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Characteristics of an Excellent Facilitator

The role of a facilitator is not that easy if you think about guiding the group throughout the
whole process to achieve a smooth and productive result of a discussion, training session, or
team activity.

The facilitator guides the participants to a “learning journey” in discovering their own
experiences and exploring those of others, identifying their strengths and weak points, and
sharing what they already know to the rest. In some cases, the facilitator also shares his
knowledge apart from just guiding them in the process.

Since the task is challenging, the facilitator must be effective in many aspects to ensure that the
participants meet their learning needs and the group achieves its desired objectives for the
training or activity. A failed or poorly carried out activity may be partially blamed to an
ineffective facilitator. However, it does not mean that the facilitator should be some kind of
superhuman. Basic personal and professional competencies are simply required for the
facilitation role to be performed properly.

Let us categorize these characteristics into three major areas: attitude, knowledge, and skills.

A Facilitator’s Competency: Knowledge

The role of a facilitator is properly manifested with apt knowledge of the given subject for the
discussion. You have to have an understanding of what the purpose is for having a workshop or
such an activity. And this knowledge we are talking about is not just knowledge about the
subject matter of the workshop or the session but a wide interest and awareness of the
community and the society as a whole.

The facilitator should have a good understanding of the organizational issues, too. This is
necessary especially when the participants will ask a question about the subject matter, the
facilitator will be able to offer information and solicit ideas that may enlighten the group. With
the proper knowledge, there is a smooth interaction and discussion between the facilitator and
the group.

A Facilitator’s Competency: Skills

Good facilitation skills must be demonstrated. This would include the ability to communicate,
the ability to manage and lead a group, the skill to actively listen and use effective questioning
technique, and the capability to easily resolve conflicts or misunderstanding.

With good communication skills, the facilitator is able to create a healthy interaction among the
participants, elaborates the points of the team and his own, and effectively conveys ideas and
messages to them.
Good management skill is also an asset of an effective facilitator who knows very well how to
motivate and empower the team members to bring out the best in them and evenly delegates
tasks to each participant.

Two of the most essential skills of a facilitator are active listening and effective questioning. A
good facilitator knows how to hear not just the words but the thought or the message and
responds appropriately.

Asking good and intelligent questions that would help the participants discover themselves and
reflect on the situation is a manifestation of an effective facilitator. Lastly, the excellent
facilitator has a knack for recognizing a problem as it comes, and does something to resolve it.

A Facilitator’s Competency: Attitude

People love to be with a person of desirable attitude and a pleasant manner of dealing with other
people. A facilitator should have a friendly and honest disposition. It is difficult to socialize with
the members if the facilitator himself is not that friendly and sociable. During the workshop or
training session, equal treatment should be given to all the members, knowing how to consider
the differences of each one’s personalities.

A good facilitator must be patient and persevering in order to appreciate and understand the
difficulties of the team and also to have determination in seeing a task accomplished and the
objectives achieved. This also means having a sense of empathy for those participants who need
to be understood.

Moreover, the facilitator must be respectable to get the admiration of each member as someone
whom they can rely on and look up to. Commitment to help the participants learn for themselves
should be one of his main targets.

A confident facilitator will project a positive and purposeful atmosphere in a workshop. A

competent facilitator should also definitely demonstrate a professional attitude in carrying out the

9 Characteristics of a good Facilitator

Some people believe that facilitating a meeting is easy. It is not. In truth, it is easy to be a poor
facilitator. Here are a few of the qualities that separate an effective facilitator from a bad one.

1) An unbiased perspective: There is nothing worse than a biased facilitator who drives the
discussion to a preplanned (and obvious to all) conclusion. This can be a tricky point if a
manager tries to facilitate a meeting about any issue where the participants will feel
uncomfortable, or perhaps even threatened, if they voice an opinion different from the group
leader. If the issue being discussed is sensitive, complex, or heated, having an unbiased
facilitator lead the discussion may be the only way to avoid the meeting becoming a complete
waste of time. The best meetings are the ones where participants feel comfortable in knowing
that their opinions are welcomed and encouraged. An unbiased leader creates a neutral zone
where alternative points of view can be shared and debated in a respectful manner. This is key to
driving a constructive, productive discussion.

2) Sensitivity to the feelings of individuals: Creating and maintaining an atmosphere of trust

and respect requires an awareness of how people are responding to both the topics under
discussion and the opinions and reactions of others. Most people will not articulate their
discomfort, hurt feelings, or even anger; instead they silently withdraw from the discussion and
often from the group. Sensing how people are feeling and understanding how to respond to a
particular situation is a critical skill of facilitation.

