One of the challenges I’ve had is explaining to groups what I do as a group facilitator – how my role differs from theirs, and what they can expect. In the early part of my career, introducing myself as a facilitator had almost no value – people hadn’t heard the term and didn’t know what to make of it. These days, most people have not only heard the term, but they have been “facilitated” – and the experience has not always positive. So it’s still useful to explain my role as group facilitator, and not take a long time doing it. What follows is a generalized version of my introduction.
My name is Sandy Schuman and I am a group facilitator. My expertise is in how groups work and how to help groups work together more effectively. I'm not here because I have special knowledge regarding (the subject matter of this meeting) or because I know the workings of your organization(s), but even if I did, that's not my job today. My job is to focus on the process aspects of today's work, while yours is to apply your knowledge of the issue(s) and organization(s) to (the purpose or task at hand).
I would like to form a partnership with you for the course of this (meeting or project). I would like to rely on you for your knowledge about the (issues at hand) and about your organization(s) (and other organizations that might be involved). I would like you to rely on me for my expertise in collaborative problem solving and decision making and how we can work together effectively to address (the issues you face).
I would like permission to exercise some process leadership to help move things along, but I want to stay on my “side” of the room. (I draw an imaginary line across the room, between me from the group.) I would like to take some intiative regarding process issues, but I don't want to cross the line and directly address content issues; that's your side of the room. That's the “dark side of group facilitation,” and if you see me crossing that line I want you to call me on it, because I really don't want to be there.
On the other hand, you are welcome to come over on my side of the line any time you want. If you have a question about why we're doing something a certain way, or if you have an idea that might work better, please say so. I will be glad to explain the reasoning behind my process choices, and welcome the opportunity to learn of your ideas The choice of processes is yours, and indeed, so is your choice of facilitators, and whether or not you have a facilitator at all.
Shall we give this a try? Any questions about my role? Do you have any questions or comments before we take a look at a proposed agenda? ...How’s that sound to you?