Facilitation in Leadership: Leading Groups to Solutions, a book review
I was given this book to read by a mentor shortly after he discovered that I actually like reading and further my wisdom and understanding of leadership principles. One day he tossed me this book as well as a couple of loose pages that he printed out on various topics related to leadership. He instructed me to share the pages but return the book. He challenged me to return the book sooner than two months, jokingly. Unfortunately, it took me about one of those two months to get through it, and as it concluded this morning, I felt that the appropriate time to review it would be right away.
“Leading Groups to Solutions”, is a book generally about leadership as it relates to team building. I immediately liked this notion because it is right up my alley. It is easy to read with relatively large print for non-fiction and has a relatively short length at 169 pages. It is written in a way that is easily understood with many take-away portions and wrap ups with bullet points to outline the primary material.
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I took off reading this book relatively fast because of the way it is formatted. I initially thought it would be a quick and easy read. I typically stay away from these because I tend to breeze through them and then spend a lot of time recalling what it was that I read a week later. Despite the ease of the read, I found that I didn’t want to rush it and that I would rather read a small portion before taking a good amount of time to reflect on what it was that I read. I often found myself taking situations from the book and directly applying them to what I had experienced during group leadership and group meetings within my organization.
The book is divided into two larger sections. The first section is directly related to facilitating, in fact, the meat of this book revolves around the facilitator and how to best facilitate. The last half of the book consists of small chapters that focus on specific techniques and situations that you may use or encounter while being the facilitator of a group. There are sections at the back of each chapter that outline the material as well as a short summary for content in the chapter that a team-member should take away if they are not able to facilitate. I found this part exceptionally helpful as while I find myself in the role of facilitator a lot, I also find myself in meetings where I am a team player and not in a facilitator role at all.
Writings on Facilitation
When I read the title of the book, I had assumed that I would be reading a lot of repetitive team building strategies that most non-fiction group solutions books try to produce. I was happily surprised when the authors took a direct approach and identified one area to focus on. I was enlightened by the end of the book at just how much someone in a leadership role encounters situations where they act as a facilitator. I count it a success when I am reading a book and then during my daily routine, I recall something that I read in that book and then apply it to my life. This happened countless times during reading “Leading Groups to Solutions”, and I am willing to bet that it will continue to happen for some time.
The authors take a good portion of the book to write on topics related to facilitation such as engagement, clarification, sustenance, and action. I was a bit put off by how they seemed to always use a formal meeting setting in which to describe how facilitation takes place. I don’t believe that we should make the mistake of assuming this book is only for that formal type of professional meeting. I believe that we can take a lot of lessons out of here for ground level team-based leadership and apply them across the board, regardless of whether or not we are the primary leader or an ordinary team member.
The latter half of the book takes us through various strategies to use when addressing groups, once again, from the leadership position or as a team member. It does a good job of walking through step by step the process from the beginning to the consensus. There is a lot of problem solving included during the latter half of the book. I like this because it provides us with a lot of if, then information that we can add to our list of tools to use in various situations. Once again I felt that it provided this information on the contextual basis that it is being used in a formal meeting room, however, it is really easy to see how to apply it on a production floor.
I’m not sure that I liked the idea of gearing the entire book titled “Leading Groups to Solutions” towards delivering the chronological events of a formal meeting and various strategies and problem solving techniques you may use to make sure you reach a productive consensus, however, if that is what you are going for than I highly recommend this book to you. If you are looking for a book for general team building with no specifics involved, then you may find your time better spent elsewhere. I don’t believe that I can walk away from this without strongly emphasizing that even though the book seems to be written for that formal meeting situation, that it is clear how it can be practically applied to a variety of situations including production floor, family dinner table, and sports or recreation.
I believe that a specific quote from this text does a really good job of defining it, “Most of all, our best hope for leaders and facilitators of teams is that you’ll discover in real and specific ways a grand truth: together we are better than the sum of everyone individually.”
(Steven J. Stowell, 2002) I believe this book has a lot of teachable
information delivered in very small packages of words. In spite of some of my dislikes of this book,
I did thoroughly enjoy reading it, and I hope to thoroughly enjoy its
continuous application in my professional life.
Steven J. Stowell, P. S. (2002). Leading Groups to Solutions. In P. Steven J. Stowell, Leading Groups to Solutions (p. 169). Salt Lake City: CMOE Press.