The Facilitator In You: 3 Key Skills For Leading Effective Meetings

Jessica Robinson I’m proud to introduce Author and Personal Safety & Security Professional Jessica Robinson as a guest blogger for DRIVEN. As a DRIVEN Member, and a participant in our late May workshop exploring the attributes of a great discussion leader, Jessica has come away with a proficient outlook on the three universal skills for facilitating a successful business meeting. Examine her article, process her advice, and consider attending one of our live or virtual events….it can be a career-altering experience. Cheers! –Deborah Goldstein   

Thursday’s meeting was a wonderful reminder that we are all leaders, whether we have a leadership title or not within our organization. As meeting participants, we can all listen with empathy, create a space that enables another voice to be heard and can clearly support strategies we think will really help move our company forward.

Of course, there is always a leader, or facilitator, with the responsibility of actually leading a meeting. It’s not just about time keeping or getting through the agenda, but allowing for a space for curiosity, honest dialogue, and concrete solutions.

When facilitating a meeting, here are three universal skills that are key to remember.

Empathic Listening

Listen to what the group participant is saying, but also the emotional content that is underlying the words. As a facilitator, you don’t have to agree with everyone, but acknowledging people’s contributions is important. This allows you to build trust with the group and to be “in tune” with individuals who may feel uncomfortable.

Dealing With Difficult People

In many meetings there is a “know-it-all”, a dominator, or aggressive person who always has a point to make. This person prefers talking to listening. Managing these individuals promptly is critical to keeping the rest of the people in the group engaged and maintaining the positive momentum gained.

Also, understand the group dynamics. Prior to the meeting, if you know you have a dominator in the group, it could be a good idea to position yourself next to the person. As the person starts to get aggressive, lightly touch him or her on the shoulder and thank them for their contributions. Then let him or her know it’s time to hear from others in the group. This is a wonderful opportunity to invite a quiet shy person to participate without feeling threatened.

Dealing With Your Own Awareness

Being self-aware is one of the most critical things we can all do as individuals. Lao Tzu stated, “You can conquer others with power, but it takes true strength to conquer yourself.” As a leader, it’s the same thing with facilitating a meeting. Be aware of the energy you bring to the meeting, how the participants are responding to you, the goals of the group, and if the meeting starts to head south. Self-awareness, or emotional intelligence, allows you to course correct as needed to receive the intended outcome for the whole group. This means being present and alert without being defensive.

For me personally, it was a great reminder to be self-aware when someone is speaking, so I focus on listening and not lessening their contribution by interrupting them. Thank you to our fabulous facilitators for this impactful conversation.

Jessica Robinson is Founder & CEO of PurePoint International, a firm disrupting the security market by providing affordable outsourced Chief Security Officer (CSO) consulting services for startups, international non-profits, and mid-size commercial businesses.