Meeting Facilitation: When Less is More

Posted on | March 4, 2010 | No Comments

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One of the great lessons I have learned as a facilitator is that the less I do in the room, the better a meeting goes. Seems odd, right? But when my partner, Tom Kornbluh, and I teach our seminar “Standing in the Eye of the Storm,” we ask our participants what their greatest fear is when they are facilitating—and 99% of the people say, “to be found incompetent.” Interesting!

We all share that fear, and it often drives us to over-facilitate or too feel overly responsible. In meetings, we are busy making ourselves look useful or helpful, or showing that we know something. But those behaviors are about us and not about the group’s needs. Our job as facilitators is to serve our clients’ needs.

If this dynamic sounds familiar to you, try the following exercise:

1. Define competence. What is competent?? List what you man by that. Don’t just list a few, try to list them all. Keep writing until you start to feel it’s silly. If you dig deep enough you find you have some funny beliefs driving you, and those need to be examined.
2. What’s driving you? When you look at the list, what sticks out? What is motivating your actions?? The need to be the expert? Fear of making a mistake? Of getting fired??
Examine your own motivation. Then move to step 3.
3. Decide what is in the best interest of the group. Ask yourself, how does my doing these things help the group build its own self-responsibility or capacity to resolve its own issues? What are a good facilitator’s goals? How am I supporting the group’s goals? Align your behavior with the outcomes you want for the group.
4. Make it manageable. Is it possible to achieve all those standards?? If you had to throw three quarters of the list out, what would you save?

As always, I’d love to hear your reactions or any tips you have for facilitators to help them and their groups be more successful.

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