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Solving problems, creating ideas, building consensus

Collaboration

A crucial skill we all need at work is the ability to facilitate high quality discussions and gain agreement about the way forward.

Whenever you run a meeting, you can use effective facilitation to assess opportunities, solve problems, create new ideas and action plan. With a huge increase in on-line meetings, great facilitation skills are more important than ever.

Your role as a facilitator is to help people think together, to build consensus, cooperation, and collaboration and ultimately to produce results. But getting a group focused and working together, especially on contentious topics, can be difficult. We need to understand group dynamics, we need the confidence to lead others often more senior to us, and we need a range of tools and approaches that we can comfortably use at different points in the conversation.

Facilitation is one of those skills that we sometimes don’t value until a discussion goes wrong: a planning meeting becomes a moaning session; a brainstorm is painful rather than creative; people argue or withdraw.

When done well, facilitation can harness people’s collective knowledge, opinions and ideas to reach new insights and develop breakthrough thinking. It can also engage and motivate the people we work with, giving energy and inspiration to our work.

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You can develop your facilitation skills in every meeting you run – whether online or face to face. Here are 5 top tips for improving your facilitation skills:

1. Make a plan

To make the best of your time and ensure conversations are kept on track, always create an agenda before you meet. Even if it’s just a list of points you want to cover, having a shared agreement on what is and isn’t up for discussion helps everyone to focus. Begin your meeting by checking whether anyone has anything extra they’d like to add in to the agenda. If you can, assign times for each point and keep the conversations moving to ensure all the key points are covered.

2. Give people preparation work

Let people know the purpose of the meeting and what you are aiming to achieve. People will be more willing to contribute if they are clear what they are there to do. If you want ideas, ask people to spend some time thinking ahead of the meeting. You will get a lot more out of people who like time to reflect if you give them time to prepare.

3. Build Trust

Make it clear that you want to hear from everyone who is attending. Ensure everyone has the space to contribute. Really listen to what they say and thank them for their contribution. If you do have to interrupt someone due to time constraints, do so respectfully. “Many thanks for sharing your knowledge/ experience / ideas. I would love to find out more after the meeting, for now we’re short on time, so I’d like us to move onto x,y,z.”

4. Ask for feedback

Give yourself feedback after every meeting you run. What went well? What could you have done differently? Ask for feedback from people whose judgement you trust. Use the learning when you plan the next meeting.

5. Observe

Observe group dynamics in every meeting you attend. Who talks, who doesn’t and why? What helps to prompt thinking or new ideas? What gets the group closer to agreement, what is holds them back?

 

If your role involves working with others, you need to continuously develop your ability to lead discussions and build consensus. This development will happen through practise and reflection. When you facilitate conversations that are engaging and produce results, others will want to work with you and come to your meetings. Being a great facilitator is also hugely rewarding, enabling you to build great relationships, to be both proactive and flexible, and to navigate through challenging times.

What’s next?

If you want to enhance your facilitation skills and get access to a comprehensive facilitation toolkit, take a look at our Facilitation Skills training programme.

To discuss bringing this programme in-house, contact us online or call 020 7978 1516 to speak to a consultant.

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Charlotte Scott

About Charlotte Scott

Charlotte specialises in leadership development, team facilitation and strategy development. Charlotte worked for over 20 years in the not-for-profit sector. Before joining =mc seven years ago, she created and implemented a...

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