The Role of the Facilitator


The Role of the Facilitator


To create an effective meeting structure and process a facilitator must have an understanding of groups.


Group Problems Overview:


·        Most groups do not know how to solve tough problems on their own

·        They do not know how to build a shared framework of understanding

·        They dread conflict and discomfort and try hard to avoid it

·        By avoiding the struggle to integrate perspectives, the group diminishes their potential to be effective


They Need a Facilitator!


Group Problem #1: Self Censorship

·        In most groups, normal behaviors are oppressive. “Haven’t we already covered that point” or “Impossible. Won’t work. No way.”

·        Group members fear being criticized if they express ideas that are not fully formed

·        Without realizing it, most people constantly edit their thinking before they speak

·        To protect themselves, people self-censor


The role of the facilitator: Encourage Full Participation


·        Draw people out and help everyone feel heard

·        Make room for quiet members

·        Reduce the incidence of premature criticism

·        Support everyone to keep thinking instead of shutting down


Group Problem #2: Fixed Positions


·        Members get caught up in amplifying and defending their own perspectives

·        When people try to discuss their differences, they often misunderstand one another

·        People want their own ideas understood first


The role of the facilitator: Promote Mutual Understanding


·        Help members see that thinking from each other’s points of view is invaluable

·        Accept the inevitability of misunderstanding. Recognize that misunderstandings are stressful for everyone involved

·        Support people in distress; treat them respectfully

·        Stay impartial, honor all points of view, keep listening


Group Problem #3: Win/Lose Mentality


·        Most people are entrenched in a conventional mindset for solving problems and resolving conflicts — “It’s either my way or your way”

·        Participants are attached to their fixed positions and work to defend their own interests

·        As a result, problem solving discussions degenerate into critiques, rationalizations and sales jobs


The role of the facilitator: Foster Inclusive Decisions


·        Help a group search for innovative ideas that incorporate everyone’s points of view


Group Problem #4: Lack of Collaboration


·        Most meetings are poorly run

·        Neither leaders nor other members of most groups are skilled in collaborative methods

·        Very few people understand the mechanics of group decision-making well enough to organize a group into a productive team of thinkers


The role of the facilitator: Teach New Thinking Skills


·        Teach people to develop innovative ideas that take everyone’s needs into account

·        Provide well designed procedures for running meetings

·        Provide structured thinking activities and decision making approaches

·        Improve meeting dynamics by discussing process as well as content


The Role of the Facilitator: Summary


  1. Encourage Full Participation
  2. Promote Mutual Understanding
  3. Foster Inclusive Solutions
  4. Teach New Thinking Skills


In future blogs, I’ll write about useful facilitator tools and techniques that address each of these roles.



Cindy Diamond, Diamond Marketing Solutions & IGNiTE


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