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What is Facilitation? Facilitating Completion Versus Time Management

Time management is a significant part of a facilitators role. The real skill is in facilitating completion within the time that is given. This is a real art to practice. 

First of all, I recently attended a meeting that was facilitated by an experienced facilitator. We had a lot on our agenda and there was only a certain amount of time put aside for each agenda item. The facilitator chose to manage the time very assertively and cut people off when it was time to move on to the next item. We had items on our agenda that required some conversation to make better decisions. However, the facilitator was more concerned with getting through the agenda than actually getting a completion for each agenda item. The meeting was dominated by the agenda rather than by the desire to achieve our goals. 

Being a passionate advocate of the facilitator skill of facilitating completion, I thought that this was a great example where the facilitator did miss the opportunity to achieve completion with just a little bit more flexibility. 

Secondly, time management is a significant part of a facilitators role and it is a skill that we teach in our Facilitator Training Workshops. However, I strongly believe that the real skill is in facilitating completion within the time that is given. This is much harder in my view and real art to practice. 

It’s only been 10 years now that I started to learn the skill of facilitating completion and time within my 25 years of facilitation career. So, it is not uncommon that many facilitators have not learnt how to do that. I learnt it in my facilitator training with Zenergy Global. 

Finally, The distinction of completion. 

This is probably my most favourite distinction of all the distinctions of facilitation that Dale Hunter and colleagues wrote about in “The Essence pfFacilitation”, see below. 

According to Merriam Webster’s definition, completion is three things:

  1. The act of completion something – this would imply an action
  2. The quality or state of being complete – this implies that it also has a feeling
  3. A completed forward pass – this implies that it leads to the next step

I love that definition as it wonderfully summarises how completion can be facilitated. In our facilitator training we train facilitators in planning an action to complete, this could be for example to end a meeting with a completion round in a group asking the question: “Is there anything else that needs to be said to be complete?”  

We also train our facilitators to recognise the feeling of completion. With the right amount of attention and ability to listen for the unsaid, a facilitator can recognise the feeling of completion.It is an energetic shift that can be perceived in the physical space.

Completion can also be achieved by naming what is in-complete and by the agreement of follow-on actions. 

Nevertheless, we need to get things done, so how can we complete our tasks in the time that we have available? I know that it is very tempting to facilitate time and miss out completion because it is much easier as a facilitator. But if you are really in service to the group achieving its goals you will think twice next time when you feel the temptation to cut a good flow of a conversation because of “clock time’. 

“Don’t blame time if you have not facilitated completion” 

After many years of facilitating completion, I noticed, that sometimes we have to spend more time on one agenda item then we planned because this is where most of the energy of the group is, however, as soon this is completed, time often speeds up for other agenda items and the total meeting or workshop time was easily met and completion was facilitated. 

My mentor, Dr Dale Hunter, often told me to hold the belief that: “There is enough time for what we have to do and a little bit left” This belief has helped me many times.

Surely, we all know the long-term effect of incomplete projects on our health and sense of wellbeing and accomplishment but what are the benefits of facilitating completion?

  • The participants of your meetings feeling heard and satisfied with the meeting outcomes.
  • It creates space for an opening for something new or the next task or step.
  • It prevents conflict and “water-cooler” conversations.
  • It prevents the erosion of team and organisational culture.
  • A sense of achievement and progress  

3 Essential Tips to facilitate completion.

1. A clearly defined goal and or purpose that everyone involves agrees around.  

Just like purpose, each part of a group’s interaction and intervention has to have a clearly defined goal to know when it is complete. When I work with my corporate facilitation clients, I always make sure the goal for each section of a facilitation workshop design is clear so that I am enabled to facilitate completion.

2. Powerful listening for completion, the completion of a task, a section of a workshop a full project.

A facilitators role is to help a group to achieve its goals or purpose. To do that a facilitator is clear about the goal and listens for completion and agreements in line with that goal.

3. The naming and negotiating of completion.

A facilitator has also to manage time, so if time runs out and something is not complete a facilitator can ask the group: ‘What do we need to complete to achieve our goal? NEXT QUESTION: ‘When would you like do that?” This is called negotiating time and completion with the group.

When something is complete, completion needs to be named. This will allow the group to feel completion and the group will have permission to move on. If completion is not named, the group does not know when to move on. The naming of completion does significantly help to achieve the benefits of completion as mentioned above. 

Additional resources:

"Lead with Different Dimensions of Time" Article published on LinkedIn

Send me a FREE copy of the “Essence of Facilitation book”

Facilitator training workshop

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Simone Maus is an experienced facilitator and trainer of facilitators. She has worked with experienced and emerging facilitators all over the world in government, business and community sectors. Her expertise lie within workshop design, coaching programmes and training programmes for workshop and meeting facilitators with any level of experience.

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