A client asked me the other day what makes a great facilitator and this made me stop and think. I have been in facilitated sessions and have been a facilitator myself for many years and so I was able to give the client a breakdown of what I believe to be the top characteristics of an effective facilitator.
- An effective facilitator is passionate about people, guiding each person and the group to uplift their potential;
- They focus on the transformational process;
- They inspires people by connecting emotionally with them;
- They are authentic and walk their talk;
- Their natural self leader attitude makes them seen as someone whom delegates can rely on and look up to;
- They take care of the individuals and the group, being an exceptional empathic listener;
- Importantly, they have fun!
The secret of great facilitation is a group process that flows – and with it will flow the group’s ideas, solutions, and decisions too. The key responsibility as a facilitator is to create this group process and an environment in which it can flourish, and so helping the group reach a successful decision, solution or conclusion.
I find that facilitation calls for working with passion, love and humor, and guiding people safely out of their comfort zone as the key to their sucess is just there, to reach the next level. People are always surprised by their own journey, as they ask me, “how did you bring us out of our comfort zone without us noticing?” I always smile and answer, “because this ‘difficulty’ is just an illusion, a self limitation.”
What’s the difference between a trainer and an effective facilitator ?
In June 2017, I facilitated a series of workshops for the sales people of the largest telecommunications company in France. These guys work in different stores and are really proud and commited to the company (which is not always the case in many companies, for the time being).
The feedback taken at the end showed that, across the board, people enjoyed the way I facilitated these workshops, mentioning the fact they had previous boring trainers.
A trainer is seen much more as an instructor, an educator who conveys a knowledge or skills to a group of people. It’s mainly based on a one-way direction. In other words, the trainer delivers the information and there is low interaction with the group which does not feel implicated. It can be of worth in some specific situations as technical skills, IT trainings etc.
However this model was also used for years in soft skills trainings. I remembered having attended trainings delivered this way. The most crazy thing happening would be role-play where participants were afraid of playing as, most of the time, the trainer put them down! I had experienced this myself and understand how miserable it can make you feel. How could participants build their self confidence in such conditions ? How could they grow and be successful ?
After this bad experience, I was determined to play the game differently.
In short, I followed the path of becoming a facilitator and I can tell you that the most difficult part of the facilitation remains the role-play as people keep recalling the old-fashioned way described above.
That’s the reason why the facilitator has to take care of the delegates, by creating an emotional connection based on respect, confidence, empathy, always recognizing the strengths of each individual and giving them the boost to grow to the next level.
Seeing the individuals and the group growing to the next level is the most rewarding part of being a facilitator and that’s my commitment each time I facilitate a group or coach individuals: I strive to be a facilitator with impact.