As a buyer of learning & development intervention, you want to know that there’s going to be an outcome / output supporting your corporate ambition. Sometimes, a slide-driven trainer can be fine – PowerPoint is all that is needed. However, in many cases, the reality is that a facilitator can drive a greater return. An effective facilitator builds participation of everyone in the room.
The key determinant for the success of a workshop is how well you are getting people participating.
I’m sure that, like many people, I’ve been in training sessions that have sucked – partly due to badly defined training needs, bad trainers and disengaged participants.
In education, we talk about the importance of student engagement through active learning. In fact, there’s plenty of research that shows that engaged students are more attentive and focused, and motivated to practice higher-level critical thinking.
Consider this: how many times has a key stakeholder, senior manager, or even a colleague completely closed down a line of discussion just because it’s something that they don’t want to hear?
If you think of the butterfly effect (with reference to chaos theory) whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere, does a closed down conversation have wider ramifications?
The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) promotes professional facilitation and has outlined a series of competencies.
The Association also accredits facilitators through the IAF Certified™ Professional Facilitator (CPF) designation which serves to confirm that a facilitator is competent in each of the six Core Competencies.
Six IAF Facilitator Competencies
- Create Collaborative Client Relationships
- Plan Appropriate Group Processes
- Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment
- Guide Group to Appropriate and Useful Outcomes
- Build and Maintain Professional Knowledge
- Model Positive Professional Attitude
How the facilitator builds participation
Over the years, I have worked out how to build participation. To be honest, some of this comes from my own inability to build a sense of consensus, my own lack of rapport, poor communication skills and being skilled in closing down unwelcome lines of discussion.
Courtesy of over a decade of applying business psychology tools, methods and approaches, I have been able to appreciate ‘the better way’ and they align closely with IAF’s “Create and Sustain a Participatory Environment”:
Apply a variety of participatory processes (for example, I use a number of opening activities including café dialogue, the future workshop, network circles, fishbowl discussions, open space technology, and OPERA).
Guidelines for participatory processes:
- Be open and flexible
- Leave the ego at the door
- Smaller groups are better for developing trust
- Not everybody WANTS to participate – but you can always use their expertise as moderators, timekeepers, and observers
- If the participants are ‘new’ to each other, create homogenous groups to start with (e.g. group by common interest) before forming mixed groups later on
- Plan to have plenty of time for all aspects of the process (explanation, facilitation and the plenary) – don’t make people feel rushed
Interpersonal communication skills
- Give everyone a chance to contribute (I tend to introduce the concept of Six Hats with an explanation that everyone has a voice and everyone will have a chance to speak)
- Actively listen
- Use relevant open questions to build upon what is being said by participants
- Recognize the contribution of the participants
- Observe and feed back your observations to the participants
- Cultivate cultural awareness and sensitivity
- Create a climate of safety and trust
- Encourage positive regard for the experience and perception of all participants
- Create opportunities for participants to benefit from the diversity of the group
Manage group conflict
- Ensure that we are working with evidence first and opinion second
- Identify barriers and beliefs that are causing conflict points
- Enable open conflict to bring points / issues to the surface but keep the participants on point and focused on evidenced statements
- Help participants to identify and review underlying assumptions
- Ensure that the participants are all equal – no hierarchy in play to undermine points / counterpoints
- Manage disruptive group behaviour
Evoke group creativity
- Bear in mind the thinking styles of the people in the room
- Don’t be frightened of arts & crafts!
- From the get-go, encourage creative thinking
- Every idea is valid and can be built upon by others in the room
- Ensure that all activities have a ‘point’
The main thing is, as always, the facilitator is there to make it easy.
As my professor for Entreprenuership at ESLSCA, I found Mr. Neil Fogarty to be uniquely capable of capturing my attention and helping me learn confidently. His tactics of open space learning and free contribution helped me in understanding and archiving good grades in his subject. Comments from many of my classmates confirm that I am not alone in this impression of Mr. Neil Fogarty. This university has many fine professors, and Mr. Fogarty is a credit to it.
