Advanced Facilitation Strategies: Tools and Techniques to Master Difficult Situations / Edition 1 by Ingrid Bens | 9781118046760 | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble
Advanced Facilitation Strategies: Tools and Techniques to Master Difficult Situations

Advanced Facilitation Strategies: Tools and Techniques to Master Difficult Situations

by Ingrid Bens
     
 

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From Ingrid Bens, the author of the best-selling book Facilitating with Ease!, comes the next-step resource for project leaders, managers, community leaders, teachers, and other facilitators who want to hone their skills in order to deal with complex situations. Advanced Facilitation Strategies is a field guide that offers practical strategies and

Overview

From Ingrid Bens, the author of the best-selling book Facilitating with Ease!, comes the next-step resource for project leaders, managers, community leaders, teachers, and other facilitators who want to hone their skills in order to deal with complex situations. Advanced Facilitation Strategies is a field guide that offers practical strategies and techniques for working with challenging everyday situations. These proven strategies and techniques are based on experience gleaned from hundreds of facilitated activities in organizations of all sizes and in all sectors.

Both novice and seasoned facilitators who have had firsthand experience designing and leading meetings will benefit from this reality-based playbook. Advanced Facilitation Strategies is filled with the information facilitators need to

  • Become better at diagnosing facilitation assignments and creating effective process designs
  • Broaden their repertoire of tools to make impromptu design changes whenever they are needed
  • Learn to be more resilient and confident when dealing with dysfunctional situations and difficult people.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781118046760
Publisher:
Wiley
Publication date:
07/05/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
File size:
11 MB
Note:
This product may take a few minutes to download.

Read an Excerpt

Advanced Facilitation Strategies


By Ingrid Bens

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7879-7730-6


Chapter One

Advanced Strategies Overview

When we first set out to learn something new, it's very helpful to have simple guidelines to follow: charts and graphs, checklists and straightforward tables of do's and don'ts. Whenever we begin to explore a new topic we want samples to copy and models to emulate: recipes that tell us exactly what to do.

But recipes and prescribed formulas have their limitations. Think of the cook who can only produce a meal by following a recipe. What if some of the essential ingredients are missing? What if other ingredients are available instead? What if more people turn up than expected?

While the novice cook knows how to follow recipes, the master chef knows how to work with whatever's available. He or she has an intimate knowledge of a wide range of ingredients and how they react to each other in different combinations and at various temperatures. The expert chef has what the amateur cook does not: a deep understanding of the principles of cooking and intimate knowledge about a wide range of ingredients and how to use them in different situations.

In facilitation, as in cooking, things don't always go as planned! Factors that were originally thought to be unrelated can unexpectedly emerge as central issues. The subject being discussed may suddenly reveal itself to be far more complex than previously thought. Group members may begin toexhibit counterproductive behaviors without apparent cause. The process that you designed so carefully can suddenly unravel!

Since any discussion has the potential to become complex, it's essential that all facilitators move beyond the basics as soon as they possibly can. This means increasing your knowledge of the core principles of process leadership and knowing which strategies will work when the going gets tough.

This book aims to support you in your personal journey to the advanced level by offering you techniques and strategies to deal with a wide range of facilitation dilemmas. These include:

the inherently powerless nature of facilitation the difficulty of gaining and keeping the role

the challenge of working with upper management

the overstressed and often resistant outlook of participants

the difficulties inherent in making complex decisions

the politics and hidden agendas present in many situations

the dysfunctional behaviors that limit group effectiveness

the challenge of providing structure to groups who may resist it

In today's fast-paced workplace, every conversation needs to be carefully designed and expertly executed in order to achieve maximum results. To do this you need to possess advanced strategies!

Your Personal Philosophy of Facilitation

It's logical to assume that the keys to becoming more skillful are to practice often, gather more tools and hone one's session design skills. While these activities are clearly important, the first step toward reaching the advanced level is actually the development of a personal philosophy of facilitation.

Having a clear set of principles and practices firmly in place will act like a foundation. It will ground you and make you more resilient in challenging situations. A clear personal philosophy will guide your interactions with others and provide you with a rationale when considering which elements to include in any design.

If you operate without a clear personal philosophy, you'll be lacking the organizing principle that will help you see patterns in your work. In this void you'll be randomly cobbling together tools and techniques in the hope that they create patterns of interaction that make sense. This need for clarity is further accentuated by the fact that there's still considerable confusion in the minds of many people about facilitation. This further accentuates why you must have a clear understanding of the purpose of your craft.

