Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How to Be a Facilitator

Leading the strategic planning process as the director of a small museum is challenging enough, but if there are no funds available for hiring an outside facilitator, the director has an even greater role in the process.  Keeping in mind what the role of a facilitator truly is, the director can comfortably wear the hat of plan coordinator AND facilitator. 

What is Facilitation?

Very simply put, facilitation is helping a group accomplish its goals. There are a wide range of perspectives about the ideal nature and values of facilitation, much as there are a wide range of perspectives about the ideal nature and values of leadership. For example, some facilitators may believe that facilitation should always be highly democratic in nature and that anything other than democratic is not facilitation at all. Others believe that facilitation can be quite directive, particularly depending on the particular stage of development of the group.

Whatever your belief about the best type of facilitation, the practice usually is best carried out by someone who has strong knowledge and skills regarding group dynamics and processes -- these are often referred to as process skills. Effective facilitation might also involve strong knowledge and skills about the particular topic or content that the group is addressing in order to reach its goals -- these are often referred to as content skills. The argument about how much "process versus content" skills are required by facilitators in certain applications is a very constructive argument that has gone on for years.

A Facilitator Will:

-Control the meeting

-Set rules and enforce them

-Ensure participation

-Allow for flow of thought

-Keep the ball rolling

-Keep meeting on topic

-Act generally as a “non-participant”

-Be a subject matter expert

-Accurately sum up discussion

-Smile as much as possible

Hopefully this check list will help you lead your board and stakeholders toward a shared vision for your museum.  Good luck!

Working in museums for nearly 20 years, Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko has been a museum director since 2001. Cinnamon became CEO of the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine in 2009. Before that, she was the director of the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana, where she led the organization to the National Medal for Museum Service in 2008.  Cinnamon is the co-editor of the Small Museum Toolkit from AltaMira Press.

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