Three Ways to Sharpen Your Facilitation Skills
It’s not uncommon for people to turn to leaders to facilitate meetings or group discussions. Whether you’re being asked to do this for your company’s internal purposes or have been asked by another entity in your community or industry, facilitation may become part of your responsibilities over time. So it’s a skill that you may find you’ll need. While some great facilitators seem to be simply born, most are made. They learn what works and what doesn’t through experience. In fact, there are key skills and strategies you can learn to make you a stronger facilitator and add credibility to your performance.
Here are some tips for effective facilitation:
1. Have A Plan
Before heading into the facilitation, know the goal and have a plan for how you’ll get people there. Set up the ground rules and expectations up front. That said, in spite of this structure, be flexible as the experience evolves. For example, sometimes issues surface that can’t be resolved immediately. If the people decide that another meeting is necessary, don’t hammer down your own personal need to get that goal accomplished right there and then. Be open to the fact that your plan and the goal may change. It’s not about you after all. Facilitation isn’t necessarily a one-off sort of activity…you may need to undertake it several times in order to reach that ultimate goal.
2. Maintain Neutrality
This can be one of the hardest aspects of facilitating because sometimes we come into a discussion with a bias. (You’re human after all.) But you have to put personal feelings aside and discipline yourself to walk the line of fairness. Be on everyone’s team and, in spite of your own opinions, encourage people on both sides to think openly and deeply about the topic at hand. Also, put on your poker face. Practice it beforehand if you’re not sure you can maintain it. Consider your body language, energy level and verbal communication cues when training for facilitation and practicing neutrality. The slightest smirk or other gesture of defensiveness could give you away, undermining your credibility in this role.
3. Ask The Right Questions—At The Right Time
To get discussion going, it’s helpful to ask a lot of “How?” and “What?” and “Can you tell me more?” types of questions. While asking “Why?” may typically be a great question for important decision-making and discussions, it can also dredge up a lot of emotions that can derail discussion. This will make it tough for you to maintain the control and focus of your people, much less yourself. So be careful of when you ask “Why?” of someone. And if you do ask “Why?” of one person who is partial to a side, make sure you’re asking “Why?” to those who represent other perspectives. Otherwise, again, this can cast you in the light of being biased, which you want to avoid at all costs.
What do you think makes a great facilitator?