by Steve Roche

Becoming a facilitator

What might lead you to think about the possibility of becoming a facilitator yourself?

  • You may find that you have no access to external facilitators or to anyone suitably skilled and trained within your own organisation.
  • You may develop an interest in the role as a result of involvement with setting up events and employing facilitators.
  • You may see that being able to offer skilled facilitation to your colleagues would be a useful asset.
  • You might see facilitation training as a promising outlet for your own talents or a valuable form of career development for your people.

First steps

Someone wanting to move into the facilitator role should consider these routes:

  • Undertake a specific formal training in facilitation skills
  • Volunteer for scribe roles to observe and assist experienced facilitators in action
  • Volunteer as a co-facilitator (for example, running breakout/syndicate groups)
  • Gain direct experience on the job (in at the deep end)
  • Build an appropriate skill set through other relevant training and experience (such as coaching, counselling, group leading, negotiating and influencing skills or a training in NLP)
  • Become known as a facilitator within your organisation, in other words volunteer
  • Seek opportunities to develop your facilitating skills outside the organisation (such as running groups in voluntary roles)
  • Join a professional body that offers formal accreditation, such as the IAF (International Association of Facilitators)
  • Network with other facilitators by finding out which professional conferences or industry user groups they attend.

And while you are doing the above, put an equal effort into learning about people. NLP is an excellent tool; see also the topics on Emotional Intelligence, Political Intelligence and Body Language.

Getting it right

The main skills involved – observation, listening, reading body language, understanding human behaviour and stepping out of the content – can be continually improved through practice. But there is no perfect facilitation. In this role you are constantly making decisions about what to do in every situation: some you get right, some you get wrong.

If you get more right than wrong, things will go well, but great facilitation can be a thankless task. If the whole event runs smoothly, the people involved will probably never realise how much you contributed to its success. You often have to make do with the personal satisfaction of a job well done.

Ten things facilitation is NOT

  1. Knowing what’s best for others
  2. Keeping things under control
  3. Going against the flow
  4. Avoiding conflict at all costs
  5. Being judgemental
  6. An opportunity to steer things your way
  7. Being top dog
  8. Opting out
  9. Fearing anger and confrontation
  10. Hogging the limelight

If you feel you really need any of these, or cannot give them up, then think twice about becoming a facilitator.