Skip to main content

Global Flipchart



September 2016
| Issue #5

Applying Facilitative Leadership as a Mindset: Three Simple Ways

By Monique Walsh

As I reflected on writing around the subject of Facilitative Leadership, I was filled with caveats: I am not a CEO, I am not an Executive Director, I am not an expert on the topic. However, as I mulled around this subject more and more, I realized why I was so drawn to this material and felt I had something to share. A ‘Facilitative Leader’ is not a job title found in the workplace. It is not even found in most job descriptions, yet so many of us are facilitative leaders. For me, facilitative leadership is actually a mindset: a way of being. When applied as such it acts as an approach to sharing responsibility for our workplace cultures. Here are three simple ways how I apply facilitative leadership as a mindset.

Build a reflective practice

Reflective work is hard. There is no other way than practice to really build a habit of reflection into the workplace. Facilitative leadership as a mindset requires us to build this skill set. A simple way is to focus on one specific meeting and use reflection both during and after the meeting. For example, during the meeting I check in with myself and try and notice my own body language or feelings as the meeting is occurring. How did I react when that comment was made? How well am I listening to others? After the meeting I would spend time thinking about the process that occurred, the results that were achieved, the actions I took, and my feelings around the event. This awareness of what actually happened allows for improvement over time. In meetings I facilitate I actually keep a journal on my reflection, so that not only does my workplace culture benefit from my learning but I as a facilitator benefit from my reflections too.

Emphasize group process

A facilitative leader applies solid group process to their actions. In the workplace this can be achieved by using many tools, which include active listening, asking open-ended questions, and paraphrasing. I try to apply facilitative leadership as a mindset by spending time thinking about process. Whenever there is a workshop, engagement event, or meeting, the process plays a key role. Putting together a really simple tactical plan in advance that outlines process for these activities is a simple way to practice facilitate leadership. These tactical plans can be shared with others involved in planning, when appropriate, but even if it just rests with me, I feel spending time outlining tools is so powerful. I have a toolbox at my disposable that can be used to deliver a fair process to those I am interacting with. My hope is that my applying this aspect of facilitative leadership in all that I do, I continually build trust and social capital. Not only do better relationships make for a more enjoyable workplace but also trusting relationships are the foundation for higher productivity in the workplace.

Take a systems perspective

Especially when we are focused on our own tasks in the workplace, it is easy to forget about how all that we are working on pertains to one another. By practicing taking a systems perspective we bring awareness to the complexity in the workplace. We identify that there are multiple perspectives to any given situation and that the decisions we make and the actions we take affect our coworkers. One way I try to apply a systems perspective in the workplace is actively seeking multiple perspectives on any given situations. Sometimes this may mean imagining what these perspectives are. However, whenever I am given the opportunity to do so, I try to facilitate opportunities where individuals can share their perspective with each other. I find it helpful to record these multiple perspective on a flip chart, graphically showing how one shared topic has multiple strings attached to the rest of the system.

These are three simple ways I strive to apply facilitate leadership in my workplace. I encourage you as facilitative leaders in your own right to identify ways you practice this mindset. For me, removing the capital letters around Facilitative Leadership and making it more of a mindset: facilitative leadership - was extremely helpful. In the workplace facilitative leadership can be seen as an approach, an accumulation of the results of multiple small steps. An approach that we can all benefit from applying whenever we can – it just takes attention and intention.