To help you develop a personal philosophy, consider adopting the following unassailable principles:

Facilitation is grounded in a sincere respect for all group members regardless of their age, rank or cultural group.

Facilitation is a transparent endeavor characterized by honesty and positive intent.

Facilitators believe that everyone possesses innate wisdom that can be harnessed and channeled for the good of the whole.

All facilitation activities aim to foster cooperation and commitment.

Facilitators advocate empowerment and participation so that groups buy in and own the outcomes of their deliberations.

Facilitators value the synergistic power of collective thought and strive to help groups arrive at collaborative decisions that represent a win for all parties.

Most important, facilitators never use the process role in order to seek personal power or control. The main goal of all facilitation activities is to enhance the effectiveness of others, whether that's the personal effectiveness of an individual who is being coached, the ability of a team to reach its goals, or the overall wellness of an organization and its culture.

The quest for a philosophy of facilitation is a personal journey that each of us needs to embark upon for ourselves. In addition to reading the works of leading thinkers in this field, you can begin by asking yourself some simple questions, such as:

"Why do I want to be a facilitator? What are my motives?"

"What do I bring to the people I facilitate?"

"What's unique about my work as a facilitator?"

"What elements must always be present in my work?"

"What actions or activities will I always exclude from my work?"

"What are the most important outcomes of my work?"

Once you've given this some thought, formulate a personal philosophy statement that you can share with others in order to clarify the principles that inform your work. This statement may evolve over time as your work matures and will always provide you with an anchor in times of doubt in the case of conflicting priorities.

The Three Levels of Competence

Increasing personal proficiency in any skill typically involves moving through a series of levels. Review the following description of facilitation skill levels and then complete the self-assessment that begins on page 7 to identify both your current competencies and the skills you most need to acquire.

Level I

New facilitators almost always start out leading the regularly scheduled meetings held within their own department or project team. These are meetings where they're familiar with the content under discussion and will be able to ask effective questions due to their knowledge of the issues being explored.

In these meetings the group leader is typically present, as are the facilitator's peers. The facilitator may be notified in advance to lead the meeting or, as is often the case, be pressed into action without much notice when the need for facilitation materializes.

The focus at Level I is:

understanding the core principles, models and concepts of facilitation

being able to manage a group discussion using core skills such as remaining neutral, asking questions, paraphrasing and summarizing

having awareness of the key components of an effective meeting design

knowing how to foster participation and encourage effective behaviors

knowing when to use various decision-making tools

making clear and accurate summaries and notes

knowing various techniques for taking the pulse of the group in order to get things back on track

Level II

Once a facilitator has gained experience managing regular staff meetings, he or she may be asked to lead special purpose meetings for their peers or even for groups who are outside their work unit.

This transition can take place for a number of reasons. It can occur naturally simply because all groups have a periodic need for special purpose meetings such as problem-solving sessions, planning meetings, or team-building workshops.

This shift can also happen when a facilitator is sought out for assistance by those outside his or her immediate work group because they've gained a reputation for being effective. Regardless of the reason for the shift, leading more complex, special-purpose conversations requires an additional level of skill. This is especially true if the participants are unknown to the facilitator.

The focus at Level II is:

knowing how to gather information, assess data and determine participant needs

being aware of a wide repertoire of tools and techniques

being able to design complex conversations

being skilled at helping groups make difficult decisions and overcome decision blocks

being able to manage a variety of complicated group dynamics without losing neutrality or personal composure

Level III

A facilitator is required to possess skills at the third and final level of mastery any time they're approached to design and lead processes that involve either a planned intervention to resolve a dispute, an initiative aimed at enhancing organizational effectiveness, or a planned change effort. Whether the assignment is internal or external to their usual work group, when a facilitator takes on a facilitation assignment that's part of one of these activities, they're functioning as an Organization Development consultant.

Note that the facilitator is now said to be acting as a consultant because they're acting to help or support a client through the application of their specialized knowledge in a situation where they lack managerial control. In the case of Organization Development consulting, that special knowledge is the application of process tools and techniques that are used to guide stakeholders through specific steps of the planned activity.

