Friday, 22 January 2016

How to Facilitate for an Executive Team You Don't Know

This week, I facilitated an executive team that I had not worked with before. I had one business day and a weekend to prepare. 

It was a 2016 kick-off meeting to confirm commitment to the organization's mandate and strategic direction.

After a good briefing and homework, I was ready to go.

The facilitator's role is to ensure outcomes are met. Here are the guidelines I followed to encourage participation, surface issues and test for agreement:

  • Develop a deep understanding of the meeting objectives  from multiple sources to remove personal biases
  • Learn and use the language used by the team  not knowing their terms of reference creates a disconnect in discussions when time is spent having to educating you
  • Ask about group dynamics and the roles (optimist, collaborator, contrarian, etc.) that each participant has played at past meetings  you can draw on these people when a specific role is needed in the conversation
  • Research attendees on LinkedIn and company and industry news to get a sense of their past influences  also, note things you have in common with them to build immediate rapport
  • Identify the participants who will be attending in person and on phone or video conference lines  remote attendees should speak first to ensure they are not forgotten
  • After a brief introduction, ask people a question about their views  it refocuses them away from thoughts about other parts of their lives (the call they just had, an approaching deadline, etc.) and establishes a rhythm that you can maintain throughout the meeting 
  • Take notes on comments and agreements  verbatim comments are essential to the post meeting debrief
  • Ensure everyone is included in the conversation – full participation leads to more balanced outcomes and perceived value of the meeting
  • Provide perspective on comments based on your experience  use examples and metaphors that will resonate with attendees
  • If discussions get heated, thank people for their honesty and candour  opposing views can lead to better decisions and demonstrate engagement of participants
  • Leave enough time for final comments and review  15 minutes is ideal for a two hour meeting
  • Summarize agreements and next steps  include these in your notes, especially deadlines and those accountable for doing the work
  • Clarify when the team will meet next  the date needs to align with timing of next steps
  • Thank people for their participation  their investment of time and focus created the outcomes
  • Follow up with notes using the team's PowerPoint template  it provides immediate team recognition and makes them easy to review at the team's next meeting
  • Lead a 30 minute debrief with the team leader and other member(s) who asked you to facilitate  share overall perceptions including areas of alignment, opposition and overall group dynamics 

You can add a lot of value as a meeting facilitator by focusing discussions, encouraging participation and ensuring outcomes are met. Following a set of guidelines will ensure you can do so at a moment's notice.


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