Bringing Outside Data In

Facilitation is one of the three core skills of systems leadership. And one of the most common things facilitators need to work with are members who bring important data to the facilitator outside of the group. This might come in the form of a private conversation, call, or email.

How facilitators handle this kind of data has tremendous impact on both the individual who has data they are reluctant to share with the group and for the group itself. There are lots of reasons participants might approach a facilitator with data that is relevant to the entire group outside of a normal meeting, the most common being the viewpoint is controversial or may raise conflict with other members.

Here are four things that I find particularly helpful in this situations:

  1. Acknowledge and thank the individual for sharing their views. This establishes respect for the individual.
  2. Encourage the individual to share their perspective directly with the group. This gets us away from being responsible for data that belongs to a group member. As facilitators, it is not our job to speak for others.
  3. Explore concerns that the individual has about speaking openly and help identify strategies to support their participation. It can be particularly helpful to share that it is quite likely other group members have important concerns and helping the group to talk about tough issues skillfully will encourage better dialogue and problem solving.
  4. Help the individual to reframe a concern that might be polarizing into something that may be seen as a positive contribution. Often it is helpful to encourage thinking from the perspective of highest good or the ultimate goal of group.

The most important piece here is to let the participant know you have heard them, but clearly letting them know bringing their data forward is something they can and need to do.