Facilitation Meets the Staffing Committee

Facilitation Rules PhotoI had a great experience (and overcame some challenges) facilitating the Omaha Public Library’s Staffing Committee meeting on October 1st.

I’d facilitated meetings with middle and high school students as a volunteer for a non-profit organization and as a Young Adult Library Specialist for my job.  I’d never facilitated a meeting where I wasn’t directly involved with the participants or the topic being discussed.  So, I was, of course, a little nervous going into this meeting.

To prepare for the meeting, I reviewed the committee notes on updating the Librarian II job description and the questions that Rebecca, the committee chair, had created to drive the process.  I also asked Rebecca how she ran the previous meeting and what she wanted flip-charted (an available dry erase board worked out perfectly for this meeting).  Matt, a fellow FIT Team on the Staffing Committee, also gave me some “how to approach this meeting” tips. This encouragement helped me feel supported.

I started the meeting that Tuesday afternoon by introducing myself to the group.  While the group was introducing themselves, I asked them to share one thing that makes them happy to come to work every day.  I also asked them to keep their answer in mind as we worked together.

I then asked the group what they wanted to accomplish by the end of this meeting.  They really just wanted to get as far as they could through the draft job description.  I then deduced that my main role was to keep them on topic.

Since I wasn’t sure where to begin, Rebecca began reading the job description lines and asking for consensus or disagreement.  It only took a few minutes to feel the group drifting away from me.  Matt, luckily, had the insight to again ask the group what they wanted to accomplish.  Rebecca then asked if I would read the lines to get us back on track.  I felt better about my facilitator role after taking over that task.  As we went through the different sections, I took notes about the suggested changes. I also asked sporadic questions to encourage dialogue and clarify changes.  Because some group members were very good at asking questions, I tried to pick up on the “what and why” of their comments for my own follow-up questions.

When the group strayed from the topic, I tried to get them back on topic.  It was difficult. Although the off-topic discussion was needed for the committee’s overall goals, it wasn’t part of the current conversation.  I got the group to save the off-topic for the next meeting.

When the meeting ended, I received some praise.  I also heard a few members say they felt good about the meeting because something was accomplished.  Although it started off a little bumpy and had some challenges along the way, there were also some great moments.  I felt good and more confident at the end of the meeting.  I look forward to my next facilitation opportunity.

Posted by Michelle Carlson, Facilitator-in-Training

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