Sharing the facilitation: Helping teams & groups be more effective

One of my missions in life (smile) is to save groups from bad facilitation, to enable them to break through Groupthink, and to be able to ask process questions themselves.  Recently, Rick Lent raised a great question about the challenges we face in facilitating meetings, and someone mentioned “setting round rules”.  I think it’s not enough to set ground rules/norms.  I like to ask a group: How will you/we hold each other to these norms?   What I’m aiming for is shared leadership and shared facilitation, to build their capacity to monitor themselves – and I love it when someone else makes a process comment, like, “I don’t think we’re clear about how this decision is going to be made”, or whatever.

There are surely other factors that influence whether or not participants, wish to follow the norms – such as, “Am I on board with the purpose of this meeting?”  “Do I trust the leader or the group?”  “Do I believe that people will carry out the decisions that are made?”  As facilitators or team coaches, we may need to raise these questions, to make this transparent to the group.  These are usually unstated thoughts, and we can help to surface the unstated and the undiscussables.

As team coaches, part of our role is to help the group reflect on its own practice, to see where they could be doing things better: getting agreement on the problem;  clarifying the problem before generating solutions;  noticing that everyone is in lockstep – Groupthink, and when there’s not a diversity of perspectives.  To this end I like David Kantor’s 4-player model, which includes these “moves”:  promote, support, oppose, observe/bystand.  Any group has someone who promotes an idea, and some people support it and others oppose it.  The role that is often missing is the “observer” role, someone(s) who is reflecting on the process and raising questions to the group.  For example, “It seems like we’ve started generating solutions, but I’m not sure that we have agreement on the problem”.   Or, “I think we’ve made assumptions that aren’t supported by the data; could we review those?”

Anyone in the group can make a “move”, and anyone can observe or bystand, and raise questions.  As trained facilitators, we can help them begin to observe how they solve problems, how inclusive they are in hearing everyone’s opinion, how clear they are on their decision-making process.  I’d be fine working myself out of a job if group members developed their process skills!  (somehow I think there will always be work for us :)

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