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Q : What are Facilitation Skills?

Explainer by Fabrizio Tovaglieri

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Last updated on 10 May 2021Comments

Facilitators bring out the best in individuals and groups of people. While facilitation could be a role in itself, it also involves skills you could use within many applications and occupations. Facilitation is essential in the business world and offers an effective method of educating people. Facilitation skills could help your resume stand out and prove you would be a valuable asset as a professional.

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Let's take a closer look at what facilitation is and what kinds of skills it includes.

What is Facilitation?

Facilitation can be used in different applications. It's used within business meetings, business training and academic teaching. Its objective is to help a group (professional or students) improve how they work together, identify and solve problems, learn, make decisions, and handle conflict.

Business Applications

Overall, facilitation in a business setting is often used during business discussions, meetings, committees or workshops. It helps a group work together toward common goals. If you were a facilitator of the group, you would act as an objective person who's outside the group. You would observe and listen. You would not take a side but instead help everyone work together in the best way possible.

As a facilitator, your goal would be to help the group create and understand their common goals and figure out how to work toward and achieve them. Since group dynamics can create tension, facilitation can also include conflict management and helping the group agree when they have disagreements.

Teaching Applications

A facilitative type of teaching can be used for business training or in an academic environment.

Instead of teaching by presenting, which involves talking to a listening audience, you can facilitate education and encourage participation. In this engaging type of educating, you guide your participants by:

  • Introducing activities
  • Asking leading questions
  • Encouraging discussion
  • Moderating
  • Offering suggestions

This teaching method is useful because it helps participants more actively learn and apply what they learn.

Differences

There are differences in these types of facilitation. Facilitating a business meeting or group usually involves helping the group work together to make decisions and reach common goals. On the other hand, to use a facilitation form of educating, you would generally already have goals in mind. Then, you would guide participants to help them reach your measures of success. In the case of educating, your goal would be to help the group learn and move forward, yet you would also focus on each individual's progress.

Why is Facilitation valuable?

Facilitation brings value to the business and educational settings. Let's look at examples of the value it can have.

A survey of more than 700 U.S. workers gave some of the main issues they experienced with work meetings. In order, they include:

  • Conversations that went off-topic
  • A single person taking over the meeting
  • Not laying out distinct next steps to take
  • Failing to start the meeting on time

Of the survey participants, 64 percent said the main thing that got them to want to go to a meeting was it being planned well.

These statistics help to illustrate how facilitation can be helpful. A facilitator can create a well-planned meeting. As a facilitator, you would prevent the problems people listed, as you would:

  • Take charge of a meeting
  • Get it started on time
  • Guide the conversation
  • Keep it on track
  • Encourage different people to participate
  • Make sure the group created specific goals and steps to achieve them

It would be similar if you were facilitating a class or course. You would start classes on time, stay on topic with specific goals in mind, prevent a single person from taking over the class and encourage participation from everyone.

Observation and research within education have found that the traditional method of talking to a class was not effective in helping students learn modern skills like critical thinking or working together to solve problems. Instead, research has shown that facilitative teaching methods worked better, including personalized learning and teamwork. Using this method, teachers help their students understand by guiding with suggestions, asking questions and giving them ways to apply what they have learned.

What are key Facilitation Skills?

There are some main skills that are useful for carrying out facilitation. These skills could help whether you planned to facilitate within an educational setting or a business setting. It's also possible to combine the two in a role that trains people within a business setting.

Some important facilitation skills include:

Active Listening

As a facilitator, you need to pay attention to what people say, listen to them and acknowledge that you have heard them. Active listening skills include things like:

  • Looking at people when they are talking
  • Nodding your head
  • Repeating some of what they have said to show you heard and understood

Maintaining Objectivity

As a facilitator, you would aim to listen to each person and understand their point of view. Then, you would not take sides. Instead, you would try to see the validity of each point and help the group work together among their differences. You would stay neutral while guiding the team or the class.

Being Prepared

Preparing for a course, meeting or workshop is an important part of facilitating. Preparedness helps you know what needs to be accomplished and help the group or individuals move forward toward their objectives and success.

Communicating

Not only do you listen as a facilitator, you also need to communicate. Your communication skills would help you to:

  • Command the group to keep them on task and working toward common goals
  • Intervene to help solve problems and manage conflict
  • Encourage quiet people to participate while not allowing people to take over the class or meeting
  • Guide conversation and the direction of the meeting or course
  • Conclude the meeting or course

Guiding Participants

As a facilitator, you would use questioning techniques and suggestions to guide the participants. You would have different techniques you could apply to encourage thinking and participation. You would need to be flexible and adapt your techniques to the situation. Mastering question techniques will help as a facilitator in the following ways:

  • Create clarity
  • Help people think analytically, critically and creatively
  • Inspire people to reflect
  • Encourage breakthrough thinking
  • Challenge the status quo
  • Create ownership of solutions

These are just some of the skills that facilitators use in their role. Overall, you would use a variety of skills depending on the situation. In an educational setting, your skills would help students learn and apply what they have learned. In business, you would help participants work together to achieve outcomes they agree upon together.

Learn Facilitation Skills

Some people may be naturally good at facilitation because they have the skills needed for the job. Nonetheless, you can learn these skills to perform facilitation in your career. Also, learning facilitation is beneficial for anyone to improve their weaknesses and boost their strengths.

For example, you might be a good listener who can get a team to work together. Yet you could still benefit from learning specific active listening skills. Plus, you may need to get better at other areas such as time management and preventing one person from taking over. Learning facilitation skills could help you improve and better apply your skills to different career settings.

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Fabrizio Tovaglieri

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