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What Is a Facilitator?

Definitions of a Facilitator

A facilitator is….

  • An individual who enables groups and organizations to work more effectively; to collaborate and achieve synergy.
  • A ‘content neutral’ party who by not taking sides or expressing or advocating a point of view during the meeting, can advocate for fair, open, and inclusive procedures to accomplish the group’s work.
  • One who contributes structure and process to interactions so groups are able to function effectively and make high-quality decisions.
  • A helper and enabler whose goal is to support others as they achieve exceptional performance.

The facilitator’s job is to support everyone to do their best thinking. To do this, the facilitator encourages full participation, promotes mutual understanding and cultivates shared responsibility. By supporting everyone to do their best thinking, a facilitator enables group members to search for inclusive solutions and build sustainable agreements.

Skills of an Effective Facilitator

The basic skills of a facilitator are about following good meeting practices:

  • Timekeeping
  • Following an agreed-upon agenda
  • Keeping a clear record.

The higher-order skills involve watching the group and its individuals in light of group dynamics.

In addition, facilitators also need a variety of listening skills including ability to:

  • Paraphrase
  • Stack a conversation
  • Draw people out
  • Balance participation
  • Make “space” for more reticent group members

It is critical to the facilitator’s role to have the knowledge and skill to be able to intervene in a way that adds to the group’s creativity rather than taking away from it. A successful facilitator embodies respect for others and a watchful awareness of the many layers of reality in a human group. In the event that a consensus cannot be reached then the facilitator would assist the group in understanding the differences that divide it.

The Role of a Facilitator

Some of the things facilitators DO to assist a meeting:

  • Clarify the purpose, scope, and deliverables of the meeting or workshop
  • Keep the group on track to achieve its goals in the time allotted
  • Provide the group or help the group decide what ground rules it should follow and reminding them of these when they are not followed
  • Remind the group of the objectives or deliverables of the meeting or session
  • Set up a safe environment where members feel comfortable contributing ideas
  • Guide the group through processes designed to help them listen to each other and create solutions together
  • Ask open-ended questions that stimulate thinking
  • Tentatively paraphrase or repeat verbatim individual contributions to confirm understanding and ensure they are heard by the whole group
  • Tentatively summarize a recent part of the discussion
  • Offer possible wording for an unspoken question that may currently beset the group
  • Offer opportunities for less forceful members to come forward with contributions
  • Ensure that actions agreed by the group to carry out its decisions are written up in a large script on the wall for all to see and are assigned to individuals
  • Evaluate the performance of the meeting to assist in continuous improvement.

Some of the things facilitators DON’T DO:

  • Back a particular opinion voiced in the group
  • Offer their own opinions
  • Let the group unconsciously shy away from a difficult area
  • Lead the group towards what he/she thinks is the right direction

We hope this information will help YOU facilitate your next meeting with a much clearer idea in mind of what success can look like!

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