Leaders are often called to facilitate; it might be a meeting, a roundtable discussion or even a Fidelity in-chapter program. Facilitators keep group discussions on track, foster team building, provide a safe environment for disagreement and keep individuals from monopolizing the group’s time. Becoming a strong facilitator will help your chapter, organization or group increase their productivity, have a clearer vision of their goals and priorities and create an environment where people aren’t afraid to share ideas.
The following are four ways to become a facilitation rockstar:
1. Prepare to be prepared – Good facilitators spend time familiarizing themselves with workshop materials, discussion questions and agendas well in advance. Strong preparation will build your confidence as a facilitator and help your audience more quickly recognize your authority. Finally, by preparing beforehand you are more likely to stay on task and start and end on time.
2. Establish expectations – Even the best facilitators sometimes forget to lay down ground rules, but they are important to every event you are facilitating. Setting clear expectations up front will establish a positive rapport that instills confidentiality, respect and trust within the group. Ground rules might include: everyone participating, understanding there are no “right” or “wrong” answers and keeping cell phones out of sight.
3. Stimulate discussion – As a facilitator you will want to help encourage conversation and idea sharing. When productive discussions come to a standstill effective facilitators will employ the following techniques to keep the conversation going:
- Call on individuals by name.
- Ask open-ended questions.
- Let the group struggle and refrain from filling the silence.
- Invite content experts to speak up.
4. Address unproductive behavior – Participants can often unintentionally derail productive conversations or interrupt workshops by dominating conversations, using their cell phones or taking a discussion off topic. As a facilitator your job is to address distracting behaviors and keep the conversation progressing in the right direction. Here are a few ways facilitators can address challenging behavior:
- Reiterate the ground rules.
- Utilize the group by asking questions such as, “What does everyone else think of that question?”
- Staying positive, and keeping the energy level high.
- Encourage solution sharing instead of problem sharing.
With any leadership skill, practice makes perfect. The more often you facilitate the more confident you will become.