Facilitation

**Facilitation is about process and progress. It very nicely extends to meet the needs of focused and productive meetings and develops skills which can also be used elsewhere.

In essence the art of Facilitation is about being able to support outcomes, where there are a group of people, by ‘oiling the wheels’ and letting the process work.

Whilst it is something of a specialist area, much can be done in making businesses successful, through understanding the key points.

“It is a process of diverting scattered forces into one powerful channel.”

(with apologies to) James Allen

Facilitation focuses the attention of, say, meetings towards the goal of the meeting, rather than get distracted. It generates all present to an equal level and encourages a perspective of collaboration.

Top Ten Things About Facilitation

It turbo charges meetings! It is quite practicable to use internal facilitators as long as they are detached enough and have the complete support of the lead of the meeting.

They can be used in rotation as development opportunities from meeting members, though they need to be completely focused on task to make it work.

Other circumstances require the use of an external facilitator, which, from our experience, works very well.

The best Facilitation is…

  1. Freeing
    Because a great facilitator focuses only on the process, everyone else can get on with the purpose and outcomes and concentrate fully.
  2. Structure
    Meetings follow a precise route, which engages those present and reduces concerns. In the future, the process creates a ‘safe space’ for members to meet and contribute.
  3. Clarity
    The facilitated meeting clarifies roles and enables the leader to be fully ‘present’ – thus reducing their focus on the clock and their own, often internal, agenda.
  4. Neutral
    When using an internal or external facilitator, they bring a process-focused neutrality to the proceedings and have no role in the issue.
  5. Value-Creating
    Facilitated meetings create value. The synergies released once the process is clear, enable a freedom of thinking that provides for much better solutions to issues raised.
  6. Experiential
    If used as a learning exercise, as well as a real activity, Facilitation is learnable. Like anything new, those present can be a little resistant, but still, with post-meeting review, lessons learned make subsequent occasions progress quickly.
  7. Timely
    Meetings which are facilitated are timely. Because clutter and confusion is removed by a skilled facilitator, there is no wasted time and contracts are met. This builds team spirit and trust.
  8. Contributory
    More individuals on the team are able to say their piece, because the rules are agreed upfront. Any minor transgressions are reflected upon quickly in the facilitated process. So everyone’s input is valued and bullying language is controlled.
  9. Progressive
    Because the process is fair and ‘managed’, there is an understood commitment to outcomes and actions. Accountabilities are very clear and written down.
  10. Creates Equals
    In good Facilitation, pre-meeting discussion between the facilitator and key players clarifies the roles of each. Thus a lead will have a clear understanding that his or her role is broader than driving his or her own solutions. Hence team skills are improved and the leader begins to appreciate the true value of the team ethic.

Ten Ways to be Better at Facilitation

  1. Discuss It
    Get together with fellow members and discuss where your meetings are not achieving success. Agree a way forward to include a facilitated process
  2. Share out Roles
    Decide what the roles are in a meeting and allocate them on a rota. This fine tunes everyone’s skills. Include someone each time in the facilitator role.
  3. Bring in an Expert
    If you are struggling with the concept, try out an expert in the field and have them work with you in a few of your meetings. Learn from them and grow your own skills.
  4. Let Go!
    The best outcomes from meetings do not come from the boss always having their own way. This requires a shift, sometimes of a significant size. This will take an effort on the part of the other members of the meeting.
  5. Get Organised
    Get clear about the ingredients of a successful meeting. Make sure that these are clear to everyone and that all resources are in place. Know what you need and then make sure it’s available (this includes relevant (and only relevant) people)
  6. Recognise Others
    Many members of meetings say little, yet how is this valuable resource being encouraged? Within your Facilitation, ensure that time is taken to enable others to make a contribution (note – this needs a careful approach and thought).
  7. Feedback
    To get a full range of ideas of what needs to change, create space at the end of meetings to discuss what was good and what needs change. Incorporate that in minutes and the next meeting. Use a facilitator to ‘chair’ the meeting feedback when one is being used.
  8. Opinionated Members
    The key to making Facilitation work is to ensure that everyone signs up to the process. Once agreed, those who have more to say than others or have the ‘loudest voice’, will gradually be tamed.
  9. Accept All Contributions
    Everyone has a right to generate ideas and a good facilitator will ‘referee’ those who seem to do the shouting down. This encourages development of the individual both within the meeting and outside. This can be an especially rewarding exercise.
  10. Team Ownership
    There may be occasions where it is important for a whole team to ‘sign up’ to something. This is an occasion where a facilitator helps. All members are free to contribute and hence ‘buy in’ to the total commitment.

5 Simple Actions You Can Take Today!

  • Consider your meetings and rate them out of 10 (see Managing Meetings as well). What would 10 look like to you?
  • Start the process! Agree to have a facilitator at your next meeting – provide them with skills (see booklist below) or get an external facilitator in.
  • As lead, accept that you will have to accept a far more democratic process in future and that you will also have to accept that someone else will be in charge of the meeting – this can be challenging.
  • Offer your services in your network. The beauty of facilitation is that it is far better if you know nothing about the subject! Fine tune your skills.
  • Find out more through great resources below, to reinforce what’s on here.

Read some great books like:-

“The Facilitator’s Pocketbook” – John Townsend
“The Complete Facilitator’s Handbook” – John Heron
“The Skilled Facilitator: A Comprehensive Resource for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers and Coaches” – Roger M. Schwarz