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Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #5: Cultivate True Partnership Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder

In an effort to further the graphic recording field and support our clients in getting the most from their visuals, we present our blog series, Powerful Habits to Maximize the Benefits of Graphic Recording in Meetings. 

The tips we offer are based in context of a scenario where a meeting facilitator is partnered with a graphic recorder to serve a client, and where either the facilitator, the client, or both are new to using graphic recording. We strongly believe thatgraphic recordings are meant to be a thinking tool, not just a recording device.

Working visually is both a process and a product. We also believe that optimizing the use of graphic recording rests largely upon 2 factors: 1) the quality of the partnership between the facilitator and the graphic recorder and 2) their collective repertoire of strategies for engaging participants to interact with the graphic recordings in a way that produces new insights. Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #5 speaks largely to the former.

Powerful Graphic Recording Habit #5: Cultivate True Partnership Between the Facilitator and Graphic Recorder 

Throughout this series, we’ve discussed some hallmarks of a strong partnership between a facilitator and a GR. When the facilitator and GR take steps such as collaborating in the meeting design, having a thorough conversation about roles, and co-navigating the meeting together, they enable the client to optimize their use of graphics. Still, to provide the full value of the tool, you want to develop a much deeper bond between the facilitator and GR.

Great unions exist where there is chemistry, time, appreciation and mutual respect.

Developing a GR/F partnership is a bit like choreographing a dance together. You want to create a solid routine as partners, while allowing space for improvisation and each person’s unique style.

It’s important that you cultivate a partnership between the facilitator and GR based on mutual respect. To start off, both members have to be willing to participate. They must also value both roles and be secure enough in their own role to confidently own and contribute their particular area of expertise. These conditions allow the partners to develop a shared sense of what it means to be “in service to the group,” and be emotionally connected by their desire to move the client where they need to go – without letting ego get in the way.

When you partner with a GR, we can help make your processes better. We’re not in competition with the facilitator. We are there for the same reason – to help move the group from A to B, to have a transformational experience. We’re better together. I can help shine your star. As a facilitator, you’re a soloist, but when you sing harmony with your GR, you get an effect that is greater than the parts.

Avril Orloff, 

Often the GR and F are similar personality types and wind up liking each other on a personal level. The best partnerships develop when each member feels free to be their full, authentic self. Meaning, who they are outside the meeting room is the same as who they are in the meeting room.

Although good GR/F partnerships begin with a natural chemistry, great relationships are often ongoing so that over time, a high degree of trust in each other’s expertise and strengths is built. When each partner’s goal is to be at the top of his or her respective game, and they both have a shared sense of what it means to be professional, their “dance” becomes fully effective for the meeting participants.

Some other characteristics of a great GR/F partnership are that they:

  • Know one another’s strengths and leverage them in the meeting process.
  • Openly appreciate each other, and make each other “look good.”
  • Are comfortable to challenge each other in the design/creation process, and brainstorm freely together.
  • Lead one another in learning about their respective areas of practice, and transfer skills to some degree between partners.
  • Strategize about how to best serve/talk to/support/grow the client.
  • Are both fully reliable and do not complain.

To create a solid team and deliver full value to the client, the GR and facilitator must intend to show up seamlessly together. This means giving thought to brand and identifying their collaborative meeting style. More than that, each one needs to trust that the other will support them during the entire process.

I’m not expected to be silent all the time. There’s some back and forth between me and the facilitator (we interact, have fun exchanges, share thoughts). We have a sense of connectedness emotionally. We are a team, going out to do our best, to move the client where they need to go. 

As the GR, I watch the pattern of the group’s transformation emerge. I’m flexible and the facilitator appreciates me for it.  And they are freed to focus on the group because they know I’ve got their back.

~ Emily Shepard

Here are 5 tips to help develop your GR/F partnership: 

  • Learn the dance well. As you exchange ideas/make suggestions in the process of working together, be sure to explain the “why” behind your recommendations to each another. Share articles, tips, books and examples of past projects with one another to better understand the basis for one another’s “moves.”
  • Practice together. Just as great dance couples rehearse many hours to polish a number, you will get the best results for your meeting when your facilitator and GR have prepared thoroughly together. Similarly, once the meeting is over, debriefing things together will offer the chance to consider what was smooth and what could be re-choreographed better for next time.
  • Know your role. The process facilitator, by virtue of their responsibility for the outcomes of the meeting, is naturally the leader and the GR is follower/supporter. It’s a good idea to get clear on which you are and stick to it. There is no value judgment associated with being leader or follower. Neither role is more important. In a visual meeting, the two roles are a necessary union for serving the group. In some partnerships where both partners have facilitation and graphic recording skill sets, they choose to weave in and out of the leader and follower roles, however this is less common and must also be well choreographed and understood ahead of time.
  • Trust your partner. You have to trust that your partner isn’t going to step on you or drop you during the dance, and your partner has to believe the same of you. Be respectful of your partner’s pre-existing relationship with the client/group. Help preserve or build the relationship by finding genuine opportunities to strengthen the view of your partner in the client’s eyes. If you have concerns because you don’t yet know your GR partner well, express them honestly and openly communicate your requests/preferences in advance. Offer genuine reassurance to one another if you sense it would help build trust.
  • Stay in sync. When live recording is happening during the meeting, learn to stay aware of your partner. Know one another’s preferences for communicating your needs in front of the group and working in tandem. Learn the telltale signs of when your GR is struggling to keep up and use appropriate strategies for pacing the conversation or interrupting the conversation to check that the GR captured an important comment. On the flip side, expect your GR to be fully tracking your process, anticipating needs and ready to take a quick left turn from the agenda should that need to happen.

As your facilitator and graphic recorder intentionally build their relationship over time, you will see an incredible yield from using visuals in your meetings. The combined efforts of these two practitioners will help your group take full advantage of the potential visuals have to encourage, enhance and engage conversation and thinking in a whole new way.