The power of the facilitative process lies in our ability to empower others. Defining leadership through facilitation is the key to creating radical change.

Successful facilitation is reliant on the right processes – a series of actions and systems that enable us to think, create, and problem-solve more effectively. To achieve this, facilitation must be led by those who understand the importance of process. Master facilitators have honed their skills over years of practice, becoming experts at attuning to the energy, attention, and conflict in a room and guiding it toward the best outcomes. Looking ahead, successful facilitation will also involve mastering the art of collaborating with machines

Human-centered leadership teaches us that facilitation doesn’t end in the c-suite. These processes and practices must extend to an organization as a whole, and adapting and extending existing practices to maximize new potential with AI must be woven in by leaders and teams alike.

The facilitator’s main task is to help the group increase effectiveness by improving its process and structure.”

– Roger Schwarz, author of The Skilled Facilitator.

In this article, we explore facilitation and the power of process in the following topics:

  • Defining Leadership
  • The Power of Process
  • The Everyday Facilitator
  • Relationship-Building for Radical Innovation

Defining Leadership

In defining leadership, many organizations consider a top-down approach. Traditional workplaces follow an autocratic or democratic model for leadership. In such organizations, one person is tasked with making decisions, delegating responsibilities, and pushing an organization in the direction of their choosing. Such an environment can create dissension amongst team members as they feel they’re just a cog in the machine. 

Facilitation gives us the opportunity to design leadership in service to others. Leaning into a facilitative approach to leadership creates a more balanced workplace. 

Transformative leadership efforts look to facilitative methods to completely shift the balance of power. This way, influential leaders can engender a sense of passion and desire as the driving motivators for team members. 

Facilitative leadership is a uniquely social endeavor that centers on shaping the hearts and minds of employees:

“Rather than being ‘something that is done to people’, facilitative leadership involves working with and through other people to achieve organizational goals.”

Jane Humphries, E-learning specialist at the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University

Leaders understand that facilitation is rooted in co-creation, and team members are invited to participate in decision-making. In facilitative leadership, leaders act as a guide to help other team members navigate workplace challenges, including stepping into future tech and carrying out a shared vision and purpose. 

The Power of Process

In the art of facilitation, process is king, and those processes are translatable in the future of work, and collaboration with AI. 

Effective facilitation allows leaders to make otherwise enigmatic processes as concise and clear as possible. In defining leadership in such iterative ways, leaders allow others to contribute to, critique, and improve shared initiatives. By harnessing group energy as an innovative strategy, leaders work to promote equality and diversity in the workplace, leading to a more positive and innovative future. 

In exploring facilitation, leaders learn to declutter processes. Facilitators need to make decisions quickly and create strategies that can be applied time and again. Equipped with the right set of processes, facilitators easily get meetings back on track, spearhead projects with team members, and address others’ concerns and challenges.

Many facilitators champion design thinking as an innovative change management process. This co-creative process places the thoughts, needs, and feelings of all participants at the center of a change. Expert facilitators support design thinking as a creative and holistic approach to defining leadership. 

Consider the following strategies in approaching facilitation through the lens of design thinking:

1. Be transparent

Distributing power through every level of an organization starts with honest transparency. Top-level leadership should practice openness to cultivate a sense of trust among all team members. 

2. Engage all levels

The power of design thinking lies in its ability to engage all members of an organization. As collaboration is a core component in design thinking, leaders and team members should contribute equally to the decision-making process. 

3. Enhance company culture

Organizational culture drives the team dynamic and shapes the tone of your organization’s environment. Enhance your company culture with design thinking: encourage team members to try new ideas, practice iterative innovation, and fail forward. 

4. Define critical processes 

The most effective facilitative processes help guide team members to the next step. For example, design thinking follows five steps: empathizing, defining, ideation, prototyping, and testing. By clarifying each part of this process, leaders empower team members to adopt a design thinking perspective.  

The Everyday Facilitator

In defining leadership skills, it’s easy to consider facilitation a secret weapon. The secret is out: facilitation is for everyone, not just leadership. 

Learning the art of facilitation gives both leaders and team members the necessary skills to make real change. While leaders are often the go-to change-makers in an organization, all stakeholders should have the knowledge to innovate, problem-solve, and iterate independently. 

In defining leadership, we must look beyond a top-down approach. Adopting the concept of the “everyday facilitator” is an essential element in organizational transformation. The reality is that the most powerful leaders empower others to become leaders themselves. 

Facilitative leaders and team members excel in the following:

  • Clear communication
  • Asking questions
  • Unbiased objectivity
  • Group decision making
  • Establishing focus
  • Timekeeping
  • Active listening

Through facilitation methods, all team members have the opportunity to understand, implement, and teach effective methods for facilitation. Though maintaining the clearly defined role of ‘leader” is a key part of pushing an organization forward, it’s the responsibility of each leader to equip those they lead with facilitation skills to increase others’ autonomy and capacity for decision-making. 

While there may be one leader in a group, a team trained in the art of facilitation is better equipped to create innovative change. 

The capacity to pose genuinely insightful queries is unique to human beings. Moreover, as we engage in introspection, self-examination, and empathy towards others, we establish a stronger connection with our humanity, which enhances our comprehension of our beliefs, emotions, and principles, as well as our interconnectedness with those in our vicinity. Purposeful questioning fosters a heightened sense of consciousness, empathy, and rapport within our teams, organizations, and even the artificial intelligence that coexists with us.

Intro to Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Your Org

Empower business and technology leaders to envision how AI might concretely benefit their organization.

As change is inevitable, encouraging team members to start defining leadership through the lens of change management is crucial. While the unknown presents many variables, facilitative teams learn to run head-first into creative challenges. Through facilitation, leaders promote a distributed leadership structure that allows for a more fluid approach to change management. By giving team members more agency, leaders automatically encourage an atmosphere of increased collaboration.

Relationship-Building for Radical Innovation

“How exciting as a facilitator to kind of be in those moments where your assumptions are challenged or where all of a sudden you have this whole new metaphor to view something in the world.”

Elizabeth Weingarten, Head of Behavioral Science Insights at Torch

Human-centered facilitation promotes intentional relationship-building. By validating team members and empathizing with their experiences and emotions, we create an environment of actionable vulnerability. This sense of increased psychological safety is a critical component in driving radical innovation. These tools are an essential component of defining leadership strategies for creative change management. Such training allows leaders to better navigate challenges, design better solutions, and strengthen positive relationships among team members. 

Additionally, to court innovation, we must facilitate rapid ideation. In exploring various facilitation frameworks, leaders learn to create repeatable recipes that allow for accelerated innovation and successful change initiatives.

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If you’re a leader or interested in learning about AI, one of the most critical initiatives to lean into, it’s important to prioritize facilitation in your work and start by familiarizing yourself with the capabilities and nuances of the tools. Begin with tool-specific tutorials to become familiar with the tool’s user interface and functions. Once you’re ready to experiment, take some time to learn how to craft effective questions that produce optimal results. Consider your audience’s context, their knowledge, the purpose of your question, and the ideal format and type of response you’re seeking. Avoid asking questions that could produce unsatisfactory answers. Keep in mind that we’ve spent our lives communicating and asking questions to other humans, so mastering questions for machines will take some time and experimentation.

Defining leadership through facilitative methods is an essential step in shifting toward an innovative future. Consider investing in facilitation training to transform your company culture as you learn more about the power of process. Voltage Control can help you work towards a career in change management through a variety of workshops. 

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