I think it is safe to say that everybody reading has been a part of a board, committee, project, or meeting that doesn’t go anywhere. Ever have big plans that do not result in any concrete strategies? Enter Don Harkey and Matt Griswold from People Centric Consulting! They led a collaborative session designed to help attendees learn to become better facilitators, and in the end, walk away with a better and more productive meeting. A few takeaways:
- Understand your approach – will it be a lecture-based approach focused on educating others with limited team interaction OR will it be a facilitation-based approach where team members are encouraged to engage and interact in the group dynamic? Key discussion point: if it fires, it wires – this adult learning theory encourages buy-in from members by allowing them to arrive at a conclusion independently.
- Build your team – the who, how many (studies show three to six can be magical, but we cannot always control this number), and when involved in setting up your team. Key discussion point: Be sure not to shy away from “naysayers” – it is important to receive buy-in from even the most discerning members – If their voice is heard, it can allow for a more productive end result – otherwise you will spend time talking them into an idea after the conclusion has been reached and they didn’t have input.
- Plan for an effective meeting – this includes preparing and studying an agenda, embracing silence, reading the room, respecting and acknowledging answers from all members, processing the meeting afterward, and asking the team what might have made the meeting better. Key discussion points: use the five Ws (who, what, when, why, where) when building your agenda, practice active listening, learn questioning techniques such as open/closed style, second level, redirecting, reflecting, summarizing, and tying back.
- Stay away from classic pitfalls – Avoid classic mistakes like hiding behind a podium (or papers, chairs, etc.), falling into lecture mode, not using a visual aid such as a flip chart (to help provide a cohesive plan and encourage team members to be on the same page), using word tendencies that distract (um, so, like, etc. and overuse of words), and tearing down to build up (it isn’t necessary to tear down feedback to build up to the conclusion).
- Use strategies for success – embrace silence in a discussion, understand you do not have to be the expert (you are likely there to help solve a problem or glean ideas from all team members to offer a solution), move with a purpose (you can use movement to guide a conversation), beware of body posture and non-verbal cues, encourage participation (but let people know it is not mandatory), and let others lead.
- Learn how to handle difficult participants – these include snipers, derailers, know-it-alls, and silent team members. Strategies like using the group for support, using your body as a shield, and determining how to best use these team members are important.
- Consider using a flip chart – using a visual aid like a flip chart creates action items, is a great way to capture ideas, allows participants to process discussion points, is simple to use (no technology required!), and helps align ideas. The only caution to offer is make sure you use colors that are visible to all those in the room.
- Recap and solidify – use context, collaboration, and communication to circle back and review ideas, action items, and discussion points.
- Final thoughts – facilitation earns engagement and buy-in; effective facilitators ask questions and give clarity, and great facilitation requires active listening, the ability to seek to understand, and making sure you remain in the facilitator role, not the role of a subject matter expert.
If you attended, I hope you learned as much as I did and feel confident at your next meeting or team project. I know I now have several strategies to put in place and lead as either a facilitator or team member!