Gratitude and Reflections on My Facilitation Career

Facilitation Career

I guess when one comes close to completing one’s career, for some there can be regrets and disappointments embedded or over shadowing the good aspects. For me, at least now, I have no strong regrets. I accept it as good enough – in fact better than good. A joy! A gift! And an awakening of sorts to many aspects of the world I did not know about. I loved what I have done and I have found the majority of it to be deeply enjoyable and interesting. So I asked myself, why is that? Here are the things that rise to the top of my mind:

My colleagues

This really is the reason I stayed in this profession. The sheer excitement and pleasure of crafting a good design together, of setting up the room to be beautiful, and sharing the responsibility of keeping the group working well. This is my love of co-facilitating. Find a colleague you enjoy working with. Try different people. It really has been the greatest gift to work with great colleagues. Photo: Co-facilitating with 12 international facilitators in-person and virtually to work with 25 health care leaders to transform the health care system for their country.

Stating what is needed

There is a moment when you are listening deeply to the problem the client is trying to solve. It may be the first call or meeting. Suddenly, an intuition arises about what is really needed. You repeat what you have heard and tentatively offer some insights into what might be needed. The client looks at you in astonishment and says, “Yes! That is what we need”. Suddenly you both relax. There is a powerful feeling that you have helped even before doing anything. I especially love crafting the goals or aims of the session, i.e., putting them in writing and getting the client’s or group’s reaction to them. Most of the time, we get it right. And there is this sense that the group feels they are in good hands with us as a facilitator team. Crafting the objectives or aims of the session with them and with a colleague is even richer than doing it on your own. The subtleties of language that others can find when your mind cannot quite find the right words is nothing short of amazing.

The group shifts

I have experienced a distinct change in the energy, and eagerness of the group to be together and solve the problem at some point an hour or two into an event. You can feel it and it is such a powerful experience. You know they are now working together. They sense they are on the verge of a breakthrough and they eagerly participate with energy and excitement. In past blogs or YouTube videos, I’ve called this “group coherence”. This is immensely satisfying.

The end results

At the end of the event, you can tell when the group has got what it needs. If you hold a short reflection on what happened during the event, they will say things like:  I never thought we could get this far; the group moved in ways I could not have imagined; we know what to do now and we cannot wait to get started; I have new profound respect for what you do as facilitators.

The impact

If I look back over 27+ years, there are some impacts so BIG and so moving they stay with me and rise to the top. And you realize you’ve changed the world somehow. The group mission was compelling, and you helped them go even further with that mission. The ones that stand out for me include:

  • Working with 25+ indigenous Amazonian tribal and conservations agency representatives to protect the Amazon Basin from over development
  • Running a 300-person summit of all involved parties to improve early childhood education impact
  • Helping an Indigenous First Nation take the first steps to taking over and writing their own protocols and laws to ensure the improved care of their children and families (my most recent job!)
  • Getting woman philanthropists to think about how to raise millions of dollars to reduce climate change impacts on women, especially in the most impacted areas of the world (also a very recent job)
  • Working with climate change activists and local large-scale farmers to change conventional agricultural practices to organic farming

And so many more!!

Please tell me what gives you joy in your work!

Barbara MacKay

Barbara loves “everything facilitation”. She thinks BIG! She loves working with other facilitators around the globe to create transformational results for client groups. She loves teaching others how to do that. She loves presenting at global facilitator conferences. She loves certifying new professional facilitators. If you also love what process facilitation can do for the world, connect with her – virtually or in person. She believes facilitation processes, used well, will provide the roadmap to a more just and sustainable world.

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