As per the recent research, approximately six to twenty hours of every week are spent in meetings. However, the significant portion of the workforce who participated in this research claimed that such meetings are mostly unproductive. Facilitation skills come in play here, as they empower leaders/managers to direct people on-the-road to agreed-upon objectives in a manner that all the members are encouraged to have ownership, offer participation, and utilize their capabilities.
Hence, with the right use of facilitation skills, business owners won’t waste their time, money and other resources on the unproductive meetings.
In this post, we will dive deep into the world of facilitation skills, and understand what it is and how you can incorporate such skills to make your meetings be empowering, result-oriented, and productive. So, let us get started right away-
Definition of Facilitation Skills
As we all know, facilities are the means which enable carrying out a particular task in a manner which is beneficial to all.
Facilitation is the act of making available the resources required to carry out the concerned activity.
In personal or professional lives, communication and interaction play vital roles.
In the business world, the form, format and aim of these interactions are very different from that in the personal sphere of a man.
There, one needs to carry out discussions in a more stable and predetermined manner which is acceptable to all the parties involved in the process.
It requires some resources like encouragement, opportunities to speak up and put forth a point, have a healthy exchange of information and take the discussion ahead.
In Latin, facilitation means to make some task easy.
Hence, very rightly, facilitation skills are the skills needed by a person to make the discussions in a group better and easier.
These skills include management skills, decision-making capacity and problem-solving ability. The success or failure of a debate is mainly dependent on the correct deployment of facilitation skills.
What are Facilitation Skills?
While talking about human behavioural patterns, Aristotle once said-
“Man is by nature, a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to and therefore does not partake of society is either a beast or a god.”
So, as normal human beings, we have the tendencies of interacting with other people. But, there is an equal sign of the fact that starting and maintaining functional interactions with people that offer favourable outcome is equally tricky.
There are people of distinct attitudes and aptitudes. It needs to be considered that no two people are the same. Everyone has different ways of expressing and different levels of understanding.
Communication is the sheet that wraps two ideologies or two thoughts into one.
It is of crucial importance to maintaining a good rapport among people to enable smooth communication. It ensures a free flow of thoughts, ideas, and strategies.
But, enabling this unhindered communication in a specific group also requires tremendous skills.
Facilitation skills have a crucial role in all such circumstances.
Such skills incorporate the abilities necessary for successfully designing and running human interactions.
In business meetings, facilitators are responsible for
- Commonly shared and understood objectives
- Adeptly and lucidly defined process for achieving those objectives
- Channelization of an understanding that participants should come in the meeting prepared or have an interest in the subject
- Channelization of a sense among participants that their opinions and decisions are valued
Let us now have a look upon the proper definition of such skills-
Why are Facilitators important?
As discussed above, facilitation is the act of making resources available.
In the business world, there are meaningful discussions that take place.
If these discussions go in vain, there will be huge losses that the company will incur. Hence, there has to be someone who will regulate and control these discussions.
The person performing this task is called a facilitator.
The facilitator has to be clear with the objective of the debate. He/she has the responsibility of breaking the ice among the parties involved, starting the discussions and taking it precisely on the right path. The one who can achieve this can become an excellent facilitator.
Before and During Meeting Preparation of a Facilitator
The facilitator is the person who takes care that the discussion taking place in a business meeting is correct and pointed towards the betterment of all the parties involved.
But, before facilitating a discussion, the facilitator has to do some preparations as given below.
- There are various stakeholders and other team members who will be participating in the discussion and making important points. The facilitator should take a meeting with these members and understand and study those points.
- The discussion should be planned articulately. The planning of the discussion should have a clear plan. It should have all the details and not miss out on any point to be covered in the workshop, or the meeting is arranged.
- The next instrumental aspect of arranging an enjoyable and fruitful meeting is the place where it will be held. Hence, reserving the right place and then making the infrastructure suitable for your session is essential.
- Some meetings are held only with verbal discussions. It requires immense ice-breaking skills. If there are some supplementary things as are necessary for the meeting like worksheets and PowerPoint presentations, there should be the right technical aids available.
- If the meeting is going to last all day or for a longer period, then there should be arrangements done for refreshments and food.
- Once the discussion or the meeting begins, the facilitator should take charge of propagating it in the right direction. He/she should maintain proper energy and the right headspace of the participants.
- The discussion should be useful and fruitful. It lies on the facilitator to avoid useless talks in a professional meeting. There should be a healthy exchange of ideas and information.
- When the meeting reaches its end, the facilitator should be ready with a concluding word, to sum up, all the details of the discussion. Also, he/she should take care that the decisions or the outcomes of the meeting are enforced with immediate effect. It will help the meeting to be a tangible success.
Now, the time has come to delve into some of the most critical facilitation skills a facilitator should possess-
Facilitation Skills Required to be a Good Facilitator
There is a significant responsibility on the shoulders of the facilitator. Hence, he/she needs to be equipped with some of the necessary skills. These skills are as follows.
1. Know the participants
Any discussion or meeting to be held has some important participants whose hierarchy and role should be known to the facilitator.
Sometimes, it happens so that the parties involved in this process do not know each other. Here, it is entirely on the facilitator to strike comfort and amicability among them.
To do this, the facilitator should know who the participants are. He/she should have all the necessary information to identify them and introduce them to each other.
