Being an artful facilitator is a continual learning process. It starts early for most of us – with the kids we grew up with in our neighborhood when we facilitated which game we would all play (kick the can, over the hill, hide-n-seek) and then continued as we grew older and facilitated groups of friends toward a decision about where to go, fellow hockey players about which league to join, college classmates about where to head together on Spring break.

And the art of facilitation continues with your significant other and your children (but these two examples warrant an entirely different blog). Finally, facilitation, whether formal and professional or casual and spontaneous, continues with great vibrancy in the work place. 

Having facilitated thousands of “events” during my lifetime, including a recent leadership retreat with some 70 members participating, I think there are at least three foundational truths that aid in the process of facilitating groups.

The first foundational truth? Isolation.

As ironic as it may be when taking about groups, getting members of a group isolated to understand individual dynamics before group dynamics leads to a more rewarding, more successful facilitation experience. Having the opportunity to dialogue with individuals before engaging with groups of whatever type or size, gives the facilitation process direction as it now is based on new found insights that move the facilitated session to greater content and meaning faster.

The second foundational truth is speed.

I’ve found that the facilitator, and the process, have to have a velocity of sorts to keep people engaged and interested. And it has to be “just right” – not too fast to not provide time to absorb and contribute, but not too slow to enable people “checking out,” or checking their emails.

The third foundational truth from my perspective is flexibility.

Those of us that facilitate often know that being quick on our feet and ready to adapt and change on a moment’s notice helps get more out of the group and brings more participants into the group. A participant’s lone voice on a particular topic could be just the dynamic needed to provide the direction the facilitator needs to make the group effort as meaningful and fulfilling, as possible.

Isolation. Speed. Flexibility. They’ll make the facilitation process better for everyone.