Listen Actively & Stay Flexible
As you facilitate the conversation, remember that using active listening techniques and staying flexible are your most important situational tools. Active listening is a catch-all term used to encompass a suite of interactive engagement tools. Doing less talking is just the start.
Active listening involves using all our powers of observation including our sense of intuition or what is often called emotional intelligence. A great facilitator is alert to verbal and non-verbal messages, especially those that indicate the need for a shift of direction or a pause to clarify or reframe an idea.
Questions are important tools to clarify or deepen shared understanding and demonstrate engagement. To ask great questions, a facilitator has to remain connected and responsive, focused on the speaker’s meaning. Listening actively may even involve interrupting the speaker at a natural pause to ask a specific question that elicits deeper or better information. It may also involve allowing silence. A pause in response to a question may mean someone is just thinking.
Language tools include using “I” or “We” statements, avoiding judgements, personality biases, or stories (except short ones that have a stated point), and making sure that information about behavior is discussed or described in context of its importance to the business outcome.
Flexibility is also critical to a smooth, successful interaction. Once you have agreed to basic frame guidelines and behavioral agreements, if outcomes seem to change during the conversation, decide whether you need to adjust. Perhaps something that didn’t seem to be a priority in the conversation turns out to be critical to your outcome. If so, remember to identify it and decide how it fits in your plan before moving ahead.