Key Questions When Choosing a Facilitator
Organizations seeking a facilitator can use our FindaFacilitator.com Database to help guide them in choosing a facilitator. The database includes facilitator information on process experience, industry experience, regional location, and fee range. However, once they have narrowed the search to handful of facilitator candidates, organizations need a finer screen to help them select one facilitator over another.
Of course, it is important to check references. And, if possible, it is even better to have the facilitator candidates spend 15-30 minutes facilitating the group or a subset of the group to see the facilitator in action and to assess fit with your group.
Additionally, there are there key questions that can help guide the selection. We recommend the following six questions when choosing a facilitator.
What questions do you have for me?
Great facilitators know the 3Ps: First you must understand the purpose, then the products, then the process. Be wary of facilitators who want to describe how they can help you (their process), before they understand your needs (your purpose and desired products).
What is your approach for getting the group interacting and focused?
Some facilitators have great days, but don’t necessarily understand why. Consciously competent facilitators know the keys to success. They understand what works, what generally doesn’t, and why. Your facilitator should be able to describe techniques to get groups interacting right away. Furthermore, they should be able to keep the group focused and avoid side issues.
How will you address dysfunctional behavior?
Great facilitators know that the key to dysfunction is preventing it from happening in the first place. Your facilitator should ask you about the participants, their issues and the problems typically seen in meetings. The facilitator should recommend actions such as establishing specific ground rules, holding conversations with particular participants, or other strategies for dysfunction prevention.
What type of orientation will you need if we decide to move ahead?
Great facilitators understand that the more they understand your business, the less they will slow down the group. They will seek documentation and discussion about your organization, your products and your issues.
What do your clients typically say they like about the way you facilitate?
Listen specifically for what the person doesn’t say. Most facilitators bring neutrality and control to a group. Great facilitators bring much more. Listen for words like ‘great energy level,’ or ‘insightful questions,’ or ‘a process that allowed us to get so much more done,’ or ‘managing diverse personalities.’
Based on what you have heard, what might the agenda be for the meeting?
Great facilitators have a pool of common processes they have customized over and over again for clients. They know these processes cold and, in the middle of a session, can quickly pull from their resource pool and create a customized process on the spot if needed. Therefore, if facilitators are not willing to give you a “first thought” of how they might approach your needs, you might question if they will have the flexibility and speed to change course on the spot if needed.
At Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company, we specialize in providing organizations with dynamic, professional facilitators to lead group strategy and problem solving sessions. Our goal is to ask the right questions up front to ensure that we fully understand your needs when choosing a facilitator. Then, using our extensive library of sample processes, we design and facilitate programs for you that deliver our PDI difference – Practical, Dynamic and Interactive!
Interested in learning more facilitation techniques? Check out our course, The Effective Facilitator.
About the Author
Michael Wilkinson is the CEO and Managing Director of Leadership Strategies – The Facilitation Company, and 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 and a board member of the National Institute of Facilitation, Michael is a national leader in the facilitation industry. You can get more tips from either of Michael’s books, The Secrets of Facilitation or The Secrets to Masterful Meetings. You can receive a signed copy through our website.