Understanding the “six limbs” of facilitation will help you juggle meeting dynamics better.
What Are the “Six Limbs?”
A facilitator needs to keep six avenues of awareness open to facilitate effectively. Awareness of the “six limbs” is a kind of hyper-awareness that we don’t tend to need during other parts of our lives. This hyper-awareness underlies all the specific skills (such as summarizing and paraphrasing) that a facilitator uses. Maintaining this heightened awareness is hard work, and is largely what makes facilitation such an art.
Familiar to anyone who has ever written a term paper, the six avenues of awareness are:
• What if…?
During a meeting, you need to maintain your awareness of:
Who is talking, who is silent, and who is expressing themselves non-verbally? Who has been heard, and who needs to be heard?
What is going on, both on the surface and underneath? What are the “vibes?” On another level, what time is it? What needs to happen before the meeting ends?
When is it time to break? When is it appropriate for you to intervene in the meeting’s process?
Why do you feel you must intervene?
How can the group’s work best be accomplished?
What if…the meeting outcomes are not met this time around? What if a particular person hasn’t yet provided input? What if yelling occurs? What if you decided to take a whole new path to solving the problem?
If using the six limbs sounds challenging, it’s because it is. Facilitation is both an art and a set of skills. Keeping all six tracks of awareness open will help you bridge those two worlds—and make you the best facilitator you can be.
Guila Muir is the premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help you improve your meetings!