meeting management

January 26, 2010

Top Ten Benefits of Facilitation

By using facilitation as a tactic, you can ensure that you free up your people in all sorts of ways when they work together – after all, it’s there to make the process work.

But what exactly are the benefits?

Facilitation is a simple skill whereby the process to an end result is supported – especially in meetings – to ensure that the participants are able to contribute fully, without worrying unduly about the activity. They do the content, thinking and debate, the facilitator enables it to happen.

So, what exactly are the benefits of using facilitation in the workplace?

Here are ten of them…

1. Freeing
Because a great facilitator focuses specifically on the process, everyone else can get on with the purpose and outcomes and concentrate fully.

2. Structure
Meetings follow a precise route, engaging those present and reducing concerns. In the future, the process creates a ‘safe space’ for members to meet and contribute.

3. Clarity
The facilitated meeting clarifies roles and enables the leader to be fully ‘present’ – thus reducing their focus on the clock and their own, often internal, agenda.

4. Neutral
When using an internal or external facilitator, they bring a process-focused neutrality to the proceedings and have no role in the issue.

5. Value-Creating
Facilitated meetings create value. The synergies released once the process is clear, enable a freedom of thinking that provides for much better solutions.

6. Experiential
If used as a learning exercise, as well as a real activity, Facilitation is learnable. Like anything new, those present can be a little resistant, but still, with post-meeting review, lessons learned make subsequent occasions progress quickly.

7. Timely
Meetings which are facilitated are timely. With the focus created by a skilled facilitator, there is no wasted time, so building confidence, trust and team spirit.

8. Contributory
More individuals on the team are able to say their piece, because the rules are agreed upfront. Any minor transgressions are reflected upon quickly in the facilitated process. So everyone’s input is valued and inappropriate behaviors are controlled.

9. Progressive
Because the process is fair and ‘managed’, there is an understood commitment to outcomes and actions. Accountabilities are very clear, written down and agreed.

10. Clarifies Roles

Pre-meeting discussion between the facilitator and key players clarifies the roles of those involved in the activity. Thus a lead will have a clear understanding that his or her role is broader than driving his or her own solutions. Hence team skills are improved and the leader begins to appreciate the true value of the bigger team ethic.

When meetings are facilitated, progress happens. Facilitation in other situations can work too, so it can be used as a valuable tool to generate successful outputs, when people get together to work effectively and efficiently towards a common goal.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Focus on Results, Managing Me by Martin

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January 18, 2010

Cranking Out The Valuable Benefits of Meetings

With the negative press they get, who would have thought there was much value to glean from meetings. Yet, when you look at the possibilities, there are many positives to gain, when you know how.

Let’s be clear, there are different sorts of meetings. We’ve all been to the ones that drive us crazy. Nothing valuable happens or they overrun – and even those really fun ones where there was no real purpose for us to be there at all.

The joys of meetings can be somewhat hard to find.

Yet, when the focus is right, there really are meetings that can add value, especially when they are structured the right way and managed well to give the outcomes that you need.

Let’s take a look at three key types of meetings and where you  can create useful, value-cranking outcomes from them!

Information Giving Meetings

To start with, there are meetings where information is given.

These one-way meetings are simply to ensure that a consistent message is given to all attendees. There is little, if any, two-way exchange, because debate is not the purpose. Typical of this would be presentations, announcements and often mass communications of some sort.

Sometimes the time and effort to hold these can be avoided, particularly when the information can be given in writing or electronically. Remember though, that there are some people who ‘get’ the message best when they hear and see it.

And it’s good to follow up with something written down for reference, however it’s done, because people don’t always hear well and need something to go through again, when they have time to focus more precisely.

The value here is consistency of message and actually seeing you give it, to show that you are together with the rest of your team.

Personal Meetings

These are one-to-one meetings that you as a manager take the time to provide for someone in your team probably – though not exclusively of course, as they could be with a customer or supplier, as two other examples.

Here discussion takes place openly and the interaction quality will vary, depending on the openness and rapport that is built between the two parties involved.

A typical scenario here would be an objective setting meeting, a disciplinary interview or a coaching session when it comes down to you and a member of your team. There is a huge opportunity here to create rapport and develop the relationship as an investment for the future, so it’s a really valuable thing to do.

With customers or suppliers, as the other two sample examples, it could be to negotiate a deal, review existing contracts or even simply to deal with a complaint. This meeting is again another opportunity to create the rapport than can prove so useful in the future, as long as you handle it professionally, as well as openly and honestly too.

Collaborative Meetings

These are meetings where there are more than two participants and usually not more than perhaps 20 – probably the typical meeting experience for many.

This is an open – well controlled through facilitation – discussion about the relevant ingredients of the agenda.

In this sort of meeting, all relevant stakeholders who can contribute into the debate to create valuable outcomes, will be present.

The value here – and where most frustration over meetings can happen – is in the shared responsibility for an outcome, which is generated by the contributions – the ‘collaboration’ – of those present. Participants are there to create an outcome which one or two alone simply could not.

When the meeting activities do not match up to this, those who attend are likely to wonder what they are there for and switch off, citing the whole exercise as a waste of time.

The collaboration is the catalyst for solutions to be found that the debate synthesizes to create a ‘better than the sum of the parts’ outcome. Everyone present is good for this contributory effort and all who share the work are there because they add value and for no other reason.

Where meetings add value they are worthwhile. Getting a meeting structured such that added value is the main criteria, is the key to resources being used effectively, efficiently and very, very usefully.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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