ESSENTIAL FACILITATION SKILLS FOR EFFECTIVE MANAGERS
One of the paramount and unavoidable tasks of today’s business leaders and managers is facilitating effective and result-oriented meetings. Often, Managers have had to struggle with managing stakeholders, reaching a consensus or focusing on what’s crucial for the business. Essential Facilitation Skills is no longer a luxury skill for business leaders and managers but, a vital ability and know-how to bring diverse professionals together, reach a consensus, reduce time wastage and achieve better results.
Whether you have a culturally diverse team, or professionals dialing in remotely, the truth is nobody wants to waste their time by having meetings upon meetings without concrete progress to justify the time invested. Managers/Leaders can avoid chaotic meetings, get the best from each team member and move the business forward provided they can learn the skills and acquire the requisite knowledge that can improve the outcome of their meetings. Sounds like a Win-Win for everyone? I guess so too.
Facilitation is a skill that transcends instructing; it involves helping a group to have a conversation, come to an agreement, or reach a premise for strategic planning and decision making by acting as a trusted and neutral outside voice.
A good facilitator must keep in focus the subject of discussion, manage the process, deal with the problem(s) at hand effectively and remind the participants to consider the broader context of the issue while maintaining a neutral perspective.
According to the recommended guidelines of experts, The ICA:UK for instance, a facilitator should;
- Actively involve all members of a group in decision making
- Maximise individual’s commitment and engagement
- Build a team spirit that lasts
- Achieve consensus
- Articulate a shared vision
- Make plans that happen
Specific skills are imperative for an excellent facilitator to harm oneself with to maximize results, a few of which include;
1. Effective Communication Skills
For a facilitator, communication skills are critical. Communication makes all the difference in gaining the support and confidence of team members, and also makes the meeting process as smooth and hitch-free as possible.
A good facilitator is genuinely interested in the thoughts and feelings of the group, he or she is nonjudgment in speech and nonverbal communication. Gives everyone equal opportunity to participate in the discussion while giving an eye for detail and stating out the summary of salient issues raised from time to time to reiterate progress made periodically during the meeting.
2. Body Language and Facilitation
Nonverbal cues or body language is also essential for facilitative leadership.
In meetings, nonverbal messages flow from team members to the facilitator and vice versa.
An experienced facilitator must be careful with nonverbal cues or body language so that he/she is not being misinterpreted as negative by his/her audience as mistakes could harm the free flow of communication.
For example, leaning against a wall while standing with your arms crossed might suggest a closed mind or inattentiveness. This type of body language subtly undermines the free flow of communication.
Nonverbal cues can be used as important indicators to test the pulse of the meeting, hence why facilitators should be observant of the body language emitted from the team members as well.
Group Process Techniques
These techniques have proved invaluable in reaching reasonable conclusions and decisions in a group. They include;
This group creativity technique ensures that efforts are made to find a logical conclusion for a specific problem by gathering the list of ideas contributed by its members.
The facilitator should ensure that the question or topic to be brainstormed is determined within a set time.
As many ideas as possible should be encouraged and recorded, and all conclusion will be deferred until the process is over.
This group technique allows group members to work on a task/question individually.
Members might state their solutions or respond one at a time while their response is clarified.
People are allowed to pass, and the process is repeated until people run out of responses.
Give a summary of each round of responses if it seems appropriate. This is good to use if you expect a moderately high level of conflict to exist when the group discusses a particular topic.
When facilitating a large group (e.g., 20 + people), it helps to break the group into subgroups of 2-5 people. This will engage the team members and gives them a clear question or task (e.g., “How can a program avoid volunteer burnout?”).
Set a time limit and ask subgroups to assign a spokesperson and recorder. Plan time for each group to report to the whole group using a spokesperson.
Post the subgroups’ work or records when the whole group reconvenes.
Kurt Lewin initially developed this technique. It involves identifying the forces or factors that either help or hinder the accomplishment of goals.
Group members begin by brainstorming or making lists of factors or forces that can either help or hinder their stated goal. The aim is to allow the group to see what factors could support them and those that need to be hurdled in reaching their goal.
Supporting forces are meant to be reinforced while restraining forces are meant to be mitigated, dealt with, or eliminated.
The groups may choose to focus their energy on supporting forces, restraining forces, or both, as a way to move toward their goal.
3. Handling Difficult Team Members
A participant can be tagged troublesome when his or her behavior is directly and negatively impacting the team’s productivity or hindering the team’s cohesiveness regarding openness, trust, commitment, and participation.
Most times, facilitators become alarmed too early about team member’s conduct and label some as troublesome. Generally, a facilitator should not be too concerned about an individual’s conduct during the early stages of team formation, especially if the undesirable behaviors occur only occasionally. This initial period may be quite different from later meetings, given the considerable amount of transition that may be taking place.
However, if the behavior does not subside at an appropriate time, or is of a severe nature, action should be taken to address the troublesome member’s conduct.
When working with this individual, your goal is to reduce, alter, or eliminate the member’s undesirable behaviors without hurting his or her self-esteem or capability to contribute. Thus, you should never verbally scold or embarrass the individual in front of the group or even privately. However, you can take the following actions;
You can start by correcting troublesome behavior during the meeting. If an individual is dominating the discussion, try, “Paul, you have made several contributions; can we allow other group member’s opinion on this issue.” This key is direct but tactful.
Another option is to talk with the person candidly about the behavior in private. For instance, a person that rarely contributes to the discussion can be approached before the meeting, “Tony, I really need your input on this issue; is there any reason you aren’t contributing?”
A third option is to use the team’s informal leaders−those members most respected for their knowledge and experience. These “leaders” can help if you ask them to tactfully intervene.
Finally, you may wish periodically to ask the team to analyze their development and to bring negative team behaviors to the surface for discussion.
4. Listening Skills
Like many facilitation tools, facilitative listening is perhaps most useful when there is a chance that conflict may arise.
Sometimes referred to as ‘active listening’, Facilitative listening ultimately ensures that all group participants are properly listening to each other and listened to by the Facilitator.
When participants feel that their voices and opinions are not being heard, group tensions are relieved and the likelihood of compromise increases.
5. Managing Cultural Diversity
The issues related to cross-cultural facilitation management are similar to general management issues across borders.
Organisations are fast becoming global institutions providing services across borders.
A good facilitator should not be oblivious of cultural diversities. The skill of working in a common language does not guarantee a common cultural framework to ensure facilitation success, as deeply rooted cultural values often supersede the relative superficiality of a lingua franca.
Facilitation management theories must be scrutinised in the context of the culture in which they were developed, and further examined when being applied within organisations in other cultural domains.
6 The Art Of Conflict Resolution
A good facilitator must learn how to navigate disagreement and charged arguments with greater understudying, clarity and grace.
In careers and personal lives, a facilitator will often be confronted with arguments, drama, and conflicts.
A skilled facilitator must know why emotional upset makes communication so tricky and introduce skills that calm things down.
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