Last week, a client emailed me asking for help with facilitation skills. So, I went to youtube.com thinking I could find some high quality training videos in a jiffy. Nope. I found a lot of folks slinging lingo and jousting with jargon, but I didn’t find anyone who could talk about facilitation without slipping into one of two traps:
1. Drowning me in a blizzard of meaningless buzzwords until the room started to spin. If I’d been near an open window, I’d have jumped. Gleefully.
2. Standing in the front of the room with a marker saying things like, “Yes! Action is doing something – very good!” followed by “That’s it! We need a process to do something. You’d be amazed at how many leaders do not understand the need for process.” It was like day care in hell.
I love facilitating meetings, and I was bored to distraction. I know many of the people in those videos love meeting facilitation and the magic of groups too. What is it that makes us so tongue-tied about this key leadership skill? Why do we either bury it in corpo-speak or find ourselves making ringing proclamations of the obvious. Either way, why do we sound like such nitwits?
Because facilitating a meeting is simple. It’s so simple, it doesn’t seem possible that all that power could come from something so simple. So, we over-complicate it with lofty talk or overstate it’s simplicity with an almost psychotic passion.
Wanting to comes first
The raison d’etre of every meeting to to motivate a group of individuals to join forces to get something done. To be come something more than a collection of individuals. It’s not convincing them. It’s not persuading them. It’s not leading them. It’s not making it happen, because motivating someone else isn’t possible. They must motivate themselves. Motivation comes from wanting to do something. Group motivation comes from individuals connecting with each other – igniting each other until they are a great, roaring bonfire. Without the “want to,” you’ve got nothing. In the case of many meetings, you’ve got quite a bit less than nothing as group members spend time getting over the barren wasteland of meeting after meeting without even a spark.
All of which means that meetings are about letting a group talk themselves into wanting to do what needs to be done. That’s best done by asking for their help figuring out how to do it, then getting out of the way while they ignite each other. You’d best be ignited first, either with excitement or frustration or doubt, it doesn’t much matter which. A group that catches fire turns all of those into fuel.