Back seat facilitation!

11th July 2008

I have just come back from presenting at the Microsoft Worldwide conference in Houston. After my presentation we hosted a lounge discussion and book signing, which lead to several follow-up questions from participants who had been in our presentation. There was a common thread to the questions, about how to apply our approach to meetings when attending someone else’s meeting. Below are my thoughts on how we can back seat facilitate in meetings, to assist their productivity.

The definition of facilitation we use is…

 
The art of leading people through processes towards agreed on objectives in a manner that encourages participation, ownership and creativity from all involved. – by David Sibbet

I think of this as a style of working rather than a role someone takes in a meeting. So this means anyone can adopt this style, whether they are the formal leader of a meeting or not. The kind of things a participant can do to help ensure the productivity of a meeting they are attending are.

  • Contact the meeting owner in advance to get clarity about the purpose, outcomes and your role in the meeting.
  • At the start of the meeting, ask for clarity about the outcomes and agenda for the day. To help get everyone focusing in the same direction.
  • Make sure the outcomes and agenda remain visible throughout the meeting, so that it can be referred back to.
  • If you think the meeting is heading off track, then check with the group whether the conversation is needed to achieve the outcomes stated at the start of the meeting.
  • At the start of each session make sure there is a clear outcome and clarity about what level of contribution is required from the group i.e. is the session Tell, Sell Test, Consult or Co-create.
  • If there appears to be no process design for a session, try to make suggestions about how the conversation is held.

You will be amazed at the impact you can have on a meeting by facilitating from the back! What you will also find is that people stop inviting you to meetings that will waste your time, once they know you will challenge their productivity 🙂

Good luck with your back seat facilitation.