November 6, 2014
Thu 11, 2014

Follow the facilitator: key facilitation skills can benefit today’s leaders

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 8.55.47 PMWhat do I like most about being a facilitator? Probably gathering together people with different perspectives and experiences and ushering them through the door to deeper insights. That’s what I find most rewarding about facilitating.

I have facilitated meetings, situations and symposiums, including a recent one with some of  Alberta’s mental health and children’s health leaders last month. Many of the skills I use in my work as a facilitator, are ones that leaders can take and apply to their own situations.

Here are my top five facilitation skills effective leaders need, especially in today’s world:

  1. Effective facilitators keep their ego in check. We get it that group or individual success relies on everyone’s involvement and commitment. Facilitators who are good at their job recognize they’re only one person. The same goes for a good leader.
  2. Listen and hear: It sounds simple, but it is probably the hardest but most effective thing you can do. Facilitators understand the key to unlocking a group’s potential is to really listen and hear what is being said, both in words and body language. A bond naturally evolves when we take the time to listen and hear the meaning behind what someone says, as it is the greatest show of respect for each other’s contribution. Most leaders in the western world struggle with this one. As leaders, we gain recognition for our decisiveness and ability to address problems immediately. But a lot is gained when we listen and hear the power of each team member.
  3. Share accountability: Facilitators are accountable for the process to get there, but seldom, if ever, take ownership for the final decisions or outcome. Other people in the room assume that role. In the business world, most leaders have been trained to believe they must carry the full burden themselves. Like facilitators, they should share the responsibility. The alternative is missed opportunities for people around them to grow and develop the same degree of focus and commitment.
  4. You don’t need to have all the answers: A sacred rule for all facilitators is that we’re never the experts. Being an effective facilitator requires staying out of the conversation except to guide the process toward the end goal. Although leaders, especially those who come up through the ranks, are often experts, there comes a time when the best answers often come from others — a hard lesson for many of us, including leaders, to learn.
  5. Set out a clear and flexible direction: The true test of an effective facilitator is how prepared we are to meet the challenges ahead without losing sight of the process and the end result. Processes that are too rigid cause everything to come crashing down. Wise leaders know change is constant. Agility and anticipating the unexpected is how success is achieved.

Next Week: How real leaders show up in a crisis. In my next blog I will discuss what leaders must do during a crisis that threatens the long term success and reputation of their organization.