Monday 23rd September 02:30

Facilitation: Non-Doing Skills

There is a paradox at the heart of facilitation as there is at the heart of all people management; and that is, that to get people to do great things, we, the facilitators, need to allow things to happen, not by doing a lot but by doing as little as possible.
When we get out of their way, people have the space to grow. When we stop thinking for them, they start to think for themselves. And when we stop telling them what our solutions are, they come up with the best solutions of all.

1. Effortless Effort

Managing people without doing things ourselves is a foreign concept to most people in the Western world. Here our tradition is one of managing by directing, controlling, and telling. Non-doing is an Eastern concept best expressed in the philosophy of Taoism. This is the tradition of letting things happen naturally without forcing them. It is based on the belief that people are naturally creative, spontaneous and aware and that we "manage" them best when we encourage these gifts to grow in each person rather than impose our wills on others. In the East, this is known as "wu wei", or "effortless effort".

2. Attentiveness

When you practise non-doing in a group leadership role, it does not mean that you are doing nothing. It means you are still, quiet and attentive to what is going on. Being attentive means being aware of what is happening in the group without judging it and without wanting to give it meaning. You can observe physical interaction, who is included, who is left out; you can observe the nature and quality of interactions, whether slow or quick, high-spirited or dull; you can observe what is happening in order to detect whether the group needs your help to change its direction. Attentiveness allows you to do what nobody else in the group can do and that is to see the group as a group. As such, you can make a key contribution to the group's awareness of itself.

3. The Leader as Catalyst

A catalyst is a substance that merely by its presence, causes change in other substances. The group facilitator acts as catalyst when he or she shows the group genuine understanding, offers them recognition, helps them to make sense of their problems and encourages them to be all they can be.

· at the feeling level, she is wooer, charmer, and empathizer
· at the thinking level, he is interpreter, questioner and stimulator
· at the valuing level, she is champion, enabler and nurturer.

None of these roles are played up front as if to say: "Look at me". They are always applied with a light and gentle touch.

Exchanging the traditional "doing" role of the leader for the facilitative "non-doing" role may not come easy for some team leaders who may see themselves as responsible for getting the group to perform in traditional ways. They may believe in the laws of physics as applied to people - they push, they force, they apply pressure, they struggle, they threaten. But there is a much better way. And that is to stand back, let go, enable, nurture, and go with the flow. This is the skill of non-doing and the art of facilitation. 

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