Designing Your Meetings With Purpose

Your role as facilitator no longer depends on your opinion or even on your expertise about the content.

A facilitator has the responsibility to assess the situation, the people and plan productive meetings, all while remaining neutral and staying out of the content.  Your role as facilitator no longer depends on your opinion or even on your expertise about the content.  Realizing that content is no longer the facilitator responsibility but perhaps more of an outcome, an effective facilitator will focus on planning each meeting to assist in improved team efficiency and productivity.

Some think that the facilitator is the “person in charge.”  Rather than “charging your way” through a process, a meeting, or a team, there are three things that will help you bring focus to this role:

  • What:  Only focus on those topics that are important and useful to all or most of the people in the meeting
  • Who:  Only invite those people who need to understand, buy into, or act on the topics being discussed
  • Why:  Give people the information they need in order to understand why they’re at the meeting.

The Result: Good Collaboration

Good collaboration doesn’t just happen. It takes forethought, intention and a keen sense of human nature.  Human nature? Yep!  Understanding how people get triggered and how people feel respected is part of the role as facilitator. Plan a process for a group of people that minimizes conflict and maximizes productivity. That takes skill, logic, intuition and a lot of practice.  

If, for example, you need the group to arrive at decisions, then you’ll need to structure the process to get them there.  Chances are good they cannot go straight to a decision and instead, will need to explore possibilities, then evaluate the alternatives, then make decisions.

These essential three steps are frequently rushed, so practice allowing the time to nurture what the process needs. To facilitate a group through large decisions it is likely you won’t have time (or the necessary requirements) within a single meeting.  Consider three separate meetings, one for each purpose and design your meetings to encourage that outcome:  

  1. In the first meeting, meant to explore possibilities, imagination, innovation and creativity are welcome.
  2. In the second meeting, meant to evaluate the alternatives, critical thinking, analysis and budget knowledge are welcome.  
  3. In the third meeting, meant to make decisions, negotiation and compromise are welcome.  

As you can see, how you design your meeting sets the stage for how it will go.  When you design your meeting with clear purpose and intention, it’s likely to evoke less conflict and promote more efficiency and productivity during the meeting and for the team.

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