Double Down on These Facilitation Skills
Therese Miclot, Director, Facilitation Excellence
I’m in the unique position of facilitating interactions between people from all walks of life. And in most conversations, people talk about how much has changed. Yet, I’ve been keenly aware of what hasn’t changed, especially when it comes to facilitation. The need for understanding, empathy and connection in every interaction was always there – we feel it more acutely now.
Everyone facilitates, even if they don’t see themselves as “facilitators”. It’s the team leader who hosts the weekly meeting (now virtually). The engineer who leads a project update call. The community activist who rallies a group around a common cause. The salesperson meeting a client. Your neighbor hosting a book club.
Great facilitators, no matter what job or role, know how to create the conditions that lead to better collaboration and faster results – even in the midst of a pandemic. They build trust, reduce conflict and accelerate positive outcomes.
Over the last 15 years, we identified the essential things world-class facilitators bring to any interaction. They are even more relevant and necessary now. Here are 5 essential facilitator contributions:
Managing Your Mindset
Do you hear that voice in your head? The one telling you all sorts of things like, “This will never work.” or “What if I screw this up on Zoom?” That’s your self-talk and humans are really good at sabotaging themselves when that voice isn’t managed. What most people will remember, even more than your content or how you looked on screen, is the connection you made with them and the way they felt about the experience. It all starts by managing your mindset. Before you join your next call, think about what that voice is telling you. If it’s not supporting your ability to be at your best, revise it.
What the world needs now is a lot more listening than talking. Listening well is the foundation for all human connection. And we’re craving it now. It’s hard to do especially when you feel under stress - we’re not physiologically or psychologically wired to listen well. We tune out and turn off to people regardless of what they say or what they know if we don’t like how they interact with us. Try crafting a few curious questions before your next meeting. Make sure you pause to allow people to think and respond.
I had a near-disaster a few weeks ago. My Wi-Fi connection went out 30 minutes before I was to lead a big client meeting. After 20 minutes of sheer panic, I found a solution and had just enough time to wipe the sweat off my face, take a few deep breaths and calm myself down before the client joined. In that moment, I was reminded about how much I set the tone for a meeting through my body, voice and words. If I appeared nervous (for me that means not looking at the camera, talking too much and too fast) then it makes others nervous and uncomfortable. If you want to appear calm, confident and inspire trust, think about how you’re showing up on virtual meetings. And if you’re not sure, ask a trusted colleague for feedback.
Engage Through Story
When every day feels like the last, how do you make things memorable, relatable and personal? Tell a story. Almost everyone responds deeply to stories because we’ve been using story to share important ideas and information since the dawn of humanity. Story allows you to build empathy, create connection, and engage emotions. Think about your next meeting: Could you enrich it with a story?
Keep on Track
The old Yiddish proverb, “We plan, God laughs,” expresses a relatable truth. Keeping on Track isn’t always about sticking to the plan, although I’m a big fan of that! It’s balancing forward movement with depth of process and stayed attuned to your audience needs. If it feels like the group needs more time to just reconnect and laugh even though it’s eating into the agenda? Do it. If there’s energy around a specific topic that you hadn’t planned on, create space for it. Long after this crisis, people will remember your flexibility and ability to pivot to their needs.
As you get ready for your next conversation, pick one contribution that you’ll focus on and then notice the positive shift in the relationship and experience.
Therese Miclot is Proteus' Director of Facilitation Excellence. She delivers – and teaches others to deliver – dynamic, interactive, world-class learning experiences.
Proteus and Koppett set the standard for facilitation excellence. We’ve defined what great facilitators do, so you can assess performance accurately and consistently benchmark with world-class organizations. Our approach supports leaders at all levels with individualized feedback and targeted coaching to expand their range and increase their impact. Proteus International.com