Six Questions About Professional Facilitation with CREATiON Companies CEO Joseph Bowers
CREATiON Companies CEO Joseph Bowers lives and breathes the organization’s mission: Space, place and purpose are essential components in the cultivation of inspiration. Leveraging 25+ years in Business Management, Consulting, and Leadership Development, Joseph co-founded the CREATiON Companies in 2017, combining principle-driven curricula with inspired environments, specifically designed for executive learning.
The Dobbins Group sat down with Joseph to learn more about how, through professional facilitation, he helps create a safe place for executive leaders to disconnect in order to reconnect with themselves and their teams to discuss and solve problems.
Q. What skills and characteristics comprise a well-qualified executive facilitator?
A. This list could be quite extensive however, if I were to prioritize the top 10 core components to effective professional facilitation, they would look something like:
1. Provide a safe environment for sharing
2. Inspire curiosity
3. Challenge assumptions
4. Build relationships
5. Actively listen
6. Practice unbiased objectivity
7. Read the room
8. Create group focus
9. Exercise time management
10. Foster neutrality
Q. Does a facilitator need to be an expert in the participants' field or industry?
A. Effective facilitators don’t need to be experts in the subject matter. However, they should be subject-matter-conversant. I believe proper context preparation is key for facilitators to understand the terms being used and the relationship of those terms to the deliverable or goal of the meeting.
Q. How do you guide executives toward their goals during a retreat or offsite?
A. Helping executives achieve their goals during an offsite or retreat is much like a coach working with a team — everyone has a specific role, everyone belongs, and everyone contributes toward shared goals and objectives.
We begin with a clear purpose statement to define our time together, which must be agreed upon by all participants. Then, everyone is asked for their good-better-best outcome expectations which we record and put up on the walls of our meeting venue for perpetual checks. Everyone is asked to check their titles at the door which creates a safe and inclusive decision-making environment, where critical thinking is encouraged and celebrated over groupthink. And lastly, we nurture an environment of inclusivity ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and respected.
I also see solid progress by assigning stakeholders responsibilities within a simplified version of the traditional RACI (project management) matrix, within which I prefer to drop the “R(esponsible)” and focus on the remaining “A-C-I” to minimize confusion between the Responsible and Accountable elements. This helps teams identify who should hold specific roles for each goal:
Accountable: Delegates, reviews and manages expectations
Consulted: provides input, expertise and experience
Informed: kept notified of progress
Q. What are the most common challenges you see in executive teams working to improve collaboration skills and strategies?
A. There are three sticking points I see on a regular basis.
Unclear goals. The lack of transparent goals can hinder group productivity, motivation and energy, making it difficult for leaders to delegate responsibilities or tasks.
Lack of time and inappropriate meeting environments. When it comes to collaborative problem-solving, executive teams are often crunched for time, especially when trying to facilitate a meeting in an office setting that doesn’t have the appropriate mechanisms or space for effective, focused collaboration.
Office politics. Organizational politics exist, whether you engage in them or not. They can occur at a function, individual or team level, and they are often about influence and relationships. Not all office politics are bad. Some can be constructive and even positive. So it’s important to understand and talk about the political environment of the organization through reciprocated trust.
Q. How do you help senior leaders achieve strategic vertical alignment?
A. We use a six-step alignment framework that includes clear and agreed-upon measures of Vision, Strategy, Intentions, Accountability, Investment and Communication. Many times, this work happens before participants convene at the offsite or retreat.
Q. What unique experience and expertise do you bring as a facilitator of executive retreats and offsites?
A. Aside from my certifications, I’ve been working in the facilitation space for more than 25 years. I enjoy moving the needle, making sense of the gray areas, and leading groups to those electric moments of cohesion and commonality that result in well-designed team decisions.
Looking for a professional facilitator or planning your next offsite or retreat? Partner with the CREATiON Companies for the space and place to define your purpose and inspire your team.