What is Facilitation?
To facilitate is
"to free from difficulties or obstacles"
"to make easy or easier"
"to carry out a set of functions or activities before, during and after a
meeting to help the group achieve its own objectives"
Advantages of Group Facilitation
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- group motivation, commitment and confidence
- better climate for radical change
- optimised group dynamics
The facilitator is there to ensure a productive group process whether this is brainstorming a new idea or discussing the latest employee appraisals. The facilitator has a role within the group which comes down to the three following headings. The role of the facilitator is to ensure that the group works as a constructive and cohesive unit. This task has three parts:
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FOCUS To provide a focus for the group when the leader fails to fulfil their role.
STIMULATE To encourage constructive debate between group members.
SUPPORT To bring out information from introvertted members of the group and to allow new ideas to be submitted.
PARTICIPATE When the group is interacting poorly or in the wrong direction the facilitator must be willing to promote new discussion.
TEAM BUILDING To form a cohesive, interactive and productive team.
REGULATION To maintain order of the group discussion, discouraging participants from talking at the same time, or dominating the floor.
PROTECT MEMBERS To ensure that all contributions to the discussion are treated equally and that no-one is rebuffed for their input.
DEAL WITH PROBLEMS To control problem people within the group allowing everyone to participate freely.
TIMEKEEPER To adhere to the meeting timetable thus ensuring completion of the agenda.
PRAGMATIC To take a detached look at the discussion viewing each point on its merits.
ENCOURAGE FEEDBACK To promote discussion of each point raised, by all members of the group.
THE FACILITATOR must be a neutral to the discussion, taking a pragmatic view of all points raised. This frees the facilitator to concentrate on the group rather then the content of the discussion and hence they can ask pertinent and stimulating questions.
To be effective in the role of a facilitator the
person needs to be effective as a manager, requiring
several skills and qualities to be able to guide the
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The ability to put over points using all the techniques
available both verbal and non verbal, receptive
listening is also an
To arrange the venue for the
meeting and to set it up in such a way
that all barriers are removed between facilitator and
audience. The time allocation to the meeting has to
include time for discussions and feedback
To forge a team from a group of
individuals through motivation and
empowerment of the individuals. Delegation of tasks is
essential to being a good leader also knowing when to
stand back and let the team have its head
and when to take the initiative.
Based upon knowing what the
team needs to ensure that it becomes an
efficient and effective unit. This is achieved
through evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of
the individual members.
Knowing that there is a problem is
not enough you have to be able to get to its
root cause be it human or mechanical. Both
can be assessed via brain storming and analysis sessions
with the team or on an individual basis. This
will lead to decision making based upon past
The facilitator can not just stand up
and give a formal lecture to the audience.
They need to involve the audience and let them
know what is going to be on the agenda. To get the
audience to participate they need to be a
catalyst for discussion and where necessary
reform points made and feed it back to the audience
to think about.
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The ability to fulfil different group roles; leader, supporter, inquisitor etc. in order to keep the group process fluid and maximise potential.
To instil confidence in the group by appearing purposeful and in control, therefore subduing group insecurities.
To be consistent in approach to the task, not moving the goal posts, becoming trustworthy to the group.
To appreciate the difficulties of group working and have the determination to see a task finished.
To have the respect of the group to become the surrogate leader if and when required.
To be an example to the group of how to conduct oneself at work.
To be able to start the group working on the task or when a problem is discovered/developed to find an alternative way around it to maintain the working.
To have the admiration of the group as being a person whom they can trust the judgement of.
To have the capability to recognise undertones in the group; using the positive ones to the group's advantage and countering the negative ones to diminish them.
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- Quiet/Shy Participant - a group member is not
participating as the facilitator thinks they should. This
may be because the participant is:
- shy, timid or insecure
- indifferent to the topics being discussed
- feeling superior
- distracted by pressing issues outside the meeting
- having trouble understanding the topic under discussion in conflict with
other group members
- make eye contact with the participant and ask a simple question
- involve the participant in a small subgroup discussion and ask them for
an oral summary of their discussion
- recognise his/her contribution immediately, sincerely and encourage
- ask during a break or in private about why the participant is so quiet
- suggest that everyone takes a turn in sharing their opinion
- Overly Talkative Participant - a group member talks too
much, rambles on repeatedly and is generally
dominant. This may be caused by:
- a natural need for attention
- being overly prepared/unprepared for the meeting
- wanting to flaunt a large vocabulary or extensive knowledge
- having the most authority
- glance at your watch whilst the participant is speaking
- during a pause for breath, thank the participant for their comments, and
restate the agenda
- emphasising relevant points and time limits
- ask the participant to explain how their comments adds value to the
topic in hand
- reflect their comments back to the group
- remind everyone of the time limit
- Side Conversation - a group member is disrupting the
meeting by being involved in too many side
conversations. This may be because the participant:
- feels the need to introduce an item not on the agenda
- is bored with the meeting
- has a point to raise that they feel makes other items on the agenda
- is discussing a related topic but not being heard
- wants to be the centre of attention
- ask the participant to share their idea with the group
- get up and casually walk around near the participants having the side
- call the participant by name and ask if they want to
add the topic of their discussion to the agenda
- restate a recently made point and ask for the
- Overly Disagreeable Participant - a group member is highly
argumentative or generally antagonistic.
This may be because they:
- have a combative personality
- are upset by others opinions or a specific meeting issue
- are a show-off by nature
- are unable to make suggestions constructively
- feel that they are being ignored
- paraphrase the participant's comments, and after their response,
recap his/her position in objective terms
- find merit in the participant's suggestions, express
agreement, then move on
- respond to the participant's comments, not the attack
- open the discussion of the participant's comments to the group
- mention that, due to time constraints, the comments can be put on the
agenda for the next meeting
22 Feb 1996
Last updated 23 Feb 1996