Six Benefits by Improving Your Facilitative Leadership and Meeting Skills


As you amplify and increase your facilitative leadership skills, you and your team participants will become more successful.  What is our measurement of success?  Let us consider six substantial areas of success including:

  1. Consensual Understanding and Higher Quality Decisions
  2. Flexibility and Breaking through Stalemates and Deadlocks
  3. Impactful Groups through Improved Working Relationships
  4. Integral Decision-Making
  5. Knowledge Transfer and Increased Organizational Effectiveness
  6. Saving Time and Increased Personal Effectiveness

Let us look at each briefly in a more detail:

Strengthen Your Skills

Strengthen Your Skills

  1. Consensual Understanding and Higher Quality Decisions:  Properly facilitated, participants understand both WHAT is decided and WHY.  Since groups are capable of generating more options than the aggregate of individuals, they arrive at higher quality decisions that are capable of reconciling seemingly contrary points of view.
  2. Flexibility and Breaking through Stalemates and Deadlocks:  Structured approaches afford a higher degree of flexibility, than approaches without structure.  With structure, and topical flow, meetings can take the “scenic route” because there is a back-up plan to provide a respite from the stream of consciousness approach taken by unstructured meetings.  By exploring newly created options and challenging working assumptions, teams can breakthrough their stalemates and deadlocks by rediscovering common ground or by creating options during the meeting that did not walk in to the room at the start of the meeting.
  3. Impactful Groups through Improved Working Relationships:  Conflict becomes properly managed rather than ignored.  Complex issues may be addressed face-to-face as they should, rather than through a series of e-mails and innuendo.  Proper facilitation will demonstrate the opportunity and method for discovering win-win solutions.  As stakeholders’ ideas are sought, meeting activity will become more collaborative and innovative
  4. Integral Decision-Making: Defined as better alignment with organizational goals and objectives.  Structured decision-making must appeal to organizational goals and objectives supported by the meeting; typically the project, program, business unit, and enterprise.  Alignment with the “holarchial” perspective ensures that proposed actions are appropriate and supports prioritization based on the impact of proposed changes across the entire enterprise.  Effective decision-making reflects the integral perspective.
  5. Knowledge Transfer and Increased Organizational Effectiveness:  Learning organizations understand the need and power behind the transfer of knowledge from those who know to those who do not know, but should.  Facilitated environments provide the opportunity for challenge, reflection, and documentation that underlies shared understanding and amplifies organizational effectiveness.  Facilitative leadership also makes it easier to develop new leaders.
  6. Saving Time and Increased Personal Effectiveness:  Session leaders (aka facilitators) will more done faster.  As staff is treated as colleagues, commitment and motivation increases.  By becoming expert on method and tools rather than content, they can continue to use tools that generate consistent and repeatable results.  Meetings only fail because either the participants do not have the talent, do not have the motivation, or do not know how.  The role of the facilitative leader shows them how.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

How to Structure the Introduction to Meetings and Workshops


Three Components

Just as the life-cycle of a meeting or workshop has three steps (ie, Get Ready, Do It, and Review), we find that within each meeting, three components need to be carefully managed to ensure success.  All agendas should include a beginning, a middle, and an end.  Many meetings fail because they neglect to include all three components.  Even a lousy book or movie includes a beginning, a middle, and an end.

The Beginning

Planning Predictable Results

Manage (and rehearse) your introductions carefully.  You want to make sure that your participants feel that their meeting has clear purpose and impact. Remember, to use the integrative and plural first person of ‘we’ or ‘us’ and avoid the singular ‘I’ so that you can begin to transfer responsibility and ownership to the participants since they own the results.

Have your room set-up to visually display the purpose, scope, and deliverable of any workshop.  If you cannot convert these three guiding principles into 50 words or less (for each), then you are not ready yet to launch the workshop. Let us repeat, if you do not know what the deliverable looks like, then you do not know what success looks like.

Consider displaying the purpose, scope, and deliverable on large Post-It paper, along with a set of ground rules appropriate to your politics and situation.  The following sequence is typically optimal for a robust introduction.

  1. Introduce yourself and explain the importance of the meeting, how much money or time is at risk if the meeting fails. Try to avoid using the word “I” after this moment. It is tough to drop the ego, but at least be conscious whenever you do use the first person singular.
  2. Present the purpose, scope, and deliverable and seek assent.  Make sure that all the participants can live with them. If they can’t, you probably have the wrong agenda prepared since it is designed specifically for your deliverable.
  3. Cover any of the administrivia to clear participants’ heads from thinking about themselves, especially their own creature comforts. Explain how to locate the lavatories, fire extinguishers, emergency exits, and other stuff particular to your group and situation.
  4. Cover the agenda and carefully explain the reason behind the sequence of the agenda steps, and how they relate to each other. Relate all of the agenda steps back to the deliverable so that participants can envision how completing each agenda step feeds content into the deliverable, thus showing progress for their efforts as they get closer to completing the meeting.
  5. Share some (not more than eight to twelve) ground rules. Consider supplementing your narrative posting of ground rules with some audio-visual support, including some humorous clips, but keep it brief and appropriate. See your FAST alumni site for some wonderful downloads.
  6. For a kick-off, have the executive sponsor explain the importance of the participants’ contributions and what management hopes to accomplish. For on-going workshops, consider a project update but do not allow the update or executive sponsor to take more than five minutes.  Your meeting is not a mini-Town Hall meeting (unless it actually is).
  • NOTE:  For multiple day workshops, remember to cover the same items at the start of subsequent days (except executive sponsor or project team update).  Additionally, review content that was built or agreed upon the day(s) before and how it relates to progress made in the agenda.

