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Time – Is On Our Side?

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”      William Penn

In The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook, Roger Schwarz points out, “Organizations have used the word facilitator to define many different roles.  Human resource experts, organization development consultants, trainers, coaches, and even managers have sometimes been referred to as facilitators.  Even if you are not a facilitator, you can use facilitative skills.” I have referred to myself as a facilitator in my professional life for quite some time. This book has me questioning the authenticity of the term as it describes my role with client groups.  There are two reasons for this:  1) I need to be much more effective in the mutual learning model of facilitation – helping my clients improve their own process effectiveness, not just provide the process for them to follow and 2) I tend to get influenced by the group’s dynamics – there is work to be done on developing my emotional intelligence.

Both of these can, and will be learned and developed.  This will take time, discipline, and practice on my part.  What struck me even more, though, was the TIME it takes for true developmental facilitation. How long it will take to help a group improve its process by reflecting on and changing its thinking and behavior is such an unknown, but it is really the only way to solve substantive problems more effectively. There are numerous examples of the abrupt termination of process improvement in the groups I’ve worked with over the past several years due simply to running out of time. Time is rarely on our side.

According to The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook, “A group needs two kinds of time to complete its tasks and achieve its goals:  performance time and capacity-building time.  During performance time, the group produces its product or service.  During capacity building time, the group engages in activities that help build capacity to improve performance.” The groups I’ve worked with had a scheduled task to complete and report within a given deadline.  While they may or may not have completed the task to everyone’s satisfaction, many had ‘settled’ for less than a full quality process experience if the task was rushed (or felt rushed) to the detriment of capacity building.  They often feel that it is politics get in the way.  In reality, it’s not as much the external forces, but the emotional intelligence of the group’s members (and the facilitator) that may be the culprit.

Emotional intelligence is defined as “becoming aware of feelings and increasing the ability to manage them productively.”  A model developed by Deaniel Goleman outlines four major constructs of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to read one’s emotions and recognize their impact while using gut feeling to guide decisions.
  2. Self-management – involves controlling one’s emotions and impulses and adapting to changing circumstances.
  3. Social awareness – the ability to sense, understand, and react to others’ emotions while comprehending social networks.
  4. Relationship management – the ability to inspire, influence, and develop others while managing conflict.

The effective use of the mutual learning model requires acute emotional intelligence.  I can see that facilitative skills become the more powerful facilitation when a facilitator is highly attuned to their own feelings and the feelings of others.   Can I call myself a facilitator?  Time is on my side.

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2 Responses to “Time – Is On Our Side?”

  1. Bravo! I have thought a lot about Daniel Goleman as I’ve flipped through The Skilled Facilitator. You have brought the two together wonderfully here. They seem a logical pairing indeed…

    The mere fact that you know you need to be aware of your own feelings and the feelings of others to be a really effective facilitator means that you are well on your way down the path of being a facilitator!

    Thanks for sharing your blog with me this semester! I wish you all the best and I hope our paths cross again soon and often!

  2. Your reflection reminds me of one article I read. The article was about a new style of leadership. The new style of leadership is to read peple’s emotion and employ it for work. Also, it says that to make the relationship between workers equal, not hierachical. It described that this style of leadership that care about other’s emotion and focus on relatiohsip rather than goals leads to more successful task. This leadership is used in Gore Tex and Google. So the qulities that a leader should have are social awarness and relationship management. Facilitaor is differnt with leadship but it is another persfective of leadership.


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