a good facilitator creates a positive environment

Why would you need a facilitator?

In the business context, a facilitator is usually engaged to help a group or an organization achieve a stated goal. The facilitator may be charged with leading activities such as strategic planning days or an event where a group needs to challenge its traditional processes, think differently and/or do things differently.

The group wants their usual approach to problem solving turned upside down and new perspectives introduced. To achieve their goal they engage a facilitator.

It makes sense to engage an external facilitator.

If a group wants a person with no inherent bias and who is independent of all participants, the simplest and safest strategy is to seek an external facilitator. While confidentiality can be assured the strength of the outcome comes from the facilitator’s independence. The facilitator’s strength of character and communication skills enables he or she to extract the best from each participant and ensure the group takes ownership of the outcome. Any shared ‘history’ between the facilitator and participants raises the possibility of a less than optimum result.

A good facilitator can take groups to 'places' they have never dreamed of.

A good facilitator must first acknowledge the values of the group he or she is working with as values are the base from which all else is built. The past is accepted and the present known but the future is the challenge. A good facilitator will work with the group, challenge their assumptions, boost their creativity and enable the group to design their future. Critically, the facilitator enables the group to achieve far more than the sum of individual skills around the table.

A good facilitator creates a positive environment, engages all participants and keeps the group focused, on track and on time. He or she ensures the process is democratic, is not dominated by ‘personalities’ and ultimately ensures that the group takes ownership of a workable outcome.

Stay on the same road and you never discover new places!

It is a bad sign if a group is not challenged, is not taken out of their ‘comfort zone’ and does not generate new perspectives. The road ahead is never known, it may be assumed – but, if you continue to walk down the same road you will never discover anything new. If you continue to walk down the middle of the road you will ultimately be run over!

Business and competitive advantage is all about being better, smarter, and faster so a facilitator must avoid being a complacent ‘yes-person’. As far as groups are concerned individual egos have no place in the facilitation process. Leaders and managers, indeed, everyone participating, must prepare to be challenged at all levels!

Effective facilitators have an unusual set of communications skills.

Effective facilitators are good listeners, are skilled at questioning and understanding body language. They manage differences and cope with conflict while respecting the democratic process. They are skilled at tracking behaviour and themes, at paraphrasing and reframing critical points to keep discussions on track.

Challenging the status quo, for whatever reason, can be upsetting for some but exciting for others. Facilitators must manage group dynamics, turbulent and otherwise. They cannot lead but a skilled facilitator will enable a group to move forward on the strength of their own energy. It is an unusual skill mix.

For any group determined to make a sound investment in its future it is vital that the first step toward achieving that goal is to engage a sound, effective facilitator and prepare for some unexpected outcomes. Ensure the change is worthwhile.

Susie Manson is an effective facilitator.

You are now familiar with the qualities and communications skills needed to be a good facilitator. Susie, Principal – Coaching Commitment, is a highly trained, well qualified executive coach and mediator. She has channeled her professional experiences into helping executives and their teams work toward a better, brighter future. As business sentiment wanes the competition is more likely to take their ‘eye off the ball’. It makes sense to engage a facilitator to help you create the future you want rather than sit back and let others create it for you.

“To facilitate is to make something easier or less difficult.”