Facilitation is a Form of Leadership PDF Print E-mail

May 2010 - The FoCuSeD™ Facilitator eNewsletter


gary rus facilitating


Facilitation is a Form of Leadership |Gary Rush Facilitation

I spent last week at the IAF North America Conference in Chicago. The conference was exciting and provided significant learning experiences as always. I “facilitated” two IAF board meetings and I facilitated the Wisconsin IIBA Chapters Business Analyst Development Day event design workshop in a fishbowl environment. I put “facilitated” in quotes for the IAF board meetings because as Chair of the IAF I obviously had opinions and could not remain neutral. We accomplished a great deal in both the IAF Board meetings and with the IIBA Chapters from Wisconsin – it was quite a session and people commented on how they appreciated my leadership. That got me thinking about leadership and facilitation and it inspired me to write this newsletter.


My style of facilitation is a bit more driven than some (so I’ve been told) and the group always accomplishes a lot. In my facilitated workshops, I don’t violate neutrality, but when I lead meetings, I obviously have opinions, yet I run them the same way that I facilitate. I have always taught students that being a Facilitator is being a temporary Leader – you get people to come together as a group and accomplish good work. What groups gain from a Facilitator or a Leader is leadership and that leadership is critical to forming a group and accomplishing good work.


Collaborative Leadership


Collaborative leadership is the ability of the whole to work together transcending the sum of the parts.” It’s still true but it only happens when the leader is collaborative and uses facilitative skills. So how do we move from an old style command and control leadership model to a collaborative leadership model?


The key to being a Collaborative Leader is engaging everyone making them feel that they are valued, that whatever decisions are made had their involvement, and that they are part of a greater whole. Collaborative Leaders believe that the people we lead are wise when given the opportunity. When setting directions or making decisions in my style of leadership, I:


  • Formulate ideas about the direction or decision. This is something I don’t share with the group. If I did, that would influence the group and they may just acquiesce to my point of view without voicing their own views.


  • Present their views. I listen to their ideas. I post their ideas on flip charts and frequently summarize what they are saying (Active Listening). This stage I call Divergence.


  • Absorb and use their ideas to enrich my thoughts – or change my thoughts. I’m going through what I call the Struggle stage – understanding all of the perspectives. I share my thought process with the group when reflecting their ideas.


Reflect on their ideas. When the ideas have been discussed and it appears that the group is heading towards alignment or consensus, I summarize, adding my thoughts based on what I’ve heard. This I call Convergence. (We don’t always reach consensus, although I always gear my workshops to reach consensus, but we reach agreement on enough that we can move forward).

Does it work?


The following conclusions are a result of this style of leadership:


  • Do we give up control?No. I believe that we have more control. If you define “control” as my way or else, then you will be dismayed. I view control as accomplishing good work with the most support and commitment. By engaging everyone, not only do we develop better ideas, but also support and commitment are vastly increased.

  • Does it take a long time?No. I’ve listened to people complain that reaching consensus is more time-consuming than having one person decide. I’ve read books that say the same thing. This is a narrow view. We accomplish far more in a shorter time using a collaborative leadership style than I’ve ever seen using a command and control style. A well-thought out decision with support and commitment requires collaboration and it’s well worth it.


In Closing


Using a collaborative leadership style is far more effective than any other style of leadership. It requires effective Active Listening and engaging the group. logo


My Thought about Project Managers


First of all, let me define some terms:


  • Leader” – One who guides or inspires others in action or opinion; one that takes the lead in any enterprise or movement; one who is “followed”. Leader is a role.
  • Manager” – One who supervises or directs others in an enterprise. Everyone from supervisor through president is a “manager.” Manager is a job.


Project Managers too often learn how to manage projects, e.g., define tasks, manage the budget and time line, assign people, etc., but what is needed are Project Managers who know how to lead projects.


Projects are more successful when they have a Leader who engages, motivates, and inspires collaboration amongst the project team and stakeholders. Developing a collaborative leadership style that accomplishes good work with the most support and commitment is critical.logo


“Inventories can be managed, but people must be led.” -- H. Ross Perot