I am frequently asked what it takes to be an effective facilitator. It can look really easy if it’s done well. But, attempt it yourself and you may wonder why it looks so easy, but isn’t! Effective facilitation is the sum total of knowledge, skills, planning and a little luck! Here are my top 10 aspects of smart, dynamic and effective facilitation:
- Absolute clarity of what the work is that the group wants to accomplish
- Pre-planning – creating a detailed process to facilitate the group through the meeting. Creating the process well can take hours or sometimes days but, even with an amazing detailed process you have to be prepared for #3.
- The ability and flexibility to switch gears mid-stream when your process is not meeting the needs of the group or the objective has shifted (no matter how many hours went into the planning).
- Tools and techniques for facilitating groups; knowing when to work as a large group, in small teams and as individuals; knowing when to seek consensus and when majority or an individual take precedence.
- Understanding the idea generation process, including how lateral thinking occurs and how to design exercises to help groups think laterally.
- An understanding of group dynamics; an ability to use that understanding to manage the group.
- A willingness to address conflict if and when it occurs.
- The ability to juggle multiple ideas in your head, bring them together succinctly and play them back to the group; the ability to summarize the groups progress towards the goals.
- The ability to capture the record of the meeting, most likely by writing on flip charts but, if budgets allow, by bringing in a real-time recorder to keep notes as the meeting moves along.
- Knowing how to help groups build trust; beginning with setting agreements in advance and at the end of every meeting.
That’s the basics behind effective facilitation. It entails a good amount of juggling, judgment and leadership. When I train groups on facilitation techniques, I tell them that being a good facilitator is at the core of being a good leader. A strong leader facilitator is very motivating to his or her team and is able to create an environment where team members trust each other and are empowered to make decisions — even in the absence of the leader. Often, however, it makes sense to bring in an objective facilitator who doesn’t have a stake in the outcome of the team. An outside facilitator encourages teams to be honest, to take risks and to seek mutual understanding. All of these things contribute to positive outcomes and agreements.
— Published by Cindy Diamond, Principal of Diamond Marketing Solutions & IGNiTE