“I discovered asking questions could be more empowering than answering them.”

Over my career I have spent literally thousands of hours delivering training.  I have taught groups of managers and employees, new hires and sales people.   Being very comfortable at the front of the room, I enjoyed helping people learn new things that would enable them to advance their careers or help them be more effective in their work. I’ve worked in environments that believed that if people are experiencing problems at work… “we can fix it with good training.”

In the training mindset, I held the knowledge and I answered the questions.

In 2013, I attended a two-day session where Brock Hart, Overlap’s CDO & co-founder, was taking a group through a strategic planning process. It was different from the facilitated meetings I had experienced before, and I was intrigued. I watched the group dream, share, worry, reach incredible heights with optimism and ambition, and then crash with the reality of obstacles in their way. I watched as Brock asked some well-timed questions and how, using their own answers, the group built their way steadily forward. They created a plan that was inspired and that they were completely aligned with. I was struck by how different this felt from the training I was used to. In fact, it felt like the opposite of that. I had no idea how he did it and I wanted to learn more.

A Facilitator asks the questions and trusts that the group holds the knowledge.

Since joining Overlap, I have come to learn that facilitation is both a skill and an art form. It leverages the knowledge of the group and gives tremendous agency to individuals engaged in solving problems. It respects the contributions of individuals and creates group buy-in. It allows groups to get to better solutions, faster.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Training is very important and I still love it! The transfer of new skills and knowledge is vital to growth and development.

As a facilitator, I’ve seen that many times, groups already possess a wealth of talent and knowledge and they just need a good process to leverage it. For me, it’s been wonderful to learn to be able to ask the right questions to watch them tap into their own experiences and know-how to create brilliant solutions for their own unique situations.

A few facilitative mind-sets to take into your next group meeting:

  1. Recognize that each individual has a unique view and there is power in the diversity of those views
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Encourage participation but don’t participate yourself
  4. Stay neutral
  5. Have a plan, but be flexible and always focus on what the group needs in the moment

Try out this process for Facilitating Inclusive Ideation to practice using a facilitative mindset.

Are you looking for an outside facilitator in Kitchener, Waterloo, Toronto, or the surrounding area for an upcoming meeting? At Overlap we facilitate with the above mindset using a proven process that elicits participation from the whole group and achieves consensus quickly. It’s not just effective, it’s also fun. Get in touch with Tracy at tjolliffe@overlapassociates.com with inquiries!