Engaging a Corporate Facilitator
As we all know, a business meeting can be pretty prescriptive (be honest, we usually know why we’re in the room; we all know what will be agreed / signed off; we are just going through the motions). In such instances, a corporate facilitator is probably not really needed.
The issue is that there are more instances where there is ambiguity and uncertainty and ‘having a meeting’ just doesn’t cut it. And this is where the corporate facilitator comes in.
The word “facilitator” is derived from the Latin word for “easy” : facilitation means “the act of making things easier”.
And this is true: a great facilitator can make things easier for you – but the difficulty is in the complexity of the engagement: who to retain, how to craft the session, and how to motivate your people to fully participate.
A facilitated session can run from a few hours through to a full day but rarely more than that. Imagine a well-crafted 2-3 hour facilitated session drawing out an outcome, achieving consensus, solving a problem, reaching a decision and much more.
Facilitation is more than merely training
Unlike a classically delivered training session (Keynote / Powerpoint slides, printouts, lecture-style delivery, quiz at the end to demonstrate understanding), if you use a facilitator to deliver their version of training, you will see how it takes your learning & development to a whole new level.
Whilst the majority of facilitated workshops run up to a day in length, if it goes beyond that, the workshop becomes a supercharged training event that incorporates mini-lectures and tutorials as well as output-driven activities.
From a Learning & Development perspective my own development company, Eskil, tends to plug-and-play a series of interactive workshop sessions intercut with quick-hit tutorials to form a longer training course (from 1-5 days).
Focusing on facilitated workshops with a specific outcome / output, this article is the first of two parts as we look at the power of facilitation and how it can be applied in your organization.
Facilitation is more than a good meeting
I have sat in on client sessions where the person at the top of the table has decided to facilitate. It’s great that there is a willingness to do it – the best meeting chairs are, effectively, facilitators – but there are traps to easily fall into:
- An opportunity to impose an agenda on the session
- Using the title as a way to suggest collegiate thinking whereas the decision is already made
- The facilitator wants to get involved in the discussions
- Depending upon your usual leadership style, people may not feel ‘safe’ in your facilitated environment
- Sometimes the issue being discussed is ‘blocked’ by the feeling that the head of the table is part of the issue
Facilitation loves ambiguity
If you want something prescriptive where you probably already know the answer… have a meeting. In a survey of Eskil’s network of facilitators, the top 9 reasons for a facilitated workshop were:
- achieving consensus
- generating ideas
- solving problems
- improving working relationships
- developing & agreeing strategy
- improve team results
- increase motivation / employee engagement
- influence / engage with stakeholders
- resolve conflict
The case for a Corporate Facilitator
To be fair, there are many reasons why you would consider bringing in an external facilitator and here’s a quick list for you:
- You haven’t got the time : an external facilitator is specifically tasked to ‘do the job’ – if you consider a single-day workshop, for example, it takes a further day to prepare the workshop and a follow-on day to document and report back the findings;
- You can’t build a flowing agenda : experienced facilitators build agendas that flow and have a complete focus on your desired outcomes, that each session builds on the last, and that the overall structure will result in you achieving your objectives;
- You want contemporary thinking : many professional facilitators have a commitment to their own personal and professional development : constantly looking to develop new thinking and better-practice to help guide conversations;
- You cant guarantee objectivity : facilitation is based upon objectivity – encouraging the exploration of alternative viewpoints whilst keeping meetings on track;
- You want new ways to develop your people : access a variety of discussion templates to help develop new thinking through activities as well as conversation;
- You can’t get the balance right between big picture and the finer detail : whilst we are all mindful of the overarching goal of the session, the facilitator also ensures an attention to detail (materials, technology, discussion templates, etc.);
- You can’t capture all the outputs : the facilitator focuses on guiding discussions and capturing the thinking in the room – recording key points and documenting actions;
- There are tricky personalities in the room : an independent facilitator has more chance of not just reigning in the dominant personalities in the room but also encouraging the more reflective and introverted thinkers – no single view-point should dominate a discussion;
- Too many meetings fail to reach a conclusion : facilitators don’t let meetings or workshops drift – every session should have a summary of discussion points as well as outcomes and agreed next steps;
- You think you’re saving money through DIY : there is no denying that there is a cost attached to bringing an experienced external facilitator into the room but the cost of an biased and unfocused internal facilitator is a huge cost when you consider the collective salaries of everyone in the room, the cost of missed opportunity and the cost of having to do it all again; and
- You want to engagement better with your employees : having a well run workshop has various oblique benefits ranging from unlocking new thinking in a collaborative environment through to the feel-good factor of people who feel that they have taken part in a productive and energetic event
The key learning is this: a facilitated session is a way to engage with your staff as you build collaborative and emotional intelligence in your enterprise in the solving of problems, creating of strategies and the generation of new ideas.
To book Neil as a facilitator: