|11-10 Content Knowledge and the Facilitator|
October 2011 - The FoCuSeD™ Facilitator eNewsletter
by Gary Rush, IAF CPF
Occasionally, when clients ask me to facilitate workshops, they begin by asking, “Have you worked in the XXX industry in the past?” They are looking for content knowledge, much as they would if they were hiring a consultant. This needs to change.
Facilitator versus Consultant
A significant difference is that the Facilitator is content neutral (Facilitators are responsible for the context) and the Consultant provides expert advice (Consultants provide content knowledge). Therefore, hiring Facilitators requires a different set of guidelines.
Hiring a Facilitator
When hiring a Facilitator, asking about their industry knowledge can be self-defeating. If a Facilitator has knowledge about a particular industry, he or she may become biased and inadvertently violate neutrality – this can be problematic. This may be in part because he or she listens with a different perspective – assumptions about content knowledge taint what her or she hears. When hiring a Facilitator, ask the following:
You might note, that content knowledge is not mentioned in any of the questions above. That’s because Facilitators don’t need to know content – that’s the responsibility of the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) – the participants. The Facilitator needs to be a process expert.
My job is to listen to what the participants say, reflect back to them what they have said, and move them through a process. I need to know the process – well. They need to know the content – well. Effective Preparation helps me gain sufficient knowledge of their terminology, basic concepts and their business. When I interview the participants, I ask them about terminology or basic concepts that are unfamiliar to me. I talk with the client to clearly understand what he or she is requesting, clarifying terminology and basic concepts in the process. This preparation ensures that I have a basic understanding of the business and can focus on the process.
Active Listening is required in the workshop so that I can follow the participants. It is a skill for effective communication, understanding, and comprehension. As an active listener, you feed back what the other person has said – their intended message. I use the words of the experts. I ask if I don’t understand. When the Facilitator listens and reflects, using the words and concepts of the subject matter experts, it works very well.
Stages of Active Listening
If you are hiring Facilitators, hire based on his or her ability to listen, process experience, and whether or not he or she is a CPF. You have the content knowledge; you need the process knowledge. If you are a Facilitator, be diligent in preparation and use effective Active Listening. Effective Facilitators, as process experts can facilitate successfully in any XXX industry.