What Facilitation Is And What It Isn't

Facilitation is a challenging, yet necessary job in any workplace. Simple lectures prevent concentration, while interaction promotes intentional problem-solving. Learn how to facilitate and contribute successfully in any setting.

By guest blogger Bethany Bishop

Sep 01 2017 at 2 p.m.

Facilitating is tough. Between watching for body language, listening to the discussion, capturing information, and asking the right questions, there is a lot to think about and pay attention to. There are a lot of factors that influence a failed facilitation, but the most common is when we try to approach facilitation with what it isn't.

Facilitation is not...
Lecture based. The lecture-based approach is where facilitation fails.  There is a constant occurrence of telling, a lack of team interaction, and an environment that makes each individual feel uncomfortable sharing their true thoughts.

Facilitation is...
Just that; facilitation based. A facilitation-based approach takes the Adult Learning Theory and puts it into practical action.  The most successful facilitations encourage collaboration and goal-setting. With this approach, facilitation supports teams to have an open discussion and use each other's experiences and knowledge to find the best and most applicable solutions. Facilitation is more than a theory; it requires practical strategies and tactics. Two of those tactics are active listening and asking questions.

Active Listening
Active listening is focusing on the conversations and responses of the other participant(s). As humans, we can oftentimes have a tendency to think about "what am I going to say next?" instead of really listening to the concerns and thoughts of others. When facilitators actively listen, they can then use the information being given to guide the conversation based on the needs of the participants and not themselves.

Asking Questions
Rather than telling and following the lecture-based approach, facilitators do the opposite; they ask. Questions encourage answers and require another person to respond. Facilitators take the following into consideration when building conversation:

1. Open/closed: Open ended questions allows more space for answers. Closed questions narrow the response down to small of a path.

2. Second level questioning: After an initial question, facilitators ask a follow up question.  This will help find any underlying context or content.

3. Redirecting: If a question was asked to a specific person or group, facilitators spin the question in a form that can then be applicable to the entire team.

4. Reflecting: Reflecting questions acknowledges the participants' emotions or words and helps the team feel more connected, heard, and comfortable.  

5. Summarize: Summarizing with a question or a statement that includes everyone's thoughts will help the team stay on track and better yet, feel engaged and valued.

6. Tie back: Tie back questions help bring the bits and pieces of information to light and helps participants connect the dots.

By using these tactics and strategic, facilitators can get the most out of the participants. At People Centric, we focus on what facilitation is and use this approach to cultivate engagement, focus, and accountability. That is why our process simply works.

Bethany Bishop is the Office Coordinator at People Centric Consulting Group. Learn about her here.

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