23 April 2023

Season 3, Episode 34. The Art and Science of Facilitation with Marsha Acker

"Facilitation is a key leadership skill." – Marsha Acker


In this podcast episode, Innovation Meets Leadership host Natalie Born talks to Marsha Acker, a skilled facilitator can identify hidden dynamics in conversations and guide participants towards actionable outcomes. Marsha emphasizes that following good facilitation principles in meetings is crucial for success, even without a facilitator present, to avoid wasted time, lack of clarity, and missed opportunities.


The conversation centers around the cost of repeated and unproductive meetings in organizations, and the speakers identify warning signs of ineffective meetings, such as impulsive eye rolls and unclear decisions. Key skills for effective facilitation are neutrality, intentional planning, clear design, engaging all voices, and knowing when to provide input. Facilitation is a skill that takes practice and maturity, and staying present and curious when things get difficult is key to successful meetings. 


Marsha Acker is an executive & leadership team coach, author, speaker, facilitator, and the host of Defining Moments of Leadership Podcast. She is the author of The Art and Science of Facilitation: How to Lead Effective Collaboration with Agile Teams and Build Your Model for Leading Change, coming in early 2023. Marsha is the founder and CEO of TeamCatapult, a respected and sought-after leadership development firm that equips leaders, at all levels, to facilitate and lead sustainable behavioral change. 


[00:00 - 15:36] The Power of Facilitation

  • Marsha discusses the art and science of facilitation and its importance.

  • Marsha highlights the challenge of convincing people of the need for facilitation.

  • People assume they are already good at communication and do not need facilitation.

  • Facilitation helps to identify and address these dynamics, including the elephants in the room that people are dancing around.


[15:36 - 19:43] The Importance of Effective Facilitation in Meetings

  • Before scheduling a meeting, think about what role you want each person to play and what problem they are trying to solve by being a part of that meeting.

  • It's important to think about whether the meeting serves your own needs as well as others'.

  • Using facilitation skills to bring things back on track is important.

  • If you can't cover everything in the meeting, capture the remaining topics and set up a time to talk about them later.


[19:43 - 26:36] Mastering the Art of Facilitation

  • Facilitation is about being curious, staying when things get difficult, and knowing how to handle difficult situations without feeling defensive.

  • When things go off the rails in a meeting, it often points to a bigger issue or hidden agenda.

  • As an outside facilitator, people may make it about the process or the facilitator, and it's important to be aware of that.

  • The facilitator should create a safe space where people feel comfortable bringing up difficult topics.



Key Quotes:

"As a facilitator, the beauty is in standing back, looking at the lay of the land, and cutting right to the heart of what we're really trying to say. It's about bringing focus to the discussion and preventing things from going off in different directions." – Marsha Acker.


Connect with Marsha

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/marsha-acker-3486a72

Defining Moments of Leadership Podcast: https://teamcatapult.com/podcast/


Check out Natalie's New Book: SET IT ON FIRE: The Art of Innovation available now at https://setitonfire.co/


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