Pioneering facilitation

By Martin Thoolen,
Published at 11 July 2014.
Read in 9 minutes

You need ego to set limits effectively, but it also can facilitation as a coach or trainer. The magic of true connection and unlimited potential. is to be found beyond your ego as a facilitator. Do you need to set boundaries with your client? When do limits help or block you? Do you really want to inspire and move your customer? Discover a neverending potential that opens up a new world for you and your customer.

Gezonde grenzen heb je nodig om als begeleider optimaal werk te leveren. Wat gebeurt er als je geen grenzen stelt? Dan geef je ongemerkt meer dan je eigenlijk wilt of goed voor je is. Je kunt dan bakken energie verliezen en ‘s avonds jezelf zomaar lusteloos op de bank aantreffen. Heldere grenzen betekent dat je oog hebt en houdt voor je eigen energiehuishouding. Dat je grenzen stelt aan  intense,  langdurige  inspanning  en  zorgt  voor  voldoende ontspanning, afwisseling, reflectie en inspiratie.

Je neemt bijvoorbeeld pauze-momenten tussen gesprekken, zodat je het vorige gesprek loslaat, even aanrommelt en je voorbereidt op een volgende afspraak. Juist in ‘rommeltijd’ laad je je batterij op, waarna je weer met volle aandacht aanwezig bent bij je volgende activiteit. Grenzen zijn ook nodig om niet te verzanden in een positief of negatief bondje met je klant of opdrachtgever. Anders  worden  je  houding  en  interventies  veelal  gekleurd  door  voor-  en  afkeur.  Als  je  als  begeleider  door hebt  dat  je  bijvoorbeeld  smult  van  complimenten  of baalt  van  kritiek,  glimlach  dan  in  jezelf  en  bewaak  je neutraliteit. Dan behoud je je helderheid en compassie- volle confrontatiekracht.

A healthy portion of ego enables you to manage your time, take good care of your personal energy and maintain appropriate distance. You have to live your entire life with yourself, so create clear boundaries.

Boundaries as a prison

However, if your ego takes over, excessively stringent boundaries can become concrete walls that obstruct real contact with your customers. A dominant ego can also mean that you secretly feel slightly superior to your customer. You then approach them on the basis of identification with your expertise, experience and qualifications and take a (slightly) superior attitude to your customers. You think you know what is good for them. Before you know it your customer will be following a course set by your compass, while your wish is for them to learn to use their own compass.

An ego coup can also be created when you become trapped in judgments and stories about your customer, such as ‘my customer is so slow, he is so inside his own head’. You start the next discussion in a positive mood but still find proof of your own stories again. Your irritation grows and you allow yourself to be restricted by judgments and stories in your own head. So who is in his head now?

It happens to the best facilitators once in a while. If your ego takes the lead unnoticed you become mentally restricted and put yourself in a prison of your own making. The key is hanging on the inside of the door, but you just cannot see it. This requires a dialogue with your ego. Otherwise your ego will conduct a monologue with you.

Beyond the boundaries of the ego: new land in sight

If you are not aware of your own ego while you facilitate you will remain superficial with your customer, while your customer may benefit more from deepening. Fortunately, we are more than just a collection of ego patterns. Besides ego, we recognise two other dimensions that can enrich you and your customers.

Passionate facilitation: the magic of true connection

If you really want to reach your customers, so that their motivation comes from within, something else is required from us as facilitators. Beyond the boundaries of the ego you can discover the land of the soul. Every soul, so also your customer’s, wants a right to exist. If you acknowledge your own soul, with feelings, talents, strength and vulnerability, then your customer will also feel permitted to experience this in themselves. You create an energy field, as it were, with space for deepening, authenticity and amazement in which customers are more willing to share their heart and soul and the effect of your facilitation will be deepening and long-lasting.

Soul passion

How can you make more room for passion? Study what really gives your customer enjoyment and energy, what their original talents are and what they are ‘just good at’. For example, a purchasing manager was given the opportunity to temporarily replace a senior purchaser. She fervently brought in major customers and signed important contracts, and her manager promised her a promotion. When her colleague returned she had to move back to her former position, was not promoted and felt very despondent. With a passionate vision as a compass she looked beyond the borders of her organization and found an appropriate job as a purchaser at a different company. Within a year she was promoted, became manager of a number of countries in Europe and, moreover, won a prize as the best purchaser.

