Establishing Your Credibility as a Facilitator

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7 steps to “earn the right” to facilitate the group

Setting: You are about to meet with a new project team for the first time. You check the list of 12 names and can’t place a name with a face but that’s to be expected with a company this size. Normally, you have meetings-too many meetings-with your fellow colleagues in your department but today’s meeting is different.

Today, you are to run a meeting set up to brainstorm for ideas for a new product for the company to produce. What makes this different from past meetings is that the team will be composed of a cross section of employees from different departments and levels within the company. Some of the members will be from the production line, some from mid-management and some from the sales department. You were told that the team will be made up of diverse gender and age groups.

When you were first tasked with this job, you wondered how you should introduce yourself and establish your “bonfires” that qualify you to lead the group. Other thoughts pop into your thoughts: What level of sophistication should you use? Should you stay away from any jokes for fear of offending anyone? Should you act as a member of management or as the “master of ceremonies” and stay as neutral as possible? How should you introduce yourself to make that solid first impression?

The following list of suggestions is to help you establish your credibility as having the right to lead the group.  Though not on the list, it is always a good idea to check your fly or the buttons on your blouse or run your tongue across your teeth to check for that wayward piece of spinach. And, of course, always show up early. OK, now that you are ready and everybody is seated and settled in for the meeting, here we go.

  1. Scan your audience briefly to establish eye contact and ensure everyone is listening. Body language is important – shoulders back, hands at your sides, smiling a little, semi-serious.
  2. Make a statement that engages the audience in the subject at hand. “Did you know that…and this is really important to you because…”  (Tie in a WIIFM immediately so they know you want to help them.)
  3. Ask one or a few enrolling questions (make it easy for the respondent to answer).
  4. Ask permission to talk about yourself: “Since we will be spending a lot of time together, is it OK if I tell you a little bit more about me?” Wait for agreement, and then follow with, “Thank you.”
  5. Establish credibility to be the facilitator – time you have spent doing this kind of work, statistics and references of past successes, educational background, how you helped a team make things happen, supported by facts. Perhaps tell a short personal story of how what is being addressed affected you in your life – make it personal and humble.
  6. State clearly what your role is and ask, “Does that make sense?” Is everybody OK with that? (Do that holding up a hand and thereby asking them to do so as well to confirm).
  7. Make a pledge – something like, “Thank you. I promise you I will do everything in my power to help you be successful in this team endeavor together.”

Done correctly and with enthusiasm, the introduction should take less than 5 minutes.  Two or three minutes would be even better.


Additional Reading

How to Establish Immediate Credibility as a Group Facilitator

7 Important Leadership Skills


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