At the Amerikahaus second-hand book exchange here in Munich, well before Covid-19, I chanced upon “Managers as Facilitators” by R. Weaver and J. Farrell, described as a “Practical Guide to Getting Work Done in a Changing Workplace” – a great find with some helpful tips for team leaders and managers wanting to build their facilitation skills.
Before the pandemic, I know some who’d been courageously trying out their talents for creating open, collaborative spaces, adopting a less directive role and an enabling approach that guides group reflection and problem-solving, and invites individual ideas and viewpoints. For such a role, they were picking up the critical skills of active listening and asking good questions. As a result, clients were reporting meetings to be more effective, conflict more productively handled, and workshop objectives better accomplished.
Then came home-working and their facilitation skill-set had to be transferred to the virtual space. This has meant embracing a whole new positive mindset about virtual facilitation. They’ve had to develop the requisite technological savvy, adjusting to interactive digital tools like whiteboards, chats and breakout rooms. They’ve had to re-create their inclusive, supportive spaces in an attempt to keep colleagues aligned, connected and motivated.
Whether on Zoom or Webex, they’ve learnt how to better structure meetings with clear timekeeping and realistic agendas, how to speak slower and clearer, to provide ground rules and explicit instructions, to summarise and paraphrase, to use names more often, to be aware of their virtual presence and not do all the talking. Those with empathy have stayed attuned to colleagues’ emotions and concerns, acknowledging different circumstances, challenges and locations. They’ve had to model behaviours they wish to see but in a new context.
The Practical Guide I found gave no tips on how to transfer such skills. So a big well done to those agile learners who’ve adapted – to the new facilitators.