection with something greater than themselves. Whatever you believe "something greater" to be, use it. It will provide a source beyond your own ego to draw on when things get tough.