Groupwork Centre Blog

Great leaders are actually just really good facilitators

Five women and men standing in a semicircle as part of a group, dressed in informal business clothes and smiling

It’s never too late to learn how to be a great leader.

In her autobiography Child of the Earth, our co-founder Glen Ochre, talks about a manager in a large hospital who’d been depressed about the dynamics in her team. She came to a short course on collaborative leadership like the one we’re offering on 12-13 September.

Although she knew how to run meetings, there were always the same two people dominating the conversation and the group regularly went off-topic …

“Her staff meetings were woeful.  [People had lost faith in group process. She knew that enacting change within the team would be challenging. But something had to give. So she mustered up the courage to implement some of the techniques she’d learnt at Groupwork.] She managed to convince the team to remove the tables in the meeting room and sit in a circle.

“Despite some initial cynicism she reported back that the turnaround in their meetings was remarkable… and swift.”*

Find out more about our Collaborative Leadership short course here

Here are five techniques she learned how to apply:

1. Sitting in a circle without tables

Tables are a physical block and often a psychological barrier behind which people may seek refuge from difficult challenges or emotionally charged work. Some may feel uncomfortable to start with but it encourages people to connect.

2. Setting up group agreements

A simple facilitated process for the group to establish their own guidelines to help the group work well together. This helps establish group norms and gives people a positive experience of your facilitatory leadership.

3. Being at the service of the group

For example, checking in with the group about the purpose of your meeting. This also means looking at anything preventing the group from achieving one of the agenda points. People may have a problem with anything from personal differences to a budget not being approved. Acknowledging and working through these may need to take priority.

4. Validating

To validate is not to agree or disagree, but to deeply HEAR, reflect back and honour the fullness of what the person, or the whole group, has said. Rather than moving on or just saying thanks, you acknowledge with respect the content of what is expressed and the feelings, both spoken and unspoken. When a person feels deeply heard and validated, it’s a profound gift.

5. Normalising

When you affirm what someone’s saying or experiencing as quite common or normal, they feel as if their message has got somewhere. The slightest inflection in your voice that indicates frustration or judgement is likely to be heard as a put-down. But if a speaker feels that their point has been heard and is valid, they can then make space for other people’s input.

Book your place: Collaborative Leadership short course here

Facilitatory leadership creates a little bubble of equality in the world

Great leaders are conscious of equalising power in a group and aim to make everyone feel heard. When people know they’re valued, they’re more likely to speak up about their ideas and get involved in decisions. The usual frontrunners can step back and others are more confident to step forward.

It’s one thing to hear these ideas, but it’s another to put them into action. During our Collaborative Leadership short course, you have the opportunity to actually put these techniques into practice using your own scenarios or challenges you’ve come across.

Curious about our short course?

For a taste of our approach, we invite you to join us for our Collaborative Leadership Taster Evening where you’ll learn a practical process that you can apply straight away – and can ask all your questions about what we do.

Taster Evening: Great leaders need to be effective facilitators

How to use collaboration, not just delegation

When: Wednesday 14 August 6.30pm

What: a light meal followed by a facilitated session:

Where: 31 Rennie St, Thornbury, Vic

Cost: $30

Book into our Taster Evening here


*This example is taken from page 193 of Glen Ochre’s autobiography Child of the Earth. Find out more about her wild and remarkable story here.

Comments are closed.