Facilitation skills

After a couple years of working together, some of my clients start becoming more independent by handling their own session facilitation while also participating in the meeting. Sometimes, it may begin with every other Quarterly Objective or maybe they ask for my help with their Annual Goals. If this is a direction the team wants to go, I fully support it and will do everything I can to help it be successful. For those who are more seasoned in handling their own facilitation session, I can simply provide a refresher coaching session if desired.

There are literally dozens of facilitation tips. I thought narrowing it down to six would be helpful to readers or for anyone simultaneously providing facilitation while trying to participate in it.

  1. Be Prepared

As the Boy Scout motto says: Be Prepared. I invest a ton of time in prep work, setting the room, and reviewing the agenda before anything happens. This allows for the facilitator to have a very calm demeanor and confidence, right off the bat. Remember, this organization is investing a lot in time, salary cost, and energy. During this period, you owe it to them to be 100%.

  • Own the Room

Take the seat in the center of the room. Use a strong, confident voice and start on time. Don’t be afraid of interrupting if you need to get things started. Keep in mind that you are in charge and that these sessions can make people nervous and/or more talkative than usual.

  • Define the Hat You Are Wearing

It can be tricky when you are acting as both facilitator and participant. Make sure to be clear about which perspective you’re talking from, especially if something becomes heated or if a topic is brought up that stirs strong emotions within you. Don’t be afraid of being a ‘split personality’ and saying things like, “As the integrator, I feel…” or “Now I am coming at this as your facilitator…”. Taking the time to consider your perspective and then clarifying it will pay dividends.

  • Recruit Backup

You can do this in two ways. First, remind everyone that although you are facilitating, it isn’t just your meeting – it is a meeting of everyone who is present at the time. Therefore, everybody is responsible for ensuring it is successful and productive. Second, identify a backup facilitator on the team who can step in as the facilitator if there is a particularly dicey issue that you need to participate in rather than facilitate. These two steps will help to engage others in the team’s success.

  • Stay on Track

The biggest challenge most teams face is staying on track. To mix metaphors, it’s something like, “Herding cats,” “Staying out of rabbit holes,” and not letting people “Squirrel out”. Be hyper aware of this when you start the session. Your ‘parking lot’ of issues is an ideal place to capture concerns and opportunities; however, it’s critical to remember to pull the team back and stay focused on one thing at a time. If you don’t, you won’t accomplish anything.

  • Go There

I always say that with every session, I have to be prepared to be fired. What I mean by this is that I believe if I see a possible issue that people keep dancing around, but won’t talk about, or if I notice someone rolling their eyes, or if there’s a business owner everyone is afraid of, I go there. The reality is, in most cases, these are the issues that teams really need to resolve – everyone knows it, most can see it, but they are all avoiding it. You need to go there. Not as an aggressive ass, but as someone fostering communication and honesty by creating a safe environment that is direct and candid. It may be a bit uncomfortable or unnatural at first, but it’s always for the best.

There are a ton of other things that can help to improve your facilitation skills, such as leadership books, enlisting a coach, or joining groups that focus on members getting stronger as facilitators. If you go in rested, prepared, and with good intentions, it will all work out fine.

Do you need to up your facilitator game? Are you interested in learning how to “go there” as a leader? We can help with that! Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.

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