2. Set clear guidelines
Every meeting takes place on a specific schedule. It needs to be followed meticulously and correctly. It will enhance the productivity of the meeting.
Also, in some discussions, there are rules for negotiations and agreements. Even they should be told to all the participants by the facilitator. In addition to this, there should be guidelines about polite and respectful behaviour.
None of the participants should overstep those boundaries, no matter how the discussion proceeds. It is one of the basic etiquettes of any meeting.
3. Create an inclusive environment
In any meeting, everyone should have an equal voice to speak. There should be a fair distribution of the rights to intervene in a discussion and propose some other point.
To achieve this, there should be an inclusive environment. It will help everyone speak up and stand up for what one feels right boldly and fearlessly.
It also mentions comfort and trust among the participants. It eliminates any hint of shyness or awkwardness while putting forth any point in the meeting.
4. Active listening
We all think that speaking is a vital activity while being a part of a meeting or some discussion. But, even listening is equally important. Only the one who can listen well can indeed speak well. So, this highlights the importance of being an active listener.
The participant should always feel that what they are saying is being listened to with full concentration. The facilitator should make sure that everyone is listening to all the points intently. Also, he/she can make notes of what is being said for future reference.
5. Time management
It is well said that time is money in business and the professional sphere, every minute and every second count. Hence, there should be the optimal and best use of available time. It should be taken care of that all the points are covered and discussed with fair details by the participants.
Also, if the team is unnecessarily dwelling on a specific point for too long which is leading to wastage of time, the facilitator should interrupt politely and take the discussion ahead. Additionally, the schedule for the meeting should be followed as meticulously as possible. The plan should be prepared with some buffer time to compensate for some inevitable time loss.
6. Keeping up a rundown of all action items
During meetings, many of the times specific activities related to any problem statements get uncovered. A facilitator with excellent facilitation skills should be aware of those activity things, plus he or she should also guarantee they are noticeable to all the participants.
You should also guarantee that the action item delivers what should be done, who should do it, and when it should be finished.
Additionally, you should sum up the action items toward the end of the discussion to guarantee everybody concurs concerning the significance, task and timing of those items.
7. Remaining objective
Being objective is one of the essential facilitation skills that a facilitator should incorporate.
A facilitator should be seen as totally objective and are not seen as being in anybody’s “camp” in that meeting.
When a facilitator is seen as one-sided, then the trust of other participants (especially the individuals who are on the rival side) will rapidly be lost.
At the moment you lose the trust, it’s hard to recover. That is why remaining objective and not uncovering your inclinations is one of the essential facilitation skills you should pay heed upon.
8. Find through questioning not lecturing or preaching
It is essential for facilitators to not go in preaching more by exposing their intelligence on the subject.
Instead, utilizing your insight to help other members get to a typical, settled upon resolutions to issues is one of the crucial facilitation skills that you should possess.
Facilitators should do this by questioning through inquiries that are pertinent to the problem statement and intended to expose new realities.
The meeting should be dedicated to solving the problem of attendees, and the question is one of the best ways for this.
9. Keep the supervisor/manager away from hijacking the meeting/discussion
As a facilitator, you should ensure that supervisors or managers do not hijack the meeting by communicating their sentiment and setting the course of the meeting as per their plan.
Meeting should offer equal opportunity to every member, and facilitators should have the facilitation skills of ensuring this.
10. Be the one in charge of the conversation
Facilitators should keep the meeting move ahead by being in charge of the conversation, so the meeting does not go off the track.
At the moment when the discussions in the meeting go irrelevant, facilitators should shift the discussion back to the problem statement. Even, some of the time, you will be required to cross somebody off; however, that is your duty, and you should do it without losing control.
Being in control will let you have the respect of all the members, and that is why being in charge of the conversation is considered one of the powerful facilitation skills for the facilitators.
Techniques to be used by a Facilitator to optimize Facilitation Skills
While facilitating a meeting or a discussion, the facilitator should have some skills which are given above. In addition to this, he/she should also be ready with this set of tools that will come handy when needed to handle the meeting successfully.
- Ice-breaking techniques: It is well said that well begun is half done. It holds even in business meetings or discussions. There are times when the parties involved may not know each other very well. Here, the facilitator needs to use these ice-breaking techniques.
- Strategy techniques: Every meeting has a specific strategy to be followed for its successful conduction. They determine the flow and the agenda of the meeting.
- Creativity techniques: Many times, business meetings can get very mundane or monotonous. We all, being humans, need some spark in such situations. The facilitator can put his/her creativity to use and devise some fun which will add some colour as well as provide creative solutions to some problems.
- Problem-solving techniques: There are problems and conflicts possible everywhere. They are an integral part of every walk of life, and professional meetings and discussions are no exception. The facilitator should be abreast with some problem-solving and conflict resolution techniques to deal with such situations.
- Decision-making techniques: Every meeting is held to make some decision or finalize some strategy. The facilitator should have the methods to steer the discussion towards firm decisions in limited time with the least clashes.
Final Thoughts about Facilitation Skills!
Facilitation is an essential concept in organizing business meetings or discussions.
Hence, being a facilitator requires a specific skill set and a toolbox to help you arrange a useful, peaceful, and successful meeting.
As long as managers or facilitators have the right facilitation skills, businesses can optimize the outcomes of their meetings which will ultimately streamline the overall performance of the organization towards a shared objective.
What are your thoughts about facilitation skills in improving the outcomes of business meetings?