As someone who helps guide and develop salespeople in the world of New Business Development, Neil is equally fanatical about effective account management. His approaches are proven and effective and have been applied in numerous environments including his work with Tribal – a global professional services company. Having known Neil for 15 months, his coaching and mentoring style has been particularly useful in assisting me in strengthening relationships with existing and new clients – and seeing him apply his knowledge in a hands-on manners means that I have learnt a lot from him during the time I have known him and plan on learning a whole lot more!
Before we actually met, Neil already had very positive reputation on his approach and teaching style in his previous engagements in Croatia. Knowing my people from Comping and having clear view of what they need (not what they expect to get), we worked closely as we agreed on focal points of his ‘intervention’. Combining his practical experience with creative and provocative teaching style, Neil fully confirmed his great reputation as a trainer and managed to incite and engage our people in fun, approachable and interesting ways. But, even with such a flexible and relaxed approach, he didn’t risk losing their focus on the most critical point – emphasize personal accountability for the common organizational goals. I hope that we’ll have a chance to jointly add much more value to our people in the following months and years.
Working with Neil was truly inspiring. Personal and professional benefits gained through his workshops will have a deep impact on my future decisions and interpersonal skills. I hope that I will have another chance to work with Neil again someday and find additional motivation in his unconventional sessions.
We invited Neil to deliver a workshop on intrapreneurial ecosystems and company culture and I must congratulate ourselves for this decision, the workshop was brilliant and a highlight of our Intrapreneurship Conference as per delegates feedback. It is a pleasure to work with Neil, and I hope we will have many more collaborations in the future.
The interim health market is a relatively new area of business for us, and in the absence of a Health Business Development Manager, Neil has been absolutely instrumental in providing me with support and guidance as to how I can build our health offering. This has resulted in the establishment of solid and trusted relationships both internally within Tribal and externally with our associates, interims and clients. Neil’s introduction of 1:1 mentoring and coaching sessions are a testament to his 100% dedication to developing and supporting his team. Neil’s approach is very much “where there’s a will, there’s a way”. His empathic nature and his ability to bring a fresh perspective enables you to refocus on the task at hand and to derive key actions to achieve your goals. Without a shadow of a doubt, Neil is a huge asset to us and to anyone looking for an energetic and enthusiastic personality to develop, mentor or coach their business team.
I was lucky to meet Neil at 2 great events in Egypt in 2017 organized by MSA University; Leadership and Organization Development Conference and Entrepreneurship Hub. I was truly impressed by his intense knowledge and interesting way of delivery. During the panel discussion, his success story was an inspiration for our young entrepreneurs and his profound experience is something to surely learn from. I’m definitely looking forward to another fruitful co-operation.
I was totally prepared to just another boring session … 30 minutes of role-playing … another 45 minutes of deliberating which shade of red actually I am … and so on … and eventually 5pm will approach soon enough. But from the first introductory minutes Mr Neil Fogarty successfully got my attention and kept it alive till the end of the day. I have got my fair share of various workshops, but not many of them were as vivid as this one and not many of them gave me another perspective to old issues. A day was too short at the end … loads of fun successfully delivered new insights! Thanks Neil!
I had the pleasure to attend a workshop given by Neil about “Entrepreneurship – Collaborative Intelligence”. Moreover, My business partner & I received a very informative startup mentoring session from Neil which had lasted for more than 30 minutes. I have to admit that Neil’s coaching skills are beyond expectations. The content was very well organized and presented. The workshop was given in a very interactive manner. As a result of the workshop and the mentoring, my partner and I have managed to spot multiple ways to scale our business.
