Earlier this week I was invited to take an hour or so with my department to talk about facilitation. A latent realization that this particular skill set might just be what’s needed to help move the district forward in this reorg. I appreciated the opportunity, though how to distill a twenty-seven year practice into just over an hour?
I came up with a design, typical of our team’s way of working in these “collaborative days”…the whole time feeling it was too much content, in too little time, that I’d be rushed and so, too, my colleagues. While not quite a prescription for disaster, certainly not the way I wanted to end my career. Funny how I needed to persist on this track though. I sent the PowerPoint, process notes, and handouts to my supervisor and then the way cleared, affirmed during an impromptu lunch with my mates, wherein one commented and reminded me about how “over processed” we are at those meetings, at most meetings in fact. Point taken. I returned to my desk and went simple and straight to the heart of the matter. Nixed the first draft and composed instead, the seven lessons I’d learned about facilitating. Love how it just so happened to be seven, like the yogic energy chakras.
“The success of the intervention depends upon the interior condition of the intervener.”
William O’Brien’s words inspired Otto Scharmer’s early thinking about presencing and Theory U. A totally unexpected, yet brilliant way to frame my story, given I knew the most potent way, in the time I had – which became thirty minutes less because the superintendent spoke beyond his allocated time (OK, he is the boss and in the last week, we’ve made national news because of a heated issue) – was to talk about who we are and how we bring ourselves to the work in a way that genuinely invites, creates, opens and holds space for others. That, and because in a lovely stroke of symmetry, I had framed my own journey for these almost two years, as my personal deep dive down the U, that I now sensed I was moving up from.
I acknowledged my nervousness, declaring this would be the last time I’d be with them in this way, and so this would be my swan song. My tingshas, which I’ve fondly referred to as my legacy to the district – since my introduction to them a decade ago, when I spent my first week at the Shambhala Institute of Authentic Leadership, immersed in what is now the Art of Hosting orientation to facilitation – were my instrument. It would be story and conversation, enhanced by a few PowerPoint slides and audience tweets.
I used my time well. The pacing was good, the message clear. It was just enough for everyone. In hindsight, one of those “fortuitous accidents” to have thirty minutes less time and enough experience in adjusting to what is.
I used the coincidental sighting of a colleague walking by the glass wall, to make the point, as he did to me several years earlier: that the way I taught facilitation, the way I facilitated, was totally unlike his experience which was “to be manipulated to a pre-determined outcome.” That his observation was the moment when I knew I had integrated the gracious, hosting stance of facilitation.
And I used my self well, speaking my lived and earned truth, to the power in the room while affirming, awakening, and emboldening that in the others. A deep bow of gratitude from me to them. A standing ovation from them to me. A heart full to overflowing. A song well sung:
“To facilitate well, to lead well, is to host the unknown, the uncertain and the uncomfortable, knowing that there is enough, we have enough, we are enough, I am enough.”