The Humility (or not) of Facilitation


Have you ever heard of the Ego Index? The Ego Index is a tongue-in-cheek way to measure the egoism of someone through their writing or speaking. You simply take a sample of their writing or speech, total up the number of words in that sample then divide it by the total number of times they say “I” or “me” in that sample. A high Ego Index would be 10:1, where, for every ten words uttered, the speaker or writer mentions his or herself.

A lot of facilitators claim that, when they are helping an organisation or a group, that they are there to serve the needs and potential of that group or organisation. “It isn’t about me!” they proudly proclaim.

They then go on to demonstrate an Ego Index of 5 to 1!

“What I’d like you to do now, is to get into groups. I’m going to give you ten minutes and I want you to prioritise your key challenges and then come and join me back in the circle where I’ll gather your feedback.”

When we serve a group through the role of being a facilitator, humility has a big part to play. But there can be a false kind of humility when we launch our humble service into a group as an act of profound egoism! I’m humble! Do you hear me? I’m HUMBLE!

True humility need never speak its name. Humility is not something that we can directly experience of ourselves as a “me” state. Humility is revealed in us by others. When we morally imagine the group, when we allow the group or the “other” to inspire our next steps, then we practice humility. We are not humble when we trumpeted like a fanfare to our own arrival.

Now, here’s a glorious paradox to end this little piece with:

On occasions, a group, organisation or community may need their facilitator to temporarily take on the role of an egoist – to be thoroughly and authentically in an ego state.  The ability to recognise this, to phase in and out of that state requires a clear act born of humility on the part of the facilitator. They need me to lead on this; they need me to react on behalf of what is possible and what is being blocked; they need me to be me here, an example of the naked human being, raw and open; they need me to react personally. It’s for a reason and the motive is to enable flow, to unblock, to resolve or to motivate. Whenever this state of egoism is born of an initial egoistic motive from the facilitator, it is doomed to fail, even harm. When that shift arises OUT OF the client group, then there is a transient and vital role for the self to express itself as I, for it is born of humility, and is doomed to succeed.

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