Monthly Archives: August 2013

Basic Facilitation Skills

Before I show you how Process-Based Facilitation works I wanted to share with you excerpts from the chapter on Basic Skills of Facilitation: A Simple Review of 10 Key Facilitation Skill Groups. When I sat down to write my book it was all about the process. To me process is everywhere. Yet, skills are important as well. How we apply those skills is part of the process. But we must first know the skills that we must apply. So I intentionally set aside the process and laid out the things we must know how to do in order to be a facilitator. I grouped them into 9 groups at first but then broke one down into 2 giving us 10 groups of skills. These groups are:

1.    Process: Central to both perspectives are Process skills. All jobs a facilitator is asked to do has something to do with process. To the facilitator, even most basic skills of facilitation has some element of process associated with it. It is therefore imperative for the facilitator understand what processes are and how to apply them. Under this group we are concerned with Group Process, how to select and apply Concepts, Models, and Methods, and learning two Simple Standardized Discussion Methods.

 2.    Planning: This group is about taking the Concepts, Models and Methods, of the last group, and learning how to Plan an Agenda. While we do this we also want to make sure we are Planning a Mix of Activities to get people involved and participating and we want to Plan the Event Logistics to make sure we are totally prepared.

 3.    Managing Workflow: With the agenda planned our skills are turned to getting the group to Focus on the Work. We try to keep the work visible in the workspace and refer back to it as needed. We use Issue Boards to manage off-topic items, document actions and decision.

 4.    Using Ground Rules:Ground rules are a list of guidelines for appropriate behavior in the group setting. They represent an agreement among the group members relative to what is expected of group behaviors. In simple terms they are a code of conduct for the meeting. Ground Rules are a set of guidelines agreed to by the group that identifies patterns of expected behavior successful groups avoid. The Ground Rules chapter has 12 techniques for developing, reinforcing and reviewing ground rules.

 5.    Participation: One of the hallmark Facilitation Values, #4 in the Values of Facilitation chapter, is about how facilitators invite and engage a broad level of participation of the individuals attending the event. There are many barriers to full participation. Facilitators have to work to overcome social codes, community and group cultures, to engage and gather the full picture during a discussion or problem solving initiative.

 6.    Promote Effective Group Communications: As the facilitator of a group one of our primary task is to serve the group by helping them improve their communications. Active Listening provides a key set of strategies to do this. Also we work in the open and visually so that more of the group will “get” the message.

 7.    Intervene When Needed: From time to time the facilitator, working with a group, might need to step in between group members or the activity, to intervene, in order to redirect the path of the conversation toward a more effective and useful result. This is one of the areas of facilitation that most facilitators fret about on a regular basis. However, with a preplanned intervention approach to help you work through the issue there only exists the need to identify what type of issue you need to deal with. The Intervention module shares three Intervention Models. In every case though, dealing with an issue early helps prevent the issue from turning into real conflict. Strategies to deal with difficult people, managing disagreement, which is a natural and needed state, and understanding why how we get into conflict are discussed.

 8.    Modeling Effective Behavior: I’ve mentioned, probably several times, how facilitators are models for effective group behavior. The way in which a facilitator works the group becomes the model they use. So the facilitator needs to be true and clear about their behaviors, techniques, and methods for effective group skills. Effective Meeting Skills, shared in my short course “The 10 Commandments of Effective Meetings” provides the minimum recommendations for effective group work. I discuss these 10 Commandments in the Basics of Facilitation chapter.

9.    Observing the Group: One of the key skills of a seasoned facilitator is observing the group. Among group members behaviors, attitudes, opinions, and experiences of each member are collectively influenced by other group members. The dynamics of the group are dependent on the dynamics of the individual’s following the group norms/ground rules, contributions to formation, development and performance. As observers we are interested in observing the Group Dynamics, Group Process and Group Functions. To be an effective observer we must practice the skills of a good listener.

 10.  Closing the Session & Follow-Up: Finally, Success of an event is often measured by the way the event is closed. By the time you get near the end of the event time will be a precious commodity. A facilitator must set a minimum amount of time to get through the closing process and lock out any changes in the agenda that will take time away from doing a proper closing. Even if we must cut topics out of the agenda we always protect our time for closing the session. If necessary conduct a Time Check to ensure you have the time to complete your closing. The closing process is a step-by-step process that should be followed.

Follow-up can be the difference that makes you stand out, depending on how you do it. Be prepared, think ahead and be ready to strip the walls and power through the materials to develop the session report. If possible deliver the report by hand to the client where you can provide observations and recommendation, separate of the report. If you cannot do it in person, schedule a phone review. Then don’t forget to do your Professional Paperwork and note your Lessons Learned.