Leaders

Facilitation for Leaders

Have you ever sat in an off-site or a workshop and wondered why you were there, as nothing got decided and hours in your working day were wasted?

Or, have you attended sessions where it was all great on the day and fun with lots of ideas and outputs created, and yet nothing ever happened or came of it, as there was no follow up? I suspect we all have.

Everyone can facilitate – not all can do it well. So, knowing that you are reading this because you want to learn, we wanted to give you a quick guide and some tools to help. Follow these to make sure that any session you facilitate will be one that people want to attend because it’s productive and interesting to be part of.

Allow yourself at least 15-30 minutes to prepare for the first session and know that it gets easier to facilitate, and quicker to prepare, each time you do it.

Here are the five most important things to remember about facilitating:

  1. As the Facilitator, you are managing the process, not the content – and therefore, not contributing ideas
  2. You have to provide absolute clarity on what the meeting is about and what contribution you want the attendees to make, as well as noting the actions you will all take away from the meeting
  3. You need to record every idea and suggestion that the people in the room generate
  4. You need to actively listen
  5. You need to manage the room in terms of dynamics and energy


To help, we’ve also included a Facilitation Planner sheet that prompts you on the different things to consider ahead of the session. It’s a great sheet to keep as a record so you can remember what you did in the previous session and thereby avoid duplication of the same stimulus.

Another useful aid is to create a pre-packed session bag with pens, textas, post-it notes, blue tack, paper and a music device, ready to grab and take to your sessions.

Give it a go and know that you can also learn from others, so another option is to use an external Facilitator and watch and learn from them, or better still, get them to give you some coaching on how to facilitate.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

As you plan to facilitate, it’s always good to reflect on the last time you sat in an off-site or a workshop and wondered why you were there, as nothing got decided and hours in your working day were wasted.

Or, you attended one of those sessions where it was all great on the day and fun with lots of ideas and outputs created, and yet nothing ever happened or came of it, as there was no follow up.

We’ve all been there. That is enough motivation to make sure you, as the facilitator, are going to deliver your best effort to make your meeting, your workshop or your off-site work well. 

Everyone can facilitate – not all can do it well. So, knowing that you are reading this because you want to step it up in terms of developing your facilitation skills, we wanted to give you some tips and tools to help. Follow these to make sure that any session you facilitate will be one that people want to attend because it’s productive and interesting to be part of.

Firstly, a quick reminder of the five most important things to remember about facilitating:

  1. As the Facilitator, you are managing the process, not the content  – and therefore, do not contribute ideas
  2. You have to provide absolute clarity on what the meeting is about and what contribution you want the attendees to make and actions you will take away from the meeting
  3. You need to record every idea and suggestion that the people in the room generate
  4. You need to actively listen
  5. You need to manage the room in terms of dynamics and energy to get the most return on the brain power in the room


In addition to the things to remember, we have included a staged guide for you that gives you more detailed information about how to get more from your sessions. We have split the guide into:

  • Step 1  Pre-session Prep
  • Step 2  During Session
  • Step 3  Post-session

To help, there’s also a Facilitation Planner template that prompts you on what to prepare for pre, during and post the session. It’s a great sheet to keep as a record so you can remember what you did in the previous session and it helps you avoid duplication of the same stimulus.

Another useful aid is to create a pre-packed session bag with pens, textas, post it notes, blue tack, paper and a music device, ready to grab and take to your sessions.

Step 1   Pre-session Prep

There are three key things to prep, ahead of holding the session:

  1. Why and who?
  2. Set it up with clarity
  3. Prep some stimulus

Why and who?

  • Work out why you are having the meeting – what’s the purpose?
  • Decide what outcome you want from the meeting
  • Define the roles and responsibilities of attendees to sense check why the people you are inviting are there

Set it up with clarity

Prepare the session set up that you will articulate at the beginning of the session. Prepare a one- liner for each of the following:

  • What the purpose of the session is

(What’s in it for attendees – why would they want to be there?)

  • How you’re going to run the session in terms of format and timing.

If you have an agenda detail it at this point.

  • What’s the outcome you’re looking to achieve?

This provides absolute clarity for attendees and an understanding of what is expected from the session. It also helps you as the Facilitator control the session.

Prep some stimulus

Think of a couple of rich questions to kick start the conversation or create some stimulus to help with brainstorming and idea generation

Step 2   During Session

Remember that it’s your responsibility to:

  • Maintain the energy
  • Maintain order
  • Record all outputs and contribution
  • Note actions

Here are a few tools to help you run an interesting and productive session:

  • Idea generation
  • Filtering ideas
  • Managing blockers to executing your ideas
  • Actions and follow up to your session

Idea generation

Simple techniques to help you facilitate idea generation from your group. Remember to write down all the ideas they come up with (regardless of what you think of the idea).

