Holacracy Community of Practice Archive, 2015-2019 Community Holacracy Web Site

Facilitator Tips

We have had a frequent challenge in our recent anchor circle governance meetings that people not roles are showing up and we get objections that include, "I don't like it." and "It doesn't meet my needs." this person will answer that the proposal will limit one of their roles but that doesn't seem to be the case. I am the leader and very mindful not to step on the facilitators toes during the meeting but I'd like to coach her to have tools to handle this situation so she has them in the meeting. (She also has been struggling with lack of clarity being a valid objection, it frequently is considered invalid and my understanding is a lack of clarity is always valid. I think it gets hung up on 'Do you know this impact will occur...') 


Any facilitator support out there for testing objections? 


PS. We are going to a training in December, Hooray!

2 Replies

[@mention:493184366878843164] You are not alone in facing this sort of issue and in my experience the practitioner training really helps with this - the simulations are really well set up, and you get lots of hands on practice! If you are a working with a Holacracy coach, you can maybe get them to come and do some focused training for facilitators too.

Understanding governance - this is one of these points where an important truth is somewhat concealed in the constitution! What it says is: "For the purpose of this criteria, decreasing clarity counts as degrading capacity". And this kind of translates to "in any role, if governance is passed which doesn't make sense, then the clarity for that role in expressing itself is reduced" and hence to the rule of thumb "every role has a right to understand governance".

Often my experience of "I don't understand this/it's unclear"-type objections is that when you get to integration and say "OK, so how would you make this clear?" there's a sheepish silence. I've been on the giving and receiving end of that bit of facilitation!

If objection are being made that don't feel clear - get clear! That's the most powerful bit of coaching I think you can give a facilitator. "What's the tension, what's the role" - really get it specified by the objector. Do that before you ask the four questions.

Good luck!


Chris Cowan

Hey Jenn, 

A few thoughts. 

  • If you're afraid to step on the Facilitator's toes, remember that any participant can ask the Facilitator to retest an objection in integration, so if you think it's invalid, request a retest, ask for a timeout, or even to step in as Facilitator, for that objection if you think it would provide a good learning experience. 


  • Regarding objectors who claim it impacts one of their roles, the Facilitator can ask several follow-up questions to understand the argument. So, "Which role specifically?" is a good one. And, "How does it impact this role? How does it impact its purpose or an accountability?" You can go even further, "Which part of the accountability?" Those are all great questions to ask. And to avoid it sounding like an interrogation, I usually throw in something like, "and I'm asking these questions because I really want to understand what you're saying." If it turns out the objection is sensed by the person and not any specific role, then it helps to encourage them to process it outside of that meeting. Just because it's not valid to process there and then doesn't mean it's not valid to process at all. 


  • Regarding "lack of clarity" as a valid or invalid objection...it usually depends on answers to other criteria (specifically #2 and #4). So, for example, I may think that the new accountability is totally unclear (that satisfies question #1 because I'm describing harm) and I know that the issue exists now because the confusion exists right now (satisfies question #3). But does it impact my role? Hmmm....well, I'm not in the role itself, nor do any of my roles rely on understanding that accountability (so it would fail question #4). Or sometimes the lack of clarity was pre-existing in which case it would fail question #2. In general though, "lack of clarity" passes two of the four criteria right off the bat.


  • From experience the most common misunderstanding by Facilitators (AND objectors!) is they invalidate their objection on question #3...which is exactly what you expressed; "Do you know now the harm will happen...or are you anticipating?" This is pretty nuanced, so forgive me if this isn't clear, but this occurs because the objection unconsciously shifts or changes during the testing. For example, I raise an objection "the proposal reduces clarity." Facilitator asks, "Is that a reason it causes harm?" I say, "Yes, because I won't know where to send invoices and we might pay our bills late." Facilitator keys in on the word "might" and asks, "So, do you KNOW this will happen, or is it something that MIGHT happen?" I then say, "Oh, ok, you got me. I guess I'm anticipating." But if we rewind the tape, my objection wasn't "we might pay our bills late," I just said that because I was being asked questions and I was trying to explain myself. My objection was clearly, " the proposal reduces clarity" which isn't something I'm anticipating at all. I can use the eyes my mother gave me and see it right on the screen in front of me...right now that it reduces clarity. What happened was through the testing process the Facilitator's and the Objector's attention kinda shifted away from the original objection and potentially uncovered a new one. There may be several objections, but they need to be evaluated on their own. So, "we might pay our bills late" may be invalid because I'm anticipating, but the argument that it reduces clarity still needs to be addressed.


This is one of my favorite topics, so if you have any other questions please let me know. And if you're not already on GlassFrog's Habit Support Program, I highly recommend it especially because it covers topics like this.