The Pivotal Role of Facilitator in Change Management

Recently, the Ketchum Pleon Change team in Munich worked with a client to help encourage one of the company’s executives to be more empathetic toward other colleagues during a merger process, and the exercise reminded me of an interesting article I came across in the German newspaper Suedeutsche Zeitung titled the “A Case for the Facilitator.”


The article discusses a new approach in change management that focuses on facilitating and how to avoid one of the most common reasons for failure in change programs: The missing sensitivity of executives when talking to their employees. Quite often, managers are under pressure during change programs and may not be fully aware of all their employees’ fears.


The article makes the case that a manager’s ability to be empathetic, and put himself or herself into the employees’ shoes, is what makes a crucial difference. Facilitating, as a new form of advice, is different from traditional counseling.


Facilitators, in this definition, are truly like therapists who listen, ask about personal problems and talk to the employees. It’s facilitators’ mission to find out why employees are frightened or apprehensive of change, and adapt themselves or their behaviors accordingly. In this way, facilitating means working out solutions with all people involved, not just implementing programs from the top down.


Another role of facilitators described in the article is helping to lead managers through workshops to get to know the instruments of “integrative leadership,” such as motivation techniques and constructive feedback.


But most important is self-reflection. The article suggests that only when you know yourself and your emotions well enough can you treat others with respect and fairness.


Speaking of emotions, facilitators say that repressing emotions is the worst thing to do during a change process. It’s the person who should be in focus during a change process – especially with their inner problems that make them hesitant to changes.