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Facilitation Techniques

Facilitation Techniques

Many people have the ability to direct, instruct, lecture, train and even to coach one or more individuals. However, even with long and varied experience, they do not necessarily have the ability required to get another person or a group of individuals to start to really understand a topic for him or herself. In other words they may not have facilitation skills/techniques or the ability to create a climate in which individuals can find their own way.

What is a facilitator?

In the simplest terms, facilitation is the process of helping participants to learn from an event or activity. The literal meaning of facilitator is “one who makes things easy.” A facilitator is therefore someone who uses knowledge of group processes to formulate and deliver the needed structure for any particular session or group interactions to be effective.  The facilitator consequently seeks to focus most on effective processes (group dynamics) allowing the participants to focus on the content or the substance of their work together.

In terms of practical steps, facilitation deals mainly with behaviors, skills and techniques that help a group work together effectively and accomplish its purpose (whatever that may be declared to be at the outset). A facilitator then seeks to assist participants in discovering what they already know and offers alternative ways of interpreting their experience(s). To achieve this, a facilitator presents ideas and behaviors which encourage participants to critically examine and build on the knowledge, attitudes, skills, and assumptions by which they work and even live.

The facilitator’s primary role

The role of the facilitator is to help the participants learn how to work together by providing the structure (process) while they remain focused on the content.  In any group session or meeting the facilitator must constantly balance process with content (letting others be the content expert wherever this is necessary).

Content Expert  Facilitator
  • Presents information
  • Provides the right answers
  • One-way communication
  • Leader-centered
  • Guides discussion
  • Provides the right questions
  • Two-way communication
  • Group-centered

The facilitator’s role is unique, although no more or less important than the other participants, since their primary focus is on the group interaction processes.  Facilitation can involve many different levels of problems and challenges, can assist the group in fulfilling its overall objective, or can include pushing participants to new levels of understanding.

Facilitator Behaviors

In summary terms, a facilitator:

  • Doesn’t evaluate
  • Focuses energy on a task
  • Suggests methods/procedures for accomplishing the task
  • Protects individuals and their ideas from attack
  • Helps find win/win solutions
  • Gives everyone the opportunity to participate
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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at OptimalJon@gmail.com

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One Comment

  1. Rick LentFebruary 10, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    Thanks Jon,

    The problem also is that too few leaders to be have ever had specific training in how to facilitate. Leaders get work done through the groups they lead…but so often they know little about how to manage group discussion to create new insights and alignment!

About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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