Fearless Facilitation

Summary Written by Matt Tod
"Like it or not, from the moment you wake up until you shut out the lights at night, your work, time, and life are about facilitating yourself and others to get to the next right step in the best way."

- Fearless Facilitation, page 132

The Big Idea

Are you having “Value Conversations”?

"Every person in your audience and on your team wants only one thing: to have his or her problem solved"- Fearless Facilitation, page 9

What if instead of focusing on the outcome of your next presentation, or focusing on the points you hope you got across, you focused on the value that you were bringing to those in the audience?

What a mind-shattering idea!

Though it seems pretty obvious when we think about it (obviously we want to make sure we’re adding value to those we’re leading), it’s probably one of the biggest outcomes we overlook when we’re preparing for presentations or leading teams.

Conversations of value are what we’re missing often in the meetings we lead. We’ve all been there. We prepare for a meeting by ensuring that the points we want to get across are clear and heard by everyone else. As a result, we ignore or miss important information being shared by others. Because of that, we hold back our organizations, our teams, and ourselves.

So how do you have more value conversations? It’s actually insanely simple!

Ask more and tell less.
Talk less and listen more.
Change the question from “What can you do to help me?” to “What can I do to help you?”

Fearless Facilitators do three things intentionally and exceptionally well:

They paraphrase –Listening carefully to others and then, in your own words, stating back to them what was just shared, in an attempt to really grab the essence of the statement.
They summarize –Take the content of what’s just been said and, often rearranging, state it back for approval and, sometimes, continued conversation.
They empathize with their participants –Bring emotion and understanding into the conversation. Connect not just with what’s being said, but also with the individual people themselves.

Three seemingly simple and straight-forward skills that add huge value to the conversations (and relationships) we have; they help participants feel heard, understood and, as a result, valued.

If there’s nothing else I take from this book, it will be this. Making others feel valued is what drives the success of organizations and groups. Making others feel heard is the role of an impactful leader. As the authors state, the above three things are the platinum standard if you want to ensure you’re connecting, moving forward and setting yourself apart.

Insight #1

Go organic!

"…when we don’t understand the mindset of the audience during a presentation, we are left to focus on our message rather than on the meaning of the message for the other. The audience will remember the meaning of the message more than the message itself."- Fearless Facilitation, page 26

Here’s another one of those classic mistakes that we can easily make as presenters. We get so focused on the content and delivery of our presentations that we overlook the important human factor involved.

In line with creating value with participants, more than anything the goal needs to be to connect with them. You can’t do that if you’re more focused on your slide deck than you are on the human beings in the room.

Organic facilitation is an approach to presenting that takes away all of the distractions and makes the conversation more natural than scripted. Instead of trying to get the audience to see your point, be more focused on understanding theirs!

Organic facilitation is like organic food in three really important ways:

  1. It’s less known and sometimes difficult to find – You don’t always see this when others present or facilitate. When you do though, it’s memorable. You connect with the content because you’ve connected with the presenter.
  2. It’s healthier in the long run –The learning lasts longer and is more memorable to the audience. They remember you (which is great for your personal brand) as well as the content.
  3. It takes more time to grow and perfect than the mass-produced stuff – It’s a mindset of teaching, presenting and speaking and not just some out of the binder, one-size fits all approach.

This refreshing approach to facilitation tends to focus less on having the right answers and instead on having the right questions in order to get the right answers from the right people in the right space. It’s about facilitating the learning more than it is about presenting data.

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Insight #2

First focus on creating trust

"When you trust the audience, they will feel trusted."- Fearless Facilitation, page 133

The basis of all human relationships is trust. And that’s exactly what’s required of a fearless facilitator when working with any group. To be a fearless facilitator, there are two things you need to do early and often: show an interest in the individual and create a sense of group identity.

You show interest by connecting with each individual participant. Whether that’s shaking hands, making eye contact, or asking questions about that person. Do this right away.

Creating a sense of group identity takes a bit more work but is equally, if not more, important. To do this, we need to understand why the group has come together and what they hope to walk away with. The goal of a fearless facilitator is to move from “me” to “we”.

Fearless Facilitation provided a lot of value and a new perspective for me when it comes to the way I facilitate and present in meetings. It’s challenged me to identify the areas I need to grow and develop.

Read the book

Get Fearless Facilitation on Amazon.

Cyndi Maxey

Whether speaking to groups or coaching executives, Cyndi is a master communicator and facilitator. A graduate of Northwestern University in Communication Studies, she finds the right blend of theory and application to encourage learning, retention and fun. Over the past 30 years, Cyndi has spoken throughout the nation and coached executives to higher levels. She is the coauthor of six books, including Fearless Facilitation: How to Engage and Involve Your Audience (Pfeiffer/Wiley), Ten Steps to Successful Time Managment (ASTD Press), Speak Up! A Woman’s Guide to Presenting Like a Pro and Present Like a Pro (St. Martin’s Press) – all with Kevin E. O’Connor. In It’s Your Move: Dealing Yourself the Best Cards in Life and Work, (FT/Prentice Hall 2003) with Jill Bremer, she shares the key strategies that winners use to thrive in today’s fast-paced work environment. She inspires people to take initiative with step-by-step game plans to propel them to success. Cyndi lives in Chicago where her active young adult children and Labrador Retriever, Max Maxey, add both chaos and balance to her life.

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