How to become a fearless facilitator and leader

I just finished my training program as a team coach and facilitator, yay! 🥳 Much more important than the certificate I received were the leaps and bounds I made in terms of my personal development. When the program began in May 2021, I thought I was pretty good at what I do for a living already and wanted to become a bit more refined as a facilitator. It’s a bit like peeling an onion: I discovered more and more layers to peel back as the training progressed. 😊

As I think that this could be interesting for you, I am sharing here some insights and developments that were made possible through the program:

Processing «darker emotions» by facing and integrating your fears

I used to try and avoid feelings like anger, sorrow, fear, or remorse. When any kind of tension related to these sentiments came up in a group I was working with, I used to try and «smooth over» the irritation, hoping to get the team back on track and progressing with the work at hand. Why? Because I used to be afraid to open the proverbial Pandora’s box by pointing out tensions I felt. I was suspecting that I would not be able to deal with what might be stirred up when openly addressing a sensitive issue that’s probably loaded to the brim with emotions. I used to think “What if they argue and fight? What if someone breaks down in tears? What if something happens which I cannot possibly contain?”

Sometimes the only way out is through.

The biggest pain we inflict onto ourselves and each other is caused by trying to avoid pain in the first place

The difficult conversation that you DON’T have, the feedback you refrain from giving for fear of the response this might trigger, the times you bite your tongue instead of saying how much something hurt you or how angry you are about a behaviour. All these little pains, if avoided, tend to fester and grow into conflicts that in the end are much more painful to solve for all involved.

Who wants a coach that pretends everything is fine when half the people in the room sense it’s not?

It’s not useful as a leader or coach to avoid pain. In fact, it should be part of your role description to “get in there”.  One of my biggest wins in the past couple of months was to not be afraid of anything that might come up anymore. There are two reasons for this: For one, I feel more rounded as a person and have integrated some aspects of me that I had been grappling with. I am able to «be with» and process these emotions inside myself. This capability allows me to hold space for others so that anything that needs to be said can be invited to find its way out into the open.

Personal development is about acknowledging your paths and patterns (including how they served you well) and then allowing yourself to find alternative routes that are more helpful in certain situations, this way establishing new paths (neuroplasticity).

Letting go of what no longer serves builds authentic self-esteem

Through guided exercises and experiences and a lot of introspection and reflection, I was able to shed this pattern that had been my go-to escape strategy for the most part of my life and that had served me well in some regards but today as a facilitator and coach, it’s clearly no longer helpful. There will without a doubt be situations that will be challenging and maybe I will fall back into the old way of dealing with tensions sometimes, but the course is set and I am feeling a lot more authentic self-esteem now.

A simple method that helps to process anything and everything that might come up The second reason why I am now more confident with challenging situations now is that I have an immensely helpful tool to support me. It’s a tried and tested way of processing issues which gives a couple of simple guardrails: The method is called nonviolent communication. Thanks to this simple 4 step model and the attitude that comes with it, I feel well equipped to help people express their views in a way that protects their integrity. If you haven’t come across this method, I highly recommend checking it out and discovering what it can do for you and the «difficult conversations» that you have been tiptoeing around. 😉

When the waters get choppy, it helps to have something to cling to. In this case, NVC can help navigate difficult situations

Choosing how to use your superpowers instead of going «autopilot»

There is one aspect of my personality that is an absolute asset but that also made me stand in my own way at times: I have a bias to action rather than inaction; I am driven, and I am great at building momentum by encouraging others. This is a wonderful trait when it comes to getting things in motion, endorsing people, and making progress. The flipside of this superpower is that, if not used wisely, it can lead me to influence others, to want to steer, change or «fix» situations or people. In the past couple of months, I got to understand that as a facilitator, wanting to influence others is not useful – neither for yourself nor for the people you work with.

“Wanting to achieve” may trigger counter-behaviours

For yourself, it costs energy to want things badly (energy that you would rather use to keep your senses tuned for what is really going on) and in some people, this pushing or pulling also causes resistance which then again takes a lot of energy to overcome – be it with reason, sweet-talking or force. So, instead of wanting to control results, I am now setting intentions and making invitations. As a facilitator, I am not in charge of the results. I provide the space and the structure in which the work can happen. The content is down to the team. This is of course easier said than done. What helps if to have the mindfulness to catch myself when (or even better slightly before) I go into this mode. This then allows me to make a conscious choice and let “wanting” go.

Frank Eilers’ podcast – the best work-related format I know in German

No outer transformation without inner transformation

Speaking of personal development and a change of attitude, I was chuffed to bits to be invited to my favourite podcast «Arbeitsphilosophen» to converse with host Frank Eilers about how inner transformation in people is a prerequisite for outer transformation of organisations, processes and systems. The episode (in German) is available here and on all common podcasts platforms, just search for “Arbeitsphilosophen”.

Other projects underway

In front of the notary office

Just this week, I am founding a new company that shall be dedicated to supporting visionary and sustainable organisations through investment (as a business angel) and/or accompanying them as a team coach. The company will be called Truetopia GmbH. I love the idea of helping in some small way to shape our economy and foster ideas that are aligned with my values and purpose – creating a more human, peaceful and sustainable future. Truetopia will not do a lot of investment in its first year of existence, though. The reason for this is that another project will be absorbing a chunk of capital.

Around the house, our next project will start in a couple of weeks’ time: We will be turning the former barn into a workshop and leisure space. I am massively excited about this. When we bought and refurbished the house last year, I had already had my eyes on this as a potential project “as and when we have the resources”, thinking that this would be some 4-5 years away. Now we can afford starting this project sooner than we thought due to what happened this year, both happy and sad. So, there are some 120 square metres now that we can play with and bring to good use. In my mind’s eye I am already seeing yoga mats being rolled out on the top floor, or teams workshopping and co-creating away under our roof. This thought makes my eyes sparkle.

I am sending you warm greetings – wherever this finds you and I’d like to invite you to consider:

  • Which feelings have you been tiptoeing around, wanting to avoid them?
  • Which patterns that used to be helpful are today a hindrance in some situations?
  • Which new possibilities would you like to attract and invite into your own life?


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