Facilitation and the Enneagram

Facilitation takes on heightened importance to an organization when one realizes that meetings are a crucible in which strong leadership is highlighted and weak leadership is laid bare. In fact, the practice of facilitation is a form of leadership in itself: Facilitation is short-term leadership. There are a myriad of decisions that the facilitator must make to successfully steer the group towards the meeting's goals which have important longer-term consequences.

How does the facilitator make these decisions? There is, of course, an understanding of how a meeting flows through the stages from beginning to the end, guided by the North Star of the meeting's goals. There is an understanding of the organization or industry itself, the ever watchful eye of the clock, and the structure provided by the ground rules.

Within these guidelines and structures are the individual participants themselves. In the course of a single meeting, the facilitator must make countless decisions about individuals, including how to motivate everyone to speak, how to move the constrained to become less so and the impulsive to place some discipline upon themselves, and how to inspire the cautious to see the opportunities and the visionaries to commit to shepherding the implementation. All this must be done in real time for all to witness, in a manner that builds everyone's dignity and influence, and diminishes no one in the eyes of others or themselves. How is the facilitator to find a way to make all this happen?

Knowledge of the Enneagram can allow insight into participants' motivations, providing invaluable guidance. With this knowledge, the facilitator has the means of providing leadership that is more effective, more efficient, and provides a valuable model for everyone who attends.

The Enneagram can also provide a roadmap for a facilitator's professional development. Following are examples of characteristics of both higher functioning and lower functioning facilitators of each Enneagram style.

Facilitator's
Style
Higher Functioning Lower Functioning
Brings intellectual rigor and clarity to planning and discussion Becomes mired in details and subtly rejecting of ideas; has difficulty improvising on the run
Makes participation possible for all and brings out best in individuals, as well as providing "glue" for group cohesion Overly concerned with process over task and impact on individuals over organizational needs
Systematically deals with barriers to change, makes case for change, and brings energy to the table Rides roughshod over individuals and relies on convincing over credibility
Stimulates creativity and heartfelt openness to change; adept at highlighting the purpose and meeting of the meeting, the work, and the organization Becomes distracted by own emotional response to change or own response to the change agent himself; creates unnecessarily idiosyncratic processes
Attends to data and effectively articulates observations that welcome change; systematic in planning Becomes distracted by data at expense of human side of change; pays more attention to what's written than what's said
Stimulates thinking about what can go right/wrong; pushes group persistently towards solving problems Becomes distracted by implementation and details at expense of big picture; overly controlling of process and threatened by the unforeseen
Stimulates energy and excitement about exploring the possibilities, with few preconceived notions Stifles participation among some by steering group based on personal interests; preferring breadth to depth and change rather than refining or editing
Stimulates honest conversation and immediate productive action; empowers Stifles participation by offensive bluntness and impatience with others' need for process; gets into power struggles (and always wins, in the short run)
Pushes for everyone's participation and towards ultimate agreement by systematically helping the group through conflict, anxiety, and any tendency to keep score of winners and losers Blocks deliverables by being overly process-oriented in seeking harmony where none exists; talks too much and trances everyone into lethargy


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Bart Wendell is a licensed psychologist, master-level facilitator, and trusted advisor to senior and board levels of corporate, non-profit, and public sector organizations, with particular expertise working with founder-led organizations. Some of his clients include PBS and NPR (U.S. public broadcasting), International Monetary Fund, Ford Foundation, U.S. Air Force Academy, Johnson & Johnson, and Rocktenn, as well as numerous family-owned businesses.

Bart believes that the new century will be one based on connections and trust as compared to the last century's emphasis on legal contracts and hierarchy. Through his consulting, coaching, and training services, he assists organizations and their leaders in making the shifts and transformations required to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Bart is the past vice president of the International Enneagram Association (IEA) and former editor of 9 Points, an IEA publication, and has two forthcoming books: Twenty Meetings that Made a Difference: How to Run a Meeting Like a Leader (2009) and The Facilitator's Enneagram (2010).