Why learning to facilitate will improve your communication skills

 

EuroComm 2017 will feature two speakers who will be talking about the value of facilitation skills for communicators in a fast transforming world. IABC EMENA board member Kasha Dougall conducted a joint interview with Charlotte Ditløv Jensen and Martin Gilbraith to get a sneak preview.

 

How would you define the role of a facilitator?

Martin: The word facilitator comes from the Latin facilis, “to make easy”. It involves designing a process to help a group find a solution and achieve its task together. Unlike a consultant who is required to propose the solution.

Charlotte: A facilitator does for a group what a coach does for an individual, although coaches tend to work over an extended period of time, and facilitators intervene for shorter assignments.

Why are there an increasing number of professional facilitators? What has changed?

Martin: I think there are at least two drivers behind this phenomenon. In our complex and fast changing environment, leaders are beginning to accept that the hierarchical leadership model just isn’t enough anymore, if it ever was. Leaders are looking for ways to engage people and facilitators have tools and skills that do just that.

We are also seeing a generational shift. People don’t have the same deference to authority and they expect to be involved and to partake, they are looking for opportunities to collaborate. Digital tools have enabled teams to collaborate and talk to each other and they’re doing this whether the leaders like it or not.

Charlotte: Even the Danish parliament has recently held a conference on co-creation, to investigate how to involve citizens in policy making, locally as well as nationally.
The world is evolving at such a pace that it’s difficult for companies to keep up as they begin to recognize that facilitation and collaborative working practices increase the speed of innovation.

How and why are facilitation skills particularly important for communicators?

Martin: Come to my session “Facilitating transformation: reviewing the past to prepare for the future” at EuroComm and see what you think. My workshop will be experiential. Participants will discover their answer to this question themselves.

Charlotte: In my opinion, many experienced communicators are doing it already, but perhaps only on a small scale. Being a strong communicator is a very good starting point for a facilitator, so communication professionals can easily excel at facilitation.

What can communicators learn from facilitators?

Martin: The art of conversation and specifically the art of asking questions. Asking the appropriate questions in the right way helps the facilitator to mitigate power dynamics, gain a clear understanding of the issues and bring people together.

How can communicators learn facilitation skills?

Charlotte: Come to our sessions at EuroComm! While reading books and attending courses is valuable, the best is to learn from experience – doing it yourself and observing others in action.

Martin: I totally agree. Observing good facilitators and getting feedback on your own facilitation are key ways to help communicators develop self-awareness.

How do you see the future role of communicators and facilitators developing?

Charlotte: A communicator will improve their overall skills by developing their capacity to facilitate groups, although this is dependent upon the overall context. According to the Danish communication expert Jesper Højberg Christensen, there are 3 levels of maturity for organizations: Campaigning; Communication and Dialogue; and Facilitation. In many organizations all three levels coexist, so it is not a matter of ‘either-or’.

Martin: I believe that organizations will get better at collaborating and facilitating. I’m hoping that we will start learning how to collaborate at primary school.

 

Want to know more about developing your facilitation skills? Join us at EuroComm 2017 for Martin’s interactive session: “Facilitating transformation: reviewing the past to prepare for the future” and Charlotte for her session: “Transformation from within: facilitation techniques can expand organizational impact of communication”