The Essential List of Facilitation Skills

facilitation skills

Developing facilitation skills and becoming a good facilitator can benefit anyone who works with others in any leadership role, whether official or not. Suppose you have ever needed to run a group meeting or get a consensus from a group. In that case, you will understand how difficult it can be to encourage participation and reach the desired outcomes. Even the most charismatic and skilled people may have difficulty dealing with group dynamics and finding a way for the whole group to find common ground. Facilitation training can teach you the ground rules to facilitate meetings and get the entire group on the same page regarding the task.

This article will define facilitation skills, outline the importance of the role, highlight specific skills that one may look at, and trace the path to becoming an effective facilitator. By the end of the article, you should have the knowledge you need to begin to practice the facilitation skills mentioned and pursue further education.

Facilitation Skills Defined

Facilitation skills are used and considered for leading a group to a consensus, whether about project management or conflict resolution. For many people, facilitation is one of the core tenets of a skilled leader because it allows the leader to help the group move forward and avoid conflict, allowing the team’s performance to be more productive and the project to move forward. Facilitation enables a leader to organize people around an idea, connect ideas to others, and form a meaningful goal. These skills include all areas of a meeting process, from the planning to the execution of any ideas.

Some experienced facilitators will break down the idea of facilitation into several categories, which can help further define the facets of facilitation skills and create a well-rounded understanding of the topic. Some divide facilitation into practical skills, the study of group dynamics, and the facilitator’s mindset. These components are vital to skilled facilitation and help create a facilitative environment.

The practical skills cover the planning process and any hands-on skills the facilitators use to move the group forward. The dynamics include the psychological and social knowledge required to understand how people work together. Finally, the facilitative mindset includes how a skilled facilitator prepares for encountering anger and conflict and finding a way through.

The Facilitator Role

The facilitator’s role is to encourage people to bring their ideas to the table and create an inclusive environment for all participants to feel confident in the facilitation experience. Sometimes, a facilitator may be a peer leading a specific project or helping the group past conflict. However, a professional facilitator may be called in in other situations, particularly if the emotional temperature is charged and earlier discussions have not been productive. A neutral facilitator is often professionally trained and experienced in helping groups stay focused and have productive conversations, which can lead to a better resolution for everyone involved.

An excellent facilitator encourages participation in facilitated spaces through careful planning, establishing helpful and cohesive ground rules, and keeping the agreed-upon objectives at the center of the conversation. The facilitator’s role is an important job, and it should not be taken lightly. The best facilitators understand that different perspectives, good communication, and time management are the keys to effective meetings and problem-solving.

The Everyday Facilitator

It is important to recognize that facilitation skills are not only used in boardrooms to run meetings or planning sessions. Most of us also use them in different areas of our lives. People in relationships may facilitate conversations with their partners to ensure adequate communication and planning. A neighborhood committee may use facilitation skills to get the neighborhood to host an event for everyone to enjoy. Even if you are not officially a facilitator at work, you may benefit from using these skills to help you grow your skills in other areas of life.

The Importance of a Facilitation Mindset for Group Members

Because collaboration is required in so many areas of our lives, facilitation is an essential skill to hone for anyone. Several benefits illustrate the importance of learning to work together and enabling a team to find a way forward. These benefits include:

  • Dreaming Goals: Without excellent facilitation, people may spend more time completing a project and not looking into the future. Creating clear guidelines for meetings and outlining each process within an organization can help free up time for people to explore more ambitious and exciting goals and look toward the future rather than the past.
  • Efficient Teamwork: When an effective facilitator works with a team to confront their biggest challenges and find ways to overcome them, the team will be more efficient in their current and future projects. A great facilitator will also help run meetings smoothly to create more space for the work.
  • Generating Options: One of the easiest ways to throw a project or process off course is to stifle any conversation around multiple options. A good facilitator will help a group generate options and discuss the possibilities effectively. This helps create additional conversation and opinions without getting off-topic, meaning the group can be even more efficient moving forward.
  • Identify Skills and Players: In some cases, group members may be overlooked, or their skills may be misidentified, especially if they are quiet people. Effective facilitation identifies these people and their talents to ensure everyone contributes best to the project.

