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A Great Way to Enable Cooperation, Buy-In & Accountability!
So, you’ve identified a particular set of objectives for your organization, and you want your team’s help in defining the best way to accomplish them. This could be a great opportunity to hand-pick and develop a facilitator by choosing from within your ranks, but it’s crucial that you start with the right person. Describing what makes a good facilitator can be a bit like defining the right stuff, a feeling like “I’ll know it when I see it,” but advice like that won’t help you make your selection. Listing all the skills and personality traits that good facilitators should possess wouldn’t be completely helpful either, so instead we offer six simple traits below that we know can enable success by giving you the most bang for your buck. In short, you want to find that person that can naturally enable the success of any event they facilitate by leading and guiding a process without appearing to take over or deliberately drive any particular outcome. When you do find a good, home-grown facilitator, they can develop into a substantial force multiplier by bringing structure, buy-in and accountability to any collaborative work in your organization.
- Respected (and liked) by the community – Your facilitator should have an acceptable level of credibility within the organization, and a corresponding reputation for getting things done correctly. It should be someone with whom team members feel comfortable working toward a common goal, and where a level of mutual respect exists between the facilitator and the team members to enable open and honest communications without hidden agendas or ulterior motives.
- Neutral but not passive – This is not about being quiet or submissive, but rather about deliberate and unmistakable objectivity. Your facilitator cannot be predisposed to any particular outcome, and without taking sides must guide the team to their own solutions while staying true to the established process and the intended objectives of the facilitation. Remaining neutral helps facilitators work to establish a collaborative environment while building buy-in and focusing the team on the good of the entire organization. In many cases, it’s best that the facilitator has no decision-making authority connected to the topic.
- Assertive but not domineering – A good facilitator must be prepared to handle all situations with professionalism, confidence, and tact. Confusion and disruptive behavior are not uncommon, and if not handled effectively can result in unnecessary conflict. Being selected by leadership does not insulate your facilitator from experiencing resistance during the process, so they must be capable of communicating difficult or unwelcomed messages as fact rather than emotion, and in a way that is received as non-threatening and productive. Assertiveness is paramount to keeping participants on track and maintaining momentum.
- Active Listener – Oftentimes speaking less than participants but remaining in complete control, good facilitators will stay in tune with implicit communications from individuals AND from the group; not just what they say, but the meaning behind their words, their tone, body language, etc. Active listeners will keep their ego in check. Even though they may know the right answer, they also know it is much more important to coax it out of the participants in order to build buy-in. This can be a difficult task for some “Type A” personalities, but it is paramount to effective facilitation. Active listening also allows good facilitators to develop a sense of timing and recognize when to let a discussion continue or when to tactfully (but assertively) cut the discussion short.
- Structured but flexible – Structured flexibility requires a creative problem solver. Your facilitator must be organized, over-prepared and well-versed enough in the process to know when it’s safe to deviate from the plan. When they must deviate, good facilitators do so with confidence knowing they can get the group back on track. Active listening and timing are critical aspects of being flexible, and facilitators should never be so entrenched that they miss opportunities to make significant progress by deviating when appropriate. The agenda is not the end-all-be-all, and it’s okay to take an informed, circuitous route to accomplish the objectives IF that’s where the greatest benefit can be realized. Structured flexibility and preparation allow facilitators to be creative enough to think on their feet and rely on experience and instinct to get back to the plan and accomplish the objectives.
- And finally…A Sense of Humor – Some topics facilitators will broach may be contentious. Keeping it light can go miles toward successfully navigating a group through difficult discussions. Good facilitators are not jokesters, but they don’t take themselves too seriously either, and instead use their sense of timing to know when (and when not) to poke fun at something to reduce tension and lighten the mood.
Contact Shackleton Group at www.shkgrp.com to learn more about our four-hour workshop on Facilitation Skills for Leaders.