My visiting card says that I am a Facilitator.\r\n\r\nIt often gets people screwing their eyes, looking at my card quite intensely \u2013 running a hand around their chin in contemplation, and then the inevitable question: \u201cBut what do you facilitate?\u201d. A very fair question considering that in our country you can facilitate a lot of unpleasant and even unethical things.\r\n\r\nSo, without giving too much time for such thoughts to take root, I quickly say, \u201cI facilitate conversations\u201d. The quizzical look still remains, which is when I explain in more detail: \u201cWe conduct workshops of different kinds for teams \u2013 ones that center around Leadership, Innovation & Teambuilding. Conducting these workshops call for managing the discussions that emerge from them. That\u2019s what I do\u201d. Sometimes people still wonder: \u201cIs that really difficult? What skill does that take?\u201d\r\n\r\nWhile level of difficulty is a personal thing that varies from person to person \u2013 and skillsets for a Facilitator is something that is well documented all around the internet, one thing that is not much written about is: The attitudes that a good Facilitator needs to possess. From my experience of being a Facilitator for some time now, here are a few that I think are critical:\r\n\r\n1) A Swan Attitude\r\nMake no mistake about it \u2013 the minute you are in front of a group as their Facilitator, people have begun to evaluate you. How you carry yourself, the body language that you project \u2013 every small body movement that you do, is communicating something about yourself to your audience. As Professor Albert Mehrabian correctly asserted: around 93% of what you communicate is through means other than words \u2013 your body language and your tone of voice. So, a Facilitator needs to be very conscious of what he is so communicating.\r\n\r\nBut that is only half the story. People are unpredictable and so are situations that involves people. Very often, despite the best of preparation and planning, many unexpected things happen in a workshop situation. These are the occasions that show the true mettle of a Facilitator. Does he panic? More importantly \u2013 does the panic show in his voice, demeanor or in any of his actions? Animals they say, can smell fear & panic. What is not often mentioned though is that: so can humans. A Facilitator who seems to be in panic mode can soon see the respect of his audience being replaced with sympathy. Not a good situation to be in \u2013 because it also means he loses control of the group.\r\n\r\nHere at FocusU, we have a term we often use: we call it the \u201cswan attitude\u201d. A swan seems ever so calm to an onlooker, but down below \u2013 she is furiously paddling away. Regardless of whatever situation unravels, a Facilitator needs to always have this \u201cswan attitude\u201d. As they say, \u201cshit happens\u201d \u2013 but what is important is that it is handled in the most cool, collected and composed way by the Facilitator.\r\n\r\n2) A Water Mindset\r\nThings that are hard and rigid, can be broken. Water on the other hand, by its very nature always finds a way around. This simple metaphor holds an important lesson for all of us who aspire to be good Facilitators.\r\n\r\nAny professional Facilitator, would generally enter a workshop with a meticulously planned design & flow for the day. However, and this is especially true while conducting senior leadership workshops \u2013 two things tend to be variable: the amount of control that the Facilitator needs to exercise and the amount of time certain sections tend to take. Herein lies an interesting challenge: if the Facilitator is too lax, conversations can meander on and on without a clear direction. If the Facilitator is too rigid on timelines, he may be cutting short some important discussions that could possibly help the team.\r\n\r\nKeeping the water metaphor in mind often helps in such a situation. If you think of the stream of conversations as a stream of water: Is the water moving in the general right direction? Then it is ok for the Facilitator to be lax and let the conversations continue. However, if it is meandering and heading in directions other than the overall direction defined in the objectives for the workshop, it is time for the Facilitator to step in and bring it back on course. It is important for a Facilitator to know when to flex his style. True \u2013 a lot of it comes from experience. But keeping the overall objective in mind at all times can be a light house at such times.\r\n\r\n3) A Dual Mindset\r\nMany a time, Facilitators work to a script \u2013 and it shows. It shows in the way the Facilitator would continue to say what he has to say, regardless of what someone in the audience has said. It shows in examples that are not contextually right. It shows in the fact that the Facilitator is not truly listening to what everyone in the audience is adding to the conversation to make it richer. It sometimes shows in the way a Facilitator rushes his talk. People in the audience sense this very quickly \u2013 and the connect is quickly lost.\r\n\r\nA Facilitator needs to be completely present in the moment. He needs to hear every conversation intently, gifting the person who is talking with his full and complete attention. He needs to make full eye contact while he is doing so. Only by doing this, will he be able to connect the dots \u2013 weave in examples that are contextually right and build the conversation ahead.\r\n\r\nBut while doing this, there is one piece of duality that his mind has to always exhibit. That is the clarity of \u201cWhat Next?\u201d. Every thread of conversation needs to lead up to the next. It cannot be completely disconnected. Similarly, every major activity needs to seamlessly lead into the next. While a lot of this is planned for, during the dynamic of a workshop, it is important for a Facilitator to always be situationally aware of where the overall stream of conversations is heading.\r\n\r\nHave you ever facilitated a conversation in a group? Do share whether these thoughts resonate for you.