Who’s the “Knower”?

Photo by Hadija on Unsplash

The other week I was facilitating a hui for about 30 people. This is my bread and butter, something I do most days. What was different about this time, was the feelings I navigated as I facilitated.

During one part, a question was asked, that was stated to everyone, but directed at me. In that split second, I needed to make a decision…do I answer the question, and give my thoughts, or throw the question back out to the wider group?

I chose the latter. What I then witnessed, was an audible humph from the person who asked the question. She was expecting my response, ‘the’ answer. 

As people went into dialogue around the question, and I roved the room, I found myself having to navigate feelings of self-doubt, imposter-dom, and a sense that I hadn’t served them as best I could, because I didn’t give them ‘the’ answer. 

When we came back together to share our thoughts around the question, the responses brought a depth and richness that one person couldn’t. Options were explored, strategies shared, and everyone in the room had an opportunity to share their thinking, and listen to others. I supported this process by paraphrasing the key points and collating their thoughts.

What I noticed afterwards, was the person who initially asked the question went to other people in the room to ask more about what they had shared. 

Despite the feelings of inadequacy I had been having, the end result of my facilitation allowed more people to be the knowers. It opened the space wide, so looping of ideas could occur, each cycle adding richness to the previous. If I had let my ego and the pressure of being situated as the knower lead, we would not have come to this place. 

There are times when we lead and tell, and also times when we facilitate and support others to be the knowers in the room. My wondering is, how much of each do you find yourself doing?

It is easy to be situated by others as the knower due to our position or experience, but when is it appropriate to pass the baton and open space for others’ wisdom and knowing to enter?

Some questions to ponder this week:

  • Who is doing the thinking during your interactions?
  • Where might you, with the best of intent, and perhaps the need to be helpful, be minimising others?
  • How much time do you spend telling, as opposed to listening or questioning?
  • Where is the untapped gold within your organisation? How are you supporting this to be realised?

And finally, I leave you with this quote from Marcel Proust:

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us”.

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