- August 23, 2023
- Mark Miller
The Fine Art of Facilitation
Have you been in a great meeting recently? I know for some of you, that may sound like an impossibility. My fear is that many of us can’t remember the last time we went to a great meeting. One reason we attend so many low-impact meetings is absence of a…
Have you been in a great meeting recently? I know for some of you, that may sound like an impossibility. My fear is that many of us can’t remember the last time we went to a great meeting. One reason we attend so many low-impact meetings is absence of a skilled facilitator.
Although many elements must come together to create a successful meeting – none are more important than a good facilitator. Being a great facilitator is not hard to do if you clearly understand the role.
Have you ever thought about what the word ‘facilitator’ actually means? The origin of the word reveals an individual who removes barriers for others. Let’s explore how that might manifest itself in the context of a meeting.
A facilitator should both anticipate barriers in advance and remove them in real time during the meeting. Following are examples of both.
Before the Meeting…
It would be a barrier if:
- the right people weren’t invited. A good facilitator will invite them.
- there were no agenda distributed in advance. You can remove that obstacle by ensuring one goes out before the meeting.
- the wrong items were on the agenda. A skilled facilitator does the necessary pre-work to determine the highest priority items and places them on the agenda.
- you didn’t have a place to meet. Secure a venue and publish the location.
- you didn’t have the needed technology to conduct the meeting – even if the “technology” is nothing more than a flip chart. Determine in advance what’s needed.
- there were no meeting norms. The best facilitators help groups establish these.
By taking the above actions, and others like them, you are preemptively removing barriers and improving your odds of having a productive meeting.
During the meeting…
It would be a barrier if:
- members of the group were not participating. You can ask individuals for their thoughts during the meeting.
- the conversation turned ugly. You can stop the dialogue and ask people to repeat their understanding of the other person’s point-of-view.
- the group were ignoring your meeting norms. A facilitator will reference and enforce these norms.
- someone were dominating the conversation. You can ask him or her to hold their next thought and allow others to comment.
- there were no process for solving problems. The facilitator should be skilled in several approaches and models.
- no one were capturing action items. Be sure someone is.
- no one were keeping track of the time. The facilitator may choose to do this or assign someone else to watch the clock.
- the conversation were allowed to wander off the agenda. You can redirect by capturing “Other Issues” for future meetings or outside conversations.
Although this is a partial list, I think you get the idea. A great facilitator helps make meetings productive! Without this crucial role, most meetings flounder.
The next time you find yourself in a great meeting, be sure to thank the facilitator.
What barriers have you experienced as a facilitator? How did you overcome them? I’d love to hear from you on this. You can leave your comments below.
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Mark Miller is a Wall Street Journal and international best-selling author, communicator, and the former Vice President of High Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. Mark’s leadership journey at Chick-fil-A spanned 45 years, and today, he serves as the Co-Founder of Lead Every Day. Mark began writing almost twenty years ago, and with over one million books in print in more than twenty-five languages, his global impact continues to grow.