How Social Media Turns Leadership Facilitation On Its Head

This article originally appeared in my regular column at

When friend and collaborator Tom Lowery talked to me several weeks ago about the growing impact of professional facilitation, he had my attention. But when we talked about what social media can add to the training and facilitation process for companies, a new world of possibilities emerged.
How are professional facilitators currently incorporating social media into their business? How could the addition of social media impact their future success? Tom has filled a variety of corporate training roles for a number of years. I invited him to dig a little deeper into this phenomenon this week.
“I’ve been in rooms with teachers, lecturers, presenters and managers/meeting leaders who were boring as hell,” he said. “Business owners in love with the sound of their own tepid voices are a recipe for disaster.”
What makes the difference between boring as you-know-what and a session with employees or customers that leaves participants alive and on fire? To find out, Lowery used his connections to gather some inside views on the art of facilitation. Here are some of the things he discovered:
“Every business incorporates facilitation skills in their day-to-day business, whether they realize it or not,” says Andrea Kennedy, Product Training Specialist-Lexus Division at Toyota Motor Sales. “Facilitation skills aren’t just for formal training,” she said.
That makes sense. A great business needs to be successful both externally and internally.
“Businesses want to keep a finger on the pulse of their companies,” says Tricia Vanderwill, Freelance Facilitator for Acura, General Motors, Lexus and Mercedes Benz and others. “Employees who are the face of these companies need to have continuous knowledge, and the ability to express those thoughts and ideas with skill.”
I’ve talked in past columns about the ways social media can boost brand awareness, improve customer relations and increase sales. But consider this formula: Social media and facilitation are a great combination for increasing an intangible commodity—employee engagement—as well. Increased employee engagement increases the profitability of every business. So where do we begin?
For these answers we turned to a leader in the world of facilitation: Bill Heacock, the founder of Heacock, Perez and Associates. Known for his iconic courses such as Train the Trainerand Death by PowerPoint, Heacock sees social media and facilitation as powerful twins for success.
Says Heacock: “Social media will play a huge role going forward. Surveys suggest that much more learning takes place informally than formally in a work environment. If you don’t know how to do something, you typically don’t wait for the next regularly scheduled class; you simply ‘go ask Bob.’  Wikis, blogs, IM, Tweets, Texts, etc.–every new technological innovation makes a facilitator’s tool box even more robust and gives organizations yet another way to enhance employee performance on the job.”
Leadership and Engagement
How do leaders achieve audience engagement? They are up against some formidable odds. According to Statistic Brain, people’s abilities to pay attention is lower than we thought, and appears to be getting worse by the minute:
·       The average attention span in 2012—8 seconds
·       The average attention span in 2000—12 seconds
·       The average attention span of a goldfish—9 seconds
·       Average number of times per hour an office worker checks their email inbox—30
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