Facilitating Engagement Workshop Cover

You Matter in Your Practice

You Matter in Your Practice

by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Engagement + Communications

This week I am delivering the Facilitating Engagement course in Vancouver. It’s my favourite course to deliver because it provides the space for facilitators to reflect on themselves and their practice. Engagement is largely about understanding the needs of those who are being engaged in a process. This is key to designing stakeholder-centric engagements: processes where people show up and feel safe, respected and even happy to have participated. Rarely though, do we think about the facilitator or their needs. Regardless of the day (week or month) they are having, they need to show up for the people who are participating in the process you are convening.

I firmly believe that our ability to “show-up” as a facilitator relates to how full our cup is and how safe, respected and happy we feel. If the facilitator is a staff person and they are feeling like their organization disrespects them, then it’s pretty hard to go out and demonstrate what you do not experience at work. Similarly, if as the facilitator you are struggling in your personal life (sick kids, separation, your own anxiety or mental health) then being present can be really hard: hard, like trying to get gas from an empty tank.

So here are three questions to ask yourself about your ability to show up.

  • Social Capital: Do I want to spend my own social capital here? Said another way, do I believe, support and endorse the sponsor / proponent, am I happy (or at least ok), with having this process be part of my personal and professional brand? If the answer is no, then give some time to considering whether or not you can stay in that environment or should be making plans to go.
  • Support: Do I feel supported? The facilitator is sometimes referred to as the taxi driver. Usually others are telling them the destination (a strategic plan), and their job is to get them there in the most efficient way possible. You can imagine, though, if the client in the back is always changing their mind, or questioning the driver, or doesn’t tip. It will not be long before they say: “lady get out!”. So, if you are a facilitator (as a consultant or in-house), do you feel like the people in “your cab” are supporting you? Do they have your back or are you out there on your own? If you feel like a one-person show, then maybe it’s time to reflect on whether or not that works for you.
  • Joy: Do I like what I do, or even big parts of it, if not the whole thing? Do I get satisfaction from bringing people together, listening and learning from people and helping make dialogue happen? Alternatively, are you full of dread, wishing away the agenda or time, and overly prioritizing the “prize” at the end? The prize can be just that it’s done, or it could be a glass of wine, or vacation. After a single event or long process it’s healthy to have decompression time, but it shouldn’t be the only satisfaction you derive from the process.

This past winter I was sick. It was “only” the flu, and after a week in hospital I will never again call the flu “only the flu”. In retrospect, I realize that I was run down, I was deep down tired and I was not at my healthiest and able to fight it off. It was a reminder that I need to be ok with letting my needs matter to my facilitation practice because if I don’t I can’t show up.

We can only do the work for so long without renewal and making ourselves a priority. If we go too long without looking at our own needs we risk going into our healthy/happiness line of credit and that can be very difficult to pay back because the interest is huge.

You matter. Be good to yourself.

If you are interested in taking our next Facilitating Engagement course in Toronto (November 27-28), please find further information and the registration form here.