In another example, the group may be avoiding a specific topic or issue by constantly making jokes or telling stories about similar or unrelated issues. The facilitator might ask the group what they are avoiding. Or the facilitator might share with the group the inference the facilitator is making about their avoidance of the undiscussable issue and check with the group for agreement or disagree with the inference.
As I heard comments from the individuals in the group discussion, I became aware of how much we as humans make decisions with lack of information or because we are coerced into siding with another person we like a lot or don’t want to go up against. I observed an individual who was wavering in the decision until another group member made it clear that those who saw things differently were not “playing with a full deck”. My observation left me believing that the final decision of the group was less than acceptable by everyone, even though everyone voiced an agreement.
By actually studying (and I’m constantly learning how important these values are to the group process) and applying these values to the groups with which I interact, I have discovered that some leaders misunderstand group process and facilitation. For them the group process is to get compliance to their predetermined idea or outcome. They know they should have group discussion, but they don’t expect that discussion to result in any anything different than what they have already decided.
As I reflect upon these experiences, I can identify time and again where I wish I had said something or done something different. Of course I can easily identify a number of reasons for these shortcomings; I didn’t have the time to focus on the situation, I needed to look good and provide the answer, I was intimidated by people in positions of power, etc. The excuses and rationale can go on endlessly.
Why is it necessary to share the reasoning and intent to be transparent? If this is not done, the people with whom you are working or interacting may have the information, but lack the understanding as to how or why you said or acted in a certain way. By sharing why you said something or acted in a certain way, you are making it easier for the others to understand your intent or purpose. If you do not share the intent, you may be leaving it up to others to decide why you acted in the manner or said what you said. If you do not share your reasoning, the process for how you arrived at your statement or action, you are leaving the others to determine their own conclusions.
Thus facilitation is about assisting and educating a group to increase its effectiveness in doing its work and making its decisions.
When experiencing this lack of control many people feel threatened and their way of dealing with the stress this causes is by trying to gain more control. Therefore, it is not surprising that people are feeling that others are trying to control them and the events around them. If all you know is that you need to control others to feel better about your own experience, then operating out of what Roger Schwarz calls “The Unilateral Control Model” is the way you will relate to others.
Unfortunately, and way too often, I have experienced the misunderstanding, negative conflict, and mistrust that are the outcomes of the leader who practices the Unilateral Control Model; even though the leader may think he or she is practicing the Mutual Learning Model. The determining factor in these situations is that these leaders do not really know and understand their own values and beliefs.
What would a strong leader say and do? What would they look like? What would they believe in? This last question is really critical and where people like to focus their energy. People appear to care far less about what leaders do and say and more about how they do it and say it. And the how seems to be tied to their leadership philosophy, their beliefs about leadership, and their values of leadership.
It is also very interesting, when a third party facilitator does get involved, how little work is needed by the facilitator to assist the group in resolving the controversy. I shouldn’t say “how little work is needed” because the facilitator is working hard paying attention to all that is going on and intervening when needed. But from an observer’s point of view, it can appear that the facilitator is not doing much.