by Sam Neo
As a HR professional, you will often be put in situations where you are required to facilitate conversations. Whether such conversations come in a small group (e. g. focus groups), or in a larger setting (e.g. corporate retreat), there are some key elements to take note of to help bring about a more meaningful session. What are they? Let’s explore further.
It may seem like a lot of experienced facilitators go into a meeting and simply start leading discussions without much effort or preparation involved. Is that really the case? Being prepared is probably one of the most important yet often overlooked aspect of facilitation. Preparation includes designing the type of facilitation tools to use, understanding the profile of people you are meeting, assessing the dynamics of the group, determining the focus areas and definitely, setting the desired outcome that you want to achieve at the end of the session. Being prepared also provides you with more credibility and helps everyone make the best out of the limited time to accomplish the key objectives.
2. Frame the mind at the onset
It is common for people to enter a meeting with different agendas. This means, without a common thread to frame their mind, discussions will simply deviate everywhere and that can easily lead to a discussion with no conclusion even after several hours. What you can do is to set the stage right from the start and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Lay the ground rules, manage the expectations and get everyone to agree that this is how we are going to approach the session. With that, it is easy for you to bring back the team from distractions if someone deviates from the topic along the way. That said, the pre-requisite to this is preparation and a good understanding of what the end goal is.
3. Keep things neutral
For HR to operate effectively, credibility is one essential element to have. One way to achieve that besides being well prepared is to show that you are objective and not take sides. During meetings, things that you say or even words that you use will send a message to participants on what your stand is. Being neutral doesn’t mean that HR cannot have a stand. HR should still take a position that is objective and aligned with the business needs. That said, being neutral is about not taking sides and doing your best to help the organization achieve the best outcome through facilitating objectively rather than being swayed with personal interest.
4. Take control
As a facilitator, you are the most powerful person, if not one of the most powerful figures in the room. You hold the authority to move discussions and get people involved. Do not be afraid to speak up and intervene is someone is trying to dominate the conversation. Ask yourself, is the purpose of a meeting to discuss an issue or to observe a monologue? To fulfill the objective of promoting purposeful discussions to get a resolution where everyone is aligned, a good facilitator needs to take control and get everyone involved as much as possible. Participants in the meetings will only be fully committed on the journey to change things if their voices are heard. That said, the facilitator needs to help manage the dominant speakers while providing a safe platform for the “softer voices” to speak up as well. You will be surprised by the great inputs that the latter provides when the opportunity is presented to them.
5. Uncover insights, not provide them
As a facilitator, your role is not to provide the meeting with answers. What you should focus on is to bring out the views of the participants, draw deeper insights by asking questions and in turn, help piece things together to present a clearer picture for everyone. To do so, avoid making assumptions. When in doubt, clarify. Spend time to get participants thinking and sharing their views because that’s what is key to uncovering meaningful insights. After going through many sessions, you will realize that the answers are often already present. It’s just a matter of piecing the bite-sized information together and helping them dig deeper to understand what it really means.
6. Close with impact
After all the hard work to facilitate an active and meaningful discussion, a proper closing will help keep everyone on the same page once again and committed to the common goal. It is important for the facilitator to round things up by recapping the salient points and get consensus on the next steps moving forward. With that, expectations will be clear and everyone will be on the journey to achieve the goals set out together.