Intercultural facilitation techniques

In May I attended the faciliteringsdagarna in Gothenburg. Two highly interactive and inspiring days with plenary sessions and smaller workshops. All sessions had a link to facilitation and the over 100 participants all had experience with facilitation either in their roles as leaders, project managers, or consultants. The atmosphere was one of sharing and giving and that made participation extra valuable and highly recommended. One of the workshops I attended Facilitatiing from West to East by Malin Morén, Christine Hogan and Meiling Liu discussed with us how we as facilitators can use the “pace, pace, lead” approach when working with groups across the world.

We discussed the (im)possibilities of facilitating with Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Swedes and Americans. Some very practical tips and tricks were shared. For example when working with Chinese, Arabs and Indians make sure you know your group, who are participating, what is the relationship amongst the group members, how does their hierarchical connection look like. Knowing your participants will help you a lot during your facilitation session as you are able to anticipate on who to ask for input.

Another important issue being discussed was the role of the facilitator. It was summarized as to get the group reach results. And if because of an indirect communication style preference it is difficult to get participants to speak their mind, facilitators need to find a way to get to know what these people want. Several techniques were discussed but they all assumed that the indirect communicators should become direct communicators, either verbally or in writing so that everyone would know what was meant. However, waht if the facilitator is the only one who has this need as s/he is the only person with a direct communication style preference? It cannot be that for the need of the facilitator the whole group needs to change its communication style?!

At the end of the workshop the conclusion was that you need to connect with your group and meet them in their needs where you as a facilitator will need to be flexible so you can adjust to the style that will fit them best and will help them to reach their goal.