The Functional Facilitator

The Functional Facilitator

by Jeanne Taylor Mcclellan, Debbi Fuhrer


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ATTENTION: CEOs, Managers, Administrators, Teachers, Team Leaders, Consultants, Project Managers, Trainers, (and everyone else who facilitates groups)

Want to make your facilitation style Firm, Fair, Focused and FUNctional? Read on to experience facilitation with attitude!


Inside this essential guidebook you'll find techniques for framing your facilitation experience, coaching the group, preparing for the unexpected and much more.

You'll explore real life situations (some good, some bad and some ugly) followed by a variety of techniques you can use right away to avoid similar situations and expand your facilitation skills.

The FUNctional Facilitator gives you the tools and strategies you need to become a Firm, Fair, and Focused FUNctional Facilitator.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781462069651
Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/23/2011
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.17(d)

Read an Excerpt

The FUNctional Facilitator

Because Attitude Is Everything!
By Jeanne Taylor McClellan Debbi Fuhrer

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2011 Jeanne Taylor McClellan and Debbi Fuhrer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4620-6965-1

Chapter One


The workshop was advertised as "essential to our personal and professional growth," a place where we would learn presentation techniques that would make us stand out from the rest and have people lining up to hear us speak. The speaker was described as "dynamic, exciting, and entertaining." The location was a lovely hotel in a beautiful area. Three days in such a place learning new skills with an expert was an event not to be missed! On the first morning, all the participants met in the hotel restaurant. The excitement was palpable. We walked as a group to the meeting room, signed in, put on our nametags, and entered the room. The room was large with lots of open space. At the front of the room a small platform held a podium and flipchart. A row of ten folding chairs had been placed directly in front of the platform allowing only twelve inches between the knees of the occupants and the front of the platform. Three more rows with ten chairs each had been placed closely behind that first row. There were mere inches between each chair and minimal leg space between each row. We were directed to take a seat and get comfortable — difficult to do when you are literally shoulder to shoulder with the stranger next to you and your knees are pressing into the back of the person sitting in front of you. After what seemed to be a long time, the presenter bounded to the platform to loud, high-energy music. He greeted us with extreme, boisterous enthusiasm which was overwhelming and out of place for a group of thirty-three professionals. As the day progressed fewer people returned after each break and the cluster of chairs got tighter. (The presenter's staff actually removed the empty chairs so we were always sitting close together). Despite the size of the room, the atmosphere was suffocating. We did ask why we were seated so closely in such a large space. The presenter replied, "This way we get to really know each other and lose our boundaries." What was lost was more than half of the original group by day's end. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the room stifled any possibility of professional growth.

Framing the atmosphere in which any facilitation is to take place is essential to the success of the experience. There are two parts to this frame: basic physical logistics and specific goal setting.

Basic Physical Logistics

This includes seating arrangements, lighting, temperature, and sound quality. Overall, it is important to keep participants comfortable. Rooms that are too hot or too cold, lighting that is too bright or too soft, and sound systems that crackle undermine participants' ability to pay attention to the work. Test all of these things before the session to ensure that the group will be focused and ready to contribute.

Different arrangements of chairs and tables in the room will give you different results with the group. A strong Facilitator manages the group subtly and seating arrangements will add or subtract from that subtlety.

Classroom Style - Arranging the chairs or tables one behind the other in rows puts the Facilitator in the front of the room and makes her the center of attention. However, this arrangement may remind some people unpleasantly of the classrooms of their youth.

U Shaped – The open setup facilitates discussion and lets the Facilitator walk among the group. To avoid having your back to any of the participants for any length of time it is important to move around the room with this setup.

Board Room – Here someone sits at the head of the table. This arrangement is best when it is necessary to create a hierarchy. This style may limit interaction among the group as side-by-side seating may interfere with open communication within the group.

Goal Setting

After the group members are physically comfortable you are then able to get them comfortable with the task at hand. Facilitating a group is a journey, and, just as in any journey, it is vital to know where you are going.

Each participant must be able to articulate the group's goals. The goals must be S.M.A.R.T.: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. It is the job of the Facilitator to lead the group to these goals.

Once everyone agrees to the goals, the next decision is how the group will measure the outcome of its work. That measurement determines whether the group is succeeding in its work. Ask: "How will the group be different when the session is over?" and "What has the group accomplished specifically?"

