By Mia Liljeberg

Visual practitioners include graphic recorders, visual thinking trainers and graphic facilitators. Visuals are being used more in business communication, and this has provoked interest among business leaders.

There is plenty of research showing how the brain processes information. Vision is our strongest sense for capturing information: we remember in pictures. This is why storytelling is so efficient - it creates images in the heads of the audience. We remember more of what we see than what we hear, and we remember even more if we are engaged. Facilitative leadership  enables the team to engage in several ways; what we do, we remember.

Rosanna von Sacken, a visual facilitator, coach and practitioner listed ways in which graphics and visuals can help in facilitative leadership:

  • include diverse perspectives,
  • inspire contributions as participants see contributions on the board,
  • engage and excite people as the “picture” emerges,
  • connect the dots to bring the bigger picture into view or focus,
  • visualise disagreements
  • create common understanding,
  • clarify issues as they emerge,
  • enable talk about sensitive topics
  • generate ideas, innovation and solutions,
  • build relationships indirectly.

Multi-dimensional leadership is about collaboration, transparency and involving all levels in difficult conversations and in participatory decision-making. According to Rosanna, leadership is no longer just top down directives. Facilitators bring “head” skills, “heart” skills and “hand” skills into more prominent play. More focus is being placed on relationships and expressions of appreciation, without which results may not be as full and rich as they could be.

Facilitative leadership, like visuals and graphics, can be applied to many different fields, disciplines and professions. Traditionally, leaders are sent on training programs, such as communication, time management, how to delegate. These training areas do not necessarily consider cross component combinations and applications. Effective facilitation skills, on the other hand, provide the cross-over between these components.

Rosanna uses the metaphor of a fruit bowl: the bowl is like the facilitator, the container that provides the space and holds the different kinds of fruits together. The facilitator designs the processes to reach the desired outcomes, designs the tools and processes to be used and how best to engage the participants.

Facilitative leadership can be learned and developed. With more millenials entering the workplace, the need for engaging, entertaining meetings is growing, and more organisations are seeing the value of facilitation and setting up internal facilitator pools.

It´s easy – you can do it!

Anyone can learn and develop their facilitative leadership skills. Learning can typically be achieved in 3 ways, Rosanna says:

  • through reading,
  • by observing others or
  • by practicing and doing

Facilitative leadership is best learned this way, through application and practice in real or simulated scenarios, with feedback provided by experienced and trusted facilitators.

The bonus of using visuals in your facilitation is that it also adds fun to the work.

Visuals help the group to listen better as they receive on two channels, auditory and visual. They also engage the group and open up communication to get to the real essence of the dialogue.

There are no neutral visual decisions. All visual decisions are either helping you or hindering you in getting your message across. It could be the colour, the proportion, the direction etc. Metaphors are a good example of visuals that hold a lot of added meaning, but can also limit thinking due to the limitations of the metaphor.

Facilitative Leadership is a competency that can help you get results in so many situations, in your organisation as well in your private life. To facilitate is to connect people and ideas and real results.

So where do I start?

  • Invite participation through questions, using whiteboard, post-its and other tools so many can be engaged at once
  • Reduce your airtime to let others increase their airtime.
  • Think about the decision making process and the decisions to be made, which ones are negotiable and which ones are not. Make sure it is reflected in changed ways of presenting information.