What Might You Do?

This is a bit of a catch-all post.  As a facilitator, there are many things you need to do.  Some you can plan for, and others will just arise as the session progresses.  At different times you will need to do the following:
  • Repeat what you just said, because people did not hear or understand. 
  • Find a comfortable middle ground - with accommodation from all parties.  
  • Encourage people to participate.
  • Recap your understanding of what people have been saying, to be sure you have it right.
  • Ask someone to speak up, as others (maybe you) cannot hear what they are saying.
  • Find compromise between clearly defined positions.
  • Ask "the Boss" to hold back and let others speak.
  • Ask someone who is not the Boss to hold back and let others speak.
  • Ask a question to get people thinking.
  • Say something that you do not agree with, just to be controversial.
  • Admit to a lack of understanding of something (or, on a bad day, everything).
  • Let people get away with saying or doing something you do not agree with.
  • Contradict the Boss who is not listening.
  • Call an unplanned break to gather your thoughts.
  • Ask that people give the process a chance.
  • Shut up and let the silence linger, or let the discussion go way off-track.
  • Ask if someone else can respond to a question, as you don't have the answer.
  • Stop the session, and wait for something to be done or ceased.
  • Settle for achieving less than you had hoped for.
  • Ask people for leave to continue past the agreed finishing time.
  • Lead people to a great outcome that surprises them.
How you do these things can sometimes be planned.  For example, at a meeting before the session, let the Boss know that you might need to step on their toes for the process to be fair; and definitely ask the Boss to hold back until others more junior have had their say.

In other situations, you just need to respond to the situation you find yourself in.  If you ever need to buy time, refer to my earlier post 'Just Plain Lost?'

A basic requirement is to act with humility, but be confident in shutting topics down that are going no-where or in contradicting anyone in the room if you believe they are out of step with the rest of the group or are just plain 'out of line'.  Never be afraid to speak out.  You are The Facilitator, and the ground quakes when you walk.  (Sorry, slipped into fantasy for a moment.)  But really, you need to be in control, or you are not actually the facilitator (er, The Facilitator).