With these questions answered, the group is ready to move forward with its project.

Use this framing process for every meeting with the group. Always check the logistics and then revisit the goals and measurements. This provides consistency and keeps the group on track.

The FUN of Framing is ...

Watching the participants interact exactly as you wanted because of the atmosphere you created with proper framing.

Your FUNctional Attitude Focuses on:

Organization to enable you to visualize the process as you set up the room. • Flexibility to prepare you to handle the unexpected with a sense of humor.

Chapter Two


The project had been assigned four weeks earlier. The participants had been handpicked by the CEO based on their expertise. The Facilitator's responsibility was to bring all these minds together and keep them moving forward to get the project done on time and under budget. The Facilitator had prepared himself for this group. Before meeting the group, he had assigned each team member to take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) online. He had reviewed and analyzed the results of the individual inventories and had reviewed the list of participants, their job responsibilities, and their various departments. Attendees trickled into the room, coffee in hand, ready to work. John and George were both new to the company, experts on the subject matter, and specifically hired for this project. Both were ready to work, but neither man knew anyone in the room. The Facilitator lingered at the front of the room. As people entered, he smiled, nodded at some, made brief eye contact with others, and generally observed individual and group behavior. He watched as people formed distinct groups, saving spaces for others who had not yet arrived. He noticed John and George surveying the room deciding where to sit. He knew that George would find a group, introduce himself, and join them. He knew that John would find an empty table and sit away from the rest of the group. Combining the information from the MBTI with the background studies he had done on each participant enabled him to guide the group effectively to complete the project. More importantly, he was confident in his ability to adjust his facilitating style and get everyone focused and functioning.

As with any project, the more information you have before you start, the better prepared you are to do the work. Make no mistake: facilitation requires work before, during, and after the actual connection. So let's take this in steps.

Step 1 – Know Your Group

The more you know about each individual in the group the better equipped you are to manage the whole group. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is just one of the many inventories you could use. Also, the more each participant knows about his personal style of communication the more prepared he will be to participate in the group.

Pay attention to each participant's body language and speaking styles. Encouraging them to share information about their job responsibilities or just asking how their day has been will help you to assess the attitude of each individual and the mood of the group as a whole.

Step 2 – Prepare for the Unexpected

When you prepare for facilitation, take some time to envision some of the situations that could arise. Choose the ones that could be the most challenging for you, and plan for those with enough detail that you will be able to adjust your style seamlessly. The more experience you gather as a Facilitator, the more alternate plans you will have at your disposal to let you smoothly adjust to any situation.

Step 3 – Close the Session

It's important to bring closure to any group. Do this by circling back to the beginning of the session. Ask the group three summary questions:

What? What really happened today? Have group members summarize the day from their perspectives. • So What? How did today's events fit into the bigger picture? What value did this session bring to the project and to the contribution the group is making? • Now what? Where does the group want to go from here? What are its next steps? How will the group move forward?

This is the time for you to be still and let group members discover what they have learned. You may find it difficult to be silent during this time. At most, summarize their learning for them when they are finished and set them up for the next session. Remember that this is their process and that you have ben privileged to share it with them.

The FUN of Assessing is ...

Knowing how each person's behavior will unfold as you place them in a new situation – it's almost like being psychic.

Your FUNctional Attitude Focuses on:

Preparation to identify the individual behaviors and uncover the dynamics of the group as a whole.

Appreciation of individual differences and an ability to blend those differences into a cohesive unit

Chapter Three


The team was struggling. Individually they worked well, but when required to work as a team, they fell apart. They constantly bickered among themselves, blaming each other for their poor performance. And, of course, there was a project that had to be completed on time, under budget, and with excellence. The manager called in a Facilitator to get them to pull together. The Facilitator met with each person individually to get input on the situation. Each person blamed someone else for the problem. Communication was poor and trust was nonexistent. The idea of working together as a team was laughable for this group. The Facilitator began by recognizing the special skills each individual brought to the group and assigning each a section of the project within his or her skill set. At the next team meeting, everyone reported on his or her progress. The Facilitator thanked each presenter and explained how that section fit into the whole project like a puzzle coming together. As the visual of the project took shape, the group saw how they were all connected to each other. The simple act of listening to each person's concerns individually, assigning work based on individual skills, and thanking them publicly changed the atmosphere from adversarial to cooperative. Group members still had a long way to go and they had moved forward in their efforts to be a team. In the remaining meetings, the Facilitator directed and celebrated the group's efforts. He made time to speak one-on-one with individuals who still needed support and encouraged the group as a whole as collaboration increased.

