This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.
I spend a lot of Weekly Tips real estate focused on one-on-one interactions with people—trust is personal, after all. Even when it does make sense to say a group or an organization is credible or careful or focused on your interests, the reference is usually to the people in it.
Many of you spend a lot of time in groups, and in roles that require influencing factions of people, not just individuals. So, you rightly ask, “How do I apply the lessons of trusted advisorship to group settings? What happens when I have more than one stakeholder at one time?”
My short answer is do the one thing that all masterful facilitators expend most of their energy doing. Not organizing agenda, designing conversations, or guiding activities—great facilitators indeed do all those things. The best facilitators spend most of their time listening.
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When superb facilitators work with groups, they empathize all the time—so gracefully, in fact, that it is hardly noticeable. They analyze and synthesize what they’re hearing, and then reflect back the facts and emotions of the group. For example:
- “It sounds like we’re 95 percent there in terms of agreeing on XYZ.”
- “I’m hearing real concern expressed by at least half the group about ABC.”
Skilled facilitators are also adept at scanning the group to make sure people are included and issues get raised and addressed. They take risks and say things like “Jan, you’re shaking your head, so I’m thinking we don’t have the whole story here. What do you think?”
Just because your business card reads “Project Manager,” “Group Leader,” or “Business Developer” doesn’t mean you can’t—and shouldn’t—put this one facilitation best practice to work. In fact, it’s just the opposite. The more people you need to influence, the stronger your listening muscles need to be.
Make It Real
This week, choose a meeting and don your facilitator cap—overtly or covertly. Make it your mission to tune into the group and paraphrase and empathize what you’re hearing. What’s it like for you? For them?
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