Facilitator behavior and strategies

This month Tips for Training Success offers tips for improving your behavior and effectiveness as a facilitator.
Published: Thursday, February 01, 2007
How you behave as a facilitator can make or break your effectiveness. The more groundwork you do, the better you will become as a faciliator. Here are some suggested parameters for facilitator behavior.
  • Be Informed. Successful facilitators always gather extensive data about their prospective participants in order to fully understand both their business and their needs. They survey and interview participants, read background reports and use prepared questions to build a complete picture of the group’s situation.
  • Be Optimistic. Facilitators do not allow disinterest, antagonism, shyness, cynicism or other negative reactions to throw them off. They try instead to focus on what can be achieved and to draw the best from each participant.
  • Be Consensual. Facilitation is fundamentally a consensus building process. Facilitators always strive to create outcomes that reflect the ideas of all participants equally.
  • Be Flexible. Successful facilitators always have a process plan for all meetings, yet at the same time must always be ready to toss it aside and change direction if that is what is needed.  Really great facilitators bring alternative strategies and possess a good command of process tools.
  • Be Understanding. There are great pressures on employees in today’s workplace.  Facilitators need to understand this and recognize that antagonistic or cynical behaviors are a result of high stress levels.
  • Be Alert. All great facilitators are expert people watchers.  They pay careful attention to group dynamics and notice what is going on at all times.  All process leaders need to train themselves to be watchful of both how people interact and how well they are achieving the task.
  • Be Firm. Good facilitation is not a passive activity.  It often takes a substantial level of assertiveness to keep people and activities on track.  Facilitators must be ready to step in  and direct the process if the situation calls for it.
  • Be Unobtrusive. The facilitator should do as little talking as possible. The participants should be doing all of the talking.  The facilitator says only enough to give instructions, stop arguments, keep things on track and sum up.  Trying to be the centre of attention or make yourself look important is a misuse of your position.
  • Let the Participants Excel. Facilitating should be an egoless activity. The purpose is to make the group succeed, not to make you look really important and clever.  An effective facilitator will leave a group convinced that “We did it ourselves!”



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