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What Makes a Good Facilitator?

Facilitation is the design and management of structures and processes that help a group do its work. Facilitation is about process (how you do something) – rather than content (what you do). A facilitator is a process guide, a person who makes it easier for a group to achieve its goal or task. But, what makes a GOOD facilitator? There are at least six core competencies related to facilitation:

  1. Self-mastery. A good facilitator must be 100% awake and present – listening, looking, and sensing at all times. This means that a facilitator must take good care of him/herself to maintain the energy required for the role. Facilitators also must express an open, learning orientation to life. They must be accepting of novel ideas and able to refrain from judging or evaluating the group’s input.
  2. Presentation skills. Effective facilitators present themselves professionally and confidently. They have a strong personal presence that commands the attention of the group and helps it stay focused and on schedule. They also are skilled at using a variety of presentation tools.
  3. Interpersonal skills. Master facilitators are master communicators. They are highly skilled listeners who respond to both verbal and nonverbal signals of group members. Through their questions and responses, they can encourage participation from shy group members and minimize disruptions by domineering “types” on a team.
  4. Group dynamics. Facilitators understand the dynamics of group development and know when/how to intervene. They can analyze a group’s level of development and create activities that move the group forward. They also monitor the energy of the group and provide “process breaks” when necessary.
  5. Group process skills. Facilitators have a wide variety of process “tools” that they apply to help a group achieve its objectives. They can see when a group is “stuck” on a decision or problem and select an intervention tool that keeps the process moving.
  6. Logistics management. A big part of facilitation is the planning and preparation of activities that will meet the needs of a particular group. Good facilitators are skilled at gathering and managing the resources necessary to achieve group goals and perform required follow-up activities.

To be effective, a facilitator must remain “neutral” and NOT do things that the group members can do themselves. He/she empowers the group to achieve its purpose and creates an environment that supports goal achievement. The facilitator manages group processes and dynamics, influences how group members work together, and focuses on group needs. The facilitator is responsible and accountable to the group.

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