MN VPMN Facilitator Guidelines

MN VPMN Facilitator Guidelines

The Purpose of this document is to assist MN VPMN Chapter facilitators to improve their skills and their group's process.  This document was prepared after receiving feedback from three MN VPMN Chapters and subsequent discussions between current facilitators.  Please be mindful that amendments/additions or deletions can and should be made to this document as necessary.

The Main Objective is to help a facilitator to improve their group's process so that the chapter can move toward its specific meeting goals within the guidelines of the MN VPMN Mission Statement and Confidentiality Protocol (see above).

"The Mission of the Veterinary Practice Managers Network is to encourage and facilitate professional and personal growth of Veterinary Practice Managers through education, support and a cooperative exchange of ideas.  They criteria for our subjects and teachings emphasize universal availability, unconditional support and non-judgmental dissemination of information.  All techniques are offered voluntarily, respecting that each individual's process is unique.  The Veterinary Practice Managers Network has no political or philosophical agenda."


Accomplishing the Objective:

Listening: Use active listening techniques (restating the obvious) to summarize and focus the group’s discussion. Listen intently to what is being said in the conversation as well as the tone, speed and pace of the conversation.   Be mindful to intervene if something is interfering with the group’s discussion or process. Be mindful to make sure that everyone participates in the group discussions or process. Never interpret silence as agreement.

Watching: Pay attention to non-verbal communication such as facial expressions, body language, and tardiness or excessive missed meetings. Respectfully ask the individual to verbally express the thoughts or feelings behind their non-verbal communication. Be alert not to jump to conclusions before the individual fully expresses their thoughts/feelings. Be understanding that the individual may not have the words at the time but may want to discuss their thoughts/feelings at another time or place.

Become Unattached to Your Opinions: As a group member you will need to voice your opinion, however, as a facilitator it is in your best interest to stay as unattached to your opinions as possible so that they do not get in the way of the group’s process.  

Leave Judgments at Home: Remain open-minded and encourage group members to do the same. Jumping to conclusions based on your own experience or background may leave you interpreting a person's opinions or behavior in a way that is far from what that person intended to convey. Give everyone in the group a fair chance to express their opinions, feelings and respond to other members in a respectful, non-judgmental environment. Don’t be afraid to “look at the other side of the coin” or change direction in the group’s process if that is what is needed at the time to facilitate a better discussion, or better group dynamics.

Say What Needs to be Said: If group members see you ignoring behavior that is disruptive to the group process rather than confronting it, trust in you as a facilitator could be compromised. “...One of the most valuable roles a facilitator has is that he or she will say what no one else is willing to say, and can do it without emotional undercurrent.” In doing this you, as a facilitator, must act in a way that keeps the group process moving forward while allowing the individual(s) to keep their self-esteem. This relieves tension within the group as well as builds trust and teaches other group members how to do the same.

Teach the Group to Facilitate Itself: Set the stage for the group to facilitate itself as it matures. Build trust between team members by encouraging a cooperative exchange of ideas, without emotional undercurrents. Let others facilitate meetings, as they feel comfortable. Facilitation is a skill all Managers can use at their clinic.

Ask for Feedback: Evaluate yourself, ask your group what went well, and what didn’t. What they would like to do differently in a similar situation next time. Utilize the knowledge of the other VPMN facilitators for constructive advice or consult someone outside of the industry who has knowledge in the areas you need to improve your skills.

Maintain a Positive Environment: Promote the cooperative exchange of ideas, personal and professional growth, unconditional support and the non-judgmental dissemination of information. “Do everything in a way that keeps your group moving toward its goals while allowing the individuals to keep their self-esteem.” Remember that titles can affect an individual’s self-esteem or perception of worth.   Make sure titles are left at the door. Promote a meeting of Individuals discussing veterinary hospital management rather than a meeting of DVM’s, Tech’s and Sales Reps discussing veterinary hospital management.

Maintain a Trusting Environment: You are bound by the confidentiality protocol set forth in the VPMN Network Structural Guidelines. When seeking advice, feedback or information to improve your skills as a facilitator be mindful not to divulge the confidences of your group members. To improve the VPMN network as a whole or coordinate Metro Area projects, meetings between group facilitators may occur from time to time. At these meetings the same confidentiality protocol is in place. Violation of these simple rules of confidentiality will result in you being asked to leave the VPMN. (Please refer to the VPMN Network Structural Guidelines or Rules of Confidentiality if you have questions)

Roadblocks to Effective Facilitation - by Erin Bohlender, MS, CPA:

  • Not explaining your role or making sure everyone buys into it.
  • Not taking enough time to fully discuss ideas or processes.
  • Being afraid to intervene.
  • Intervening too much.
  • Taking things personally.
  • Taking sides.
  • Controlling the process rather than guiding it.
  • Not allowing for a range of outcomes.
  • Pressing for closure every time.
  • Being afraid to confront specific behavior or specific people.
  • Not making sure the participants agree on the goal of the meeting before your start.



Adapted from the article “Roadblocks to Effective Facilitation” by Erin Bohlender, MS, CPA.