These are only a few benefits that may be encountered when you use a facilitation mindset in a meeting or training session. Even small groups and meetings will benefit from ensuring someone helps run the meeting smoothly.

Common Skills to Practice for Effective Facilitation

If you want to become an effective facilitator or improve your skills, there are some common techniques you can start with to ensure that you are creating a better environment for your team and everyone on it.

Active Listening Skills

Being an active listener is one of the best facilitation techniques that anyone can practice to help a group feel comfortable working with one another and sharing their creative ideas. A variety of listening techniques can be employed to help the group listen to each other better and feel more comfortable. A sampling of these options is listed below.

  • Body Language: Body language is truly its language, communicating more with a look or gesture than we can with words many times. Understanding this language can be a game changer whether you are leading the meeting or participating in the process. This includes any gesture or facial expression that communicates something to another person. It may be a smile to make others feel welcome or a signal that the group chooses to wrap up a conversation.
  • Eye Contact: Another way to actively practice listening is to make eye contact with the people you speak with. When you do this, you communicate to the person that you are engaged and processing what they say. By doing this in a meeting, you help everyone else feel that they are being heard. This allows everyone to feel more connected to each other and the goal of the meeting.
  • Paraphrasing: Another way to communicate to others that you are engaged with them and interested in what they are saying is to paraphrase or repeat what someone has just said to them in your own words. This helps ensure you understand what they say and listen while they speak rather than planning what you will say next. You may begin to ask clarifying questions, which helps ensure that everyone understands what is being said and takes it in stride to move the discussion forward.

These listening techniques help a facilitator and the participants understand all the presented ideas and feel comfortable sharing what they think may be a solution or plan for the future.

Time Management

Another skill that an effective facilitator has is time management. If a group does not handle the time in a meeting well, they will run into issues that need to be addressed adequately. The meeting cannot be a sounding board for grievances unless that is what the meeting was designed for, nor can it be so efficient that people do not feel heard. A few techniques can be used to ensure that time is managed and people feel heard. These include:

  • Time Limits: In some meetings, limiting specific subjects or the meeting itself may be helpful to curb arguments and help people move on to the next topic or task. There can be room to adjust if needed or productive, but having a hard stop in situations that could last a long time is also helpful.
  • Rotate Discussion: Another common issue of managing time in a meeting is that people dominate the conversation and do not allow others to join. Rotating discussions and engaging with the quieter participants without forcing participation can be beneficial to ensure that everyone is heard.

Understanding and managing time can be vital to success for a facilitator and the group they are working with. Practicing this skill will ensure that you can help a group work effectively.

Giving Positive Reinforcement

Another essential skill or technique that many facilitators will use is positive encouragement when the team engages well with one another or works hard toward a goal. This may be as simple as shouting at the team or a member in a company blog post about the work they are doing. Many other facilitators will also use team-building activities to encourage rapport and strengthen the team’s bonds. By encouraging the team to continue to grow, they will become more productive and achieve more together.

How to Become a Skilled Facilitator

Suppose you want to become a facilitator or sharpen your techniques to get people to work well together. In that case, you may benefit from training in the facilitation skills needed for the role. ADR Times offers courses in various subjects that could help you learn skills necessary for facilitation or conflict resolution.

You may also volunteer to lead meetings or take on project management roles to help you assess and develop your facilitation goals. By leading smaller meetings or working on a project that requires cooperation, you may find yourself practicing facilitation, mediation, and other practices that drive you to hone those skills and grow as a skilled facilitator.

For more information on the facilitation process, facilitation skills, and more, contact ADR Times!

Emily Holland
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