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- Listen like you mean it – show genuine interest and curiosity.
- Suspend your assumptions, listening to understand what is really being spoken.
- Listen with all your senses – eyes, body language, tone of voice.
- Listen for what is not being said as well as the words being spoken.
- Move towards the speaker to be more closely connected.
- Scan the whole room to sense how others are reacting and responding to what is being said.
- Write it down, and check out what you’ve written to ensure the speaker does feel heard.
- As culturally appropriate, use eye contact to acknowledge people, and to encourage quiet folks to take part.
- Assist those with differing ability to articulate; paraphrase what you believe they are trying to say.
Call to Action: The ability to listen actively is 1 of 10 best facilitator practices. Enhance your facilitation skills today. Bring this course in-house to your team or organization: The Confident Facilitator, Masterful Facilitation Institute.
So you want to be a facilitator? This humourous graphic illustrates the attributes of an inspired facilitator:
- Large Ears– to listen to all things said and “spoken between the lines”.
- Sharp Eyes – to read body language and visual cues in a single scan.
- Tiny Mouth – to hold onto personal opinions, while speaking with integrity and neutrality.
- Warm Heart – to treat everyone with respect and compassion.
- Open Hands – to manage process effectively with methods/questions that invite full participation.
- Solid Feet – to be a stable force in the face of complexity, dynamics and emergence.
- Unifying Spirit – to serve the health and well-being of the whole.
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Sharon Bowman, author of many books on Active Learning such as Teaching from the Back of the Room, suggests that: “The person doing the most talking – or moving or writing – in a class or training is doing the most learning.”
The more a learner just sits back and watches the course / learning facilitator talk, write or move about, she says, the less engaged they are. The more passive your learner, the less they actually learn; and the less they will remember the little they did learn.
Neuroplasticity and brain research corroborate this. Learning is a dynamic process of building and rebuilding new neural networks to develop meaningful, internalized skills. The building of neural networks is time consuming, and the best learning experiences are designed to support learners to build new neural pathways through a variety of learning processes.
A facilitative instructor, according to the ASTD Facilitation Training Basics series, is one who creates learner-centered teaching environments and processes. In other words, an effective facilitator of learning:
- Does less telling, encouraging learners to actively participate in their learning through a variety of exercises designed to tap multiple learning and processing styles.
- Does more design work upfront to craft assignments and activities to help students learn and master learning objectives through active engagement rather than passive listening or watching.
- Gets learners working together collaboratively for mutual learning, remembering that learning is essentially a social activity.
- Fosters a climate that encourages learners to take responsibility for their own learning.
The field of group process facilitation has much to offer that of active learning. If you are keen to applying your facilitation expertise to creating rich and powerful active learning environments, bring our empowering learning program in-house: The Facilitative Instructor: Best Practices for Active Learning
Whether facilitating a group or developing a learning program, where should we focus the bulk of our attention – areas of strength or areas that fall short of the ideal? Most of us are well conditioned to believe that if we focus on problems and areas requiring improvement, this will actually help us perform better.
The sad truth is that only 32% of workers have the opportunity to do their best. (Gallup, US Survey, circa 2007). Research by Professor Emeritus Ron Lippitt (Univ. of Michigan) showed that when work groups focus on problems, two things occur. First they become more depressed, and secondly, they focus their energy on how to avoid pain rather than how to creatively move towards what they desire. As facilitators and instructors, we would do well to heed these learnings and adopt strategies that build on strengths and what’s working.
Focusing on the Positive Core
- Would you ask people to focus the bulk of their energy and effort on what they do worst as a strategy for highest return on investment? Rather, use Appreciative Inquiry to discover what works and areas of strength, and find ways to transfer these learnings to areas requiring improvement, in order to move towards the desired future.
- When we operate from our strengths, we are often in the ‘flow’ (or for atheletes, the ‘zone’). We become more confident, focused, and creative; we lose track of time and are generally inspired to produce better results, faster.
- We’re happier when we can operate from our strengths, yet according to Gallup only 32% of employees have the opportunity to do so. Imagine the latent potential that can be tapped with more inspired, confident, and powerfully effective people on your team! ,
- Focusing on people’s strengths benefits the organization and the people who work there. Leverage this power by focusing your facilitation and learning programs so that people can refine and expand their inherent talents and abilities, rather than on the Training painful ‘areas of improvement’.
You know that when people have a say in answering the questions that matter to them, they will bring their discretionary energy, time and commitment to ensure solutions are successfully implemented.
The old style leader imposed answers from the top. Your approach as a facilitative leader is to engage the right people at the right time, by asking good questions and facilitating focused, interactive and productive group process to gain their input and ownership.
Facilitative leaders know how to: Continue reading “Facilitative Leaders”
Meeting time is valuable time. As facilitators, there are many ways in which we can ensure that meeting time is productively focused on the purpose and outcomes. Below are common time wasters and a link to alternative strategies to enhance how the session is managed:
- Starting late and waiting until everyone has gathered.
- Writing points on a flipchart while participants passively wait for instructions or listing of group output.
- Inviting people to volunteer for an activity, and then waiting for somebody to step forward ‘in the moment’.
- Forging ahead when the group is tired or sluggish.
- Taking time to hear the reports back from all subgroups.
Call to Action: Enhance your facilitation skills today; check out our Masterful Facilitation Institute courses.
Contact us to bring this course in-house.
Click HERE to download poster and meeting leader’s guide.