I am a mediator first, but I LOVE facilitating. The process of proactive dialogue and the subsequent transformation is such an inspiring process to see unfold. Brainstorming through challenges is one of the most amazing moments of any group meeting to me.
Facilitating has nothing to do with just running a meeting or managing people. In fact, I have learned that being a great facilitator has nothing to do with either. Nor is it about power point presentations – even though they can be part of the process. Before I even knew it, I took on the role of mediator in my family. Conflicts were a natural part of the dynamics from the get-go at a very young age. Without consciously being aware of the reasons why, I was formulating ways to avoid or hide from conflict. Better yet create distractions for the family members in conflict. Maybe if I got my family members to focus on something else that somehow would solve the conflict. Sometimes it worked but most times it just delayed the inevitable. Screaming, yelling, hurtful words, ignoring the person and ending of long term or family relationships was commonplace.
Now as I reflect back, it was all over issues that could have been resolved and perhaps created stronger and more meaningful bonds. If only we all knew how to have these difficult conversations from the beginning.
The same applies to conflict today, especially when it comes to conflict in the workplace. No one really wants to deal with or be a part of conflict until they absolutely have no choice but to face it. When there is a team in conflict, it is better to focus on other distractions, other conflicts or just show up and have your head down. Productivity first! In fact, in there may not even be a conflict and this just may be the culture of a workplace. Don’t talk just work. Recently I heard of a managing partner encouraging a team to not socialize during work hours. Do not stop to talk or socialize. If you want to talk, spend time with your colleagues outside of the office. I wondered, how are you supposed to form strong collaborative functioning teams if they cannot connect somehow beyond the current assigned task? These cultures inevitably lead to communication breakdowns which also inevitably lead to conflict.
What causes communication breakdowns? Different perceptions, mode of communication (texting and emailing being the worst and biggest causes), too much information, emotions and noise. Team members who don’t know how to connect and communicate with each other or even have the time to get to know the people that they see daily have no skills or space to cross the bridge to positive (and yet sometimes difficult) communication. These breakdowns can quickly escalate into more serious problems and sometimes termination and litigation.
A neutral facilitator will know how to embrace the diversity and create safe space to learn AND have these conversations, sometimes without the parties even realizing they are resolving unrealized conflict. Facilitation goes beyond managing agendas and positions. A great facilitator should also guide the group in embracing the idea of collaborative change and promote the equal sharing objectives and goals and not just opinions and agendas.
NAVIGATING TOUGH DISCUSSIONS
Navigation through this type of dialogue can be very tough, especially when dealing with different perceptions, emotions, experiences and goals. People are forced to look at challenges differently and now work with team members in a different capacity. These situations can create an array of emotions which are not necessarily embraced in a workplace environment. But remaining in denial of these emotions, workplace or not, does not make them go away.
FROM CONFLICT TO COLLABORATION
Collaborating is my favorite part of any facilitation. When a team comes together to truly interact and make proactive decisions about what that change looks like for them, it is an empowering process. And through this process – they actually have the space and time to get to know each other better. This is where good listening, problem solving, and conflict resolution skills are key in facilitation. And this is where people can develop their own tools of navigating communication breakdowns and further understanding your fellow team members. It moves team members from conflict and head down mentality to productive team engagement. #GoTeam #Faciliation #Faciliator #TeamBuilding #ConflictResolution #NonProfit #BoardofDirectors #CSuite #Neutral