How to be a good group facilitator to help your organization and to grow as a leader when the opportunity presents itself.

Serving as a group facilitator at a workshop is an important assignment that can help make the difference between the session being a big success or not.  It is also an opportunity to be, and to grow as, a visible leader.  Do not pass up the opportunity to rise to the occasion and to do a first-rate job that makes a great impression.  Do all you can to help your organization achieve its objectives because your performance, and the positive results you help generate, will be noticed!

Your job as a facilitator is to:

  • Create, promote, and use a safe environment that ensures those in your workgroup participate fully and that their task is understood and completed successfully and on time.
  • Model target behavior.
  • Help lead a dialogue (which literally means: “quest for truth”) that fosters and promotes learning and targeted change.
  • Keep things moving and on-topic.

To accomplish these things, you need to:

  • Set an upbeat and positive tone right from the start.
  • Help your group become high-functioning as quickly as possible.
  • Overcome inevitable objections to starting work and to stayIng on task.
  • Ensure key roles (leader, presenter, recorder, time keeper, etc.) are assigned.
  • Make sure the group understands its assignment, completes its work, and properly prepares to present results.
  • Ensure time-boundaries are honored including the obligation to finish on time.
  • Spend quality time reviewing these tips, meeting materials, and developing a plan to do a first rate job.  I.e., don’t try to “wing-it” unless you are prepared to let the group, and yourself, down.

The following tips will help you get off to a good start and keep things headed in the right direction:

  1. Introduce yourself and your role with high-energy and an upbeat and positive tone.  The quality of your first words can literally make or break the activity and possibly also the entire session.  If you are genuinely pumped about what you and they are engaged in doing, it will show and those in your group will follow your lead.  If  you are flat, timid, or low-energy, group members will sense it and lose confidence in you, in themselves, and in what they are to do.  Script your opening and rehearse it a day or two ahead in front of a mirror and again and again with family and close friends. Feel the energy, solicit and incorporate feedback, and get mentally and physically ready to go on stage.
  1. Invite group members to:
    • Check-in (starting with yourself to serve as a model) and get into the game by saying their name, their current role, and why they are excited to be in the group,
    • Appoint someone to take notes,
    • Designate a spokesperson,
    • Review what they are to do, step-by-step, to make sure everyone understands the exercise.
  1. Open the group up for business:
    • Keep things positive.  If questions or objections arise, work with the group to handle them and, if necessary make simplifying assumptions to keep things moving and press on.  It is classic for a group to work hard to avoid the task at hand. You can and will get through it with a positive, can-do approach, and a warm smile!
    • Keep the discussion on-topic and moving forward but give the group time to work.  Do not push too hard too soon; be patient.  Do not feel you have to fill any and all conversation voids with the sound of your own voice.  It may be frustrating at times but a long silent pause is sometimes what the group needs to breakthrough on a key point.
    • Encourage everyone to participate; if some are quiet, call on them by name to invite their involvement.
    • If there are points you want to make, work them into the discussion after a time. Do not be the first one to offer content and do not hijack the group to railroad through your own agenda.  The work needs to be that of the group and not just what you do in their name.
    • Do not allow one person to dominate; including yourself.  It is okay to offer a point or two but it is virtually impossible to both facilitate and participate so stay out of the way and let the group do its work and do not give, or allow the group to count on you for, answers.  If things get stuck, provide just enough assistance to get things moving.
    • Throughout the process, every few minutes, “helicopter up” to take stock and to verify that the group is performing well and is on track to accomplilsh what it is doing successfully.  If all is well, keep going.  If not, take corrective action.
  1. Ensure your group is ready to report-out what they have produced.  Remind the group to start preparing outputs with the enough time to get things organized and ready to share.
  1. As the group breaks up, express pride in, and appreciation for, their efforts and for the privilege of working with them.
  1. Make notes on what worked well, what did not work so well, and what you can do better next time for your own use and to share with other facilitators.