The facilitator is ideally situated to help meeting participants become better listeners. Dr Ralph Nichols, “Father of the Field of Listening”, notes three behaviors that perfectly align with the roles of facilitator, and you ought exhibit to amplify listening during meetings.

One is to anticipate the speaker’s next point
. As facilitator, your anticipation helps shape your direction. For example, should you be walking closer to the speaker or to the facilitator’s easel to capture their comments? As meeting participants,if they anticipate correctly, learning has been reinforced. If they anticipate incorrectly, they wonder why and this helps to increase attention.

Another is to identify the supporting elements a speaker uses in building points. Here is the primary role of the facilitator, to help extract the most significant contributions. Next ensure that the supporting elements are captured and recorded, preferably on a facilitator’s easel, so that all the meeting participants can view the same information.

Build understanding among your participants about supporting their thoughts, or as we say in the FASTcurriculum “Make Your Thinking Visible.” Typically speakers rely on three methods to build points:

Better Listening

  1. They explain the point,
  2. They get emotional and harangue the point, or
  3. They illustrate the point with a factual illustration.

A sophisticated listener knows this. He or she spends a little of the differential between thought speed and speaking speed to identify what is being used as point-supporting material. This behavior becomes highly profitable in terms of listening efficiency.

A third way to improve the listening skills of your participants is to periodically make summaries of the points that have been recorded. Good listeners take advantage of short pauses to summarize and absorb what has been said. Periodic summaries reinforce learning tremendously.

Most of us are poor listeners for a variety of reasons. We have had little training and few training opportunities exist (although the FAST Professional Facilitative Leadership class is a significant exception). We think faster than others speak. Plus, listening is hard work and requires complete concentration. It is a challenge to be a good listener, but good listeners get big rewards.

Facilitation Skills

The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember friends, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).

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Building consensus helps groups identify gaps, omissions, overkill, and confirm the appropriateness and balance of their action plan.

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