Whether your meeting takes place in person or virtually, someone has to be in charge of the meeting. Someone has to lead and guide and be in charge of the agenda, time keeping and more. That someone is the facilitator.
Facilitation is a skill which when put into practice, can continue to grow, expand and be refined. TeamCatapult has been teaching a variety of Facilitation workshops for years. To check out a sampling of our upcoming facilitation offerings, start here.
What does Maintaining Neutrality Mean to a Facilitator?
How can this be achieved? It is done by maintaining neutrality on the facilitator’s part.
How is Maintaining Neutrality Achieved?
The facilitator needs to own the process of the meeting while letting the participants own the content or topic.
Here is what it will look like.
As facilitator, you will need to engage in the following actions:
- Setting the group’s direction to an agreed-upon outcome
- Making process moves about how the group will work
- Asking question of the group
- Building bridges between competing ideas
- Sharing what you see happening in the group’s process without judgement.
While this might sound easy, it is not. In fact, some would argue that being completely neutral is not possible, that everything we say and do will be informed by our bias.
I do think it’s possible to maintain neutrality – especially if your focus is on the process not the content.
In this article, we will look at three ways to maintain neutrality.
1 Plan Ahead: Know Before You Go!
Before facilitating a meeting, it is important to know why the team is meeting and what they hope to accomplish. In addition, it’s important to know who is attending the meeting and who else needs to be in the room with this group.
This ‘Planning and Design for Facilitation’ needs to happen before the facilitator steps foot in the room.
Are you a facilitator? Plan to spend 2.5 times the length of the upcoming meeting on planning and design. Meaning that if the meeting is a 2-hour meeting, planning and design will take about 5 hours.
2 Grab a Partner: Share Neutral Leadership
Being the sole facilitator can be hard. Sharing neutral leadership means sharing the work of facilitation by rotating this role among the team members. It means having everyone take a turn owning the process and stepping out of the content.
This powerful practice of sharing neutral leadership serves two purposes. It helps you the facilitator develop your own skill set around maintaining neutrality and it develops the group’s ability to dig for their solutions with more trust.
3 Ask for Feedback and Support
Have I shared yet how ‘tricky’ maintaining neutrality is? Setting up a feedback process is essential for learning what is and what isn’t working.
This part is not about asking participants whether they liked the facilitation, it’s about determining if the group reached their desired outcomes through the facilitation process and if they held conversations that needed to be had.
Co-facilitation means having someone else in the room who can see where you might have slipped out of neutrality and can help you reflect on why it happened.
Co-facilitation is a great way to receive feedback, as long as you partner with someone more experienced.