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Facilitation with an upper case “F”

This guest blog post is by Lindsay Gross, Certified Top Facilitator for Event Garde.

Facilitation with an upper case “F”

Each and every one of us facilitates on a daily basis. We make possible or make way for the accomplishment of goals and tasks either one-on-one, in small groups or in large groups. Often when people think about meeting facilitators they think one of three things:

  • What do they do?
  • Why do I need that?

or

  •  Yeah, I do that!

There is a distinct difference, however, between facilitating meetings with a methodology that underpins the how and the why of the process, and simply convening a meeting or creating an agenda. This is what I call facilitating with a lower case “f” vs. facilitating with an upper case “F.”

Professional meeting facilitators have specific methodologies in which they’re trained that guide their decision-making and their agenda or curriculum creation. Creating agendas and calling a meeting to order merely identifies a list of discussion points and determines the key players invited to the meeting. Facilitators understand the goals and desired outcomes of a client, including the experience they want a group to have. They use their training and evidence-based practices to intentionally design activities and discussions that will achieve these identified outcomes. They process ideas with a group; they do not just take notes on an easel. There is a great deal of design and preparation time that goes into a Facilitated event. Facilitators have a plan to process the information and perspectives of each participant while working with groups to also determine next steps. They hold the vision of the day at the forefront of each segment of the agenda, incrementally working toward that overall goal.   

Facilitators also pay close attention to the process and what is happening with the individuals who comprise the group. They can read the nonverbal cues and, ultimately, what is being said between the lines. They know when to dig deeper to uncover some undisclosed struggle waiting to be addressed or some undiscovered wisdom that needs to be tapped. This is far more complex than what most facilitation with a lower case “f” can accomplish. It requires practice, patience and underlying principles that guide the process. These are all things Facilitators hone over the years through training, practice and consultation with other professional facilitators.

Facilitation is also intentional about hearing the many voices and perspectives of a group. Calling your coworkers to a meeting does not necessarily involve having a plan for how to engage them. Facilitation with an upper case “F” has a plan. The Technology of Participation (ToP) facilitation methods are rooted in achieving 100 percent participation. The methods are built to engage all participants in ways in which they are most comfortable and to ensure all perspectives are examined. This results in feelings of inclusion and ultimately ownership of action items.

The most common feedback given after I have facilitated a meeting is, “We never could have gotten all of that accomplished without you!” Companies, workgroups and associations often feel that hiring an external facilitator is merely too costly or unnecessary. I would argue that you can’t afford not to hire an expert facilitator. When guided by a professional facilitator the amount of work you can accomplish, and the action items you leave with, greatly increases your efficiency and effectiveness as a team. Facilitation with a lower case “f” usually results in discussions that lack clear direction forward, meaning teams often revisit the same topic over and over again before resolution. This leads to losses in productivity and is ultimately an inefficient use of company resources. Partnering with a facilitator increases your effectiveness and ability to process information quickly in order to move from objective level understanding to clear direction and decisions.

One of the biggest challenges for a facilitator is balancing the meeting content vs. the meeting process. Have you ever been deep into discussion and lost track of time? This is a common mistake when running a meeting. When deep into dialogue around goal setting or action plans, time and the remaining items on your agenda can get away from you. Before you know it, you look at the clock and you have five items left on your agenda to cram into 10 minutes. A professional Facilitator is able to focus on the process (timing, overall goal and steps of each designed activity) so all participants can focus on those meaningful content discussions.  

Overall, there is a distinct difference between those individuals who facilitate meetings with a capital F vs. a lower case f.

 

 

“F”acilitators

 

“f”acilitators

 

Level of Training:

Received formal training or certification in facilitation methods

No formal training

Goal of Meetings:

To achieve client vision and create shared vision with participants

Check off agenda items

Role in Meetings:

Idea Processor

Note Taker

Preparation:

Designs meeting and activities

Convenes meeting and invites attendees

Leads meeting by:

Soliciting input and perspective and intentionally increasing connection between participants

Drives content and leads with their perspective

Focus:

Focused on process

Focused on content

 

The bottom line is that these differences mean that Facilitators increase efficiency, the amount of work accomplished and the connection between participants. When choosing providers or other professionals to work with, it is always best to work with the best. That usually means capitalizing on your networks, working with those with the highest level of training and using a professional Facilitator for your meetings. 

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