Meetings Require: Facilitator AND Recorder
THE ROLE OF A SUCCESSFUL FACILITATOR
Be a “guide on the side” and not a “sage on the stage.”
Rather than making recommendations like technical consultants, facilitators serve like conductors. But unlike conductors, they help groups improvise new ideas that aren’t known in advance.
The facilitator provides the structure, has a process before starting and does not waste people’s time. A successful facilitator will choose the right tools to meet the groups goals. A facilitator commits to the process and keeps the group in the process. Their role is monitoring for a positive process or the whole thing might collapse.
A facilitator is not, in the classic sense, the lead decision maker and shouldn’t attempt to invoke a power structure. Be a guide not a boss. They allow the group to have their own process. Allow the group to identify the issue or topic it wants to resolve and encourage productive discussion with parameters of equal access and equal ideas.
Their role is to remain neutral, to turn the focus away from themselves toward the group as a whole. A successful facilitator must have good listening skills, neutrality, neutrality, staying neutral and leaving one’s ego at the door. The facilitator must not integrate their own opinions, be neutral. They should be open minded and patient and strive not to be pushy. The facilitator cannot indirectly influence the group by their inaction or actions. Facilitators can model appropriate behavior. In other words, be a “guide on the side” and not a “sage on the stage”.
A successful facilitator will ensure the group stays focused. A successful facilitator keeps the process moving and they create a role, take an idea and move the group in an organized manner. To make sure all the items on the agenda are discussed, to make sure things stay on time and group rules are met. To make sure people are comfortable (temperature, breaks), help the recorder if ideas are missed, to help the recorder post sheets on the wall to make them visible to the group.
A successful facilitator will ask the right questions. Don’t give them the answers; restate the question or ask the question in a slightly different way. If the group gets stuck, move them forward with a good question. Ask clarification questions to move discussion along.
A facilitator needs to talk less in order to listen to others (i.e. to observe.). Facilitators should help the group express their feelings, not tell the group (i.e. needs to provide leadership but not dominate the group.) A facilitator does not interfere with somebody’s response or interject their personal thoughts or beliefs.
A successful facilitator will insure that everyone has a chance to be listened to. Give everyone the opportunity to participate and be heard. Recognize those who want to speak. Make sure each person has a turn to speak. Recognize those who aren’t and help them find a way.
A successful facilitator will guarantee equal access for all participants, making sure everybody is fully heard. A successful facilitator brings out the shy people. Allow each person to answer at least once prior to letting a person speak more than once. They create a safe environment for sharing and listening and hold the group accountable for their learning.
A successful facilitator will balance participation equitably. Balance the conversation and give each person fair opportunity to express their opinion. Equalize and make sure everyone has a voice, making sure everyone is heard and everyone is empowered, and not interrupted.
A successful facilitator will make sure the issue at hand is clearly identified. A facilitator needs to have sufficient knowledge of the issues and understanding of history to make sure everyone has a voice. Make sure both sides get voiced and ensure respectful listening.
A facilitator should have a good knowledge of process and needs to keep order so the meeting does not get hostile. They will keep the group focused and will tactfully change the course of the discussion when it becomes too personal in order for people to feel safe. A successful facilitator makes sure that the discussion or conversation does not become personal, but rather addresses the issues or tasks that they were designated to discuss.
A successful facilitator helps to keep the group out of trouble. The facilitator should keep a fair balance of power, be savvy about group dynamics, try to control the tone of interaction and recognize the point of agreement or conflict when it arrives. Be aware of the group dynamics as well as the need to get things done in the group.
A facilitator needs to keep the group moving towards a decision or consensus and on task without being a strict timekeeper. A facilitator doesn’t always need to go in a circle. Check in with the group in terms of their comfort zone and going forward, and act as a change agent. They guide the group in problem solving and recognize opportunities of “breakthroughs” and move the group in that direction.