The Crucial Role of a Facilitator
One of the things I love to hear at the end of a workshop is, “Paul, we achieved our objectives for the day – thank you.” When I hear this, I know that I’ve served the team well. I’ve fulfilled my role as a facilitator.
Indeed, the word “facilitate” means “to make an action or process easier.” But how does a facilitator make the work of a group or team easier?
Let’s start with a working definition of a professional facilitator:
A professional facilitator is someone who fosters and maintains a productive dialogue so that a group or team can achieve its outcomes.
Maintaining productive dialogue within a group or team is the crucial role. And the purpose of that dialogue is to achieve the stated objectives for that particular meeting or interaction.
Please notice what is not included in the job description. A great facilitator is not:
• An entertainer. A facilitator is not there for the amusement and enjoyment of the team. On the contrary, she is focused on the helping the team achieve its outcomes. Though this might involve some fun along way, it might also involve some discomfort as challenging issues are discussed.
• A “sage on the stage.” Our primary role is not to share our indispensible wisdom with the group. Rather, our role is to harvest and draw out the wisdom in the room. As much as possible, a great facilitator leaves the content of the discussion to the group itself. We own the process – how the work gets done -- rather than what is discussed. A great facilitator is more often a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage.”
Professional facilitators are stewards of the conversation. In this role, they make their contribution by:
· Helping the team, often the team leader, get crystal clear on the outcomes that he or she wants to achieve
· Preparing an agenda of activities that enable the group to achieve its outcomes
· Helping the group create a set of ground rules to enable productive dialogue
· Listening actively both to what is being discussed and how it is being discussed
· Skillfully Intervening as needed to keep the discussion on track
· Encouraging full participation so that all voices in the room are heard
· Helping participants to resolve differences in a constructive manner
· Helping the group identify actionable next steps and commitments
· Helping the group evaluate the meeting in the spirit of continuous improvement
In what ways will you facilitate differently now that you know the crucial role of a facilitator?