Friday, April 13, 2012

Anyone Can Make Facilitative Contributions

At the LeaderShape Institute or Catalyst, it’s easy to know who the facilitators are… it’s in their titles: Lead Facilitator, Cluster Facilitator, etc.  But just as leadership is more about how you behave than what your title is, so is facilitation about the contributions you make regardless of your role
Break down the word facilitation and you find two components:  facile which means easy and ation or actions.  So simply put, facilitation is defined as actions that make things easier.  So what is facilitation trying to make easier? Possibilities include:
  • Individuals working together more effectively 
  • Diverse perspectives being more thoroughly explored
  • Individuals feeling comfortable contributing and speaking up
  • Groups efficiently accomplishing more and in less time
  • Creative thinking and innovative solutions emerging
  • Individuals exercising greater ownership over discussions and accountability for decisions reached.
Just because we sometimes have individuals designated as facilitators doesn't mean everyone else can abdicate the responsibility they have for the group to function well.  And if you are in a formal position of leadership, you can draw on the values, beliefs, and techniques of facilitators to more effectively engage those you are leading in the work that needs to be done. These include: 
  • Using active listening skills including paraphrasing, summarizing, reflecting, and questioning; 
  • Encouraging and generating participative discussion in groups;
  • Stimulating creative thinking through brainstorming/other idea-generation processes; 
  • Ensuring strategic consideration of alternatives and informed decision-making of appropriate choices;
  • Managing contrasting perspectives that might result in conflict among members of a group; 
  • Intervening with individuals and groups without taking total control of the situation;
  • Designing meeting processes to accomplish a wide range of goals and objectives;
  • Drawing out others' opinions in an objective and nonjudgmental manner;
  • Supporting teams in various stages of group development;
  • Helping individuals and groups reflect on their experiences and capture relevant learning; and
  • Leading/desigingn inclusive group processes that honor different learning styles Help shape more powerful and strategic questions for exploration.
As Roger Schwarz says in his book, The Skilled Facilitator,"Being a facilitative leader means changing how you think in order to change the consequences you help create."  So think about the groups and teams that you are a part of: (1) What are the consequences you want to help create?  (2) What would be required for that to occur in each group? (3)What shifts in your thinking might help you do contribute to the group doing so? 
Interested in learning more?

Every Friday throughout 2012, Jeffrey Cufaude (a former cluster and lead facilitator) is offering a post at his blog that explores some aspect of facilitation in order to help you change how you think, and ultimately, change the consequences you help create. Search for posts labeled facilitationfriday.

Descriptions of Jeffrey’s six favorite facilitation resources can be found here:

No comments: