To be effective, facilitators must juggle many roles in a session. Sometimes we strive to keep the group focused, other times we help them go deeper into a topic, and occasionally we try to keep them from attacking one another!
In our work at Leadership Strategies, we identify eight distinct roles that facilitators play.
Roles of a Facilitator
- Motivator: From the rousing opening statement to the closing words of cheer, you must ignite a fire within the group, establish momentum, and keep the pace.
- Guide: You must know the steps of the process the group will execute from beginning to end. You must carefully guide the participants through each of the steps.
- Questioner: You must listen carefully to the discussion and be able to quickly analyze and compare comments and to formulate questions that help manage the group discussion and challenge the group when appropriate.
- Bridge builder: You must create and maintain a safe and open environment for sharing ideas. Where other people see differences, you must find and use similarities to establish a foundation for building bridges to consensus.
- Clairvoyant: Throughout the session, you must watch carefully for signs of potential strain, weariness, aggravation, and disempowerment—and respond in advance to avoid dysfunctional behavior.
- Peacemaker: Although it is almost always better to avoid a direct confrontation between participants, should such an event occur, you must quickly step in, reestablish order, and direct the group toward a constructive resolution.
- Taskmaster: You are ultimately responsible for keeping the session on track; this entails tactfully cutting short irrelevant discussions, preventing detours, and maintaining a consistent level of detail throughout the session.
- Praiser: At every opportunity, you should praise participants for the effort they put forth, the progress they make, and the results they achieve. Praise well, praise often, praise specifically.
Download, print, and share this image to ensure you’re mastering each role when you facilitate your sessions.
After fulfilling so many responsibilities, is there any wonder why facilitators are typically exhausted after a session?
Learn best practices to perform these roles when you facilitate. The Effective Facilitator is for you and your team if you lead complex, large-group sessions that require in-depth facilitation training and practice. Facilitating Masterful Meetings is for you and your team if you regularly lead standard group meetings that require fundamental skills building.