4/11/2012 9:22:00 AM
One of the soft skills required when helping people engage in crucial conversations is the skill of facilitation. A definition of facilitation that is simple yet helpful is "to make easier or less difficult."
What do we as coaches and transitional leaders help make easier or less difficult? We help make grief and closure less difficult; we help the conversations about the current reality easier; we help the difficult process of working out differences easier; we help facilitate the journey towards greater spiritual vitality; we help make easier the re-viewing and renewing of the vision; we help the search process be less difficult.
But how do we do that? We make the journey easier or less difficult for people by leading with a blend of inner qualities and outer skills which can be learned and developed. Here is a look at some of those qualities and skills.
Who Does a Facilitator Need to BE?
Your credibility as a facilitator is partly based on your experience but is also impacted by certain qualities of character and attitudes that permeate all you "do" and undergird your actions.
Those key qualities that give you credibility in facilitation include:
- realistic optimism - an attitude that believes that God is at work in the situation and even if things are difficult, believes there is a way through the "stuff" to get to a new beginning.
- non-anxious presence - a facilitator is able to remain calm and at peace even when the winds of change and chaos are blowing all around them. It allows you to bring objectivity and awareness to the situation which can help guide others along.
- flexibility - the quality of heart and mind that allows for fresh ideas, course corrections, and unpredicted outcomes during a conversation. I'll never forget my first missions trip leader who took a green group of college students to Mexico saying: "the number one thing I want you to remember is 'be flexible!'" Facilitation during times of transition is definitely missionary work!
- loving truthfulness - a facilitator has to be able to stand their ground when necessary but do so with a heart of love. Only then will people continue to follow and trust your lead.
- childlike curiosity - two skills that need to be developed and internalized until they are 'who you are' is the ability to listen deeply and asking poweful questions. A facilitator does not tell people what to do but through listening and asking guide them to their own solutions and discoveries.
Now add some qualities and attitudes of your own!
What Does a Facilitator DO?
Here are some specific "dos" of facilitation. Let's call these pathways that help make conversations less difficult and easier.
An effective facilitator...
- helps define group goals
- helps assess and determine needs & learning gaps
- suggests processes or tools to use to get from here to there
- guides discussion that's productive & stays on track
- provides a way to take notes that reflect people's comments
- tests assumptions and helps a group listen to one another
- supports people to assess current skills and build new ones
- uses consensus building to help people make decisions
- helps groups engage in difficult conversations and navigate the landminds of conflict
- provides feedback and reframes what's being said
- asks powerful questions to create curiosity and engagement
- helps people identify internal and external resources for dealing with problems and challenges
- stays neutral & listens actively
Part of the doing includes having at your finger tips tools and activities that will assist in the facilitating process. Here are some resources you can add to your tool box as you grow in your facilitating skills and competency (click each item to download the resource).
Root Cause Analysis
Creating Ground Rules
Questions to help Facilitators
What is Group Coaching and Facilitating?
The Three Legs of Facilitation
There are three aspects that must work in harmony in order for healthy group facilitation to takes place.
Those three legs are: 1) The Process, 2) The Task or Goal, and 3) The Relationships.
All three of these aspects need to be acting in synergy and be on your mind as you work with a group of people to make their conversations easier. You don't talk about them but rather work to keep them in balance.
Ingrid Bens in her book Facilitation at a Glance! talks about the difference between content and process (you'll notice she includes relationships with process). "The content of any meeting is what is being discussed: the task at hand, the subjects being dealt with and the problems being solved. The content is expressed in the agenda and in the words that are spoken...and consume the attention of the members.
"The process deals with how things are being discussed: the methods, procedures, format and tools used. It includes the style of the interaction, the group dynamics and the climate that's established."
The challenge of facilitation is to keep these three in tension while helping people with their conversations and planning. If you over emphasis the task or goal at the expense of relationships, people may struggle emotionally, feel rushed and check out of the process. If your process is unclear and meetings are poorly planned, valuable time is wasted and the progress is stalled. If you focus only on relationships, people may feel warm and fuzzy, but the real issues may be ignored.
Questions to Ask Yourself...
when helping make easier the journey of a congregation in transition:
1. To what degree have I been empowered and authorized to facilitate? 2. Am I being invited to facilitate with transformation or status quo ministry in mind?
3. How are my biases interrupting good facilitation? What’s getting in the way?
4. To what degree am I serving my own needs but not the needs of this congregation?
5. Am I in over my head? If so, who can I call in to help?
6. Who does facilitation really well who I can shadow and learn from?
7. Which area of my facilitation tool box is well supplied and which area needs improving?
8. What's my next step to grow as a faciliator?
Note: A small yet helpful book I've carried with me into meetings is the book Facilitation at a Glance! by Ingrid Bens. I recommend it!