How to be the worst facilitator – Episode 3

Because we can learn a lot from how NOT to do things – like the editor who turned down JK Rowling or the guy who left The Beatles just before they became famous – I am spending some time thinking about how to be the worst facilitator in the world.  Obviously with the goal to become better.

Lesson 3 is to put people in their place.  Don’t allow stupid questions!  Get irritated with people who don’t understand to show how superior you are as the facilitator.

Okay, so there are some delegates who might test your patience as a facilitator.  A couple of years ago in a group I facilitated, there was one delegate who continuously asked questions.  Even the same questions.  Over and over.  The group started getting very impatient with her, and I found myself wanting to react the same way.  But…as a facilitator you are always in support of the group.  If there’s a question, you should answer it.  And she really just needed to hear the answers again.

In a facilitation training course I ran last month, an exercise allowed new facilitators to design and implement a 10 minute session with their peers.  One of the delegates, a senior manager, ran a fantastic session.  And then it happened.  Someone asked a question on a subject that he had already covered earlier.  Probably without thinking, he responded that it was a stupid question that had already been answered.  A natural reaction, right?  But completely the wrong thing to do.  We stopped the simulation and recapped how important it is to remain respectful to the group and answer the question, even if it had been answered before.  And answer it again.  And again, if needs be.

Obviously, if you can see that a delegate is being destructive, that’s a different story.  I have only had that happen once in a career of 25 years.  So, I usually give the person the benefit of the doubt.  Most times the group will keep that person in check.  You can also contract with the group around guidelines for behaviour up front.

So, a good facilitator always remains respectful of the group.  There’s no such thing as a stupid question.  How many times should you answer the same question, I hear you say?  As many times as it takes.