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Mental Models that Impact Facilitative Coaching

March 26th, 2010

Learning about facilitation and being a facilitative coach has enhanced my professional work, as well as, my interpersonal relationships outside of work. There are two key frameworks that are critical to understanding the facilitative coaching approach and being able to model it. These two frameworks, “The Unilateral Control Model” and “The Mutual Learing Model”, have provided me with  a clearer picture of human interactions and  a stronger sense of being able to deal with difficult situations. In this post I will describe the first of these two models of human interaction and how knowing this information has impacted my life and work.

A model is really nothing more than a framework that helps us understand the why of behavior. The way we see and the way we think about the world will result in how we interact with the world and others around us. As the first model, “The Unilateral Control Model”, indicates by its title, it is how we design or control our behavior to achieve our desired goals. According to research in many countries and organizations, this model is very common, especially when people feel threatened, stressed, or uncomfortable.

The essense of “The Unilateral Control Model” is based on the following concepts; (Taken from The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz)

Core Values

  • Achieve my goal through unilateral control
  • Win, don’t lose
  • Minimize expressing negative feelings
  • Act rationally

Assumptions

  • I understand the situation; those who see it differently do not
  • I am right; those who disagree are wrong
  • I have pure motives; those who disagree have questionable motives
  • My feelings are justified

Strategies

  • Advocate my position
  • Keep my reasoning private
  • Don’t ask others about their reasoning
  • Ease in
  • Save face

Consequences

  • Misunderstanding, conflict, and defensiveness
  • Mistrust
  • Self-fulfilling, self-sealing process
  • Limited learning
  • Reduced effectiveness
  • Reduced quality of worklife

Does any of this sound familiar or hit a nerve? I see this behavior being modeled all around me; in meetings, on the radio, during family meals or gatherings, in the political arena, and many more places. When I first ran across this work, I felt so guilty because it described, for the most part, my interactions with other human beings. I grew up learning to be highly competitive, believing the way I understood the world was the only way.  I grew up on a farm near a medium sized rural community in southern Iowa. I spent 10 years as a 4-H member and all of my adolescents playing sports.

Then I went to college during the late sixties and the early seventies. I was suddenly thrust into a different environment with many people experiencing different world perspectives. I found this experience very threatening and uncomfortable. I began relating to others in ways described in “The Unilateral Control Model”. Needless to say, it did not work well for me. I needed to find a better way of interacting with others. That’s when I began exploring and discovering different human behavior models and my life began to change significantly for the better.

In the next posting I want to share an alternative framework, “The Mutual Learning Model” and how it impacted my world view. If any of this triggers thoughts that you would like to share, please feel free to comment. Until next time, try looking at a difficult situation through different eyes.

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