3) Sensitivity to the feelings of the group: In any group, the whole is greater than the sum of
the parts, and group “chemistry” generally reflects shared feelings: eagerness, restlessness,
anger, boredom, enthusiasm, suspiciousness, or even silliness. Perceiving and responding to the
group’s dynamic is essential to skillful facilitation.

4) Ability to listen: One way the facilitator learns to sense the feelings of individuals is by acute
listening, both to the explicit meaning of words and also to their tone and implicit meaning. A
good facilitator practices “active listening” whereby he or she may repeat, sum up, or respond
directly to what a speaker said to ensure the speaker’s meaning was correctly understood by the
group. This is very important especially if the speaker was unclear or the group becomes

5) Tact: Sometimes the facilitator must take uncomfortable actions or say awkward things for
the good of the group. The ability to do so carefully and diplomatically is critical. Examples of
this include: a group discussion dominated by one person; or a group of silent participants. The
facilitator, using gentle tact, will find a way to engage the team so everyone can participate and
get the most out of the session. Often times a participant may ask a question, then ramble on to
eventually answer his own question. A capable facilitator knows how to diffuse these awkward
moments and maintain a productive atmosphere.

6) Commitment to collaboration: Collaborative learning can occasionally seem frustrating and

inefficient, and at such times every facilitator feels tempted to take on the familiar role of the
traditional teacher and to lead, rather than facilitate. However, a genuine conviction about the
empowering value of cooperative learning will help the facilitator resist a dominating role.
Likewise a good facilitator is willing to share facilitation with others in the group. The goal is
always on conducting the best, most effective discussion. To that end, a good facilitator knows
how to temper his or her role accordingly.

7) A sense of timing: The facilitator needs to develop a “sixth sense” for time: when to bring a
discussion to a close, when to change the topic, when to cut off someone who has talked too
long, when to let the discussion run over the allotted time, and when to let the silence continue a
little longer.

8) Resourcefulness and creativity: Each group is as different as the people involved. Despite a
well-planned agenda, sometimes the discussions do not unfold as expected. To that end, a good
facilitator is able to think on his or her feet. This may mean changing direction in mid-stream,
using other creative approaches to engage the group, or entertaining ideas from the group on how
to shift the agenda. Good facilitators always have tricks up their sleeves that will help a group
move forward while still keeping an eye on the overall objective of the meeting.

9) A sense of humor: As in most human endeavors, even the most serious, a facilitator’s
appreciation of life’s ironies, ability to laugh at themselves, and to share the laughter of others
enhances the experience for everyone.

In summary, a good facilitator is one of your best allies for ensuring your Customer Advisory
Board meetings, Partner Advisory Board meetings, executive roundtable meetings, and planning
sessions deliver the business outcome you require. This is true because of this simple reason: it is
very difficult to facilitate a meeting yourself when you also want to participate in it as an equal.
But not all facilitators are alike. Look for one who has a personality and aptitude to understand
your business and your objective. And keep in mind these 9 characteristics.

What qualities make for a good facilitator?

An integrated security facilitator should be familiar with the workshop concepts of security and
well-being of women human rights defenders, but she/he does not have to be an ‘expert’ in them.

Key qualities of a facilitator are:

 understanding/experience of the security and well-being concerns of women human rights

 experience of and skill in participatory, peer-to-peer facilitation methods;
 openness;
 understanding of group dynamics;
 flexibility;
 love of the work;
 connection to the activist world;
 positive, sense of humour, not afraid to play;
 open to learning during the workshop;
 good listener;
 grounded; and
 deeply respectful.

"Sometimes the job of the teacher is nothing more than this: state the obvious when the obvious
is so obvious that we can’t see it; so obvious that it can no longer be safely ignored."

What Characterizes a Good Facilitator?

Good facilitation differentiates successful and failed group facilitation. An individual who is
appointed to do facilitation should display the basic attributes of a good facilitator to help bring
success in achieving the group’s objectives.

A good facilitator is task-oriented, meaning the main focus should be to carry out the main
responsibilities until the conclusion of the activity. Facilitation requires persuasiveness,
enthusiasm, and active listening. A facilitator knows how to build relationships and draws energy
from the team rather from within.

When it comes to bringing up a good discussion, a facilitator initiates a conversation instead of

waiting for someone from the group to start talking. Moreover, opinions are better solicited from
the group rather than from personal viewpoints. A good facilitator knows how to make a
compromise and negotiate instead of enforcing a decision.

In facilitating, being able to see the bigger picture in mind while keeping fundamental details
characterizes a good facilitator, too. Also, this person should have a good level of self-
confidence to perform the role with professionalism.