The next time you’re in a business meeting or a brainstorming session, pay close attention to the individual leading the activity. Are they an effective meeting facilitator? Do they seem fully present and “tuned-in” to what’s occurring in the room, and especially as concerns the group’s dynamics? Or does the meeting leader seem detached and preoccupied?
The most effective meeting facilitator is one who develops a heightened sense of awareness, an intuitive, sixth-sense ability to “read” where the group’s energy, attitude, and thinking process is flowing in each moment, and how events are unfolding in the session.
For example, if the group is tasked with solving a challenge, an aware leader is able to clearly recognize whether the group is generating ideas spontaneously and quickly, or getting bogged down in too much unnecessary discussion. Is the group moving in the direction of its meeting objectives, or veering off course on unproductive tangents? Is everyone in the group contributing to the process? Or is the session being dominated by a few strong personalities?
This ability to accurately discern your group’s state-of-mind, performance, and progress as your session unfolds is an invaluable leadership skill – a skill that will allow you to make whatever real-time adjustments are necessary to keep your group on track, fully engaged, and effortlessly generating achieving goals.
The key to cultivating this skill is to understand and apply the principle of “situational awareness.” This term is used widely in the aviation industry. It refers to a pilot’s ability to observe, in real time, everything that’s happening in and around the aircraft, and to understand how information (speed, altitude, aircraft performance), events (weather, ground terrain, air traffic), and the crew’s own actions are affecting flight progress and safety.
In the simplest of terms, situational awareness refers to being vigilantly aware, in any given moment, of exactly what’s going on, and then making the real-time adjustments necessary to achieve your goal or reach your destination.
Cultivating situational awareness to be an effective meeting facilitator is a three-step process:
- Perceiving what is actually going on, moment by moment, in your meeting
- Discerning how unfolding group dynamics will affect the group’s ability to achieve the goals and objectives for the meeting
- Extrapolating what adjustments need to be made in order to keep your group fully engaged and on track
If developing and applying greater situational awareness sounds complicated, it’s not. Perceiving (seeing), discerning (understanding), and extrapolating (forecasting) are innate abilities we all possess.
These are the same skills set we use while driving a car, playing a sport, or outsmarting a computer game. In each of those activities, we observe what is going on, understand where the course of events is leading, and decide what actions need to be taken to achieve our goal. Once we have mastered an activity, these steps become second nature. We are able to “read” any situation occurring within the activity we are engaged in, and respond accordingly – often without even being consciously aware that we are doing so.
And the same is true for highly skilled meeting facilitators.
Why is heightened situational awareness such an important skill for you to develop? Because business meetings and brainstorming sessions are not as linear, straightforward processes as they may seem in concept. They are dynamic, and requires active, hands-on leadership. Without such awareness on the part of the leaders, a meeting or ideation session can quickly veer off course, encounter interpersonal turbulence, or run out of momentum.
Become the most productive and effective meeting facilitator possible; start cultivating your situational awareness skills. In time, you’ll develop a sixth-sense ability to see what’s occurring with any group and making the real-time adjustments necessary to achieve your goals.
Excerpt from the book: SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas.
SmartStorming Partners Mitchell Rigie and Keith Harmeyer are experts in helping individuals, teams, and organizations achieve greater business success, by applying more innovative approaches to daily business processes. Their new eCourse, “SmartStormer Innovative Thinking and Idea Generation”, is a breakthrough program designed to help anyone tackle business challenges in more innovative and productive ways. Rigie and Harmeyer are authors, speakers, consultants and trainers, with a combined 50+ years of experience working in the fields of advertising and strategic marketing communications, persuasive presentation skills, and personal development. To learn more about their programs and keynotes, visit SmartStorming.com.