In many types of group situation, and particularly in complex discussions or those where people have different views and interests, good facilitation can make the difference between success and failure.
We are all feeling it: the pressure to build smart, innovative organizations. How do leaders and their organizations craft a learning organization? By creating safe and involving environments where people can identify and solve problems, plan together, make collaborative decisions, resolve their own conflicts and self-manage as responsible adults. Facilitative mind and skill sets are essential ingredients to making real a learning organization.
By definition, a facilitator is “a person…that makes an action or process easy or easier.” If ever there was an insufficient definition for something, this is it.
Effective facilitators have to wear many hats in any given session. The role encompasses presentation abilities, training abilities, people skills, project management – and more. This person has to keep the group focused, take them deeper with a topic, and (sometimes) keep a potentially volatile situation at bay. This is a dynamic role in which the facilitator is delivering important content and helping to engage productive interactions without necessarily knowing as much as the individuals he or she is facilitating.
In short, a good facilitator is focused on the topic at hand, the interaction process and participants, and the optimal path to reach the objective. This is a complex balancing act that requires numerous skill sets.
Introduction to Facilitation
Facilitation is a technique used by trainers to help learners acquire, retain, and apply knowledge and skills. Participants are introduced to content and then ask questions while the trainer fosters the discussion, takes steps to enhance the experience for the learners, and gives suggestions. They do not, however, do the work for the group; instead, they guide learners toward a specific learning outcome.
A good facilitator possesses the following skills:
- Advanced preparation
- Clear communication
- Active listening
- Asking questions
- Establishing a psychologically safe environment for sharing
- Creating focus amongst the group
- Unbiased objectivity
- Managing the group decision process
A skilled facilitator is like the sails of a ship. They guide the team onboard where they need to go, with no objective other than to lead the team to their destination. A team can navigate a meeting without sails, but it is much easier and more effective if they have facilitation skills to guide them. Facilitator Course
The definition of facilitate is “to make easy” or “ease a process.” What a facilitator does is plan, guide and manage a group event to ensure that the group’s objectives are met effectively, with clear thinking, good participation and full buy-in from everyone who is involved.
To facilitate effectively, you must be objective. This doesn’t mean you have to come from outside the organization or team, though. It simply means that, for the purposes of this group process, you will take a neutral stance. You step back from the detailed content and from your own personal views, and focus purely on the group process. (The “group process” is the approach used to manage discussions, get the best from all members, and bring the event through to a successful conclusion. How you design this depends on many factors, and we’ll explore this in a little more detail later in the article. The secret of great facilitation is a group process that flows – and with it will flow the group’s ideas, solutions, and decisions too.) Facilitator Course
Your key responsibility as a facilitator is to create this group process and an environment in which it can flourish, and so help the group reach a successful decision, solution or conclusion. Facilitator Course