Mastery Versus Advancing

A discussion on advanced or advancing facilitation – drawing parallels with observations on the development of coaches.

This think piece is extracted from David Clutterbuck and David Megginson’s discussion around defining levels of maturity as a coach. It is possible there are some parallels with the ideas presented by them about the development of facilitators. Many facilitators draw on aspects of their own coaching skills regarding developing the conditions for self-determined learning.

Firstly to add some context: they assert that every learning conversation with a client is unique, and so determines the coaching approach, technique, process or framework. They are concerned that disciplines (for instance the popularism of NLP or Gestalt approaches) should not drive the conversation, however it is the client’s needs that will drive the use of different approaches.

They have coined the term ‘managed eclectic’ as a measure of the relative maturity of a coach or mentor in how they think or behave.

Characteristics of true eclectics are..

  • They do not share a common philosophy; rather they have developed their own philosophy – one which continually expands and adapts, evolving as they absorb new knowledge and ideas
  • They place great importance on understanding a technique, model or process in terms of its foundations within an original philosophy
  • They use experimentation and reflexive learning to identify where and how a new technique, model or process fits into their framework of helping
  • They judge new techniques, models and processes on the criterion of ‘will this enrich and improve the effectiveness of my potential response to client needs?’
  • They use peers and supervisors to challenge their coaching philosophy and as partners in experimenting with new approaches.

There is a suggestion that coaches/ mentors need to journey through four stages of development: The table below compares each level.

Coaching approach: Style: Critical questions for the coach:
Models based Control How do I take them where I think they need to go?How do I adapt my technique to model this circumstance?
Process based Contain How do I give enough control to the client and still retain a purposeful conversation?What’s the best way to apply my process in this instance?
Philosophy based Facilitate What can I do to help the client do this for themselves?How do I contextualise the client’s issues within the perspective of my philosophy or discipline?
Managed Eclectic Enable Are we both relaxed enough to allow the issue and the solution to emerge in whatever way they will?Do I need to apply any techniques or processes at all?

If I do, what does the client context tell me about how to select from the wide choice available to me?


f we take on some of the discussion presented by Megginson and Clutterbuck and place it within the context of facilitation whilst we strive to advance our own understandings, ability and approach, there are some questions:

  • Drawing on our interactions together and the content of the online modules, what helps us here to further define what we mean by an advanced facilitator?
  • How does this link to design for learning in a group context?
  • Given our role in supporting the development of facilitation practice, how can we support the awareness of facilitators to advance to an equivalent of the managed eclectic? What should we do?

What questions does this raise for you?


Clutterbuck, D., & Megginson, D. (2009). Further Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring. Oxford: Elsevier.


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