Sports coaches keep their teams focused on the goal. In the same way, you, as a Facilitator, will use coaching techniques to increase your group members' awareness of their purpose and keep them moving forward. You will provide them with techniques to increase their individual and collective learning and you will have each member practice those skills in the group setting. In the coaching role you need to ask the right questions at the right time so you need to be alert to the group's mood and momentum.

Begin coaching the group from the very beginning. It is your responsibility to create a safe environment in which the group will interact. You enhance that safe environment by clarifying the group's goal and processes using exceptional active listening skills. Purposefully pay attention to each individual as they contribute to the discussion. Listen intently. Repeat elements of the discussion so group members may clarify their original input and understanding. Encourage the group members to explore all possibilities and to appreciate the processes they all use to reach the group's goals. At the same time, hold the group and the individuals accountable.

And most importantly, celebrate the group's successes.

When the group first forms you may ask:

• What challenges are you facing with this task? • Have you met this type of challenge before? • How much time do you have to accomplish this?

You then can serve as a resource for the group. To do this effectively, you must do your due diligence on the topic. You don't need to be the subject- matter expert. However, you do need at least a cursory understanding of the topic.

Remember that your job is not to do the work for the group. Your job is to encourage and support its efforts as it moves forward. That requires you to pay attention to where the group is at the moment and recognize the group's readiness to achieve the goals. At times you may need to be directive and at other times permissive as the group tries things independently. Keeping group members focused on the goal, proud of the work they do, and aware of the value that each person brings to the group is the best way to coach the group to success.

The FUN of Coaching is ...

Sharing in an individual's journey to personal and professional development.

Your FUNctional Attitude Focuses on:

Intelligence on both emotional and technical levels. • Interest in the group individually and collectively. • Flexibility to prepare you to steer the group in a different direction when the members go off track.

Chapter Four


A department was working on a promotion program which would be based on level of education and amount of experience. Every month the department met as a whole to decide on the framework for the program, including criteria for advancement, duties, and responsibilities of each level and the selection process. Leading this group was a new director of this department, and he struggled with the different personalities within the department. When less experienced or more passive members expressed themselves during discussions, a more dominating member would interject, "I think what you mean to say is ..." and would change the meaning of the other person's thought to make sure it was aligned with her own agenda. Soon, the other members of the group were hesitant to say anything in the meetings, and the director felt they were at an impasse. In addition, members who didn't feel comfortable speaking during the meeting would come to the director afterwards with their opinions or suggestions, which took a good deal of his time. The director decided to change the discussion format. He sent out an agenda and a list of questions the group would address, giving the members ample time to prepare their thoughts. At the next meeting, the director went around the table to hear what each person had to say. He made sure the dominating member gave her feedback last. While she wasn't able to give her feedback throughout the meeting, she expressed herself with her body language by crossing her arms, rolling her eyes, and tapping her foot. However, because the other members were prepared for the questions and everyone was given a chance to speak, they voiced their own suggestions and ideas. As different opinions and perspectives were expressed, members grew more confident in their suggestions because the dominating member was not interjecting. This new format created a more open communication between the members, and they were able to move the project forward. The director also found that this method resulted in fewer "meetings after the meetings."


Excerpted from The FUNctional Facilitator by Jeanne Taylor McClellan Debbi Fuhrer Copyright © 2011 by Jeanne Taylor McClellan and Debbi Fuhrer. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. 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.

Table of Contents


About the Authors....................vii
F = FRAMING....................1
A = ASSESSING....................7
C = COACHING....................11
I = INTERPRETING....................15
L = LEADING....................21
I = INTERACTING....................27
T = TEAMING....................31
A = ARBITRATING....................35
T = TRAINING....................43
I = INTEGRATING....................47
N = NOTETAKING....................51
G = GOOD GRIEF, THERE'S MORE!!....................57

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