The focus at Level III is:

possessing a personal philosophy of facilitation

knowing about the core principles and practices of Organization Development

being aware of the stages in the facilitation process

being skilled at designing a wide range of data-gathering techniques

knowing the key process models used to make interventions

being able to design and facilitate complex, multi-stage interventions

Where Are You Now? - Self-Assessment

Begin your journey to facilitation mastery by reviewing the descriptions and competencies that follow. Identify both the skills that you currently possess and those areas in need of further development, then create your personal learning goals. The descriptions and competencies are arranged in three levels:

Level I - consists of the core skills required to lead routine discussions and manage meetings effectively

Level II - consists of the ability to design complex decision processes and manage difficult situations Level III - involves designing and leading activities that are part of a planned change effort

Level I - Basic Competencies Self-Assessment

New facilitators almost always start out leading the regularly scheduled meetings held within their own department or project team. These are meetings where they're familiar with the content under discussion and will be able to ask effective questions due to their knowledge of the issues being explored.

In these meetings the group leader is typically present, as are the facilitator's peers. The facilitator may be notified in advance to lead the meeting or, as is often the case, be pressed into action without much notice if the need for facilitation materializes.

1 = totally disagree 2 = disagree 3 = not sure 4 = agree 5 = totally agree

1. I understand the concepts, values and beliefs underpinning facilitation. ____

2. I'm aware of what to do at the start, middle and end of a facilitation ____

3. I'm skilled at active listening, paraphrasing, questioning and summarizing key points. ____

4. I'm able to manage time and maintain a good pace. ____

5. I know techniques for encouraging active participation and generating ideas. ____

6. I know how to create and then use group norms to encourage effective behaviors. ____

7. I can make clear notes that accurately reflect what members have said. ____

8. I'm familiar with the core process tools used to structure participative group discussions. ____

9. I understand the difference between various decision-making tools and know when to use each one. ____

10. I understand how to help a group achieve consensus and gain closure. ____

11. I'm skilled at offering constructive feedback to groups and am comfortable accepting personal feedback. ____

12. I know the key components of an effective meeting design and can create a detailed agenda. ____

13. I know how to ask good probing questions that challenge assumptions in a nonthreatening way. ____

14. I know when and how to conduct periodic process checks. ____

15. I know how to use a variety of exit surveys to improve meeting effectiveness. ____

Level I skills I currently possess:

Level I skills that I would like to develop further:

Level II - Intermediate Competencies Self-Assessment

Once a facilitator has gained experience managing regular staff meetings, they may be asked to lead special-purpose meetings for their peers or even for groups who are outside their work unit.

This transition can take place for a number of reasons. It can occur naturally simply because all groups have a periodic need for special-purpose meetings such as problem-solving sessions, planning meetings, or team-building workshops.

This shift can also happen when a facilitator is sought out for assistance by those outside their immediate work group if they've gained a reputation for being effective. Regardless of the reason for the shift, leading more complex, special-purpose conversations requires an additional level of skill. This is especially true if the participants are unknown to the facilitator.

1 = totally disagree 2 = disagree 3 = not sure 4 = agree 5 = totally agree

16. I know how to use surveys and conduct interviews to assess group needs and interests. ____

17. I can design meetings for a variety of purposes and can adjust my designs in mid-stream if necessary. ____

18. I know strategies to create a safe environment and gain buy-in from reluctant participants. ____

19. I can deal with resistance nondefensively, even when it's aimed at me personally. ____

20. I know the signs of 'group think' and can structure discussions to overcome it. ____

21. I'm skilled at asking complex probing questions that help members uncover underlying issues and information. ____

22. I can recognize the signs of group tension or conflict and do not hesitate to offer that insight to groups. ____

23. I'm able to appropriately and assertively intervene in order to redirect ineffective behavior. ____

24. I'm able to articulate both sides of an issue, then offer a process to reframe the conversation. ____

25. I'm able to hear and then consolidate ideas from a mass of information and create coherent summaries. ____

26. I can recognize when decision processes are polarized and know how to restructure them so they're collaborative. ____

27. I possess tools to help groups out of decision deadlocks. ____

28. I understand the team development process and know how to implement a variety of team-building activities. ____

29. I'm sensitive to interests, needs and concerns of individuals from different cultural backgrounds and from various levels and functions in the organization. ____

30. I'm sufficiently versed in process responses that I never lose my neutrality even during difficult conversations. ____

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Advanced Facilitation Strategies by Ingrid Bens Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ingrid Bens is a consultant, speaker, and trainer who specializes in facilitation skills, team building, conflict management, employee participation, and organizational change. She is a partner in the consulting firm Participative Dynamics.

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