Facilitation – advanced skills in empathy aren’t enough!

I had a great conversation with a client this week, who gave me the title of this Blog post. We were talking about how I increasingly use my experience, as the founder and leader of Meeting Magic, in my support of leaders.

Since its conception, I have aimed to run Meeting Magic in a collaborative and connected way, despite our virtual ways of working. I’ve made my share of mistakes, and learnt from them, which helps me understand the position of many leaders who are wanting to adopt a collaborative style in organisations that are often dispersed.

My client’s comments were about the experience of leadership bringing a deeper level of understanding than empathy alone. Her comments also made me think about how, whilst empathy, is a great quality in facilitators, it can also get you stuck.

Last week I was working with a group to understand the complexities of a changing market landscape, to develop long term strategies for their region. By the end of the first day, I had got into such a deep empathy with the group, than I was feeling stuck with them.

The benefit of me being independent from the group and having time alone in the evening, was that, by the next morning I had processed what was going on, and was clear about how to help them. My ability to refocus the group on day 2, and my clarity about how to approach the situation meant we achieved the results we needed 2 hours early! A real example of ‘go slow to go fast’!

So, empathy is an important quality in facilitators, but we need more than this to be truly effective in our work with leadership groups.