The Middle

The agenda steps between the Introduction and Wrap comprise the middle steps. Most of our other blogs are focused on what you can do between the introduction and wrap to help a group build, decide, and prioritize.  We also provide a separate blog that deals exclusively with a robust approach to the Wrap-up.  See How to Manage the Parking Lot and Wrap-up Meetings for HOW TO manage the end of a meting or workshop.

Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

Do not forget to order Change or Die if you working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.

Benefits of Facilitative Leadership


Benefits will ensue both to the organization and the participants.  In a networked world, organizations that deploy skilled facilitators to lead projects and others teams, have allocated human capital to ensure the success of their most expensive investment—meetings.

Benefits of Facilitative Leadership

  • As context is carefully managed, teams are free to focus on higher quality content
  • As staff are treated as colleagues, commitment and motivation increases
  • As stakeholders’ ideas are sought, meeting activity will be more collaborative and innovative
  • With assertive structure and facilitation, quality dialogue becomes the focus

For modern leaders who have been successful with their existing style, they may accrue additional benefits from the increased flexibility of adapting a facilitative style:

  • Facilitative leadership makes it easier to develop new leaders
  • Greater commitment and buy-in through stakeholder input and involvement
  • Improved, self-managing teams
  • Increased ability to help others make complex, collaborative decisions
  • Increased return-on-meeting time and investment

For additional facilitative leadership support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership training  session offered around the world (see http://www.mgrush.com/ for a current schedule).

When to Use Facilitative Leadership


We want you to see that facilitative leadership does not apply to all situations, but is ideally suited for projects and teams where the leader is coordinating the efforts of competent specialists whose requirements are not fully understood.  The best leaders are flexible because both modes of leadership have their place.

Participants should also come to understand that they could shift to a facilitative mode once their staff possesses the capacity to work independently and assume responsibility for outcomes.  Task-focused direction is required for the close oversight of tasks.  Structure-focused direction works best when leading teams of experts.

The following questions can be asked to determine if a project or team is best suited for facilitative leadership:

  • Are some of the team decisions extremely complex or sensitive?

    Questions to Ask

  • Are team members evaluated with different performance measurement systems?
  • Are the leaders operating without direct authority over some of the members?
  • Do the group decisions require broad support and commitment from stakeholders?
  • Does the situation call for a leader who is seen to be neutral by
    all parties?
  • Is the group dealing with historically hostile parties or complex bureaucracies?
  • Will the effort or project require initiative, creativity, and innovation?
  • Will the final solution require a commitment from a diverse set of stakeholders?
  • Will the team be communicating across time zones, cultures, and organizational boundaries?
  • Will you have strong subject matter experts who need to align around new goals or outcomes?
  • Will you need group members be self-motivated because they are working independently?
  • Will you need your group to perform as a cohesive team that meets periodically?

For additional facilitative leadership support, see your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership training  session offered around the world (see http://www.mgrush.com/ for a current schedule).

The DNA of a Modern Leader


We seek primarily to shift thinking from facilitation (as a noun or a static way of being) to facilitating (as a verb or a dynamic way of doing)—truly making it easier for meeting participants to make more informed decisions.  Facilitating is based on speaking with people rather than at them.  Facilitating is about creating an environment that is conducive to productivity and breakthrough.  Facilitating is about stimulating and inspiring people.  Facilitating amplifies the DNA of the modern leader.

We seek to build understanding around the role of facilitating—getting participants to understand . . .

  • how to think about group decision-making
  • skills such as clear speaking, precise questioning, keen observing, and active listening
  • the criticality of being content-neutral; passionate about results, yet unbiased about path
  • the importance of the holarchy (ie, organizational goal alignment)
  • the role (of facilitator) is not the person, rather a temporary position (like a referee)

We aspire to develop a working understanding among the participants about the differences and challenges of being a facilitative leader rather than a modern, engaging leader.  Some of the differences are shown in the table that follows.  Modern leaders exhibit traits that head in the right direction, compared to traditional or historic leaders, but further shift is still required to be truly facilitative so that their teams and groups realize the full potential of facilitative leadership.

The Facilitative Leadership Difference

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