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....and many other thoughts about facilitation, coaching ( teams & individuals) and learning


  • David

The Paradox of Confidence and Vulnerability

Updated: Mar 23, 2022

This is another interesting insight from my 2012 experience.


First, let me talk about vulnerability. This could mean facilitators sharing personal (and of course relevant) stories. This is also about facilitator not having full control and taking risk together with the learners in learning new things. We play co-learner rather than expert. Take an example on coaching skills. We started the session by having the co-facilitators coaching each other for real issue without rehearsal in fishbowl setting. This invariably engaged the learners and sparked lively conversation on what should be done. See also my earlier post on ‘Do it before asking learners to do it’.

On the other hand, this is also related to my last post of ‘Staying Real’. The facilitators are bound to make some mistakes in having real conversations in workshop. You will be vulnerable when you stay real.

But will being vulnerable then dampen the facilitators’ creditability?


I once participated in a team effectiveness workshop. The facilitator (an experienced one) was having different opinion in the design with the sponsor DURING the workshop. Apparently they could not come to consensus during the afternoon break. As the workshop resumed, the facilitator said something like:

‘Welcome back. Here are some observations to share – we have progressed to a point where [name of sponsor] and I have a few options on what we should do together for the rest of the workshop. We have not resolved it. Instead of me moving the workshop forward in a rush, I propose that we … [suggested action] …. ’

I was amused how frank the facilitator was. He basically admitted that he had no complete control on the process and arguably no complete support from the sponsor. He was vulnerable. However, in fact, simply he chose to disclose these imperfections, he appeared very confident at least to me.

There is another layer on demonstrating vulnerability for leadership development. Simply leaders should be able to be vulnerable. Using the term in the famous HBR article ‘Why should anyone be led by you’, leader should reveal its weakness. And in developing leaders, it thus makes sense for the facilitators to role model what the leaders should do.

(Additional note: Interestingly, this seems to me the Skilled Facilitator Approach by Roger Schwarz which I am recently reading. This is about ‘Sharing all valid information’ and having ‘compassion’ to self.)

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