  • Rich questions

Think of a couple of rich questions to kick start the conversation or create some stimulus to help with brainstorming and idea generation, for example:

  • If you were the boss, what would you do to solve/create this?
  • If Richard Branson/ Gina Reinhardt/ Steve Jobs/ Gail Kelly/Einstein came into our       business, what would they suggest we do?
  • What’s the impact of doing nothing?
  • What would you like the corridor conversation in the business to be about this initiative?
  • If we lived 100 years ago, how would we approach this, if we lived in 2100, how would we approach this?
  • If you had a blank cheque, what would you invest it on?
  • Visual stimulus that uses random links to generate ideas
  • Collate a large pile of magazines. Make sure there is a good mix of titles. Hand them out to your attendees or ask them to select from the pile and on your word to open them at a random page. Inspired by words, colours or images they see on the page, ask them what idea they have related to your topic.
  • Gather a box of unusual props. This can include children’s toys, objets d’art, gadgets, and redundant items (cassette tapes). Invite your attendees to pick an item out of the box and ask them what idea it gives them.
  • Collect postcards or print out random images on cards, place them face down on the floor and use them in the same way as the magazines.
  • Tools to encourage collaboration and building on ideas

These are also good tools to use if you have a mix of vocal and less vocal people in your room, or need to change the energy or pace. They work best with eight or more:

  • Ask each person to select their favourite idea so far, and to write it on a post it note. Pair people up and ask them to share their ideas with each other. Each pair must agree which idea is best out of the two or build a new one together.

After a time limit, they then take that one idea and share it with a new partner and go through the same process again, agreeing which of the two is best or building a new one to take forward. Keep doing this until they have all shared with different people. If you had eight people, you will have done four rounds. Then ask them to share the final ideas as a group.

  • Pair people up and ask them to stand up. Label them A or B and get B to start first.

B suggests an idea to A and then A has to top it or exaggerate it. B then has to top what they said and they keep going like this until you call time. Three minutes is normally enough to run this exercise. When three minutes is up, get them to share their exaggerated ideas and see where they got to. Write them down.

Filtering Ideas

Once you have generated lots of ideas, it’s good to filter them so you can focus on what you are going to take forward. Here are some simple methods to filter:

  • Record all ideas in a matrix, deciding in advance what your selection criteria should be for the two axes. This one shows time to execute versus (v) impact on business. You can use resources v impact, budget v business return – whatever is relevant to your topic. It will then give you a good visual reference as to where you should be focusing your efforts.

An easy technique to filter ideas and to establish which are the strongest is a voting mechanism. Allocate each attendee $20 and ask then to allocate a $ value to the ideas they believe are the most valid and appropriate against the selection criteria you give them. Some examples are lowest cost, easiest to complete, most innovative. This works really well if you have them all written up.

Get each attendee to independently write the $ amount they want to allocate alongside to which idea. There are two rules; the amount they spend must add up to $20 (not $18 or $21, and no 50c – they need to round it up to the nearest $).So, they could put the whole $20 on one idea, or spend $13 on one they think is the best, $4 on another and $3 on another. It is up to them.

Once they have allocated their $ value, add them up and see what ideas the group think are the best to move forward with. It’s interesting, as often there is a big difference and it can give you a real sense of what the team will support most and therefore help to make happen.

Addressing Blockers

The easiest way to do this is to take a piece of flip chart paper, write the idea you are developing across the top, then create two columns and head them up: Forces that help us/ forces that hinder us.

Encourage attendees to note all of these forces. Once they have brainstormed all of them, you can use the same $20 technique (or simply circle) the biggest factor that helps and the biggest factor that hinders. At this point, you need to decide if you need to brainstorm how to leverage or overcome these elements or allocate someone to action it.

Actions and follow up to your session

No session is worth having, of course, unless you actually do something constructive with the outputs. The key tip here is to keep an Action List during your session and add to it as appropriate.

Use the simple three column version and record What, Who and When. At the end of your meeting re-visit and confirm who is doing what by when, remembering that you can’t volunteer someone who isn’t in attendance for an action. It’s then a case of agreeing what the follow up is, the timing of it and sticking to it.

Step 3  Post-session

Promptly circulate photographs or copies of the outputs and the action list. It’s great if you can do this within 48 hours whilst it’s still fresh in your head.

Provide an opportunity for people to question or seek clarity to ensure they can do what’s expected of them – this will also limit reasons for them to not execute actions. Confirm any follow up sessions and send the calendar invite.

