You just decided to hire a facilitator. Now what happens? A good facilitator will spend some time up front clarifying your goals, objectives and deliverables. This piece, in and of itself, is a sound investment of your time. This can be done face-to-face between the facilitator, you and a few other key stakeholders, or through targeted phone calls and/or surveys of meeting participants. As the Cheshire Cat says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”. I believe in being crystal clear about the destination at the end of the meeting, as well as understanding the “big picture” objectives. Most meetings serve as a piece of the puzzle and not just a stand-alone event.
Typically, the facilitator will suggest a process that matches your objectives, culture and time constraints. The process should be customized for each and every client by looking at what the client has done before, what they want to accomplish, and what jargon or specific terminology they use. The facilitator should build on what you already have in place rather than introduce their own process or concepts which may confuse people.
After clarifying the objectives and getting a good understanding of the content, the facilitator then designs a process that will get you to the desired results. This is where the experience plays a powerful role: Based on two decades of facilitation experience, I have developed the uncanny ability to develop a process that will get the issues out on the table, create an opportunity for discussion, evaluation and then selection of the action items to move forward. And then to create a structure of accountability to ensure the agreements actually get done. Your facilitator should be able to do this too!
If all these steps are done correctly and thoroughly, then the actual facilitation usually goes rather smoothly!