Greg Padgett and I were chatting four years ago, just before the start of the Beaufort-Jasper Water and Sewer Authority annual board retreat. As the facilitator of the day-long session, I had already performed some up-front discussions and a pre-session questionnaire. Still, you can never know your audience too well.
Commissioner Padgett said about 10 minutes into the conversation, "I know exactly what you do. I worked as a professional facilitator during my career.”
"That is interesting," I replied. "What types of things did you facilitate?"
“Mostly infrastructure master plans and regionalization agreements," he said. "One time, I spent a week with two other facilitators working on a joint agreement between the Air Force and the local governments.”
On the one hand, I was shocked that I had missed the expert in the room. On the other hand, before I arrived, I reflected that I was surprised that I had not already found the resource in every group – the participant with facilitation experience that can make the primary facilitator's job much easier and more effective.
Greg Padgett’s Distinguished Background
Greg Padgett joined the US Air force in 1971. He served as part of the USAF or state Air National Guard for over 40 years in such roles as a Chief of Supply, Wing Quality Manager, Services Squadron Commander, Logistics Squadron Commander, and retired as the Comptroller Squadron Commander.
Outside of his service in the Air National Guard, his career included such stints as a computer programmer for a county treasurer’s office, a vice president at a bank, a private business owner, the controller, and chief operating officer at a hospital, and a member of seven board of directors.
He also received certifications in facilitation, strategic planning, the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator, on-scene incident command, and conflict resolution/management.
Leverage Participants with Facilitation Experience
An important technique is to leverage other facilitators, such as Greg Padgett, who are in the room. These other facilitators are not formal facilitators but session participants with facilitation experience. Great facilitators use every resource at their disposal, whether those resources serve in an official or an unofficial capacity.
Identify Them in Pre-session Exchange
The most obvious way to learn if participants have facilitation experience is to ask them in the pre-session exchange that every great facilitator has with session participants. Start building rapport. Ask for advice. Do not hesitate to develop a strategy for getting discrete assistance when session disruption occurs.
Arrive at the Session Early
Great things usually happen in the 30 minutes before any engagement, so always get there a little early. In this case, I missed Greg Padgett in the pre-session exchange but found him before the day-long retreat. Lucky? Maybe. But it is worth noting that both Greg Padgett and I instinctively knew to get there a little early and make the most of our time. It made a big difference in the facilitation that day and over the past several years.
Listen During the Sessions
A third way to learn which participants have facilitation experience is to listen. Listen to participant discussion during the session. Participants with facilitation experience will show their hand by the way they ask questions – powerful questions – to other participants. Pull those participants aside at breaks or in between sessions. Again, build rapport. Ask for advice. Do not hesitate to develop a strategy for getting discrete assistance when session disruption occurs.
There is a Greg Padgett In Every Group
Finding the facilitator in every group is a seemingly small thing that makes, or breaks, any facilitated session. When a participant in a session, I often judge the quality of the facilitator by whether they discover the other facilitators, like me, who are in the room. I am rightfully impressed by facilitators who find and use us to help discreetly when needed. The next time you lead a facilitated session, ask yourself whether you have identified the other facilitators in the room.
JD Solomon Inc provides program development, asset management, and facilitation services at the nexus of facilities, infrastructure, and the natural environment.