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 flagship course, The Effective Facilitator, we identify eight distinct roles of a facilitator.
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Roles of a Facilitator
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Active Listener: 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.
Related: Video: 5 Reasons to take The Effective Facilitator
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After fulfilling so many responsibilities, is there any wonder why facilitators are typically exhausted after a session?
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About the Author
Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies, the largest provider of professional facilitators and facilitation training in the country. Michael is a much sought after trainer, facilitator and speaker. He is a Certified Master Facilitator and a Certified Professional Facilitator. As a past president of the Southeast Association of Facilitators, the creator of the FindaFacilitator.com database and a board member of the International Institute of Facilitation, Michael is a national leader in the facilitation industry. You can get more tips from Michael’s books, including The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy, The Secrets of Facilitation, The Secrets to Masterful Meetings, and CLICK: The Virtual Meetings Book.