Conversing with people about issues that matter is one of life’s everyday great events.
Facilitating great group conversations extends the magic to usefully air issues, frame problems, canvas options and reach decisions – and on the way, strengthen team dynamics and cohesion.
Effective meetings and workshop conversations are not automatic. Facilitating group conversation well depends on:
Workshops can’t solve every problem. Stepping out of business-as-usual with your team is a significant cost. When is it worth it? One of my clients, an international federation of successful businesses, calls workshops at strategic watersheds, for key decisions. (Thanks RLB!)
Clear, achievable aims
Distill these in careful and candid briefing. Group sessions can tackle broad and complex issues but need focus to stay real and meaningful. Also, the group and its constituents must have relevance, influence and authority requisite to their recommendations and decisions.
The right facilitator
One who suits the client’s culture, grasps and responds to argument flow and perceives the significance (or not) of points in discussion. Content knowledge can aid efficiency, but the facilitator must value group goals, not his or her own agenda. Sustained close listening, critical thinking, precise verbal framing and confidence are vital. Bosses as facilitators tend to skew and limit discussion. External facilitators free insiders to contribute openly.
Divergent views are welcome, if constructive. Willingness is contingent and can’t be forced. It breaks when manipulated. If any seem unwilling on arrival, the facilitator’s challenge is to win them over, at least to contributing, which in itself, can lead to positive change.
Tools and processes
I worry less about agendas and models than I did in the past and avoid lame icebreakers, cuisenaire rods and twee facilitator stories. Agenda items need room to breathe, not irrelevant frameworks and models that choke or frustrate flow.
If you’re considering a facilitated strategy, business planning, communication, ideas or other workshop, I’d be happy to discuss your thoughts.
Keep making good things happen.