Soul pain

Room for the soul means that you also devote attention to hidden pain. This is not the same as giving well intentioned advice to motivate your customer while you skim over the pain. It can really hurt to lose your job or project, even though people may not always show it. In addition, new loss can touch old loss. Pay attention to emotions and thoughts, introduce silences and give sincere emotional reflections that make your customer feel validated and that you can share their emotional life. Occasionally share something of your own vulnerability, which lowers the threshold for your customer to do the same. Give old pain the opportunity to evaporate, so that new energy can be released. Your customer will then start to move on the basis on an inner desire.

Beyond the boundaries of ego and soul: utilizing infinite potential

However valuable ego and passion are, there is nevertheless a snag. Just as your ego can take the upper hand, you can also get wrapped up in your own passion. For example, if you enthusiastically use a method to work with your customer, but this is not working for them, you are forgetting to distinguish between person and method.
There is a third dimension that can provide a world of new possibilities. We call this spirit or clear perception. You see yourself at a distance, as it were, which enables you to detect whether your ego is dominant or you are wrapped up in passion at an earlier stage. Facilitation based on this dimension is clear, free of value judgments and compassionate. You are using a different resource, which creates new perspectives, experiences and choices.

Here and now

If spirit participates in your facilitation, you are clearly present in the here and now. This means that you do not think about what has happened or will happen on that day. So you may have an idea or a plan for your customer, but can deviate from it if something else is needed in the here and now. For example, your customer says that he knows what he wants, while your intuition tells you that this may not be the case. By clearly taking your own signals seriously you invite your customer to study what he actually wants in reality.

Awareness of surroundings

Imagine that you are an astronaut in space, looking at the earth. Borders soon fade, and you soon see the big picture. If you, as a facilitator, look ‘from space’ then you see your customer beyond the boundary, as a separate individual. With an astronaut’s eye view you study what contribution your customer wants to make to the process as a whole. For some this is a contribution to a team or organization, and for others it is a sustainable world. As a facilitator, you also not only pay attention to their (desired) work situation, but also to its effect on the home front or on the surroundings.

Everything connected to everything

Spirit is a dimension that has no boundaries. Then you realize that there is essentially no difference between you and the customer. As the Mayas greeted each other withInlakeshOr: ‘you are another me, I am another you’. Everything that you see or experience in the customer is also partially in you. As soon as you realize this you approach the customer from a position of equality, compassion and respect.

Based on the idea that everything is connected to everything you encourage your customer to be alert to parallel events that may be significant. When a consultant said that it really was time to find a job outside his organisation there was suddenly a window cleaner washing the dirty windows of his study.

If everything is connected to everything there may also be fewer borders between our daytime and ‘dream life’ than we sometimes assume. A manager was well known as someone who could be a bull in a china shop. He shared a dream about soft pink roses, which he found strange at first. By sketching the flowers he discovered that, besides his strength, it was time to give his vulnerability more space. A few days later a sudden gust of wind showered him with pink flower petals as he was crossing a square. He was touched. Softness had literally ‘blown’ over him, and had also touched him inside. With a clear, open view you can facilitate with space for surprise and amazement. You are, in fact, utilizing a different resource (spirit), which enables you to spontaneously gain insights and see new relationships on the basis of connection. Your intervention strength expands. You create a space for your customer in which they can gain fresh insights, have fascinating experiences and take new, clear choices.

Expanding your own boundaries

Pioneering facilitation is something that you can easily find within yourself. We believe that it originates when you plug into the riches of your ego, soul and clear perception. When you are aware of these dimensions you create an energy field in which your customers can (re)discover their own answers. Check what resource you are using from time to time. Use your ego for purposes including setting healthy boundaries. Check whether your ego is taking over once in a while. For example, if you feel superior or inferior, invent stories about your customer or repress vulnerability. Make space for the soul by acknowledging individuality, soul passion or pain. Observe yourself regularly using the astronaut’s eye view, so that you can channel your ego and give your soul some space. Give your customer your sincere attention, compassion and attention to the here and now.

Give yourself a regular inner update. Then you broaden your own horizons and a gradual shift starts towards more depth, authenticity and real connection with your customers. If you perform your work as a facilitator with a controlled ego and on the basis of passion and clear perception you are contributing to a world that has a place not only for ego, but also for authenticity and real connection.

© 2014 Martin Thoolen & Wendy Hobbelink
Verschenen in: Loopbaan Visie (Januari 2014)

Martin Thoolen

My 30 years of professional experience as an awareness coach, clinical and organisational psychologist has enabled me to help thousands of clients in Personal or Collective Leadership. Both groups and individuals, in coaching sessions, training courses, leadership development and organisation development programs, retreats and seminars.
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