Neil facilitated host of sessions for 120 of our retail sales employees at various levels and did a splendid job of it. The feed-backs were testimonial to the amount of effort gone in to design and customize the program and linking it to the business goals. His ability to translate complex concepts into simple to understand methodologies was the biggest asset. I would recommend him for sales and business development programs
I was privileged to work closely with Neil to bring about a magnificent learning experience to our guests in the first international organization development & leadership conference, in the MEA region and the Entrepreneurship hub event, few weeks ago. Neil was one of our key speakers in both events, and I was not only impressed with his capability of delivering a truly effective and memorable learning experience, but how beautifully he constructs and designs the whole experience to be enlightening, engaging and enjoyable. He is definitely an expert in his field and I used to think of him as a genius and highly innovative speaker. Working with Neil is an emblem for real partnership, and he is a true partner who is really keen on delivering value to you, your audience and your team.
Being mentored by Neil is not always comfortable but the challenges posed are always focused on exposing the underlying currents that constrain or inhibit positive action. There is no room to either hide or procrastinate so whilst I whole heartily endorse Neil as an effective business mentor, beware, he will challenge you and take you out of your comfort zone.
I had an amazing experience when I attended the speech and the workshops that Neil gave in Cairo last month. But this is the least that could be said as he doesn’t hesitate to help you when you ask him or even if he knows you need something that you haven’t asked about. He has helped me and my partners to reach better grounds through his collaborative intelligence module which has helped us kick-start our own startup. He doesn’t just TALK about collaboration, he actively demonstrates it!
Neil is one of the most charismatic and interesting people that I came across. He is one of the best presenters that I ever saw in action with a great ability to keep his audience engaged through his entire lecture/presentation. Neil is a pure leader, Intrapreneur and entrepreneur, always demonstrated out of the box thinking, business orientation, leadership and consistency.
I met Neil the first time in the Organisation Development & Leadership Conference in Cairo. In person he is very attentive and very willing to help, he creates opportunities for growth for all the people around. I have personally learned a lot from his open selfless attitude. On a professional level his breadth of experience plays a great role in the customized solutions that he provides. I recommend Neil as a powerful consultant in the field of leadership and as an equipped speaker for leadership related topics.
I commissioned Neil to design and lead intrapreneurship and commercialism training for senior and middle managers at Chelmsford City Council. The sessions were meticulously planned, tailored expertly to our needs and brilliantly delivered. Neil brings a refreshingly different approach, he is motivational, inspirational and engages expertly with different learning styles. He comes very highly recommended.
We had the pleasure of working with Neil mid-October 2016 to further develop our framework for Corporate Social Responsibilty. Neil demonstrates impressive knowledge in this field and he is very skilled in transferring this in a practical way to our business needs. I can strongly recommend Neil.
I had the chance to meet a really impressing speaker yesterday who is a walking treasure of experience and knowledge about intrapreneurship and organizational change, how to transform organizational dinosaurs and arouse the entrepreneur within employees. Neil has totally owned the stage and after his talk I was full of thoughts, ideas. Neil made a big impression and I am admiring him for what he did/is doing, what he knows and for his openness to share that experience and knowledge. I am looking forward to future cooperation with him. Unicorns do exist! 😉
After only one session with Neil I came away feeling more focused and confident than I had in a while. He gave me some great ideas, a bit of constructive provocation and the beginnings of my career plan for the next five years. He’s already been as good as his word and hooked me up with a potential mentor and has shown great integrity. Neil seems pretty unique in that he doesn’t seem to be out for himself but rather the betterment of local government. A big thumbs up from me.
It is not an easy task to facilitate a short workshop and to meet clients desires while creating the environment for insight gathering. It requires great knowledge and skills to pin-point those specific needs. And when you get all that you wanted, even more for some, with loads of fun, then you have to thank Mr Neil Fogarty for delivering The Workshop.
Neil made a thought provoking presentation at the Compliance conference AIM Norway organized in Farris Bad. Not only it was excellent, but it was almost as if it was not a presentation but a real conversation. It left me enthusiastic about the discussions it brought up.
Neil Fogarty works locally as a Warwickshire Facilitator in addition to facilitating workshops in Middle East, Africa, Europe and USA.