Facilitator Journal | Issue #0366, Oct 27, 2008
A big hearty congratulations to Steve Davis for completing his 6 month retreat - he is driving back from Montana and we are awaiting his return.
This week’s article is the first of a two part series by Michael Wilkinson, Managing Director of Leadership Strategies Inc, a leadership training and strategy consulting firm specializing in group facilitation. Michael is considered a national leader in the facilitation industry.
Join us on Nov 11, from 12 - 1 pm EST, for a dialogue with Michael Wilkinson. Michael is a Certified Master Facilitator and author of The Secrets of Facilitation and The Secrets to Masterful Meetings. Michael Wilkinson is also the founder and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies
We are accepting last minute applicants for our upcoming Women's Weekend Retreat, Journey to Resilience, Creating Enlightened Leaders at the Blue Mountain Retreat Center, Oct 31, Nov 1 & 2.
Click here to listen to the fr*ee audio of the introductory session, and to register for the retreat.
It will be a fun, relaxing, rejuvenating and an insightful weekend.
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Produce consistent repeatable result
SMART Facilitation, Structured Meeting and Relating Techniques, is based on ten principles that provide SMART facilitators with a clear vision of facilitation excellence. Supporting the principles are specific techniques that demonstrate how SMART facilitators execute the principles in practice. Together, the principles and techniques comprise a comprehensive methodology for SMART Facilitation that can be used to produce consistent, repeatable results.
Principle 1. Preparing for Success – Cover all the bases
SMART facilitators know that preparation is critical for success. They know the questions to ask to fully understand the need and they know the steps to take to get fully prepared to meet the need. They make sure they understand the 5 Ps of preparation: purpose, product, participants, probable issues and process. This principle answers:
What are the most important steps in planning for a facilitated meeting?
What are the key questions that you need to have answered?
With whom should you speak to get prepared?
What do you ask participants about the session?
How do you know if you are well prepared?
Principle 2. Getting the Session Started - Inform, excite, empower, involve
SMART facilitators know that the opening of any facilitated session is critical. During this time you set the stage for everything that follows. Start well and the group is ready to work with you to achieve the desired outcome. Start poorly, and you are fighting an uphill battle.
Questions answered include:
What are the four most important things to do in the opening?
How do you get the session started on time?
How do you get the participants excited about participating?
How do you get buy-in to the agenda?
What is the purpose of ground rules?
What parking boards should you use?
What is the appropriate order of the steps in the opening?
Principle 3. Focusing the Group - Establish the course; avoid detours
Principles 3, 4 and 5 make up the Facilitation Cycle. After getting the session started in the previous principle, you are now ready to begin the first agenda item. You first focus the group (Principle 3), use the power of the pen (Principle 4) and perform information gathering (Principle 5). When you are done with the first agenda item, you go back to focusing the group and go through the cycle for the second agenda item, and so on, until all agenda items are covered.
Principle 3 contains:
What should you do at the beginning of every agenda item to get the group focused?
When significant time has passed since the last session, how do you restart and get
the group focused?
How do you avoid asking your first question and getting complete silence?
How do you give directions that are accurate, clear and concise?
What are techniques for keeping a group on track?
How do you effectively use breakout groups?
What is a way to keep groups focused during report back sessions following
Principle 4. The Power of the Pen - Use it, don't abuse it, make it theirs
Most facilitators aren’t aware that they can drive a group dysfunctional simply by abusing the pen. Often facilitators unintentionally devalue a participant’s comments by either not recording a remark with which they disagree or waiting until the remark is validated by other people. Other times, they reword the participant’s comment, then record the reworded version (tacitly implying that the original words were not good enough!) In time, group members can lose complete ownership over the recorded comments simply because the comments aren’t theirs, but instead the facilitator’s.
Principle 4 covers:
What is the most important information to document from a facilitated session?
How do you avoid abusing the power of the pen?
How do you manage the recording process while still facilitating the group?
What do you do when a participant gives you a long monologue?
How do you prevent lulls while you are writing and trying to catch up?
How do you effectively use a scribe during the session?
What is an appropriate format for the documentation?
Principle 5. Information Gathering – Know your tools and how to use them
SMART facilitators know that the most important tool for a facilitator is questioning. Rather than just using open- and closed-ended questioning techniques, SMART facilitators have a full toolkit of questioning tools, each designed for a specific task. Facilitators must have a wealth of other information gathering and processing tools at their disposal as well in order to address a variety of needs. Some tools are for gathering facts, others for generating ideas, and still other for categorizing, prioritizing, reporting and evaluating.
This principle covers the following.
How do you phrase questions that create a bonfire of responses?
How do you use questions to guide a group?
How do you float an idea without unduly influencing the group?
What are the major information gathering and processing functions?
What is the most important thing to do in a brainstorming session?
What are the three critical activities in prioritizing?
How do you maximize Q&A sessions to ensure that the most important questions
How do you ensure quality feedback during a report back process?
How do you perform an evaluation of the session without the feedback being biased
by the comments of one or two people?
While Principles 2-5 lay out the flow for a facilitated meeting, Principles 6-8 focus on group
dynamics. A facilitator skilled in the techniques covered in Principles 2-5 will understand the
mechanics of facilitation. The group dynamics information in Principles 6-8 provides the tools
for managing group behavior. These will be discussed in the next MFJ - Issue 367
week, practice at least one of the five principles described
in the article above. We'd love to hear about your
Please send us your questions and comments.
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