by Justin Standfield
Any good facilitation skills training workshop will enable those attending to learn about and practise a range of facilitation frameworks, techniques and processes; it’s also likely that facilitators will be taught about different approaches or ‘styles’ that they can consciously choose to demonstrate when the situation demands it. But a really good quality facilitation skills programme that goes deeper than techniques and processes will explore how aspects of our personality influence us as a facilitator. People who have inquired within themselves to understand their preferences and motivations as a facilitator are typically those who offer a more authentic, holistic experience to the groups that they work with. Most individuals I’ve met on Incendo’s Facilitation Skills programme have been keen to improve their understanding of themselves so that they can plan more effective facilitation strategies and make best use of ‘self’.
We use the Transactional Analysis (TA) model of ‘Drivers’ as a framework within which to explore and develop self awareness as a facilitator; this idea was developed through the work of Taibi Kahler and is also known as ‘Working Styles’. Our selection of this approach is based on the valuable insight it gives facilitators and how readily it can be transferred back to the workplace for practical application – it isn’t just a navel-gazing activity!
Like other models within the TA umbrella, the Drivers approach is based on the assumption that these preferences developed over time as we grew up, as a result of the myriad messages we received about how to survive and thrive regarding:
• how we should help other people,
• good standards to aspire to,
• ways in which we ought to be reliable and dependable,
• the importance of having a go and doing our best,
• how to make good use of time.
The idea is that, as a child, you probably realised over time that if you displayed certain behaviours and acted in a particular way, you’d be viewed more favourably by the people that mattered in your life and would therefore receive more positive ‘strokes’. TA proposes that this resulted in us holding on to one or more of the following beliefs:
• I will be OK if I please you and everyone else,
• I will be OK if I am perfect,
• I will be OK if I am strong,
• I will be OK if I try hard,
• I will be OK as long as I hurry up.
As we mature these become unconscious, somewhat compulsive behaviours. Research suggests that we tend to have one of these which is more readily available to use than the others; the five Drivers are referred to as Please Others, Be Perfect, Be Strong, Try Hard, Hurry Up.
In general, Driver behaviours can be psychologically healthy and they can guide us in achieving positive interactions with others; in this way, Drivers influence our facilitation style, albeit largely unconsciously. In her book, ‘Transactional Analysis for Trainers’, Julie Hay refers to Drivers as Working Styles and fully explores the beneficial aspects of the five Driver behaviours. However, when we encounter even slight stress – which happens regularly when acting as a group facilitator – our preferred Driver behaviour is likely to become more pronounced and then there’s a real risk of overdoing that particular Driver. This can be unproductive as a facilitator and may unwittingly impede the work of the group we’re facilitating.
In brief, the positive and negative characteristics associated with each of the facilitation styles (based on the five Drivers) can be summarised as:
+ve: Encourages harmony in groups, invites quieter people to contribute, considerate of feelings.
-ve: Avoids topics that risk upsetting others, may not challenge sufficiently, overlooks unproductive behaviours from others.
+ve: Prepares well, attention to detail, efficient co-ordination.
-ve: Applies overly-high standards, may overload others with detail, excessive rigidity with timings.
+ve: Calm under pressure, handles stressed people, remains emotionally detached.
-ve: Appears somewhat masked or ‘poker faced’, can take on a facilitation task that’s outside their level of expertise, hard to get to know/connect with.
+ve: Enthusiastic facilitation style, helps group explore possible implications, ability to get momentum going.
-ve: Interest wears off before group task achieved, time schedule may be ignored completely, asks too many questions at once.
+ve: Gets a lot done in a limited time frame, juggles tasks in the moment, energy peaks under pressure.
-ve: Can overlook things or make mistakes in haste, can appear impatient or rushed, fails to take time to connect the group at the start.
We explore these Drivers-based facilitating styles fully on our Facilitation Skills programme, through diagnostic questionnaire, discussion, reflection, practical sessions, real-time video recording and feedback. For more information or to have a chat about your needs in this area, drop us a line here and we’ll call you back.