Facilitation Antipattern: Superhero

Posted by Doc
Jan 30 2009

super_dudeMotto: I’m here to rescue you.
Belief: I bring special skills and knowledge, and you must want me to use them.
Behavior: Leaps into the breach to answer questions, solve problems, soothe injured feelings, and otherwise care for the participants.
Characteristics: Gentle but firm, frequently offering answers/solutions rather than asking questions.

As a facilitator, we’re not present to answer questions or solve problems. And yet, especially if we have domain expertise, it’s tempting to leap into the breach. After all, not using our expertise is depriving the participants of value, right?


As hard as it is, I tell everyone I train in facilitation that they must be prepared to leave their biases, opinions, and tendency toward rescuing people and situations outside.

When you rescue people or a situation, others don’t learn – well, they learn to depend on you to do it for them. It’s like the toddlers who always whine and reach up to be carried, because they’ve always been carried, so they always expect to be carried, so they don’t learn to get around well on their own.

As with most of the Patterns & Antipatterns I’ll be talking about, this applies equally to the facilitator and the participants. As a member of the group, if you keep providing solutions, others will start to pull back and let you do it all. While you might feel good as the superhero, you’re disempowering the team, and teaching them that it’s okay not to participate/contribute.

Don’t be a Superhero.

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