What is a facilitator?

faciltator pic


Last week I posted about becoming an accredited facilitator.  I was confused as there appeared to be a couple of ‘official’ sites offering ‘recognised’ accreditation.  I have been proved wrong, there’s far more than that.  The how and why of being an accredited facilitator is a moot point, there’s also confusion at times about the role of facilitator.  This is a snap shot of an often held conversation

  • Suited and booted business person- ‘What do you do?’
  • Me- ‘I’m a facilitator’
  • Suited and booted business person with blank stare  ‘what does a facilitator actually do?’

So let me explain.

What’s a facilitator?

A facilitator is someone who works with groups.  They help a group to perform to the best of their ability- to ensure that the group has creative, appropriate and sometimes difficult discussions to address important issues that result in meaningful outcomes.  Facilitators work hard to ameliorate the common problems that groups suffer when they work together.  They are a neutral force and take their authority from the group.  They provide leadership without taking the lead.

What does a facilitator do?

A facilitator’s work covers three phrases.  Preparation, working with the group and follow up.

The preparation stage is crucial.  It’s essential to be absolutely clear about the need/s of clients, establishing the desired outcomes at the outset is key. Once outcomes are agreed the agenda needs to be drafted, bearing in mind, who and how many are  attending and what role they are going to play.  Designing an agenda is an iterative process in order to achieve the best possible product.

The next stage is about working with the group- the part on your feet.  The is the meat of the work, whilst preparation is crucial, if you can’t deliver the event you’re not going to get the outcomes you need.  Essentially working with groups is about working with the individuals that constitute the group.  A facilitator derives their power to lead the group from the group.  In order to do this the facilitator has to have the ability to form positive working relationships quickly.  The facilitator drives the agenda and constantly remind participants of the desired outcomes and ensures that the group remains focused.  If focus is lost, the facilitator will address/alter the situation to bring the group back on track.

The final stage is follow up, reviewing the process, communicating outcomes and if appropriate, implementing future needs for group work.

What key skills do facilitators need?

Facilitators often have a varied career path (I certainly have) but all need  to be comfortable with and enjoy working with people.  Key skills include :

  1. Great communication skills, facilitators have to be able to communicate with a diverse range of people to ensure that all participate and are engaged in the task at hand.  Great communications is not only about giving out information it’s also about receiving it.  A good facilitator is a good and active listener.
  2. Judgement.  A facilitator needs to be able to take the temperature of a group.  Has the group lost its way?  You need to be able to step in and address issues as they arise.
  3. Integrity.  The facilitator has to be the honest broker, this means that they remain focused on the content and structure and are committed to ensuring the group works to the best of its ability.
  4. Flexibility.  Facilitators work with people and people are unpredictable.  As a facilitator you have to be able to be flexible and think on your feet to ensure the best results are achieved.  If the planned agenda isn’t working then you must change it.
  5. Managing differences.  You won’t succeed as a facilitator if you are afraid of conflict. Resistance is often a a sign of progress.  Facilitated days often address sensitive topics and differences arise and they need to be allowed to arise in order for them to be effectively addressed.

Work hard and have a great week.