What is your experience of the “make easy” aspect of the definition of the word facilitator? To what extent does an outside facilitator help you, a leader, planner, or group member researching this topic?
A quick answer to the title question for this post is the face value of “yes” it makes things easier, as well as the practical reality answer of “no.” Facilitation does connect to root meanings of the word, to “make easy.” However, any leader, group member, planning team that has worked with a professional facilitator/consultant DOES find out that with the freedom of having a facilitator/consultant partner, you will get some common questions. This is where the real work of facilitation and consultation can gain traction.
Questions I usually ask are:
- WHAT is the main PURPOSE for the meeting, retreat, focus group or project?
- WHAT are your desired outcomes?
- WHAT background and context information is important for success?
- HOW were you envisioning this coming about?
If any of these question are not something you are sure about, that is OK, perhaps even a good thing. It may be why you are looking for facilitation assistance.
A facilitator frees the leader to fully participate in an event. However, the deeper value in good facilitation is to clarify your desired meeting, retreat, focus group or project outcomes. It happens, sometimes that “when you are in it, you cannot see it.” The external view of a facilitator/consultant may enable you to more fully function as a leader and champion. For example, when I work with a client, I may function in one of a mixture of several roles in assisting you:
- As a “collaborator.” Facilitator-consultants work with you as a partner contributing process/performance consulting knowledge. Consultants do not share in or step into the role of the manager. We offer process consultation when we:
- Collaborate with you/share the work in data collection,
- Facilitate detailed design in planning meetings and retreats, and
- Works with a design team/full group to solve problems so they stay solved.
- As an “expert.” We provide content knowledge or skills that the organization does not have in-house (regarding a process, model, or structure that you need.) In a pure form, decisions on how to proceed are expected to be made by the consultant, using expert judgment, to solve an immediate problem. Managers are less involved, and have the role to evaluate after the fact. A blend of this expert role with the partner role may be evident from work we’ve recently done in the following areas where we have specific content expertise:
- Strategic planning
- Change management and transition
- Project planning and launch/focus group studies
- Focus group data collection projects
- Competency systems
- Leader and staff engagement
- Performance management guided by performance + motivation
- Team building
- Conflict management
- As a “pair of hands/” We do tasks you could potentially do yourself but may not have the staff, time or availability to accomplish (organize meetings and agendas, keep time, stay on track with a project timeline, scribe key data, etc.) Having someone else take on these duties allows all members to participate fully and with fewer distractions
An external consultants and/or facilitator is especially helpful when you need:
- Facilitation expertise and skill set to allow everyone to participate and do their best work;
- To participate yourself and can’t facilitate; and/or
- Someone external to your organization to help lend neutrality and validity to the process.
What is your experience of the “make easy” facilitator role in using expertise outside of your organization?
Reference: Flawless Consulting, Peter Block
Deb Nystrom, of Reveln Consulting blogs about higher education, innovation, leadership, emerging trends, social media, business strategy, You can sign-up on this site to receive her newsletter with top tools, findings and news mailed every two months. Of course, you can unsubscribe at any time.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons. It was posted originally in June 2008 and updated in May of 2016.
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