Extreme Facilitation, Part 2

I promised a long time ago that I would post some more on the book that a colleague of mine wrote called “Extreme Facilitation.” The author, Suzanne Ghais, did the same graduate program in conflict resolution that I did and she interned at the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, where I worked for six years.

She obviously wrote the book for facilitators or people in the conflict resolution field. She told me before she wrote it that she was terribly disappointed with the basic texts on facilitation that are out there—because they are too basic—and that is why she wanted to write the book.

But I’ve always felt that leadership is very much about facilitation, so I was reading the book with that angle in mind. Specifically, should a leader (not from the OD or conflict resolution field) read this book to enhance leadership skills?

My answer is yes. You may not have to read every chapter in detail (unless you’re about to facilitate a multi-party dispute about land use!), but many of the chapters will help leaders in organizations who realize that much of what they “do” internally is to facilitate discussions—often really tough ones.

For instance, the first chapter talks about what it takes to be an extreme facilitator. Attributes include:

  • Authenticity
  • Confidence
  • Presence
  • Trustworthiness
  • Calm

Sounds like a leader to me. The other chapters I recommend talk about the various “capacities” of groups that a facilitator must draw on and support: physical, intellectual, emotional, intuitive, creative, and spiritual. I particularly like the chapters on emotional, intuitive, and spiritual. They clearly explain how these capacities are a very normal part of groups, and it is actually okay for a facilitator to work with them. The same is true for leaders. There is often a tendency for leaders to avoid these areas and declare them as “not professional,” but that’s when the groups and their performance both suffer.