Facilitation - a tough method for working with a group that is not worthy of attention by charismatic leaders

Aversion to change, the lack of enthusiasm to implement boss’s new ideas, the choirs chanting “this cannot work, because…” during meetings.  Or maybe it is worthwhile testing other methods for working with a group that make it possible to reduce resistance to change, speed up seeking solutions together and shorten the meetings?
At present, there are many methods for facilitating group work. ToP® is one of them. What is the result achieved by a leader who applies the ToP® facilitation methods for working with people. 
The result can be a solution to a problem, an action plan or a decision made, for which group members feel responsible and strive to implement it themselves.  Without any pressure or an official order.
To define facilitation it is good to know what facilitation is not:
FACILITATION IS NOT TRAINING – When delivering training, a trainer, a professional or a manager shares his/her knowledge with a group that is to receive the offered knowledge. A facilitator uses specific methods that make group members share their knowledge, their experiences and ideas during the session.  
The art of conducting facilitated meetings enables a group, even a very diverse one, to work together and achieve specific results in a rather short period of time.  Facilitation tools operate irrespective of formal group and organisation structures and make it possible to bring out creativity and openness in participating teams of people as well as let them solve complex problems together.
FACILITATION IS NOT THE SET OF TRICKS or “magic” that can be used to manipulate a group in order to make it submissive and get desired behaviours from it.  It is rather the way (which also happens to give a lot of fun) to achieve serious results by making people united around solving a problem that is important for them. It requires a facilitator to follow a very precise sequence of steps and have respect for all group members.
FACILITATION IS NOT A METHOD TO CONTROL THE INTELLECTUAL PROCESSES OF PEOPLE in order to gain the added value from common thinking. It is a lot more – the emotions related to specific experiences from the past of each participant and clearly voiced motivations to implement change or produce a solution to a problem common to all the present are of significant importance during the session. The emotions are the necessary “drive” for creative thinking.
Facilitation will not appeal to hierarchical leaders who guard the only approach to a problem that is right in their opinion, because facilitation makes the most of diverse points of view of all group members.
 Nor will it delight charismatic leaders who always know what to do in a given situation and rely on their own vision, knowledge and experience when leading the process of seeking the most appropriate solution or decision.  For the knowledge and experience of the leader who acts as a facilitator is not more important than the vision, knowledge and experience of any other person.                
Together with the group the facilitator seeks a solution that the GROUP will regard as good, important and useful under given boundary conditions. Then people will feel responsible for the solutions they have produced and wish to apply them – according to a plan that also is their achievement. If you are a co-author of an idea and a plan, then it is hard for you to say: “This cannot be done!”
Thus, the facilitator does not rely on his/her own intellectual resources and talents to persuade others – but, using precise methods for working with the group, he/she relies on the group knowledge, experience and each person’s individual motivation to change.

What are the advantages of FACILITATION as a method for working with a group?

  1. Time saving – facilitation structures group efforts and effectively focuses the attention of all people present around the common, clearly defined goal for the period of time necessary for decision making / arriving at a solution. A problem solving process takes usually from 45 to 90 minutes (depending on the level of problem complexity)
  2. Every vote counts! Everybody is carefully heard out during a facilitation session, and no idea or perspective is dominating or perceived as better or worse than other or as “not fitting”.  Careful hearing people out motivates strongly even shy individuals to participate.  On the other hand, it reduces any attempts to fight to be heard out undertaken by some meeting participants who want to attract attention at all costs.
  3. A group may include 6 as well as 126 individuals.
  4. It generates openness – work methods used reduce the fear of communicating unpopular views or stating “inconvenient” facts.
  5. It is universal. Both the groups that are close and the groups of unknown people (e.g., from different departments) can succeed using these methods.
  6. It is very helpful in making all people gathered see the “big picture” of the situation from various points of view. This prevents a narrow way of thinking about only “my slice of the organisation” and builds responsibility for the whole company/ department/ all business processes. The more diverse group taking part in facilitation, the better!

WHEN THE USE OF FACILITATION AS A METHOD FOR WORKING WITH A GROUP IS WORTHWHILE?

  1. Your team (or the whole organisation) is undergoing change,
  2. You work with a managerial team,
  3. Implementation of the solution worked out by the team depends to a large extent on the level of personal commitment of each group member.
  4. There is a strong polarisation within the team,
  5. You care about the increase of the sense of responsibility for achieved results.
  6. You care about the increase of openness and confidence.

What then do the ToP® facilitation methods consist in?

They consist in asking very precise questions, encouraging people to express their opinions and listening to them with care, in organising work in sub-groups as well as in an interesting method to structure participants’ achievements.
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