Skip to main content

In facilitation skills training I ran for an organisation last week I asked participants to step further into the authority they hold in their work, and we worked together for them to use this with more comfort and clarity.

Chairing key meetings across their sector and industry, they are keen to step up  and use a wider range of facilitation techniques to gain the best ideas and outcomes from their partners in the room.

However, for some, there was sometimes a struggle in their minds. How could they do this, there were so many stories available that got in the way of their authority. For example, they are not always the most senior, the most knowledgeable, or the subject matter expert in the room.

Some of these self made stories are a hangover from the past. The traditional approach to authority, Positional Authority, works when you are the boss, and have direct control over your resources.

We see this in organisations where hierarchy has a very strong and sometimes necessary role, for example with the military, armed services or police. However at its worst, with positional authority, the only outcome you gain is compliance. This can feel a very long way away from becoming a high performing team.

What else is available?

In this video, alongside Positional Authority, we look at the idea of Personal Authority. This can show up when:

  • You don’t have positional authority and need different ways to get to outcomes
  • You do have positional authority, but want more than a carrot or stick approach in your toolbag.

Here are some of the questions made in the video to help you develop your Personal Authority:

  1. How much does what you do make sense or align with the other peoples’ beliefs and what they value or is important to them?
  2. How much do you understand how each member of the team operates, what makes them tick and motivates them?
  3. How well do you demonstrate an understanding of their world through your own behaviour and language?
  4. How well do you communicate where the team or collaboration is heading, and what needs to be done on a day to day basis to get there?

Look again at these questions from the video. Isn’t there something a little bit strange here? That you gain Personal Authority from considering others?

Put more clearly, you gain Personal Authority, not from your knowledge, expertise, standing, how you dress or look and so on, but how you connect with, engage with and get to know others well.

Which leads to some top tips for how to be successful with Personal Authority:

  • Get to know each of the others, outside of the room. Speak 1:1, find out what makes them tick, interests them, and what they can bring to the party. Look for their intrinsic motivation, so you can move beyond punishment and reward
  • Develop a vision of what can be achieved by working together, what the possibilities might be, the benefits, the outcomes, that are better than keeping people in specialisms. Help them to see that bigger can be better and to hang their hat here
  • Focus on the facilitation process, wield your authority and expertise here, enable more interesting discussion, ideas and synergy; allow outcomes to be generated from here.

Here’s the thing. Positional Authority gives compliance. Personal Authority is the route to engagement.

Personal Authority allows participation, involvement, ownership of a bigger picture gives bigger, better, more imaginative outcomes.

Personal Authority is about how you show up with others.

If you, like my client organisation, want to be more effective in facilitating your meetings, I suggest that you start small, with some of these tips here.

Gill How loves to work internationally with managers, executives and professionals to help them to evolve, stretch and grow their leadership capability. She is a Master Executive Coach, innovative Leadership Developer and emerging as a Visible Woman! If she can help you in developing the potential of the men and women in your organisation, contact her at 

Here is a client testimonial from recently held Facilitation Skills training run by Gill:

Thank you again for such an insightful, thought-provoking and empowering day yesterday; delivered with intrigue and good humour. I found it a highly valuable course and it was good to work with you again.

Like this content? Sign up here for Gill’s monthly blog newsletter.

Photo credits: Pexels

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

Leave a Reply