Facilitation is essentially a process by which consensus can be achieved. It is a method that enables more productive outcomes and so has significant value to any business. Managers with facilitation skills can help to ensure that outcomes are positive and group sessions or meetings remain focused and efficient. But what does facilitation look like in the workplace and what kind of skills does it require?
Why is facilitation important?
Having a facilitator in a meeting can completely change the experience of that meeting. Not only will the facilitator ensure everyone remains focused on the issues, saving time and resources often wasted on distracted discussion, but they will also be able to keep the momentum of the meeting moving. Facilitators can resolve disputes, manage difficulties and find a consensus that might otherwise have been out of reach.
Achieving facilitation in the workplace
This type of facilitation is usually required where two people have found themselves at odds with each other. Being a facilitator here requires standing as an arbitrating figure, setting mutual goals or providing a debrief on a project or experience. It’s about finding consensus and a way to move forward past a dispute, as well as helping the individuals concerned to develop.
The challenge in group facilitation is dealing with all the parties involved and keeping multiple minds focused on the same topic. This can be achieved in a number of ways:
• Creating a structure for the meeting beforehand, designed to help achieve specific objectives and maintain momentum.
• Ensuring that information or data is being presented simply and in a way that everyone at the meeting understands.
• Getting everyone invested in the outcome of the meeting so that there is a sense of shared responsibility.
• Establishing a process that will engage participants in achieving objectives before the meeting has even begun.
A number of key skills and characteristics are required for a good facilitator, including:
• Being empathetic and developing strong listening and communication skills
• A good understanding of interpersonal dynamics and how to manage them, for example creating a group signal that any of the participants can use to indicate the need for a
change of pace, such as taking a time out or intervening to make a point.
• Effective group leadership
• Being able to structure training and team building so that everyone feels the desire to participate
• Developing an understanding of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, such as using signals (e.g. a wave or eyebrow raise) to indicate that it’s time for someone else to speak or the topic needs further discussion.
• Comprehension of group dynamics and not being afraid to intervene where necessary to preserve the flow of the meeting or session
• A sound understanding of the infrastructure and processes of the workplace.
Our Introduction to Facilitation Skills course is designed for those looking to use facilitation as a means to engage, enroll and enthuse people to adopt a change in working practices.