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Plan, OBSERVE, Intervene, Nurture, Teach

The heart of a good facilitator is his or her ability to observe the situa­tion at all times. No one skill is more important to the facilitator than that of being able to observe, or intently listen, with the eyes, the ears, and the heart. Because the facilitator is expected to intervene and guide the team through their most critical times, the ability to observe every­thing that is happening in the group is absolutely necessary. How can you intervene if you do not see the problem? How can you teach if you do not notice there is a lack of understanding? How can you guide the team back on the track if you never saw it derail? How can you possi­bly prescribe something that will help the team if you have not first done a good diagnosis?

While the team is busy working through its agenda, the facilitator must observe what is going on with himself or herself, the team mem­bers, the process, the progress of the team, and the meeting schedule.

Observe Yourself

Your neutrality: It is impossible to be an effective facilitator if the team does not see you as neutral. The team needs to know that you are facilitating their consensus, not manipulating them to your conclusions. Staying neutral is difficult but essential. The facilitator must rid him­self or herself of personal opinion or bias, focusing instead on the pro­cess and methods the team uses to get to their decision. If a facilitator makes a decision about what he or she believes the outcome of the team's work should be, it will begin to Influence every move he or she makes—and the team will see it immediately. Every intervention, clari­fying question, or facilitated discussion will begin to take a one-sided slant. When that happens the facilitator will begin to lose credibility, and with it effectiveness with the team. Observing oneself must begin with the issue of neutrality: Am I beginning to influence the team to go a particular direction? Am I starting to let some members of the team dominate because 1 like their points better than others? Am I influenc­ing the team to make decisions they haven't come to consensus on yet because my mind is made up about what their decision should be? These are hard questions to ask oneself, but the person who wants to be an effective facilitator must observe himself or herself and strive for neutrality.

Your emotion: If the team facilitator gets emotional during the team proceedings it upsets the balance of the whole team and leave the fa­cilitator powerless. Like neutrality, the team expects the facilitator to keep a cool head even (especially) during a particularly hot exchange. The team facilitator must always observe his or her emotional level. It does not mean that at times, as facilitator, you may not get emotionally involved in the team's problems, but remember that during those times you will not be helpful to the team as facilitator. Observe your emotion and stay out of the process when you know you are emotionally af­fected.

Your attitude: Like it or not, the facilitator can set the tone for the way the team sees themselves, the organization, their chances for be­ing successful, and others who are not on the team. Observe the atti­tude you bring to the team. Is yours the kind of attitude that motivates and gives the team and emotional lift? Do they get encouraged with you helping them and feel confident they will be able to accomplish their goals? Your attitude is contagious to the team. Observe it so you can always be a positive influence to the team.

Your words and tone: You can influence the team with the way you speak to them. Your words and tone when helping the team are important. A good facilitator can have a calming, confident effect on the team just by their conversational style. On the other hand, the team can be negatively influenced by a facilitator who sounds confronting, abrupt, or impatient. Observe what you hear from yourself when you address the team and work to adjust it to a more positive, helpful style.

Your openness: As the team develops, each member will need to be affirmed and encouraged to participate. The openness by the facili­tator to each of the members will model to all on the team the kind of behavior that is needed by them. Openness means the willingness and desire to help each team member contribute to the process. It means showing respect to each person by seeking his or her opinions and participation in the team's activities. The facilitator leads the way in showing this kind of openness and must observe his or her own behav­ior in this regard.

To Be Continued

Part 1   Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5  Part 6  Part 7  Part 8


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