Seven Ideas for Mastering the Art of Facilitation


The ‘old' days of leadership being about domination and control are in twilight. The emerging highly valuable leader can collaborate rather than dominate, coach rather than criticise, co-create rather than control, and facilitate rather than over-direct.

Transitioning from ‘parent’ style leadership towards more adult-to-adult relationships requires healthy emotional intelligence and a skill set that is highly enabling of others. The ‘coach approach’ is gaining momentum in the workplace and replaces an autocratic management style reliant on positional power (pulling rank to get things done). Bullying is an extreme of this style on a continuum.

If you work with groups, run meetings, workshops, seminars or any activities that need a team approach, facilitation skills are well worth mastering. They will speed things up, move things forward in the ‘right’ direction and they help minimise upset and conflict along the way. Even where conflict is unavoidable or even necessary, a skilled facilitator can help groups navigate through.

Seven ideas to reflect on are offered here as fodder for your own practice. Reflect on them, explore them for your own meaning, and grow awareness andeffectiveness as a facilitation practitioner. Treat these ideas as a weaving rather than a list.

  • IDEA ONE: Be fascinated in people and group dynamicsInvest in your own personal development and practice. You are your best resource - no question (and you can be your biggest trap too). Work towards being a safe space for others. This is the fast track to creating safe environments, and safe environments are highly relevant to results that count. 21st century leaders know this and use it to their team’s advantage. Accessing more potential is FUN - personally and professionally. You are 100% in control of what you invest your time and energy into - some of your time and energy going towards your inner ‘work’ will reap rewards - fast.
  • IDEA TWO: For best results, value an inclusive approach to defining group outcomes, even if it feels counter intuitive and time consuming. Vague outcomes create vague results. Spend time clarifying what the group wants and what kind of environment they believe they will need in order to achieve. This is akin to packing your parachute before jumping out of an aeroplane. Build in time for group members to co-create their own working space. You are then charged with holding that space on behalf of the group, and with the group.
  • IDEA THREE: Become an expert rapport builder. Help the group come into relationship for the purpose of the discussion/process. Identify what is ‘mission critical’ for all players on the day. This also helps create the appropriate environment in which to get the work done. Without safety there is no rapport, no relationship. Without rapport you simply will not get the best results possible.
  • IDEA FOUR: Help the group identify a commonly understood vision that is personally meaningful to all players. If you don’t have clarity on this idea, you have potential waiting in the wings. Why does your enterprise exist? For what purpose? Start high and deep. Go for the ‘highest’ purpose you can and envision a future compelling enough for everyone to join forces and go for. This activates excitement, creativity, problem solving and a drive to achieve - for the vision. This idea makes purpose more important than personalities.
  • IDEA FIVE: Remind yourself the team purpose lies within the team, awaiting discovery or finessing - it is not within you. Your job is to help the team/group find its way to that purpose. You are a chef helping a team create its own vision, purpose and recipe for success!
  • IDEA SIX: Fill your facilitator toolbox with exercises and activities, games and discussion topics you come across. Seek out opportunities to learn. Learn learn learn so you are the best possible resource you can be FOR the group. Facilitation is an act of service.
  • IDEA SEVEN: Grow mastery in Framing and ReframingThese are a Facilitators magic wands. They are at the heart of skill, art and mastery as a group worker, especially where the challenge is to shift perceptions and attitudes. This is especially true of any change management or culture change requirements. (NOTE: I am happy to send you a specific chapter from my book “I Can Speak Clearly now the pain has gone” regarding this idea, just flick me a request by email). Framing and reframing are two strategies that really can make a huge difference to the effectiveness of your communication. Perception is everything!

Bottom line, the results from any facilitated process will be heavily influenced by the facilitator - their skills, attitudes, world-views and style.


Amanda Fleming


Amanda Fleming is Director of Presenter At Large Ltd, an organisation dedicated to presenting highly stimulating and effective learning events that produce lasting positive results.

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