WELCOME to this regular slot that focusses on professional skills for chemical engineers. Here we are going to look at the art of facilitation.
Let’s say your organisation faces a challenge. It could be falling sales, exploiting new technology, managing growth, remote working etc. Challenges seem to be the hallmark of a thriving organisation. They are hard-wired to growth, improvement, and innovation, and without them life would be dull.
Anyway, the organisation asks you to lead a group tasked with addressing the issue. You send an email to a collection of people from different parts of the organisation, giving a quick summary of the situation and inviting them to the meeting. Come the day of the meeting, people show up with various states of engagement. Everyone has got their own opinion about the situation. Some people are enthusiastic about sharing their opinion; others are keeping their opinion to themselves. I’m sure many of you have seen this film before. Some opinions may get pushed forwards more than others, some people may feel under-valued. People stop listening, stop sharing, and the outcome is less than satisfactory. How hard can it be for a group of intelligent professionals to play nicely together? The art of facilitation can help us get the best outcome from situations like these.
The Cambridge English Dictionary defines facilitation as:
“the act of helping other people to deal with a process or reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved in the process”
Here’s a list of ideas to help you get started, based on my own experiences as a facilitator. The principles of facilitation are the same whether you are meeting face-to-face or remotely online.
Hopefully, this provides some ideas that will help you to be more effective at facilitation. There are many tricks of the trade that you can acquire. However, the important starting point is the right mindset. Put yourself to one side. It’s not about you and your ideas. The question is: how can you help this group of people solve whatever problem they are up against?
Experience and reflection are great teachers. Over time you will learn when to intervene, how to intervene, and when to remain silent. The most effective facilitators are often those whose guidance to the group is unobtrusive and barely noticeable at the time.
Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.