Skip to main content

Don’t Be a Facipulator! Is Your Lack Of Neutrality Stifling Participation In Your Meetings?

February 9, 2021 8:02 pm

The Power of Participation & Engagement: The Five Core Facilitator Best Practices Series (Stay Neutral | Listen Actively | Ask Questions | Paraphrase | Summarize)

If you are like many of our clients, you are struggling to achieve the same level of engagement, participation and collaboration in your virtual meetings. A well-run meeting creates alignment, buy-in, and motivates a group to action. Bad meetings lead to frustration, distraction and a disengaged staff. Never before has it been more important to tap into key facilitator best practices that foster a safe, inviting and structured way to ensure all voices are heard. This is the first in our series exploring the Facilitation First’s Five core facilitator best practices.

Don’t Be a Facipulator! Is Your Lack Of Neutrality Stifling Participation In Your Meetings?

Have you ever attended a meeting led by a supposedly neutral facilitator, only to realize that there’s a hidden agenda they’re leading the group towards? These individuals are known as: Facipulators (manipulator + facilitator).

While it’s possible facipulation can result in you reaching your individual goals or outcomes, the consequences of manipulating a group while wearing the facilitator hat heavily outweighs the benefits. Here’s a few reasons why:

You risk losing the trust of the group. No one likes being manipulated or lied to. Especially by a facilitator who claims their core principles include maintaining neutrality and actively contributing content, all the while capturing their own ideas instead of the groups. Facipulation is a quick way to be perceived as dishonest easily resulting in loss of trust by group members.

The likelihood of group members following through on your goals and respective actions could be decidedly lower. We’re naturally inclined to follow through when we understand the origin of a goal or action and have had a part in creating it. If attendees are facipulated into taking ownership of a goal or task, their efforts in completing designated actions might lack passion and personal impact

Two (or more) heads are always better than one. It’s important to remember that not any single person has all the answers, especially in complex matters impacting multiple functions or business units. So, to collaborate effectively, organizations must rely on the variety of perspectives and subject matter expertise that it’s employees bring to the table. When ideas or decisions are generated without tapping into these resources, the results can be poor, incomplete or lacking perspective that could otherwise be garnered by utilizing the group members.

Let’s examine some typical facipulative behaviours and compare them with matching facilitative behaviours. Most of the recommended facilitative behaviours relate to maintaining neutrality while facilitating:

Remember, there are ways to maintain your neutrality while still ensuring great meeting outcomes, like asking questions or offering a suggestion. In my opinion, facipulation is never a good process choice for building commitment and buy-in!

Facipulative Behaviors Facilitative Behaviours
Asking close ended or leading questions right from the start – geared to leading participants down your path Start with open ended questions to let the group determine the direction of the conversation. Use close ended questions to confirm themes, trends and decisions e.g. so my understanding is that you want to do XYZ, is that correct?
Providing your opinion or bias – negating or critiquing the group’s proposed ideas Let the group share their opinions on ideas through a facilitated discussion. Essentially, bite your lip as others suggest ideas. Don’t hesitate in writing them down and only paraphrase when ideas are unclear.
Providing more suggestions than the group, or giving yourself extra time to explain or embellish on your own ideas Provide suggestions after the group has contributed only if you believe your suggestions can stimulate further thought. Frame your ideas as a question instead of a tell e.g. Have you thought about doing ABC? Don’t record or scribe your idea. Give the group time to discuss it and if they like it then record it.
Showing undue emotion for one idea over another idea Remain neutral and promote all ideas during brainstorming processes. Use neutral language such as “ok” or “sounds interesting, any other thoughts on this” instead of “great idea!”
Only capturing ideas you like – not writing everyone’s ideas down Capture all ideas! Always start with a round-robin to ensure everyone has a chance to voice or not voice an opinion.
Asking a lot of clarifying questions of one person’s input, but not others Only ask clarifying questions when necessary. Do not use clarifying questions to promote individuals.
Scribing an idea down in your own words without checking in to see if you captured an idea correctly Always try to capture an idea in a person’s own words. If there is a need to capture something in your own words, always ask “did I get that right?” or “is this what you meant?” before moving on.
Calling on only certain people who share your opinion Call on all group members equally, regardless of their opinion
Adding pre-session information that is biased If necessary add pre-session information that is unbiased and open-ended or representative of multiple points of view
Non-verbals: rolling your eyes, gasping, or hesitating to capture an idea just given Monitor and limit your non-verbal reactions. Capture ideas instantly.

Let us Know

Do you have a unique meeting challenge not covered by one of our blog posts? We’re always looking for different dilemmas to discuss in our articles!