When I ask project leaders/managers on how good are you in facilitation skills, I usually get an answer that I am good in it. Most of us who have been managing/leading teams from long end up influencing teams towards making a decision and many times leading them in solving their problems, and this makes us believe that we have excellent facilitation skills.
For many, the goal of facilitation is misunderstood as
- Finding Solution which is acceptable to the group.
- Allowing raising concerns about the decisions.
- Handling conflicts during the meeting
- Finish the meeting in allocated time.
The role of the facilitator is:
- Ensuring full participation, many time people don’t say what they are thinking, the facilitator ensure people share what they think, everyone in the group participates in the discussion.
- Promoted Mutual understanding, every individual has unique thinking process, and to get best from the group, group members should be able to understand each other views. The facilitator promotes mutual understanding
- Supports inclusive solutions, ensure people do not take fix positions and promote their way of solving the problem, It is not that everyone is selling his/her idea.
- Cultivate Shared Responsibility; it has been well-known fact that people support what they create, facilitator ensure that group takes shared responsibility for decisions.
A few weeks ago, we conducted the small activity with the help of volunteers from Bangalore; this was a natural activity where we asked the group to come up with the selection of venue for a one-day long day outing, the small facilitation activity exposed common facilitation mistakes.
Here is the video of the session:
You might have already observed, here I share what we as the group found that day.
- No clear plan for discussions, the facilitator does not brief the participant about how the discussion is expected to happen, no structure or plan was introduced.
- Facilitator rushing to the solution, the facilitation activity itself started with facilitator proposing the venue for a day outing, it is like facilitator is in a hurry to find the solution and somewhere it also reflects that the facilitator considers himself as subject matter expert.
- Uneven participation, few of the participants were speaking, and rest of them were not much involved, it is not like people who are not speaking were not thinking about the topic, but they were not sharing what they were thinking.
- The facilitator was selling the solution; we observed that facilitator started selling solutions rather than providing group a process to shortlist/select a venue for the day outing. The Facilitator was trying hard to reach an agreement
- Over-intervention from the facilitator – Over enthusiastic facilitator make this mistake often, if you stop someone from making a point, the participant will simply loose the interest.
The facilitator needs to apply facilitation skills rather than influencing skills. The facilitator ensures that group solves the problem on their own and facilitator provides needed structure and support for problem-solving.
If you are working as Scrum Master / Agile Coach or has responsibility for facilitating various meetings/discussions, you may like to explore our two days long Agile Team Facilitator Program.