And that’s it. It’s just a quick guide on the key elements of facilitating when you have an appetite to do it well. And naturally, you will get better with practice and will, we are sure, add your own ideas and stimulus. We do have some additional tools to help you if you want to take it to the next level, which include; establishing ground rules, managing people and conflict, control tools and more stimuli.

Key take-away

  • Plan your meeting
  • Be very clear on your purpose
  • Decide on the right tools
  • Ensure that you have a clear agenda and you have buy-in to this agenda
  • Make sure that the right people are at the meeting
  • Have clear ground rules
  • Ensure that action items are noted and delegated accordingly.

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

Facilitation is both the science of a great process, and the art of great facilitation. The big decision as you become as an expert in facilitation is knowing both your strengths as a facilitator, i.e. when you’re a great facilitator, and your limitations, i.e. when it’s probably the right time to call in someone more expert.

So first let’s reflect on you as the facilitator, and then we’ll look at the alternatives.

You are the Facilitator

When you’re deciding whether you’re the right facilitator, these are some good questions to ask yourself:

Context   

  1. What’s the objective of the session/workshop/off-site?
  2. How important is the objective and session to the business?
  3. How important is the objective and session to the team?
  4. How important are the objectives and session to you?
  5. Which desire is strongest – the desire to contribute to the conversation and throw in your ideas and plans OR the desire to use all your energy to facilitate a great conversation for everyone else? 
  6. Is it a topic you’re comfortable and confident with, without needing to control?
  7. How urgent is the need for the session?


Relationships

  1. Who will be in the session/workshop/off-site?
  2. What is your relationship with the others in the room?
  3. What strategies do you have to deal with the different personalities, different communication and leadership styles, and also to deal with potential conflict between those styles?


Yourself

  1. Are you an experienced facilitator?
  2. Are you the right facilitator for the objective?
  3. Do you have time to prepare well?
  4. Are you confident being the facilitator for the session?
  5. Are you sure?


And that brings us to alternatives:

Option 1 – You. Start preparing and prepare to be awesome (see notes above) – you can so

                    do this!

Option 2 – You with some training, and then preparation.

Option 3 – An alternate internal facilitator

Option 4 – Look at who else might be able to facilitate, including a professional facilitator.

In more detail – option 2 – you with some training, and then preparation

Sometimes, you are absolutely the best person to facilitate but you also need to be the best facilitator you can be. You can do this with practice, of course, but equally, you can add some training into the mix. Facilitation doesn’t have to be smooth. Sometimes, having a credible leader out front makes up for a little less polish. So, if you’re well practised and prepared, you might be better than a person who’s coming in cold to the context or business.

You can find a public course and enroll. They’re usually a day or two long. If you have the topic and date planned, and a little time to invest in your own development, then you can engage an external one-on-one facilitator and practise with them for a half day or day. They can help you design the session, and they can help you prepare yourself as facilitator.

You can also arrange a team training session on facilitation. You can arrange a day or two day workshop, where an expert facilitator comes in runs a workshop for six to ten of your team. This not only lifts facilitation skills internally, but also sets a different expectation, so anyone who decides to facilitate will bring a bit more expertise to the show.

In more detail – option 3 – Alternate Internal Facilitators

Every business has a few people who can confidently facilitate a room. If you can find an alternative internal facilitator, this will allow you to have business knowledge in the room, and have you participate at the same time.  The alternate facilitator could be a peer who moves across to work with your team for the session. They could be a direct report of a peer, and provide an opportunity for you to see them facilitate outside of their normal day job, or they could be your direct report, and be an opportunity for them to step up a little. Even the experience is a good opportunity.

In more detail – option 4 – An external Facilitator

An expert can be worth their weight in gold. If it’s a ‘once a year’ or ‘once in two years’ strategy session, it is a luxury to bring in a great facilitator and really roll up your sleeves and participate in the session completely without thinking about facilitation or managing the process. You wouldn’t want to be paying an external facilitator to be at your weekly team meeting, but for the occasional big business-critical session, it’s certainly worth considering an external facilitator.

Professional facilitators vary in price and quality, so do your homework. We’ll gradually add just a small number to our list of preferred partners. It’s important to note that they do not pay for advertising or recommendation, and instead are here purely because we know from experience that they’re awesomely good at both facilitation design, facilitation training and professional facilitation. We’ve attended their sessions in all three formats. Their pricing is at fair market rate and they work ethically and generously to make sure their work for you is great.

For “Facilitation” we partner with Flourish Consulting. CEO Nikki Hobin was an expert contributor to the section on Facilitation for the mwah. way of working. 

http://www.flourishconsultancy.com.au/

© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human

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