by Steve Roche

What makes a good facilitator?

It takes a special skill to see with fresh eyes every time you work with a group: a skill often present in a good mediator or chairperson. More than impartiality, it’s the setting aside of your own prejudices and opinions so that another view (and the person holding that view) can be validated. It’s about creating a non-judgemental and objective environment, one where people feel they can air their opinions without getting shot down or humiliated.

As a facilitator, you must work with what other people present to the group or bring with them, not what you would like to have happen. You should do this without imposing your will or your point of view on the issue.


Being able to influence a situation without imposing a personal agenda may be a tall order for someone whose job is not normally facilitating others. It takes a high level of skill and self-awareness, plus a demanding combination of aptitudes and abilities. Thus good facilitators are rare – which makes facilitation a skill-set well worth developing.

Skills and qualities

To be a really effective facilitator you need

  • Excellent rapport skills
  • A high level of emotional intelligence
  • Clarity about what you are there to do
  • Highly developed listening and questioning skills
  • Awareness of the mood or state of individuals and the whole group
  • The ability to see things from many different points of view
  • The flexibility to change what you are doing if it is not working
  • The confidence to deal with disruptive individuals or difficult situations
  • The ability to intervene to move the group forward
  • The capacity to assess your own performance.

Anyone who is already a competent chair, presenter, trainer or coach is likely to have many of the qualities listed above. It also helps to have

  • A high level of energy
  • Experience of working with groups
  • Confidence in handling a wide variety of people
  • A good knowledge of a range of business techniques
  • The ability to think on your feet and to adapt and improvise while forwarding the action.

There are further helpful ideas in other topics:


Voice Skills

Representational Systems

Listening Skills

Questioning Skills

Emotional Intelligence