Great Facilitation Techniques

Let’s start by asking the question what is facilitation?  The term is thrown around a lot and can be easily misconstrued if not fully understood.

The difference between teaching and facilitation:

A process whereby a teacher leads a group of students in acquiring new skills, knowledge,  or understanding.

Helping/making it easy for students to learn together in a group, or to achieve something together as a group.

To further clarify the point:

Bringing out and focusing the wisdom of the group, often as the group creates something new or solves a problem.

The common theme or thread here is ‘bringing out the wisdom of the group’ which means the group or people already have the answers and we just need to clarify them and draw them from the group.  This is where a lot of people go wrong; they immediately jump to the conclusion that the group or people they dealing with do not have the knowledge and therefore cannot possibly be led to supply the answers they don’t have, so they switch into a training/lecturing model which instantly closes down any creativity or input from the group which proves the managers / trainers point that the group has nothing to contribute, a self-fulfilling prophecy! 

The objective is to increase learning by elevating the level of student engagement with the material to be learned.  Active learning promotes increased student involvement in the learning process and it supports instructional strategies such as discussion-leading and skilful questioning techniques to engage the learners in personal exploration of the subject matter.  

In group training situations, the training processes have to address participant interaction (individuals, pairs, teams, group). By facilitating participatory processes that draw on the existing knowledge and skills of the group, it is often possible for trainers or managers to create learning without providing any content at all. This is not dissimilar to a facilitator providing a group with a decision-making process and facilitating its implementation. The main difference is the focus on increasing individual rather than group effectiveness.

So the key to true facilitation is to understand that everyone has something to contribute based on their past experiences.

This doesn’t mean you can simply sit back and fire a bunch of questions to a group and expect them to do all the work.  In fact true facilitation is harder than straight training because you must know ahead of time the exact outcome you want the group to reach and then very carefully and skilfully lead them along the path to that outcome.  The ability to draw the solutions from a group to situations they may not have realised they could answer is the true ‘Aha’ moment and biggest breakthrough you can aspire for.  The reason being that when people internalise a situation, balance it with and against their own life experiences and form an outcome or answer that is far more powerful and longer lasting than simply being told the answer.

You say it and they can doubt it, they say it and they believe it.

So what are some keys for managers to learn to the art of facilitation?

As a leader you must:

  • Know exactly the desired outcome or goal you want achieved
  • Know how to ‘frame’ the situation correctly to gain buy in and understanding
  • Know the correct questions to ask to guide the group 
  • Learn to shelve your own ego and realise it’s about the group not you
  • Trust the group will achieve the outcome 
  • Create a positive safe environment to explore
  • Create activities that give room for exploration or conclusion reaching
  • Celebrate and recognise success as it breaks through

Why would you do all this?  When a group discovers their own internal answers and solutions they will have a far more powerful and longer lasting buy in.

Rapid Results   By Craig McFadyen, Rapid Results