- Keeping Your Leadership Fresh

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There is a mystery to leadership, whether you lead an ongoing team or a one-off group. This mystery is important because without it people would be able to predict your actions and imitate them. Keeping the mystery means that things remain fresh. Here are 5 ways you can inject every instance of groupwork with unpredictability.

1. Learning As You Go. The challenges of facilitation are also its joys: knowing that sometimes it will work and sometimes it won't; knowing that each session is a learning experience for you as well as the group; keeping yourself open to possibilities that can surprise as well as disappoint.

• keep your groupwork fresh. Now and again change the way you do things.
• take risks with materials and see what happens
• have confidence in your intuitive side throughout groupwork
• keep an eye out for material from everyday life: the home, the family, your social life
• be a continuous learner yourself
• be childlike in your curiosity
• aim for your own natural style to come through
• aim to enjoy each experience of groupwork.

2. Lighten Up. Adding perspective and a touch of light-heartedness to each experience of groupwork can guard against the enemies of facilitation: being too serious, forcing things and trying too hard.

Lightening up does a number of things:
• it reminds you that the role of helper is basically one of common sense and wisdom, not intellectual knowledge
• it helps you not to take yourself too seriously
• it reflects the gentle approach that is the hallmark of facilitation
• it helps put bad experiences down to experience
• it allows us to accept the value of all types of human behaviour, including clowning around and having fun.

"The first thing most people say when they get to Heaven is "Why was I so serious?"." (Old Red Indian saying)

3. Be Open to Surprises. The "I've-seen-it-all, done-it-all" attitude of some experienced facilitators not only leads to staleness in groupwork; it also makes you miss the delight of being surprised in life.

• don't take anything about groupwork for granted
• keep a childlike wonder for the possibilities around you
• have respect for each session of groupwork as a unique event in itself
• don't become stale by sticking to routines
• be willing to learn, to take risks and to abandon all your plans if the moment requires it.

"It is exceedingly important that a man should allow himself to be surprised in daily life: that he not be habit-bound or jaded; that he always have a sense of wonder about his life and the lives and words, gestures and images of others. One must always be ready for surprises." (Joseph Zinker)

4. Take Nothing as Read. Facilitation is a style of group leadership that aims to empower those who are led. It doesn't direct; it doesn't prescribe; it doesn't demand; it doesn't use worked-out solutions. It engenders healthy scepticism.

"Do not believe in what you have heard; do not believe in the traditions because they have been handed down for generations; do not believe in anything because it is rumoured or spoken by many; do not believe merely because a written statement of some old sage is produced; do not believe in conjectures; do not believe in that as truth to which you have become attached by habit; do not believe because of the authority of your teachers and elders. After observation and analysis, when it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and gain of one and all, then accept it, practice it and live up to it." (The Buddha 568-488BC)

5. Process Not Outcomes. One of the most valuable lessons of the facilitative approach to groupwork is that it focuses on the value of process, not outcomes. In control groups and manipulated groups, the group leader only wants people to arrive at their solutions and existing answers. Anything else is "off-script". But rushing to pre-ordained goals has no value for people. Wisdom, fun, and creativity come from the journey, not the destination.

"The honey doesn't taste so good once it is being eaten, the goal doesn't mean so much once it's been reached; the reward isn't so rewarding once it's been given...That doesn't mean the goals we have don't count. They do, mostly because they cause us to go through the process, and it's the process that makes us wise, happy or whatever. If we do things in the wrong sort of way, it makes us miserable, angry, confused and things like that. The goal has to be right for us and it has to be beneficial, in order to ensure a beneficial process. But, aside from that, it's really the process that's important. Enjoyment of the process is the secret that erases the myths of the Great Reward..." (Benjamin Hoff: "The Tao of Pooh")

© Eric Garner, ManageTrainLearn.com 2009

About the Author

Eric Garner is Managing Director of ManageTrainLearn, the site that will change the way you learn forever. Download free samples of the biggest range of management and personal development materials anywhere and experience learning like you always dreamed it could be. Just click on ManageTrainLearn and explore.

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