October 8, 2015 Leave a comment
Even a lousy facilitator will succeed when they draw line of sight from the meeting deliverable to the quality of life of the meeting participants. When meeting output has a major impact on participants, they will help the person in the facilitator’s role be more effective.
CLEAR THINKING (thoughts)
Highly effective facilitators know what ‘done’ looks like. Before the meeting begins they are able to clearly describe the deliverable from the meeting. They can also explain what is at risk if the meeting fails, best proven by the amount of money or FTE (ie, full-time equivalents) that could be wasted if the group fails to delivers, or delivers a poor quality deliverable. Effective meetings begin with clear deliverables.
Knowing ‘where’ your group is going provides a strong sense of leadership. It is easy to follow a leader who knows where they are going. Conversely, when the leader is uncertain what they need, what they are asking, or what they should be doing, it is easy to disengage from the session and disown the results.
An effective leader knows what ‘done’ looks like for every step in the agenda. They also know how each step relates to the meeting deliverable and why the agenda steps are being covered in the sequence provided. They can effectively explain the white space, or the space between the lines on a simple agenda. Before your meeting starts, you better know what each step looks like, before you begin to layer in content. We call this insight contextual control. Are you building a list, a statement, a matrix, a model, or something else? If we were crafting a policy for example, is the policy statement, five words, five-hundred words, or five pages long? The only wrong answer is when the meeting leader does not know what it looks like before the step begins.
CLEAR REFLECTIONS (words)
Effective meeting leaders can become doubly effective when they combine their line of sight with facilitative skills. Active listening while providing reflection of BOTH what participants are saying and why they are saying it along with remaining neutral and non-judgmental are the most critical skills to effective meeting management. Reflection does not always need to be verbal. Facilitators that use easels to write down participant input provide a visual reflection that is both immediate and easy to confirm.
Experienced facilitators learn that more is better and capturing participant input verbatim will never get them in trouble. You should also embrace the principles of Brainstorming at all times. Quickly gather all substantive input without discussion (diverge) and then go back to clarify, challenge, and modify the original input (analysis). Do NOT combine gathering and discussing at the same time in an unstructured discussion. After the analysis of the raw input, your refined output can be confirmed (converged) as content the group can support (professional test of consensus) and not lose any sleep over (personal test of consensus).
When you know where you are going and have competently embraced the skills of effective leadership, you will still be challenged with HOW are you going to lead a group from the Introduction to the Wrap. The sequence of steps, activities, and questions captures the method you may use to lead your group. Meeting method implies more than one right answer but the WRONG answer is if you have no method or do not know how you are going to build your deliverable.
During FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership classes, we provide clear instruction, demonstration, and student practice on six different methods of prioritization. They are best applied at different points along a decision-making continuum that ranges from the simple to the complicated through the complex. Take time to build and document your method before your meeting begins, because once the meeting begins, you need your energy to focus on leading, listening, and policing your participants.
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiatives, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need to lead more effective groups, teams, and meetings.
Become Part of the Solution—Improve Your Facilitation and Methodology Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics of an effective facilitator and methodologist. 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’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and numerous 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.