By Jim Boneau, WMFDP consultant

Group facilitation serves many fields of study. Leadership development and inclusion training—even leading a yoga class—all require overlapping skills. 

So does facilitating a family-friendly, community drum circle. 

A drum circle facilitator helps people of various backgrounds and rhythmic capabilities unify to create an improvisational, rhythmic song. The facilitator stands in the middle of the circle of drummers, provides a common pulse, and encourages others to find their unique beat. 

Some new drummers jump right in, playing as many beats as possible. Others hesitate, convinced their lack of rhythm will ruin the song. Through encouragement and listening, musical dialog emerges: Our energy exchanges in the circle create a rhythmical song called the groove.

At some point, our patterns become disjointed, and the groove loses its connected feel. Chaos quickly turns to rumble—a time when everyone plays as many notes as they can. A burst of kinetic energy and sound dislodges musical dialog and listening. The rumble is change, transition, and opportunity. 

I’m not only a drum circle facilitator, I’m also a leadership development facilitator, serving organizations and individuals seeking to grow their leadership capabilities: I stand in front of a room, frame our work together through the agenda, and encourage participants to find their unique leadership voice. 

At times, the voices work in harmony, inspiring the thoughts and feelings of the group. Inevitably, there is disruption and chaos as the group grapples with their new learning and expanded self-awareness. I feel the rumble in this group, too, just like I hear the rumble in the drum circle.

Whether in a drum circle, a class, or in life, there are times when we find ourselves in the middle of a chaotic rumble: Overlapping voices, bursts of energy, and disconnection from the stability and pulse of life. Regardless of the situation, we can leverage our facilitation skills to navigate the rumble. 

We tap into courage to face unknown obstacles. We use empathy to strengthen our connection to others. We face our self-imposed limitations and find the will to stay and learn when all we want to do is run. Our facilitation is as our guide, navigating us, and those we lead, through the complexities of the rumble.

A note from the author: I’m a white man who learned to play drums, both manufactured and handmade, designed by indigenous peoples from many parts of the world. Primarily, the drums I play descend from African musicians and cultural traditions. Cultural appropriation is a topic we discuss in our largely white drum circle facilitator community. I’ve never found a more inclusive community, and we haven’t figured it out yet.

About White Men as Full Diversity Partners (WMFDP I FDP Global): 

Our work over the last 25 years has helped thousands of global leaders courageously grow their consciousness and cultural competency to create and sustain inclusive work cultures. Over this time, we have worked across the political spectrum as inclusion is a human rights issue, not a political one. We believe freedom of choice and differing voices and perspectives are the strengths of a democracy and striving for a common good, not a threat to it. 

And, we believe in equity—the ability for every person to have access to opportunity and for every person’s voice to be heard and to matter. We are committed to creating cultures where everyone feels seen, heard and valued. WMFDP is committed to using diverse perspectives to grow courageous leaders and promote inclusive cultures in the United States and around the world.